Archive for January, 2010

In Hot Pursuit

So I have a book coming out. It didn’t seem like a real, actual book until earlier this week when I got my first glance at the cover. The book comes out in a little over two weeks, and I almost don’t believe it. I will bruise if I keep pinching myself.

The novel is called In Hot Pursuit. The title was the suggestion of a friend who pointed out that the legal definition of “hot pursuit” implies doing something extra-legal in catching a suspect. I liked the double entendre, too. Our narrator, Noah, is hunting down a missing man both because he wants to find him and solve the case and because he wants the man for himself.

Thus we have a novel about a man coping with a great loss and trying to get on with his life, and a novel about a man who meets a hot guy and gets ensnared, and a novel with lots of gun shots fired and even a car chase! I hope it’s as good a ride as I think it is. (Pun intended!)

Here’s the blurb:

Hard-working NYPD cop Noah Tobin didn’t even want to go on vacation. But it’s been a tough eighteen months since the death of his lover, so he’s determined to make the most of it. On his first night in sunny Florida, a chance encounter with a handsome man in a bar bathroom jumpstarts something in Noah that’s been dormant for all those months. Then the man disappears.

Noah’s vacation is thrown into upheaval because he can’t just let it go when he learns that the mysterious man who turned his life upside down went missing. He volunteers to help with the manhunt for his mystery man, a wealthy restaurateur named Harrison Knowles. When Harry is found, Noah finds himself sucked into a web of secrets and drawn even more to the charismatic Harry. Getting involved with Harry also forces Noah to face some old demons and finally deal with the grief over his lover that he’s been hanging onto.

I’m going to try to get more info up on the book page over the next couple of days. It comes out on February 16th from Loose Id!

if you’re not doing anything Sunday…

…I will be here:

Sunday, January 31st is the first Gay Day of 2010 at Ethan Day’s Yahoo Group. Gay Day is the one day a month when the best authors in GLBT Romance stop by to post excerpts of their new and upcoming releases.

The following authors will be generously offering giveaways you can enter to win:

Z.A. Maxfield – Family Unit
AKM Miles – Too Keen
P.A. Brown – L.A. Boneyard
Lex Valentine – Fire Season
Clare London – Upwardly Mobile
Willa Okati – Lovers, Dreamers & Me
A.J. Llewellyn – A Promo pack including a print copy of Phantom Lover
Simone Anderson – Finding Love & Knights of Pleasure
Amanda Young – Readers Choice from her Back-List
Charlie Cochrane – a Goodie Bag of Promotional Items
Devon Rhodes – Gaymes Anthology including Rough Rider
Nix Winter – Timeless
Stephani Hecht – Bound by Blood
Jambrea Jo Jones is offering up one copy from her backlist which includes Heart Song & Runaway Man

The amazing Authors below will be popping in and out to chat & post excerpts from their latest books:

Carol Lynne – Resolution & Through the Montana Mist
Lynn Lorenz – Baymore’s Heir
Trina Lane – SEALing Fate
A.J. Llewellyn – Wanted
Jeanne Barrack – The Sweet Flag
S.J. Frost – No Fear
Lex Valentine – Christmas Catch
Charlie Cochrane – Lessons in Temptation
TC Blue – A Game of Chances Coming February 22, 2010
Willa Okati – And Call Me in the Morning
Adrianne Brennan – My Big Fat Greek Pagan Lesbian Wedding
Kate McMurray – In Hot Pursuit Coming February 16, 2010 from Loose Id
Jaime Samms – Muse’s Vacation

The day will begin from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST in the Ethan Day Yahoo Group where we’ll be posting excerpts, running contests for free books, and chatting about all the new and upcoming releases from your favorite authors.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. CST we’ll be hosting another LIVE Chat which is pretty much a free for all, anything-goes-chat that’ll inevitably have you uttering the phrase, “What the f**k?” : )
***You will need to have Downloaded Skype in order to take part in the Live Chat.***
Once you’ve downloaded the FREE software, simply add Ethan as a contact: ethandayonline — and he’ll be able to add you to the chat room!

That’s right! Sneak peak of the novel! I’m excited! I’ve popped into Gay Day a couple of times, and it’s crazy but fun.

common themes and geekery

I watched Doctor Who with some friends last night. I’d never seen the show before. I talked over a scene to offer an opinion on something happening (I’m sure my comment was something like, “So… it’s always the Daleks, isn’t it?”) and one of my friends said, “You are now a geek.” To which I said, “Uh, have we met before?” I feel like I’m already pretty secure in my geekhood.

Everyone’s a little nerdy about something. The things that I’m nerdy about, that I obsess over, tend to find their way into my fiction.

