Don't compare me to Oscar Wilde. Both our reputations will suffer

You've been warned...

There isn't anything here that any reasonably open-minded person would take exception to, but I reserve the right to appall, offend, shock, frighten, horrify, terrify, outrage, belittle, mock, or do anything else to piss someone somewhere off. So let's have some fun, shall we?


It’s True!

Go on, tell me I’m wrong


So we’re on vacation, the family and I. Savannah. Sure, it’s pretty, although a lot of the shine comes off when you remember that at least in the historic parts it was built by slaves.

Anyway, we’re visiting the Mister’s Ancestral Home for our son’s spring break. The mancub’s not the most stable soul in the world, and he spent a good five minutes before breakfast arranging his boxer briefs just so.

Well, something just set them and him off, because he flipped out. Okay, so the head banging is worrying, but I’ve seen it before and it’s within tolerances.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The toilet overflows.

Why am I the only one who knows how to work the shut-off valve?

Anyway, I’m in a hotel room in Savannah with an overflowing toilet and my son’s losing his shit (ha!) because his undies are in a twist.

This is my life today. I can get wound up (that’d be two of us) or I can laugh my ass off.

Oh, and it’s starting to stink in here.

Flash Fic Friday: Farm Boy

I’m trying something new with my blog, in part to update it more frequently and in part to increase its interest. While I won’t always publish flash fiction, when I post flash fic, it’ll be Fridays. 

Farm Boy is from a dream I had recently, and I plan to turn it into a YA novel when I’m done with my WIP (more about that later).


Farm Boy

Jared sat in chapel, his head bowed. He believed not a whit of what was said in this building. Well, there’d been that one time they’d had that Wiccan lady in for services. Her words made sense. She’d spoken of the seasons and the rhythms of the earth and sky.

But Providence Hill School required that all students entrusted to its care attended chapel at least once per month, and seeing as how today was his last chance, Jared sat in the pew, head bowed, as fought to recall the Wiccan priestess’s words. It had been several months, after all.

So he sat in the pew, seemingly lost in contemplation, lost to the world. He knew what he looked look. He knew what people saw. They saw the farmer’s kid, already big for his age. They saw the boy everyone thought couldn’t read. Easy pickings, they thought, because he wouldn’t fight back. He knew he could crush them, so he didn’t try.

He was finished with that. He knew the lessons his mother’s new husband had taught him…just as he remembered his mother’s as he boarded the plain for school.

“You’re a big man already, Jared, even if you’re still a boy inside. Please be careful. You’ll be taunted and teased just because of who you are.”

Jared had frowned. “Because we’re farmers, Stan?”

“Because you stand out, Jared.” Stan had put his arm on Jared’s shoulder and guided him to watch the sun set over their fields. His, actually. They’d been his father’s and Stan was upfront that all of it was held in trust for him. Stan had his own acreage the next county over. “You’re big, and you’re smart. People will notice that.”

“I see.” Jared had nodded.

“They might not appreciate that combination, not with your looks thrown in there. You’re the spit and image of your daddy, and he was a handsome man.” Jared had looked over at him. “You may not remember, but we do, your family’s friends.”

Jared pulled his hat lower on his head. All this talk of virtues made him squirm. It made Stan chuckle, a deep rumbling noise that hit Jared in his belly. He shoved that away. Not now. Not ever.

“No, you be careful at school. Don’t let the teasing get to you. Don’t lash out at if it does. You could hurt somebody. Working your land has made you strong, and I think you’ll realize that once you get there,” Stan had said, and he’d been right.

But Mama had told him, whispered actually, before he got on the plane, “Be kind, be gentle, but the time may come when you have to stand up for yourself. When that happens, always remember you’re a Foster. We don’t take crap from anyone.”

Providence Hill School had certainly been a new experience, and Jared learned that anew each day. Only the riding lessons kept him from being too homesick at first. Horses, he knew. He hadn’t known too many of the games besides the usual—football, basketball, baseball—and hadn’t been much good at those. But Jared was strong and was learning to play rugby, a game all but made for guys like him.

Jared also hadn’t known the other games people played, the vicious ones the prefects and the teachers never seemed to know about. “They’re just joshing around, Jared,” the Headmaster told him. “It’s all in good fun.”

Jared passed the bruises off as rugby-gotten, but somehow he never had any fun with those games. That morning? That morning he would put a stop to them.

That morning? That morning he sat in the middle of the pew some of his favorite tormentors liked to pretend belonged to them. It was time to set them straight on that score.

He snorted to himself. Straight. As if.

Five guys a class or two above him, yet even so, only one was bigger. Somehow they didn’t see that. But Jared knew they would before chapel started for the morning, oh yes they would. He allowed himself a smile as continued to consider the wiccan’s words. It was spring now, early spring, the time when the earth began to shake off winter’s sleep, a time when new things surged to life.

“You can’t sit here.”

With his heart pounding in his ears, Jared said softly, “I can.”

“Dude, it’s our pew. Everyone knows that.”

“There’s no plaque.” Jared looked up to see Tony, team captain of the junior varsity baseball team glaring down at him. Jared’s heart beat fast. Not because of the confrontation, however. But because it was Tony.

Tony was why Jared did this. “I’m sitting here. There’s room on either side. I don’t think you’ll take up the whole bench.”

Jared continued to pray, or pretend to, as Tony and his guys regrouped. There weren’t so many of them, really. Just four of them besides Tony. There was Geoff, Aaron, Danny, and Beth, who had a better arm than any of them. Of all of them, only Aaron came anywhere near him in size, and even then it was a close call.

Jared hear them whispering, and then suddenly Aaron pushed past him to the end of the pew, followed quickly by Beth and then Danny, who tried to hit him on the neck on the way by. Jared reached out faster than a striking snake and grabbed.

Suddenly Danny gasped and bit his lip to keep from crying out. He clutched his elbow.

