Olympics Fun and Games

I’m sure it will come to a surprise to no one who knows I wrote a trilogy set at the Olympics that I am an Olympics superfan. I’m not athletic, but as a teenager, I took swim classes, and used to fantasize I was swimming at the Olympics when my instructor made me swim laps. I was never in the same universe as an elite swimmer, but a girl can dream.

The Elite Athletes series was on a publication schedule meant to coincide with the 2020 Olympics, but then, you know, global pandemic.

So now the 202…1 Olympics are about to start.

I get it if people feel ambivalent this year. Tokyo declaring a state of emergency just before the games are supposed to start because COVID cases are surging in Japan is not great. A series of decisions by the various governing agencies that regulate each sport (the most egregious of which is, IMHO, kicking Sha’Carri Richardson off the US track team for smoking marijuana, which I think we can all agree only enhances your performance at napping and eating snacks) have left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. On the other hand, most of these athletes have been training for years or their whole lives for this moment and there’s a very narrow window during which they can compete at this level, and canceling the Olympics would hurt the athletes. Also, Simone Biles. So my feelings about the Olympics this year are complicated.

But I’ve been preparing some Elite Athletes Bonus Content, so I figured I’d share in case you intend to watch! Keep reading for some games you can play at home and some commentary on the American athletes to watch for.

First, I made an Olympic Bingo Card (PDF) so you can play along as you watch the games this year. This is just good fun. Your prize is a job well done.

Next, I did actually watch the US trials for diving, swimming, track and gymnastics. If you’re interested, here are some things to look out for:

One thing that I thought was really interesting this year was that it felt like a new generation was taking over. A lot of athletes we saw in 2012 and 2016 (or earlier in a few cases) competed at trials but couldn’t keep up with the young up-and-comers. So the diving team, for example, is all newcomers.

Stick the Landing

In swimming, now that Michael Phelps has retired, a whole new generation of swimmers has shown up. Watch for Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Murphy in the men’s events and Katie Ledecky and Regan Smith in the women’s. (The American team is DEEP. Lots of them could win medals, including some teenagers who made the team.)

In track, the favorite in the men’s 100m is Trayvon Bromell. Also look for Michael Norman, Rai Benjamin, Gabby Thomas, and Allyson Felix, who were among my favorites to watch at trials. 

Bonus track material: Hammer thrower Gwen Berry made some headlines for protesting during the anthem, like the media just forgot that US athletes have a long tradition of activism. NBC made a documentary a few years ago (that is actually quite good!) about protests at the 1968 Mexico City games, narrated by Serena Williams. The whole thing is on YouTube (and I think the free part of Peacock, too). Starz also recently produced a documentary called With Drawn Arms about Tommie Smith, who was part of the 1968 protest.

In gymnastics, Simone Biles is, of course, the GOAT. Her second day at the US trials was a little rough, but she is still indisputably the best in the world. On the men’s side, Brody Malone is the US champ and looked great at trials. Yul Muldauer was also fun to watch and consistently good. Sam Mikulak is the old man on the squad (he’s 28 and this is his 3rd Olympics). On the ladies side, I like Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles a lot. (I’ve been watching Jordan all season, and she’s been on FIRE.) Speaking of activist athletes, Mykayla Skinner’s hair at trials reminded me of Vera Caslavska. (See this.)

When I was researching Stick the Landing, I got deep in the gymnastics weeds, including gymnastics history. I don’t want to take anything away from athletes of the past, but Simone Biles is just on a different planet from, say, Nadia Comaneci or Olga Korbut, you know? On the other hand, there’s Ludmilla Tourischeva, who dismounts as the bars fall apart behind her and doesn’t even react. Badass. (Any excuse to share that clip. It cracks me up every time.)

Above and beyond the general games, gymnastics is also kind of it’s own thing, so make a cocktail and play along with this drinking game I cooked up. 

The Gymnastics Drinking Game:

Take a sip if:
Nastia Liukin mentions Dancing with the Stars
Nastia Liukin wears wears something over the top.  
Tim Daggett says “Gymnastics 101” when referring to a struck landing. 
A male gymnast lets out a Masculine Roar of Triumph after finishing a routine. 
A gymnast wears glasses.
A gymnast talks to a camera right after finishing a routine. 
A gymnast performs a move named after him/herself. (i.e., Simone Biles does a Biles.)
A gymnast over 30 (from any country) competes. 

