“Rebels at Heart” Now Available!

I’ve released my short story, “Rebels at Heart” as a standalone. This revolutionary war romance was originally part of the For Love and Liberty anthology, which will be going out of print shortly. The standalone story has been revised and slightly expanded.

Description:
Charles Foxworth is among New York City’s most fashionable men, though he is only pretending to be a dashing British aristocrat. Still, he is content with his role and has little interest in the war. His companion, Isaac Ward, has more invested in the coming conflict; Isaac was born a slave, and though he is now free, that freedom could be guaranteed if he chose to pick up arms. Then war arrives on the shores of the city and Charles’s idyll is over. He quickly realizes that the war could take from him the very thing he holds most dear: Isaac.

Please note, this is a 15,000 word story, not a full novel.

You can buy it from any of these fine retailers:
Amazon
B&N
Kobo
iTunes

You can also add it on Goodreads!

Progress Is Not Straight Lines: On Happy Endings in Diverse Historical Romance

At RT, I was on a panel about historical romance set in America. One thing that came up from the authors who write romances with characters who aren’t white is that readers often react with, “I don’t believe these people could have a happy ending.” As someone who has written LGBT characters in historical romance, I’ve gotten this quite a bit, too.

I think we as Americans struggle with our own history, because we know the bad stuff (or think we do). I think that’s one of the reasons there are so few American-set romances right now. And while I do agree that one can’t set a book during the Civil War, say, and not address slavery, I don’t agree that it would be impossible for two African American people to find a happy ending during this era.

I think this idea that POC or LGBT people couldn’t have had happy endings comes from two misperceptions. The first is that, unless you were straight and white, everything has always been terrible. This contributes to the other misperception: that progress only ever moves forward, in straight lines.

The reality is that progress is circular, or it’s two steps forward and one step back. For example, African Americans made tremendous strides in the immediate wake of the Civil War that were undone by the abrupt end to Reconstruction and the creation of Jim Crow laws. But even before that, free men and women were activists and writers, held jobs from which they drew salaries, owned businesses.

Or, in the 1920s, women gained the right to vote. The invention of the bra meant they took off their corsets, which literally allowed more freedom of movement. They were allowed to patronize bars for the first time, to drink and smoke in public. Women got jobs they’d never had before. And a lot of that progress was undone by World War II and a return to traditional gender roles in the 1950s. The women’s movement didn’t begin in the 1960s, or even with Susan B. Anthony in the 1870s. Sojourner Truth, herself born a slave, gave her landmark “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in 1851. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” in England 1792, and she drew from the same philosophical writings that Jefferson did when writing the Declaration of Independence.

Every time a group makes progress, there is always pushback. And how we think about history is colored by how we’re taught it and who wrote it. (American history was written by white men, mostly, and the textbooks we all read in school are manipulated to tell a certain narrative. See also Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States or James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me.)

Our idea of romance is relatively modern; marriage for love rather than as a business or practical transaction is fairly new, although love as an emotion has existed for centuries, obviously. But I think if we can be moved by a story of love between, I dunno, a rakish veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and a shy bluestocking, in an era when most women married for financial security, we can also believe in a love story between two men or a man and a woman who aren’t white. And people have always defied the odds to find happiness. As humans, we thrive on hope, on the idea that everything will work out. Rebellions and political movements are built on the hope that we can change the world, are they not?

Newlywed couple, ca. 1900

So when a reader says, “I don’t believe two African Americans could have had a happy ending in antebellum America,” I find that problematic. For one thing, some states abolished slavery well before the Civil War. (Slavery was gradually emancipated in New York beginning in the 1790s and ultimately ended in 1827, for example.) This doesn’t mean African Americans didn’t face racism and adversity—they definitely did and still do—but there were places they could settle, make good marriages, have children. (“We’re all here, aren’t we?” is how Beverly Jenkins responded to this question on my RT panel.)

Or, take LGBT people. I had someone tell me once that LGBT people didn’t exist before the mid-20th century, which is of course completely false. LGBT people have existed as long as people have. To give a small example, performing in drag is hardly a new phenomenon. Female impersonators have been dancing on stages in New York City since at least the early 19th century, if not earlier. While it is true, even, that LGBT identities as we now think of them are relatively new—”homosexuality” was coined as a term in the 1880s around the same time scientists became interested in same-sex attraction—homosexual relationships are recorded in history going back millennia.

Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle

I’ve had readers tell me, “I don’t like gay historicals because I don’t believe a gay couple could have had a happy ending in the past.” We assume that life for gay people was terrible and oppressive for all time. And, sure, it was not always easy. In London in the 1830s, for example, more men were hanged on sodomy charges than murder charges. Laws in New York City made it illegal to be gay and drink at a bar until the Stonewall riots. Sodomy laws remained on the books throughout the country into my lifetime.

But! From the late 19th century until about World War II, there were thriving gay communities in New York City, particularly in Greenwich Village, Times Square, and Harlem. (Other cities, too, but I’ve been primarily researching NYC.) The Hotel Astor in Times Square had a gay section of its famous bar during Prohibition, in fact, a little area that was roped off where men seeking men could find each other. (And drink “coffee,” because Prohibition.) There have been gay bars in New York for 200 years, even. By the 1880s, there were dance halls where men were encouraged to play around with gender, and patrons donned makeup and gowns. (And LGBT people were always creating art and new ways to express themselves. The companion book to the Museum of the City of New York’s Gay Gotham exhibit lays this out nicely.)

(I don’t mean to exclude the women, but society generally didn’t consider women to have sex drives, so it wouldn’t have occurred to many people in the 19th century that the two women sharing a house down the road were, in fact, carrying on a sexual relationship. Lesbians have also existed since the beginning of time, but flew under the radar to a certain extent. Men who had sex with men and anyone who was gender non-conforming were more frequently prosecuted.)

(And this is really all tip of the iceberg; I’m not being comprehensive here, just trying to make a point. For example, some Native American tribes had completely different ideas about gender. How amazing would it be to see an Own Voices narrative about that? And other groups have historically faced oppression in the US, everyone from the Irish to the Chinese to Eastern European Jews, and they should have happy endings in romance novels, too.)

But this is what I mean by circular history. George Chauncey, in his fantastic book Gay New York, argues that acceptance for LGBT people was more widespread prior to World War II than after, that what we think we know about how people have been treated historically is short-sighted or incorrect. The progress of LGBT people has not been a straight line, but rather a push-pull of circular progress over the last several centuries. Same for people of color.

The bottom line is that readers who struggle to accept happy endings in historicals for people of color or LGBT people could take a closer look at history, or could reexamine their own assumptions, particularly since so few readers think much of the proliferation of dukes in historical romance (particularly those who end up marrying governesses or maids). More to the point, if romance is the literature of hope, please believe that there was always hope.

(And none of this is to knock British historicals. My love of them is well-documented. But I’d love to see a lot of new American historicals, too, and I think it’s possible to write these well and still incorporate concerns about American history. I am a history buff who loves historical romance, and I’d like to see these integrated!)

But plausibility issues aside, if we can embrace stories about women owning businesses in Regency England or time-traveling Vikings or what have you, why can’t we believe all people could have happy endings in historical fiction? Is there an underlying belief that only some kinds of people could have (or are deserving of) happy endings? At the end of the day, a good story is a good story, so if we can buy werewolves and vampires, why not POC or LGBT people falling in love in the past?

Because I believe Hank and Nicky from Ten Days in August and Eddie and Lane from Such a Dance lived happily ever after—that Charles and Isaac from “Rebels at Heart” retired to their little farm in Pennsylvania to spend the rest of their days together—and I hope you do, too.

Where to Find Me at #RT17

It’s about that time! I’m flying to Atlanta this Sunday for the RT Booklovers Convention, and I am super excited! I can’t wait to see old friends, meet new people, and squee about books. And, of course, I have a lot of cute outfits planned. 😉

Here’s where I’m scheduled to be:

On Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be teaching at the pre-convention writers boot camp.

On Wednesday at 4pm, I’m on a panel about American historical romance with an all-star group of writers including Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Piper Huguley, Beverly Jenkins, and Joanna Shupe.

On Thursday at 11:15am, I’m playing Apples to Apples with the crew from Dreamspinner Press.