“Fuck,” Danny hissed. “That’s my pitching arm.”

“And the next time you try to hit me with it, I’ll make sure you can’t use it for a week.” Jared yanked the still-whimpering Danny down by his good arm and looked him in the eyes. “Got that?”

Danny’s eyes, suspiciously shiny, widened, as if he had just noticed for the first time, that Jared topped him by almost a foot. “You didn’t have to hurt me.”

“Spoken like a true bully. You’re all fight until you realize your intended victim can beat the crap out of you.” Jared shoved him into Beth.

Geoff eased on by, doing his best not to touch any part of Jared. “I don’t want any trouble, man.”

“You got amnesia or somethin’?” Jared said in a folksy, down-home manner he knew made people think of pigs and dueling banjos. “You shoulda found something else to do during the fall semester, because now you’ve got trouble in spades, little buddy. You and me are gonna be best friends.”

Jared looked up to find Tony staring at him. There wasn’t all that much room between him and Geoff, but he’d damned if would budge so much as an inch. “You. Sit.”

“There’s not much room.”

“You said this is your pew, Tony, so you sit yer ass right down. I have had enough garbage out of all of you.” Jared glanced down the row, sure he had their attention now. He held up his hands. “Any of you feel free to answer. See my hands? I can end you. I own a sizeable fraction of a backward county in a state you think you’re too good for. I’ve got pigs, so I know what to do with spare corpses.”

Copyright 2016 Christopher Koehler

A glossary of rowing terms

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air releases today, so I thought I’d best post a glossary of rowing terms to help you all out, if only because info dumping in novels isn’t part of the best-practices matrix. Also, because I kind of did that in places alreayd.

ATISMIA makes the sixth novel I’ve set in and around a boathouse, and it’s at long last occurred to me that perhaps I should provide a glossary and commentary on the terms I’ve been using with such giddy abandon. While any of these could easily be looked up on the internet, you’ll never find my obnoxious inimitable commentary anywhere else.

The only pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die

+/- : This indicates whether or not a boat is steered by a cox’n or not., the + indicating the presence of the cox’n, the indicating the cox’n’s absence. An uncoxed boat is usually referred to as a blind boat because its occupant(s) cannot see where s/he (in the case of a single) or they (in the case of a double, pair, or coxless quad or four) are going.

In terms of notation, a coxed four would be written as a 4+, while a coxless quad would be written as 4-. How do you tell the difference between a four and a quad? Ha! You don’t, except by context because they race in different events and because I’ve never heard of an uncoxed four in sweep rowing (see ‘Sweep rowing’ below)

At the ready/At the catch: Rowers sit at the catch position ready to take the first stroke as soon as the cox’n tells them to, or in the case of a single rower, as soon as the starting judge or ref makes the call (at the top or front of the slide, shins vertical, oar blades in the water).

Bisweptual: a switch-hitter, a rower who swings both ways, i.e. someone who rows both port and starboard in sweep rowing. What did you think it meant? I row both sides.

Blind boat: boats without cox’n, indicated on paper with the number of seats in a boat along with a minus sign, so when I’m in a blind quad, it would be indicated as a 4(-).

Bow ball: a small rubber ball affixed to the boat front that provides absolutely no protection in the event of collision if the boat is moving under any pressure stronger than paddle pressure.

Bow deck: the front deck. In a collision, it will collapse like an accordion.

Bow-loader: a coxed four in which the cox’n is seated in the bow facing forward instead of the stern. The cox’n is typically very close to the waterline and suffers greatly reduced visibility. The best cox’ns in bow-loaders quickly learn to tell what his or her rowers are doing by sound and by the motion of the boat, and will be the first to die in case of a collision. Bow-loaders are also called coffin ships, owing to the fact that in a collision the boat’s carbon-fiber hull will crumple like paper.

Bow pair: the two rowers sitting at one and two seat in a boat with four or more seats.

Bow princess: The poor sucker who rows bow. A certain amount of attitude is tolerated because whoever rows at bow will die in a collision and everyone knows it, unless it’s a bow-loader, in which case it’s the cox’n who’ll bite it and they’ve all got plenty of attitude as it is.

Bucket-rigged: in sweep rowing the standard configuration for rigging a coxed four (or an eight) is port-starboard-port-starboard stern to bow. But what if one of your starboards is your best stroke? Or what if you have an imbalance of power between your rowers? You can compensate for these by changing the configuration of the rigging on the boat.

For a starboard-stroked boat, it would look like starboard-port-port-starboard. Viewed from above, this might look a bit like a bucket. To compensate for more powerful rowers you’d change the rigging to adjust where they would be seated in the boat.

There’s not much point to bucket-rig an eight because there are more places to shift rowers to.

Catch: at the top or front of the slide when the blade of the oar catches the water.

Catching a crab: When a rower feathers the blade before it is fully extracted from the water, the current generated by the boat’s passing can grab the oar and pull it perpendicular to the hull, sometimes quite forcefully. When such a crab throws a rower from the boat, it is a called an ejection crab. The idea is that a crab has grabbed the blade of the oar. Google “ejection + crab” or “rowing + ejection + crab” for a video of this phenomenon.

Check it down: (chiefly American) A command to stop the boat’s forward motion by putting the oars in the water such that the oar blades are perpendicular to the surface of the water. The British equivalent is “Take the run off,” once again proving that the British can’t speak English.

Cox’n: God. Just ask him or her. To a cox’n, rowers are meat that moves the boat. Cox’ns in men’s and women’s crew have different personality types. Note, not male and female cox’ns, but whether or not they cox for men’s vs. women’s crew.

Men’s crew, male or female cox’n: “Is that how we row? No, goddamn it, it’s not! Pull your fucking oar through the water….stop sucking!”

Women’s crew with the same cox’n after practice: “Why did you say those things? I thought you were our friend?”