Finish your drink if:
The American men’s team wins a medal. 
The American women’s wins gold. 
Simone Biles wins All-Around Gold.
Any American gymnast wins an apparatus medal. 

And finally! A little shameless self-promotion. If you got this far, you may be an Olympics fan, so check out the Elite Athletes series! These links go to bookstores so you can own your very own copies in ebook or paperback!

Here Comes the Flood (swimming and diving)
Stick the Landing (gymnastics)
Race for Redemption (track)

What the Cat Dragged In COVER REVEAL!

This hit Instagram over the weekend, but in case you were distracted by fireworks, behold the gorgeous cover for Whitman Street Cat Cafe Book 2: What the Cat Dragged In!

You can, in fact, pre-order the book wherever you buy books by clicking here! Or add it on Goodreads!

When Paige Danvers isn’t managing events for the Whitman Street Cat Café, she is busy navigating dating disasters as a single woman in Brooklyn. Urged by her boss and best friend Lauren to find a distraction from ineffectual dating apps, Paige volunteers with a cat rescue organization, where she actually meets a guy with some real relationship potential.

Recent law school grad Josh Harlow is putting in long hours at a Manhattan law firm as he gets over a messy breakup. When his boss requires him to do some volunteer work, Josh’s sister sets him up to help capture feral cats. Partnered with Paige, Josh is insistently drawn to the dynamic event planner and sparks between them fly.

One problem: after a steamy night together, Paige discovers Josh is Lauren’s brother and dating him would be a spectacularly awful idea. Particularly considering Paige’s track record. They’re both in too deep to walk away—but if they let the cat out of the bag, it’s going to wreak havoc with friends, family, and jobs alike.

The book hits shelves on December 7, 2021!

Like Cats and Dogs is Out Now!

Like Cats and Dogs Cover

It’s finally here!

Get your paws on Like Cats and Dogs, the first book in the Whitman Street Cat Cafe series! There’s a cat cafe! There’s a grumpy vet! It’s enemies to lovers! Make with the one-clicking!

Here’s the full description:

Can you fight like cats and dogs, and still be perfect for each other?

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Cafe and gets on the wrong side of cafe owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start…

Lauren can’t ignore the fact that she is instantly attracted to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren’s doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that’s been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they’ll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

It’s available in ebook, print, and audio! You can buy it here!

Publisher’s Weekly says, “McMurray offers up some irresistible animal magnetism in this quirky romance… Colorful locals and the leads’ convincing chemistry give this romance its sizzle, but it’s the four-legged costars that steal the show. Animal lovers are sure to be charmed.”

Booklist says, “Readers craving a rom-com that offers both sensual heat and snappy humor will find this to be literary catnip.”

Like Cats and Dogs Giveaway!

Enter to win one of three prizes in this pre-order giveaway from Sourcebooks! There’s a dog-lover gift, a cat-lover gift, and a super cool Whitman Street Cat Cafe mug!

Enter here!

You can pre-order the book from your bookstore of choice. It drops on May 4th!

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Cafe and gets on the wrong side of cafe owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start…

Lauren can’t ignore the fact that she is instantly attracted to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren’s doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that’s been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they’ll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

Now Available: Domestic Do-Over

Hitting shelves today: Domestic Do-Over, my home renovation TV show romance. Here’s the description:

Can a prickly carpenter build a reality TV host a way out of the closet?

Real estate guru Brandon Chase knows what “family friendly” means in the biz, and it’s not being open about his sexuality.

The end of Brandon’s marriage is still making headlines when the Restoration Channel makes him an offer: helm a show about flipping houses in New York City’s risky market. Still smarting from the bad press, Brandon is reluctant to get involved—until he falls in love with an old Victorian.

Except the house isn’t the only thing that catches his eye.

It’s contractor Travis Rogers’s job to enumerate every way a renovation could go wrong, which leads to a lot of on-set sparring and mutual frustration between him and Brandon. But when the simmering attraction underneath boils over, the show and their relationship hang in the balance.

Travis hates the media attention that follows Brandon, and the network has a history of firing LGBTQ personalities. Like the houses Brandon makes over, this relationship has potential. But if Brandon can’t convince Travis to take a chance, their chemistry might stay on-screen only.

Available wherever you buy ebooks today, mass market paperbacks coming soon!

Buy it here!