Ebbets FieldI realized recently that baseball is mentioned in many of my works in progress. I was a casual fan as a kid, probably because I grew up in the NYC suburbs and the Mets were doing well at the time. My brother and I collected and traded baseball cards for no other reason I can think of besides that I liked collecting things and that’s what the boys his age were doing. Then, when I was twelve, my parents brought us to my first Yankees game. I loved the whole experience: talking stats with my dad, eating hot dogs and Cracker Jack, being able to see the action in person with thousands of other fans. The Yankees didn’t even win the game, but I was sold. I have since become what you might call a hard-core fan. I especially like surprising the hell out of men who assume women are antipathetic towards baseball. But I also love the history of it, the math behind it, the debates over who the best short stop was, who the best slugger was, what to do about steroids, all of it.

I was at a party once where the Brooklyn Brewery’s Pennant Ale was being served. There was a cute guy hanging around the fridge when I went to get a new round, and when he fished a bottle out for me, I said (because I am a nerd) “These say ’55′ on them because that’s the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series.” (Yes, that bit of knowledge just lives in my brain. I’m hoping to one day get picked up by the Cash Cab because I always win when I play at home.) The guy was impressed and told me he hadn’t known that. I apologized for nerding all over him, and he pointed out that he was wearing a Starfleet Academy tee-shirt. So, see, everyone is nerdy about something.

It’s tricky to insert nerdery into a novel yet. I mention baseball in almost every one of my novels, but I rarely write about baseball players, usually just fans. Likewise, I play the violin and have played for years, but I rarely write violinist characters. (Until I did. I wrote a long descriptive passage about a violinist practicing that I thought was quite nice, but my writer’s group found all the minutiae boring. All things in moderation, I suppose.)

Still, I always thought it was kind of fun to catch recurring themes in the works of the writers I like. Sometimes you can tell what a writer obsesses over, just in the interests they give their characters. Or it’s a write-what-you-know thing. I know what it’s like to be a baseball fan. I follow the game and like to quote stats and even played in a fantasy league last summer. It seems pretty reasonable to me that a thirty-something New Yorker (such as Noah in my upcoming In Hot Pursuit) would be at least a casual fan. Maybe that’ll be my novels’ Easter egg. Spot the baseball reference!

Speaking of other things I’m obsessed with, if you want a music rec, I’ve been listening to the Decemberist’s “The Hazards of Love” on a repeating loop all day. If you are a fan of indie rock or rock opera, I heartily recommend it. Some of the themes are a little icky, but the music is wonderful.

the first time

My first novel comes out about a month from now. It feels weird to call it “my first novel.” It is my first published novel, but it’s far from the first thing I’ve written or even the first novel I’ve finished.

But I think there’s some trial and error in writing. You never get it right the first time. The first novel I ever finished was this overwrought teen drama that I wrote when I was maybe seventeen. On the rare weekday afternoons when I was home (I participated in a lot of extra-curricular activities, so these were rare indeed) I would sit at the computer in my mother’s room, typing away until she got home from work. (We had a pretty cutting-edge set up for the time. When I was a kid, we were usually the last kids on the block to get any new technology—I personally didn’t own a CD player until, like, 1998—but we were, I think, the first among the families I knew to get a computer.) So, I banged out this novel over the course of several months, and I don’t remember all of my thought processes, but I do remember the euphoria I felt when I finished the last chapter. And you better believe I printed that sucker out and hugged the manuscript for a while. (I think I even bound it, actually. Yes, I was a big dork.)

You never forget the first time, right? I saved that novel onto a floppy disk and took it with me to college. Four years after I finished the book, I took a look at it again. At the time, I was writing a thesis and needed a distraction. By then, I had three and a half years of college under my belt, and that included two creative writing classes, and my writing had improved so much that I was able to recognize how terrible the first draft was. So I started over from scratch. I took the same characters, aged them up a little, sent them on some new adventures, and wrote whenever I could steal time from my thesis and my job and my (inadvisedly heavy) course load. I somehow managed to finish a second draft before graduation.

I moved to New York about a month after I graduated, and it took me another month to find a job after that, so I had free time enough to start thinking up other stories. I sat down one day and decided to write a novel based on where I was in my life at that time: I had finally managed to cauterize the wounds from a fairly traumatic breakup, I was feeling a little aimless with nothing in particular to fill up my days, and I was, well, in New York. Thus the second novel I ever finished came about. It was angsty and cathartic, aimed at being an anti-chick-lit novel but ultimately succumbing to my great fondness for a sweet romance and a happy ending. I later had that novel bound at Kinko’s and gave it out to a few friends of mine to read. The verdict was, basically, “Um, Kate, this is a thinly-veiled autobiography, and, uh, it’s well-written and all, but… no.”