Before I’m accused of anything, that’s more or less a direct quote from one of the best cox’ns I’ve ever rowed for during a conversation about why she prefers to cox for men’s crews. Seriously, this woman is the oarsman whisperer and a true lady on land, but on the water? She’ll cut a bitch and her knife is a carbon-fiber racing shell.

Different crews, different personalities, different styles of coxing. Some people react better to verbal abuse than others. When I cox—and let me tell you, it’s hilarious to observe given my size, although I’m a decent cox’n—I generally ask what my crew prefers.

Eight: A coxed sweeps boat with eight rowers. This is the big time, the most powerful of the boats. One of these, rowed well and at full power, is a thing of beauty, and awe-inspiring to behold. If you get in its way when it’s at full power, it will fuck you up because it’s basically a dreadnought.

Note: You’ll notice that there’s no mention of coxed vs. blind eights. That’s because there are no blind eights. They move too fast and they’re too powerful to risk the health and safety of both the crew and anyone who happens to be on the water around them. That’s not to say I haven’t rowed in one…

Engine room: Seats three through six in an eight. They have a lower impact on the set of the boat than the bow pair or stern pair. This is where you put the big, muscular guys who can’t hold a beat. I generally row in the engine room, usually at five or six.

Ergometer (or erg): a rowing machine that mimics the rowing stroke. While there are other models, the Concept-2 indoor rower has a virtual monopoly in the United States and for good reason…the others suck. The C2 uses air to create resistance. I’ve liked using a water-rowers—uses water, rather than air, to create resistance—to rowing a toilet bowl.

Erg testing: Rowing a set distance for time, or a set time for distance, to see which rower wins.

Feathering/feather the blade: On fully extracting the blade from the water, the rower turns the blade parallel to water with a flick of the inboard (closest to the boat) wrist. The blade is squared, or returned to the perpendicular before the catch.

Fours: A boat that seats four rowers, either coxed or not.

Head race: the primary style of racing in the autumn in North American and Europe (although there are some spring head races), head races are time-trial races in which crews compete to complete a set course—generally between 4k and 8k—in the shortest time possible within their age group (see “Master rower” below).

The most famous in the United States is the Head of the Charles Regatta rowed on Boston’s Charles River; the largest in North America is Canada’s Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catherine’s, Ontario; the most prestigious in the world is the Royal Henley Regatta (its first royal patron was Prince Albert the Prince Consort; now the patron is always the reigning Monarch) rowed at Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire; the longest non-insane head race that I’ve heard of is Melbourne’s 8.6k Head of the Yarra. The bug-nuts craziest head race is the Netherlands’ Ringvaart Regatta and is 100k. No. Just…no.

Juniors (novice, jv, and varsity): High-school rowers. Owing to the physical demands of the sport, rowers seldom start before high school.

Masters rower: a rower over twenty-seven years of age. The term ‘master’ in no way refers to skill. It’s also a catch-all term, as masters rowing is age handicapped.

Master refers to 27-35, then comes seniors, veterans, grand masters, etc. That said, there is a move away from terms toward Masters A (27-35), Masters B (36-42), Masters C (43-49), all the way up to Masters J (80+).

This may well be due to clarity, as these terms actually mean something concrete, as well as allowing for the addition of Masters AA (21-26). It was noticed a few years back that there was no category for rowers immediately out college. Rowing is the oldest varsity sport, dating back well before the Civil War in the United States and to the late eighteenth century in the United Kingdom (Eton College’s Monarch Boat Club and Windsor School’s Isis Club both existed by the 1790’s). AA was added by US Rowing within the last ten years. Um…duh?

The reality is that there is a very real and noticeable decline in physical ability roughly every five to seven years in this most intense of aerobic sports and we have a vested interest in retaining rowers. There’s a formula for calculating age handicaps over age 80, and since it’s a non-impact sport, people can essentially row until they die.

Octopod: This is the Sasquatch of rowing, an eight rigged for sculling. There’s no technical reason it couldn’t be done. It just isn’t.

On the paddle: the lightest of strokes, moving the boat but not at all fast. Also referred to as paddle pressure.

Pair: the smallest sweep boat, consisting of one port and one starboard rower.

Port: in nautical terminology, port refers to the left side of the boat, but since rowers sit backward relative to the direction of motion, port is the rower’s right side and a port rower’s oar sticks out to the right. A port rower’s outboard hand will be his or her left hand. Due to this reversal, sweep rowers lose the ability to tell right from left.

Quads (+/-): a sculling boat that seats four, either coxed or uncoxed. I’ve only ever seen and rowed a blind quad. These boats fly. Think of a clipper ship and you won’t be far off.

Ratio: Speed of the drive (when the oar’s in the water) vs. speed of the recovery (when the oar’s out of the water); a measure of the efficiency of the stroke. The boat is at its slowest at the moment the blade of the oar enters the water; the boat is at its fastest just after the blade leaves the water when it’s released. The faster the drive, the faster the boat goes. The slower the recovery, not only do the rowers have a chance to breathe, they don’t slow the boat with catching too soon.

River launch: launching from a river as opposed to a dock. Rowers carry the boat out into the water and climb in via the process described in Poz.

Rushing the slide: when rowers have abandoned any pretense at ratio (see ‘ratio,’ above) and rush up the slide toward the catch during the recovery. If you’re in front of a rower rushing the slide and attempting to maintain ratio you face 1) a very real chance of an oar handle to your kidneys 2) a subtle pressure to join the people behind you in rushing to main the ‘normal’ feel of the boat, because you can definitely feel the rowers crowding you from behind.

An example about why I’m almost never allowed to row stroke seat: a nice pace for a masters boat out for a pleasant morning’s row might be between 22 and 26 spm at perhaps half-pressure. That means 22-26 strokes/minute and roughly half the power one could exert (an extremely subjective measure), not so much that you’d would be exhausted before turning around, but you’d feel it when you stopped.