(This is the first book in a new series about the people who star on the shows of a home-and-self improvement channel. Book 2, Residential Rehab, coming soon!)

Like Cats and Dogs has a cover!

In case you missed the social media rollout last week, here’s the cover for Like Cats and Dogs!

I am so stoked to be rolling out this book. It’s my first published m/f rom com! It’s a trade paperback! It will be in bookstores everywhere in May!

This book features:

• A cat cafe!
• A grumpy veterinarian!
• Enemies to lovers!
• Snappy dialog!
• Sex in a supply closet!

You can pre-order! Or add on Goodreads!

New Release: Race for Redemption

Hey sports fans! The third Elite Athletes book is now available!

Sprinter Jason Jones Jr., known around the world as JJ, is America’s hope to take the title of Fastest Man in the World, the champion of the Olympic 100-meter sprint. Two years before, a doping scandal brought his winning streak to a crashing end, and even though he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, he’s finding it hard to escape the damage to his reputation. At the Games in Madrid, no one believes he’s innocent, and officials from the doping agency follow him everywhere. It just fuels JJ’s determination to show them he’s clean and still the fastest man on earth.

If only he wasn’t tempted by foxy hurdler Brandon Stanton, an engineering student and math prodigy who views each race like a complicated equation. His analytical approach helps him win races, and he wants to help JJ do the same. But JJ’s been burned too many times before and doesn’t trust anyone who has all the answers. No matter how sexy and charming JJ finds Brandon, the Olympics is no place for romance. Or is it?

This one is my editor’s favorite in the series, if that influences your decision! You can buy it here.

Re-Release: Save the Date

Save the Date Cover

A wild thing happened way back in 2012, which is that my ex-boyfriend sent me an invitation to his wedding. I did not attend said wedding, but I did grouse about the invitation on Twitter—the nerve!—and then several people responded to say something along the lines of, “You know, if this were a romance novel, you’d meet the love of your life at the wedding.” And thus I had a premise for Save the Date.

The fake-date-for-a-wedding has a long tradition in romantic comedies, and I also think that sometimes you just have to laugh at how absurd life can be, so my approach to writing the novella was, “What if this were a ’90s romantic comedy?” (Hence the cover. I like how it’s very 1992.)

So, I wrote a book about a guy named Tristan who needs a date to his ex’s wedding. He finds one in an unexpected place, but he has to kiss a lot of frogs first, and then, because it’s a romantic comedy, everything goes pear-shaped right before the wedding.

The original was released in 2013 as part of a publisher bundle of gay-wedding-related novellas. The novella itself went out of print a year and a half ago. Partly, I’ve just been busy and slow, which is why it’s been out of print so long, but I also did a lot of revising, so now the novella is updated to 2020 technology—I wrote it before dating apps were really a thing—and has about 10,000 more words. (The fun thing about getting the rights back to a story is that you can fix things you don’t think you got quite right the first time. The romance between Tristan and his love interest was a little underbaked in the original. It’s fully baked now.)

And so I give you Save the Date, now about 43,000 words (150 pages, give or take), freshened up for a new decade, and hopefully still very funny.

Available now from most ebook retailers: get it here.

Race for Redemption up for pre-order!

At some point during the 2016 Olympics, a commentator said something about an athlete using math to improve how he ran a race, and it stuck in my head.

And so I came up with Brandon, a guileless man who is a wizard with math but not great at relating to other humans. He can game out a race from stride length to the number of steps he can take between hurdles in order to win.

And who is the perfect foil for a man like that? JJ, a flashy sprinter with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Sprinter Jason Jones Jr., known around the world as JJ, is America’s hope to take the title of Fastest Man in the World, the champion of the Olympic 100-meter sprint. Two years before, a doping scandal brought his winning streak to a crashing end, and even though he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, he’s finding it hard to escape the damage to his reputation. At the Games in Madrid, no one believes he’s innocent, and officials from the doping agency follow him everywhere.

It just fuels JJ’s determination to show them he’s clean and still the fastest man on earth.

If only he wasn’t tempted by foxy hurdler Brandon Stanton, an engineering student and math prodigy who views each race like a complicated equation. His analytical approach helps him win races, and he wants to help JJ do the same. But JJ’s been burned too many times before and doesn’t trust anyone who has all the answers. No matter how sexy and charming JJ finds Brandon, the Olympics is no place for romance. Or is it?

Pre-order the book now! It hits shelves October 20, 2020!