On Thursday at 5:15, I’ll be signing copies of Ten Days in August at the Kensington Peaches and Cream party.

On Saturday, I’ll be signing at the Giant Book Fair and will be roaming around the FAN-tastic Day Party.

You can find my full schedule here.

I’m also donating prizes to Cinema Craptastique and Wheel of Romance, and I’ll have lots of cool goodies to give away. And I’ll be around all week, obviously, so if you’re there, too, be sure to say hi!

The baseball season begins!

Baseball MondaysThe baseball season has just begun! So here’s a bonus Baseball Monday!

If you’ve been around these parts, you may be aware of the fact that I am a huge baseball fan. My sister-in-law had a good insight regarding that recently. In New York, since we have two teams to choose from, she said that whoever was winning more when you were twelve is your team. This is not exactly true in my case—the Yankees sucked when I was twelve—but I did go to my first Yankee game when I was twelve (and they lost, badly, to the Orioles, but it was such a great experience that it kind of imprinted itself on my psyche).

I recently re-watched Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball, and I’ll say, if anyone is ever wondering, “Why does Kate like this sport so much?” watch it to find out. Even if you just watch The Tenth Inning (a follow-up documentary Burns put out a few years ago; the original first aired in 1994), you’ll see “the key years of Kate’s fandom” (the ’90s and ’00s) and my team’s great triumphs (Aaron Boone’s home run to win the 2003 ALCS) and defeats (the Red Sox coming from behind to win the 2004 ALCS and ultimately win the World Series). The documentary is fantastic, and I highly recommend it if you’re even a tiny bit interested in baseball (and have a good number of hours on your hand, because it’s long).

So, hey! Have you caught up with my baseball books? There’s the whole Rainbow League series, about the guys who play for an amateur league. There’s Out in the Field, the story of two Major League ballplayers who fall in love. There’s “One Man to Remember,” my historical novella about a player in Babe Ruth’s shadow in 1927. Four Corners is about four old friends who played baseball together (though the story is really more baseball adjacent). And “What There Is” is a novella about a former ballplayer who falls for his new roommate.

The beginning of the baseball season is great because it’s fresh and new and the prospects for your team always seem positive. Anything can happen! So happy spring and happy baseball!!

Now Available: Show and Tell, 2nd edition

I’m very excited to announce that the second edition of Show and Tell is now live, at least in ebook form. This is, perhaps, the most paranormal of the paranormal romances I’ve written, and it includes Celtic mythology, reincarnated gods, past lives, and an evil shapeshifter, all of which get tangled up at an antique shop that is the subject of a popular reality show. Phew!

The original was put out by Loose Id in 2013. The new edition, but out by yours truly, is expanded by about 20,000 words, which includes some edits and the reintegration of a number of scenes that were deleted from the first edition. Some of these scenes were added back in as “Interludes” which you can choose to read or skip, but I think they enhance the overall story by showing a more complete picture of Dan and Malcom’s previous lives together.

Here’s the blurb:

Dan is a superfan of the TV show Junk Shop, hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. When an old music box turns up, Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and everything changes.

When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of something horrible that happened years ago. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to find answers and discover a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.

As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.

You can buy it from any of these places:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
iBooks

And paperbacks are coming soon! Look for those in the next two weeks or so.

AVAILABLE NOW: There Has to Be a Reason

There Has to Be a ReasonNow on sale wherever you buy ebooks!

Dave is enjoying his junior year at a big New England university, even if none of his relationships have been especially satisfying. He plans to hang around with his best friend Joe and focus on his studies until he graduates, and then he’ll figure out the rest.

Meeting Noel changes his plans.

Noel is strikingly beautiful and unlike anyone Dave knows. Something about Noel draws Dave to him—an attraction Dave doesn’t feel ready to label. And even if he was, why would Noel be interested in Dave? And what about Joe? He hates Noel and everything he represents, and he might hate Dave if he finds out about Dave’s secret desires. So Dave will have to keep those feelings hidden—along with his relationship with Noel.

But Noel has fought too hard for his identity to be Dave’s dirty secret. Will Dave tell the truth and risk the life he’s always known… or live a lie and risk losing the love of his life?