Then those rat bastards in the bow start rushing and no matter how much I grouse to the cox’n and how much she bitches them out for it, it does not good. Then I, being rather passive-aggressive, start dropping the stroke rating without telling anyone. Instead of 24 spm, we’re now rowing at 20, or even 18 (that’s pretty slow, but not as low as I take things in my single…sometimes I row at a 12-14 to challenge myself; super hard strokes, very long recovery). To maintain the all-important ratio, ideally you’d make each stroke more powerful and each recovery longer, but with this crew what it would do was make the slide-rushing so incredibly obvious that even those dullards would be forced to realize what they were doing, usually when their oars started hitting those of the rowers in front of them.

How is this avoided, you ask? By paying attention to stroke seat and to the rower immediately in front of you. Don’t zone out.

Sculls/sculling: Sculls are the oars used in sculling, from whence the practice of rowing in a small boat with two oars draws its name. Sculling is one of the two major forms of rowing, the other being sweep rowing.

Sequence: The rowing stroke is an essentially smooth circular process but can nonetheless be broken into parts: leg drive -> backswing -> arms -> arms -> backswing -> leg drive ad infinitum et ad nauseam.

Single: a boat seating one person and requiring sculls instead of sweep oars.

Slide: also known as the tracks, the parallel metal rails on which the seat travels during the stroke.

Squaring the blade: turning the blade perpendicular the water’s surface with a flick of the inboard (closest to the boat) wrist. Rowing on the square is 1) an exercise in frustration; 2) a drill to teach novice crews to control the oar handle on the recovery; 3) a way to show off by more advanced crews.

Starboard: in nautical terminology, the right-hand side of a boat, but since rowers sit backward relative to the direction of travel, a starboard rower’s oar will stick out to the rower’s left. A starboard rower’s outboard hand will be his or her right. Sweep rowers quickly lose the ability to tell left from right.

Stern deck: the back deck of the rowing shell. Also, where particularly hulking cox’ns sit. Your author has coxed boats one more than one occasion. Your author is also a foot taller and one hundred pounds heavier than the standard-issue cox’n. On such occasions, the bow of the boat generally doesn’t touch the water.

Stern pair: in sweep rowing, the rowers sitting at seven and eight who set the pace for the rest of the boat.

Stroke: 1) the act of taking a stroke. 2) the rower, generally port, who sets the pace for the boat.

Sweep rowing/sweeps: This is what you think of when you hear ‘rowing’—one rower, one larger oar, bigger boats, although a sweeps boat can be a single pair (one port and one starboard rower). No one really knows why it’s called sweep rowing, but the consensus is that you sweep the water along with your oar.

Taper: Tapering isn’t by any means unique to rowing, but it shows up from time to time in my work. The goal is to reduce the training volume but not the intensity. In other words, the workouts are shorter, but every bit as hard. This maintains blood volume—and oxygen-carrying capacity in this most aerobic of sports—but reduces fatigue and muscle damage ahead of competition.

Unisuit: the single-piece uniform of competitive rowers, generally worn by high school and collegiate rowers. Other than a slightly padded seat, a unisuit is indistinguishable from a wrestling singlet.

VO2-max: the amount of oxygen extracted per breath. Olympic-caliber rowers have the greatest VO2-max of any competitive athlete.

There are probably things I’ve left out, but hopefully this will be enough to help people navigate the rowing babble in Poz and ATISMIA and my other publications. I’ve tried to keep it to keep the esoterica to minimum, but inevitably something will shine through, and maybe that’s okay. Also, Google.

So this happened

So this happened. 

Poz was named by the American Library Association to its Rainbow List for 2016, specifically for YA literature. It’s probably easiest if you search for my last name rather that scroll through. On the other hand, if you do that, you’ll miss all the other great books, like the one authored by the incomparable Dahlia Adler. Full disclosure: she’s a friend of mine. 


Even better, Poz is on sale by my publisher through January 23, 2016. Because Harmony Ink Press is suave like that.


Please check out my colleague Nyrae Dawn‘s The History of Us, because The History of US made the Rainbow List, too.

Things that make you go hmmm

So as I was preparing to put the holiday wreath on my front door yesterday, I dug the new wreath hanger out of its box. I took this picture:

Wreath Hanger
Wreath Hanger

Leaving aside the fact that the lighting’s terrible and the tile floors of my hallway are boring and beige and on my husband’s hit list–seriously, he wants to redo them in anything that isn’t tile–does that not look the female reproductive tract? Ovaries, fallopian tubes, birth canal?

Or is is just me?

GayRomLit San Diego Day One

So I arrived in San Diego last night with Amy Lane and Kim Fielding. We drove down, and damn did we ever have fun.


Okay, so we stopped at virtually every Starbucks we could find along the 99–clean bathrooms, caffeine, decent(ish) food. Someone–several someones–referred to it as MacDonalds for grownups. Fair enough. 

I admit that I got carried away at the grocery store, so buying snacks for the drive turned into more of a catering situation. I won’t bother to list all the ways I went nuts with food, but the dark-horse favorite was red seedless grapes. Nutrition for the win!

Who knew.

Very different feel from the Disneyland Expeditionary Force of my sophomore year of college, but that, best beloved, is a story for another time. Nonetheless, it was still a good time in a minivan.

We arrived in San Diego around 9:40 pm, and damn, it was hot and sticky. The hotel is a bit past its prime, but the room is nice enough. Two beds, kitchenlet. I’m rooming with Posy Roberts. She’s good people.

So here’s the view from the balcony.

Sunrise On Mission Bay

Sunrise On Mission Bay


Poz blog tour

Poz Blog Tour

Below are the dates for my upcoming blog tour in support of Poz. Poz will be released on January 8.

Buy link 

(so far, the only buy link I have is my publisher’s. Apparently it’s a little too early for Amazon, but there will be one. You can pre-order the title from Dreamspinner, including in the Kindle format.)


Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.

Poz Blog Tour Schedule

Poz Blog Tour Schedule


New Year’s Eve progressive dinner–dessert course

This is a biscotti recipe from everyone’s favorite coffee house just off the CalPac campus. Remy Babcock, who just matriculated at CalPac last fall, can’t seem to eat enough of them. But since you won’t meet him until January 8 and when you do, he’ll still be in high school, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Stained-Glass Biscotti 

I call it “stained glass” because you can put virtually any dried fruit in it and it will turn out to be both colorful and delicious.

½ C butter, softened—the recipe says you can margarine, but that’s one of the vain and empty works of the devil, so please don’t

2 C sugar

4 large eggs

1.5 tsp grated lemon rind

½ tsp vanilla extract—for the love of all that’s holy, use real vanilla, not the fake stuff

¼ almond extract—ditto


5 C flour—I like unbleached white flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt—your call. It’s not a custard or a yeast bread so the salt’s not mandatory, but some baked goods taste funny without a tiny bit of salt.


¾ C dried cranberries

¾ C dried cherries (can be hard to find but cherry-flavored cranberries don’t cut it. Costco sells dried cherries)

½ C candied orange rind (I hate candied orange rind, so I’ve used chopped, pitted dates, golden raisins, or chopped, dried apricots at various times. Dried blueberries would look and taste good, too. White chocolate morsels are a wonderful substitution, as well.)

¾ C whole blanched or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped


  1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs one at a team, beating mixture after each addition. Add grated lemon rind and flavorings, mixing well.

  2. Mix cranberries, cherries, whatever substitution you choose for candied orange rind, and almonds in a bowl.

  3. Combine flour and next three ingredients in a bowl; add to butter mixture, beating only until dry ingredients are moistened.

  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; flour or better yet, oil hands with cooking oil and kneed dough to finish mixing; kneed the dried fruit mixture in.

  5. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a 14 x 2-inch log on a lightly greased cookie sheet (a silicone baking mat works well, too). Flatten each log slightly.

  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  7. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices with a serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion to prevent the biscuit from ripping.

  8. Toast at 325 degrees for ten minutes; turn biscuits over and toast for an additional ten minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

  9. If you don’t like food that fights back, skip the toasting and go right to enjoying the biscotti with a beverage of your choice.

You can find Remy along with his boyfriend Michael here.



New Year’s Eve “Progressive Dinner” blog hop–updated!

Check back here tomorrow for one of the dessert courses as some of your favorite m/m romance authors host a New Year’s Eve progressive dinner. I know! All of the fun without risking being on the road with all of the crazies. 

Dinner Menu FINAL


Did I mention the prizes?

Z!A! Maxfield!

Today is such a gas, because I get to welcome my dear friend ZA Maxfield, and yes we really do know each other. We socialize. We’ve met each other’s children etc. She’s good people, and she’s here to promo a new book, My Cowboy Homecoming. Just to make sure she has your full attention, there’s even a contest buried somewhere on this webpage…

Say hello, ZAM:

Cowboys. I just love them! I’m celebrating the release of the third book in my “Cowboy Hearts” series, My Cowboy Homecoming with a blog tour!

Stay tuned for daily drawings for copies of ebooks from my backlist as My Cowboy Homecomingwell as a Rafflecopter for a $25.00 gift certificate at the end, on Christmas. We can all use a little something extra on Christmas, can’t we?

So without further ado, here’s My Cowboy Homecoming!


Love can heal the deepest wounds…

A sense of duty brings a soldier home…but a passionate cowboy makes him want to stay.

After his brother’s tragic death, Tripp has to leave the army and return to New Mexico to take care of his mother while his father is in prison for arson. Seeking work at the J-Bar Ranch, Tripp is immediately drawn to injured cowboy Lucho Reyes, whose foot was accidentally crushed by a rescue horse. But will the sins of the father interfere with the desires of the son? Tripp’s father may be responsible for the death of Lucho’s grandfather.

Now Tripp must balance caring for his mother, repairing his father’s damages, and trying to win the heart of a man who has every reason to hate him and his family…

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Chapter One

The road home was less auspicious than I thought it would be. Traffic slowed to a bare crawl outside Las Cruces, and the overheated bus had started to smell.

Just like on every bus, everywhere in the world, people were packed in tight. They stared ahead expressionlessly, as if that cramped, anonymous ride was the best they could expect because it probably was.

All four westbound lanes had been forced into one until at last we reached what seemed like a flare-lit city of fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances. Uniforms covered the highway like ants at a picnic.

When I saw the wreck, my heart gave a lurch. An old yellow school bus with “Iglesias Angelica Bautista” written on the side had been hit head-on by a double tractor-trailer truck. The impact had scattered debris all over both sides of the highway.

A single battered high-top sneaker lay in the middle of the street, blood-spattered and abandoned. I couldn’t take my eyes off it as we drove past.

The front of the wrecked school bus was crushed like an accordion. No way the driver survived the crash. There were others lying still and lifeless beneath sad yellow tarps. EMTs raced between people lying side by side in a makeshift triage area.

I tried to make myself do the deep breathing the army shrinks taught me. I thought about trying the other bullshit stopgap measures I was supposed to deploy before going to the little pills they gave me for anxiety, which I’d thrown away anyway. I tried repeating nonsense rhymes and visualizing my happy place, but the fact is, if you’ve been in a sniper’s crosshairs long enough, it’s hard to convince yourself there’s nobody trying to kill you anymore.

I was home, goddamnit. I wasn’t in danger. Except . . . we’re all in danger all the time. We just don’t know it.

As we inched past the wreck, even I—with the knowledge of how random and tragic fate could be—shook with shock. I couldn’t take my eyes off that shoe lying by itself in the street because my brother used to wear those same Converse high-tops when he was about five. Chucks. I got annoyed every time I heard his little feet padding after me as I tried to run away and play with my “big kid” friends.

Wish I had that now.

Wish I had time to play with him and a chance to know him, now that we were both out from under our father’s thumb, but while I’d been deployed to the valley CNN once called the most dangerous place on earth, my brother got killed on the I-10, exactly like the poor bastard who was driving that bus.


The stifling heat made the Greyhound nearly unbearable. A woman on the seat behind me cried out to Jesus, starting a prayer that three or four of the other passengers echoed. Instinct, still honed to razor-sharp readiness, lifted me to my feet, even though the bus was moving.

“Sit down,” said the old man next to me, whose skin was gray with age and probably cigarettes. Tattoos littered his forearms, including one I recognized, the Devil Dog. Marines. “What do you think you’re going to do out there they aren’t already doing?”

I shrugged and sat.

He studied me. “Just get back?”


That got a laugh. “I thought so. You look it.”

“How so?”

He just stared at me then, and something passed between us. Anxiety and fatigue and that indefinable pinch of pain, as if our lives were too small now, and it hurt to walk around in them.

“Yeah.” I glanced away.

I sat still, even though every cell in my body was telling me I should do something. It was both my nature and, up until recently, my job to keep order. Yet now my TOS was up, and I was going home.

In spite of everything, I stayed still.

It seemed like it took forever to pass the accident.

“Lordy, Lordy.” The woman behind me cried softly. “Sweet Jesus, help your children in their hour of need.”

I let my old, cold friend discipline flow through my heart and I looked away.

Maybe I’d built up this illusion that home was a place made of safety and order, but that goddamn shoe told me different.

Anyhow, that’s why I was late getting into Deming.


I scanned every face on the street, looking for my mother, when I got off the bus. I don’t know why I thought she might come. She was afraid to drive the single mile to church. Venturing as far as Deming was probably more than she could take.

After Dad landed himself in prison, I hoped she’d start going out again, just to the grocery store if she needed to. I guessed she didn’t, because she wasn’t waiting for me.

The dirty, gray bus station emptied out quickly. It was little more than a stop off the I-10 in a hot, dry collection of buildings generosity made me call a city. Deming had little going for it besides its proximity to the highway.

I’d hiked my duffel over my shoulder and was working out how I’d find my own way home, when somebody called my name.

“Calvin Tripplehorn?”

I followed the sound and found a cowboy standing behind me. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t say why. “Who’s asking?”

“Jimmy Rafferty.” He held out his hand, but I let it hang there while I tried to process his face. His eyes narrowed. “From the J-Bar? Your mama called the ranch. I’m here to give you a ride.”

I hesitated before I gave him my hand to shake. “Pleased to meet you, sir.”

“This way, son. I need to pick up one of the hands from the ER in Silver City. He’s going to think I left him to find his way back by breadcrumbs or some such.”

I fell into step beside him, consciously matching my stride to his leggy, rolling gait. He was all cowboy, lean and rangy. He looked about forty or so. He wore some hard road on his face, but he was good-looking in his way.

“You know my mother?”

He stopped to look at me. Screwed up his face. “I can’t say I do.”

He was proving to be a bit of a character. “Then why are you here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how did you know to pick me up?”

He raised his brows. “Do you need a code word or something? I’m not here to kidnap you and sell you into white slavery or nothing. Nobody told me—”

“I mean”—heat suffused my face—“why are you here if you don’t know my mother?”

“Oh.” He grinned. “Boss asked me ’cause your mama and Emma Jenkins are friends. I guess she didn’t know about Emma not living at the J-Bar no more.”

“Ah.” The Jenkinses. Neighbors for as long as I could remember. Emma used to invite my family to the J-Bar on the Fourth of July. They always made a party of it, throwing a big barbecue and chili cook-off. I think a summer picnic at the J-Bar was where I first realized cowboys flipped my switch as opposed to . . . er . . . cowgirls.

I loved the J-Bar. I’d wanted to work there.

“How is everyone?”

“Crandall passed.” Jimmy informed me solemnly.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Crandall Jenkins was the kind of man whose loss would be felt keenly by everyone he ever came into contact with. “Emma didn’t sell up, did she?”

“Nah. She wanted to spend time with her girls and the grandkids. Speed Malloy and his partner Crispin are running the place now.”

I missed a step. Speed Malloy made my pants tight back in the day. I could barely be around him without sporting wood. “His partner?”

“His life partner.” Jimmy stopped and faced me, hands on his worn leather belt. “You got a problem with that? Get it out of your system.”

“No sir, not me.” I didn’t out myself there on the street, but I wasn’t going to let him think I was a homophobe. They probably got that shit a lot.

“Malloy told me to pick you up, on account of he talked to your mama. I’m just doing what I’m told.” He stopped beside a battered old crew-cab pickup truck. “Drop your bag in the back and we’ll be on our way.”

“Thank you.” I did as he asked and climbed into the cab beside him. After the hot, close quarters on the bus, it felt as nice as a limousine. Not that I knew what limousines were really like.

“You back for good?” he asked.

I nodded. “My mother needs me more than Uncle Sam does at this point.”

He peered at me like he was trying to see inside. “I guess things ain’t been too easy for her lately.”

“You know about my dad?” I asked.

Jimmy’s mouth tightened right up. “Some.”

My heart sank. “I’m nothing like him.”

He glanced away first. “Ain’t going to be easy to gain people’s trust after what him and his pals did.”

“I don’t need people’s trust.”

He keyed the ignition and the truck started up. “You will if you want to build a life here.”

Christ, what an awful thought. Building a life there. “I don’t know what I want, yet.”

He shot me a cryptic smile. “You’ll figure it out. You’re still young enough, Calvin.”

“‘Tripp,’” I corrected automatically. “People call me ‘Tripp.’”

“Okay, Tripp. Call me ‘Jimmy.’” He nodded before pulling out into the street.