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

A note on the All Romance eBooks closure

All Romance eBooks announced yesterday that they are closing abruptly on December 31 and will not be paying authors for sales after 12/27, so I decided to pull my self-published titles from the site. Here’s what that may mean for you:

Lead Us Not is a free short that was available for download on ARe, but also here on the website. If you follow the link, you can find the story for download in a few different formats.

Across the East River Bridge is still available for purchase from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. If you purchased the book from ARe and were unable to download it before I pulled it, send me proof of purchase (kate (at) katemcmurray (dot) com) and I’ll send you the book.

There Has to Be a Reason (which will be published on January 9) went up for preorder on ARe last week. If you preordered, Dreamspinner will honor your preorder; forward your receipt to contact (at) dreamspinner (dot) com.

I think that covers it. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them.

Holiday Story Round-Up

happyholidays

I don’t know about you, but once December hits, I start binging on holiday novellas. I am a total sucker for a warm, fuzzy, feel-good holiday story, especially in These Times and/or around the holidays. We’ve made it past Thanksgiving, we’re currently scrambling to get our shopping done on time (and/or fretting about what to buy people… why are certain family members just impossible to shop for?).

In the spirit of giving, I figured I’d enable you by letting you know where to find all of my own holiday stories.

• My freebie short, “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring,” is available at the link, both on the website and as a downloadable PDF. It’s about two lonely men who meet on Christmas Eve at the top of the Empire State Building.

• “A Walk in the Dark” is a short about how love might just be right under your nose.

Devin December is about a flight attendant and a movie star who get snowed in at LaGuardia on the day before Thanksgiving.

And, bonus! Kindling Fire with Snow is not explicitly a holiday story, but it is a winter weather tale of two old friends who get snowed in together.

Do you guys have favorite holiday stories? Ones I didn’t write, even? Let me know your favorites in the comments.

There Is No Pie

I wrote this article for the RWANYC newsletter a couple of months ago, and now seems like a good time to republish it.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for RWR about scarcity mindset. It was written in part as a response to a lot of bad author behavior I’d observed, including an author who wrote an article for a big publication arguing that J.K. Rowling should quit writing so that the rest of us could get a piece of the pie.

My response was basically: there is no pie. It’s a common misperception that there’s a finite number of readers and that one author’s success will thus signal another author’s failure. But this fails to take into account the vast number of readers out there, particularly for romance. And there are romance readers who buy and read hundreds of books a year. With a reading culture like that, the potential for any author’s book to be a bestseller is high.

The scarcity/abundance model is one often applied to personal finance, actually, but I think it’s a good model to apply to the way one approaches her career. Think of it this way: if you believe in scarcity, you are more likely to act competitively, be stingier with your resources, be selfish in your promotion. You assume resources are scarce, in other words, so you fight to get yours. If you believe in abundance, you know there’s enough to go around, so you’ll share more, be open to more opportunities, and share your knowledge. The abundance mindset is one where we all have the potential to be successful; indeed, if one succeeds, we all succeed. The rising tide lifts all boats, right?

My theory at the time I wrote the RWR article was that one of the things that motivates a lot of bad author behavior is scarcity mindset, the idea that there’s only so much success to go around, so if another author is successful, that means I won’t be. Which is BS, frankly, because success is not zero-sum. The vast number of readers and the vast number of books sold per year means that any given authors potential reader base could, in fact, be huge. Especially if one writes a great book that catches readers’ imaginations.

So here’s a thing I’m seeing lately that I find troubling: the idea that the success of diverse books means the established straight, white authors get a smaller piece of the pie.

But again: there is no pie.

When I get asked for publishing advice, I always tell people to act as though anything were possible. In other words, placing limits on ourselves is how we get in our own way. Can you imagine if J.K. Rowling had thought, “Well, no fantasy YA series with boy wizards exist, so this book is doomed to failure.” That’s crazy talk. Sure, New York publishing is conservative in what they except, careful to make decisions based on what they think will sell, but at the end of the day, a good book is a good book. And we all know how things turned out for Ms. Rowling.