The ride from Deming to Silver City takes a little under an hour. Because of the change in elevation, the desert, with its infrequent clusters of agave and cactus, gives way to a forest of junipers and piñon trees. No matter how many times I’d driven up that road I was always surprised by the change in landscape. It was stark and beautiful one minute, and lush green the next.

The area hadn’t changed much since the day I’d turned eighteen and left for good.

Eight years.

The afternoon shadows lengthened until I no longer needed my Oakleys. I pushed them onto the top of my head as we pulled up in front of the Regional Medical Center. A lone man rested on crutches out front—another cowboy, taller, broader, and darker than Jimmy, wearing a straw hat that shaded his face. He bent his leg at the knee, keeping his foot—which was encased in a sturdy black soft cast—from bearing his weight.

“Aw, shit. I was afraid that foot was busted.” Jimmy said, stopping the truck at the curb. “That’s Lucho. Go help him into the truck, will you?”

“Sure.” I jumped down from the passenger seat, leaving the door open so I could help the man in. “Front seat okay? Or would you be more comfortable in the back?”

“Back, please.” Polite.

Good-looking too. A sharp sizzle of awareness passed between us and I smiled as I opened the back door.

His eyebrow lifted.

Okay. So I checked him out. I was guilty as charged. He eyed me appreciatively in return. He had dark hair, tan skin. Coca-Cola eyes that watched my every move from beneath lashes thick as a doll’s. That dark gaze lingered on my package before traveling slowly upwards. His brief quirk of a smile sent the unmistakable message that he liked what he saw.

Message received and noted.

I held my hand out, so he handed over his crutches without taking his eyes off mine. I put my arm around his waist to steady him and pretty much lifted him into the truck so he didn’t have to put his weight on his foot.

Was it my imagination? Or did he lean into me a little more than necessary? I caught him closing his eyes.


“No.” He shook his head. “You smell good.”

Breathless, I let him go, but it was like I was in some kind of trance. My reluctance to end contact came from pure biological imperative. He felt so good. He smelled like sage and horse and the sick sweat of pain, but his muscles were solid and his body lean and strong. His was the first man’s body I’d held close in so long.

I did not want to let go and he didn’t want me to. We stayed there, looking into each other’s eyes until I heard Jimmy clear his throat.

Startled, I stepped back. Lucho gave me a playful push and another long, slow perusal that felt exactly like a juicy lick up my dick. I shook myself out of my stupor and gave up a huff of embarrassed laughter before I stepped away.


I’d never come on to anyone that hard in my life.

It must have been the timing. Everything was out of whack with me coming back home like that. With the accident and the apprehension of what I’d find when I saw my ma again.

With strangers picking me up when it should have been family.

I put my hand out to shake. “Folks call me ‘Tripp.’”

Instantly, he lost all warmth. “You’re Calvin Tripplehorn’s son?” His voice was dangerously soft.

“Not so’s you’d know it.” I’d meant the words as a joke. He didn’t take it that way. The fire in his eyes simply died and he let my hand hang there, untouched until I drew it back.

“Everything okay?”

He nodded and removed his hat. Without it I could see his lean, fierce face was etched with shadows and pain. I stood there too long, staring. Cataloguing tan skin, high cheekbones, a chin with more than a day’s growth of beard.

He had a long, straight nose that made him masculine and beautiful at the same time. Stark and lovely, like New Mexico itself.

His expression and gone from interest to disdain in the space of a second, and I guessed I knew why. The Tripplehorn name probably came with a warning label around these parts. “Okay to close the door?”

“It’s fine.” His eyes had narrowed with suspicion, but he had lips like a kid’s, soft as Cinnamon Bears, and I was heartsick that I’d probably never get to taste them. That was the kind of immediate effect Lucho had on me. Desire and despair, all at once.

As he ran the fingers of one hand over the soul patch on his chin I asked, “Need anything else?”

He shook his head sharply and then looked away. “Not from you, Tripplehorn.”

My dad’s name, his goddamn shadow, loomed over me, though I hadn’t even gotten home yet.

“Be nice, Lucho.” Jimmy’s bark was a warning, like we were kids in the backseat and he was going to say, Don’t make me stop this car.

“Give me a break, Rafferty,” Lucho growled. “I don’t gotta be nice to Calvin Tripplehorn’s kid.”

Closing the door between us, I hesitated before getting back into the truck. How had I forgotten the gut-churning taste of shame?

Old memories came back to me with a violent shove. I was “crazy Cal’s” kid.

Pretty soon I’d forget what it was like to be decorated army sergeant Tripplehorn—to earn respect by following orders and keeping a professional attitude and working my ass off. Nobody around these parts was going to give me that chance.

“C’mon kid,” Jimmy coaxed.

A ride was a ride. As soon as I’d climbed up into the passenger seat, Jimmy cranked up the radio and took off again.

Nobody talked until my family’s place came into view, and even then, I simply stared. It was hard to sort out what I was seeing. The manufactured house was still there, but the screen door hung askew. Out front, weeds choked what was once a pretty garden. The chicken coop had fallen down. There was no sign of life anywhere.

“Man.” Jimmy frowned at a dust devil blowing across the packed dirt of what used to be an exercise ring for horses. “Your brother really let the place go.”

“Ya think?” I said sourly.

Concern for me shadowed his eyes as he framed his next, careful question. “You planning on fixing the place up?”

I felt exhausted already. “If my mother doesn’t want to leave, I guess I’ll have to.”

I’d thought Lucho was asleep, but he snorted derisively from the back seat. “Maybe you ought to just burn it down. You Tripplehorn motherfuckers got a lot of experience with arson, after all.”

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About the Author

 Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and _AuthorPhotonever 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, or Tumblr.

Rowing A Toilet Bowl

So when I was at GayRomLit in October, the conference hotel had two workout rooms. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to use the one that had the rowing machines but the signage was ambiguous and I probably would’ve ignored it anyway. Unfortunately that workout room only had water rowers.