A lot of diverse authors and authors of diverse books start at a disadvantage, which I think is important to acknowledge. I could go into details, but we’ve talked about them at RWANYC meetings, and a lot of these issues were highlighted by Jennifer Baker from We Need Diverse Books at her talk at the May Brunch. The highlight reel includes things like segregating diverse books in brick-and-mortar stores, ineffective marketing plans, and a mostly-white publishing industry that has struggled to branch out from what it knows to be successful. (To name just a few issues.)

But we are making progress, and that includes authors of diverse books who pushed to have them published, and who developed savvy marketing plans, and have earned accolades and broke sales records and proved that their books are worthwhile. The good news is that publishers are more receptive to a wider range of romance novels, and RWA has, over the last few years, made great strides in advocating for diverse romance.

I’ve seen a lot of remarkable changes just in the last seven years since I submitted my first novel for publication, and that’s a very short amount of time. Publishers who wouldn’t even look at books with LGBT characters seven years ago are publishing them to great acclaim now. An increasingly diverse slate of novels gets reviewed by Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly every month. Romance novels by non-white and/or non-heterosexual authors are getting more attention, and rightly so. The conversation we’ve been having about diverse books for the last couple of years has made tangible progress possible. We’ve still got a ways to go, granted, but the fact that we’ve come so far, I think, means we should continue to operate as if we can go farther. All things are possible.

Naturally, as with any kind of progress, there’s pushback.

But publishing is not like a dinner table. It’s not like there are only ten chairs, and if we give a new author a chair, someone else loses out on a great meal. The industry doesn’t work that way. Readers don’t work that way. One of the best things about the increasing viability of self-publishing as a career path is that the potential exists for any book to find its audience, and as such, a greater diversity—and I mean that in all senses of the word—of books is available to readers. There’s nothing holding you back from putting your crazy idea, the one you’ve heard is not really marketable, out there to find out if it does, indeed, have a market. If you want to write about lesbian astronauts making scientific discoveries and falling in love in 1985, you can find a platform for that book now. (Hell, I kind of want to read that book, and I just made it up on the fly.)

And if you want to write about a woman who owns a florist shop and a man who works as a carpenter who find love in a small town, that’s totally cool, too. The lesbian astronauts won’t push your book off the shelf. If all things are possible—if we work within a mindset of abundance—these books can sit on the same shelf, even.

The romance genre is not a pie. We don’t divvy up slices among authors. (If we did, Nora Roberts would have that slice my youngest brother cuts every Thanksgiving that’s like, a quarter of the pie, even though he claimed to only want a sliver, you know?) New authors make the RWA honor roll every week. Books by all manner of authors with all manner of characters hit bestseller lists routinely. The success of another author has no impact on you unless you let it.

I’d like to think we can all work together to help each other succeed. We can share resources, experience, support, etc., working together to make the publishing industry better. It takes hard work, yes, and a career in romance writing is a long game, but I honestly believe we can continue to make progress together.

Some newsy bits!

Earlier this year, I made the decision to spend the second half of this year focusing on writing new books. I am working on a lot of new stuff now—including a new series about elite athletes and a novel set in the fashion industry; more on both soon!—and I feel like my creative powers are flowing well. I’m studying, too. Partly, I’m reading craft books to better focus the classes I plan to teach next week, but I’m trying to improve my writing, too. I think that’s an important goal for every writer—no one is perfect, so we can always be learning and improving. I want my next book to be better than the last.

But, anyway, there have been a few developments while I’ve been writing.

• My New Adult romance There Has to Be a Reason will be out in early 2017. It’s about a sportsy guy at a large New England university who meets a very pretty boy, which turns his whole life upside down. Sweet and a little angsty. And I went against type and wrote a character who is a Red Sox fan. 😉

• I have a new Facebook group! Join me, Tere Michaels, Elle Brownlee, and Rayna Vause for chatting and shenanigans. The host authors will post a daily discussion topic, and we’ll aim to keep it light and fun. If you want to hang out with us and talk about books and other things happening with us, join Bookshelf Buddies!

• Conference Season 2017 is shaping up now. I’ll be a featured author at Coastal Magic in Florida in February again. I’m teaching a class on revision at Liberty States in March. Then it’s onto the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta in May. I’m doing a panel on historical romance, among other things. And, aspiring writers, it looks like I’m teaching a class at boot camp, so please join me for that!

So now back to the writing.