Rowers depend on resistance to provide the workout. Okay, not controversial statement. The Concept2 rower (usually called an ergometer or erg), used by about 99% of the rowing world, as well as CrossFit, most gyms, and people who have any self respect, derives its resistance from what is essentially a giant bungee cord that is easily replaced. Actually most pieces on the C2 erg are easily replaced, and my erg at home is now made up almost entirely of replaced parts. I have Frankenstein’s ergometer.

That resistance is supplemented by an adjustable fan that most people set way too high. I usually see resistances between 5 and 10 at CrossFit or gyms. To put it in perspective, that’s equivalent to rowing a rowboat or coal barge. No one needs that much wind resistance. it only courts injury. Rowers row between 2 and 4 to put it in perspective.

So what’s my beef with toilet–I mean water–rowers? They use water to create resistance, water in a sealed chamber. There appeared to be no way to lower the resistance. There was a sort of belt, but it didn’t do anything. It was like rowing a–wait for it–toilet bowl.




The round critter behind the wood is the sealed water chamber, ie, the toilet bowl.





Eight Terrible Titles

So Harmony Ink Press will release my next novel Poz on January 8, 2015  [full disclosure: watch this space, because the date’s changed three times already]. There’s a meme going around Farcebook called Eight Terrible Titles in which authors randomly scroll through their works in progress and where the cursor stops, that becomes one of the terrible titles. I thought it would fun to do with Poz.

So here we go!

1. Abject misery wasn’t anything I needed to share. 

2. I found it hard to think when I looked at him.

3. Yeah, I’d downloaded Grindr.

4. Greetings from Sodom!

5. Red blotches everywhere.

6. I’ve gotten so used to ignoring him it barely registered.

7. Nice job, you sick fuck.

8. That shoe fits you, Cinderella.

And because I’m so in love with Remy and Michael, the romantic leads in this story, here are two more bonus titles which aren’t even remotely random.

9. “Mikey—Michael—I can’t really think when you’re doing that,” I said, my voice rough

10. No one wants to catch your disease.

So there we have it, eight terrible–or tantalizing–titles, plus two bonus teasers. Stay tuned for blurb and cover reveals.


7-7-7 Poz Preview

So I was tagged by the lovely and talented Ariel Tachna over on Facebook for that 7-7-7 game where you go the seventh chapter of your work in progress and post the first seven lines of your seventh paragraph or somesuch.

Instead of posting in on Facebook, I thought I’d make post it on my blog for maximum coverage. This is the first seven paragraphs from the seventh chapter of Poz (unedited draft). Poz tells the story of Jeremy “Remy” Babcock, a high school student and rower, who in his desperation to shed his unwanted virginity makes some colorful choices the summer before his senior year in high school and contracts HIV. Despite the gravity of Remy’s situation, it’s nonetheless an uplifting and life-affirming story.

Poz has been accepted by Dreamspinner Press and will be released in November or December of this year. Updates to follow as they’re available.


~unedited draft~


note: Geoff is Remy’s twin brother.

Josh, the stud who’d cruised me at the boathouse, remembered me, all right. First of all, my phone lit up—lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve—when I turned it back on after class. Buzz buzz buzz! with a bunch of incoming text messages.

J: Hey pretty, of course I remember U 😉


J: U there?


J: Text me back, brah.


“You’re getting ready for bed?” Geoff sounded surprised.

What could I say? “It’s been a long day.”

“Did you just whine?” He bumped me with his shoulder.

“Probably. All I want to do is crawl under the covers and sleep for a week.” At this point, I probably couldn’t have slept even with a face full of sedatives. I wanted to do something under the covers all right, but as close as Geoff and I were, there were some things we did not share. “Unfortunately I have to be up bright and early and ready to scull until I achieve perfection, and then help with a learn to row clinic I was drafted into.”

I must have made a face, because Geoff gave me a look of purest concern. “I thought you liked luring innocent young lads and lasses into a life of torture and rowing.”

“This is an adult learn to row clinic, actually.” I had to smile at Geoff’s phrasing, because he was right. “I’m just doing it because I get paid. One of the masters coaches is in charge. I’m just driving a boat.”

“You’re coxing?” Geoff laughed. “This I have to see.”

“You know where the boathouse is. Come watch.”

“Don’t you get too far out on the water to see much?”

I’d taken my contacts out by this time, so I looked over my glasses at him. “First day. We won’t get that far,” I muttered darkly.

I could tell by his smile that he was thinking about it. “Can I bring Laurel?”

“Of course.” I gave him a look. He knew how much I liked her. “The more the merrier. If the water’s calm, you might even be able to hear me doing a bad job of keeping my patience. The real fun, however, will be the coaches trying the same thing and they’ll have powered megaphones. You’ll hear them loud and clear.”

Geoff pulled his phone. “I’m telling Laurel about this right now.”

“The more I think about this the more it says something sad about us all that this is the most entertaining thing we can come up with.” I shook my head.

“Remy, we’re under eighteen. We can’t drink, we can’t get into clubs—okay, you and I can, but our friends can’t—and we’re not the type to spend the summer stoned. Let’s face it, Davis in the summer is quieter than a grave. Watching you not blowing your stack, or better yet, not screaming and swimming for shore? Best game in town.”

I had to admit Geoff was right. It just sucked to hear it put so bluntly. “Okay, there’s nothing I can say to that, but Geoff?”


“Don’t you dare wear as much aftershave as you’re pouring into your hand. Some on the cheeks, some further south, and that’s it. The idea is to make her go hunting for that elusive scent, not to choke us all in a cloud of it.”

I was the recipient of the one-fingered mudra of contempt, but he poured about half of it down the drain and then followed directions. “Why am I taking advice from a gay virgin?”

“Because I’m right,” I said around my toothbrush.