So that was a failure, but you have to grow and move on. I started and abandoned a lot of projects. I wrote a couple of novels of no redeeming value. I didn’t feel that “I finished!” euphoria again until I wrote a screenplay based on this story idea I’d been kicking around for years (an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery crossed with an action film… there’s amateur detective work and also explosions!), and I think that elation was due more to the fact that I’d finally committed that idea to paper (or screen, I guess) than about the fact that the screenplay was any good (because I’m pretty sure it’s awful).

Two years ago, I made a commitment to myself to write at least a little every day. I think that changed everything. It seems like such a small thing, but I think it was vital in both my actually finishing a novel and in producing something that was any good. I still have a lot of false starts, but forcing myself to think about writing every day, and to actually write, means that I am more engaged with what I’m working on, which is all to the good. So, last June, I finished a novel that I was confident enough to send out. And it will be published next month.

As I finished writing this post, I noticed that Rick Reed wrote a post comparing finishing a novel to shooting a child. It’s not as crazy a metaphor as you’d think. You take the time to love and nurture your characters, and then, rather abruptly, you’re done with the novel and it’s gone.

But that first one. I take it out every now and then, perhaps as a concession to my seventeen-year-old self to fulfill that dream and get it published. I rewrote it from scratch again a few years ago, but it falls victim to the fact that I’ve grown a lot as a writer even in the few short years since I last did serious work on it. So I read it now and think it’s awful. The novel has a lot going for it—I still love these characters, I handled the settings well, the ending made a friend of mine cry (in the good way)—but this might just be the thing I open up every now and then and tweak and rewrite and it will never be finished. But visiting it is sort of like visiting old friends.

cop stories

It occurred to me today that, if you count my forthcoming novel, I currently have three projects in the works with cops as major characters. I have no idea how that happened.

Well, I do. I think I’ve always been in awe of people who work in professions that I admire but could never do myself. That, and I had a friend in elementary school whose father was NYPD, and I remember thinking how cool that was. (And, thinking about it now, he would have been a cop in New York City in the 80s, which must have been horrific. For some perspective, it was reported recently that 2009 had the fewest murders in NYC since the city started keeping statistics. There were 461. According to one of my reference books [New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg] there were 1,384 murders in 1985.)

I’ve always loved mysteries, and police procedurals in particular, probably because I’m a nerd and I like detail and minutiae. Even during the period of my life that I thought I was too good to read romance novels (such delusions!), mystery novels were my genre fiction vice. And for years, I watched a lot of cop shows on TV, especially Law and Order.

I had one encounter with an NYPD homicide detective a few years ago that was not in any way like TV. I was living in Manhattan at the time (so this was probably 2005-ish, if you need some context.) I came home after a long day at work and was somewhat alarmed to see that my whole block had been sectioned off with police tape. The uniformed cops hanging around let me go into my building, though, and it looked like the operation was winding down. I was curious, but didn’t think much of it.

At the time, I was living by myself in a small apartment on the first floor of a large apartment building, one of only two on the block. My bedroom window faced the street. Although I had both heavy curtains and bars on the windows, I guess if I really wanted to, I could have seen everything going on outside.

About ten minutes after I got into my apartment, there was a knock at the door. I answered, and was met by a late-30s-ish guy in a green tee-shirt and jeans, with a police badge hanging around his neck on a chain. He introduced himself as a homicide detective from “the Three-Four.” My first thought was, “Shouldn’t you be wearing a suit?” I mean, homicide detectives on TV always wear suits, right? Anyway, the detective asked me if I’d seen anything, so I told him I’d just gotten home from work and had no idea what was going on. I didn’t ask him what the deal was, either, because I’d seen a lot of cop shows; homicide detectives are always cagey and can’t tell you anything. Although maybe that caginess went only comes with the suit, because the detective then proceeded to tell me everything: there’d been a drive-by shooting on the block. The detective thought it was drug-related, and they’d determined that the shooter knew the victim. (This only made me feel mildly better. I knew there was a fair amount of drug activity in the neighborhood, but out of sight, out of mind. I lived on a major cross-street with a lot of business and consoled myself with the fact that, even if I didn’t live in the safest neighborhood, the trip between the subway and my apartment was well-lit. Although I had nightmares for a few nights after this incident about stray bullets coming in through my bedroom window.) Anyway, the kid who got shot was okay, he’d already been taken to the hospital. And the detective just… told me all of this without my even asking. I really think I would have been better off not knowing, frankly.

That’s an anticlimactic story, I know, but the point is that, um, I was interviewed as part of a homicide investigation that one time. Which is almost as cool as the fact that I have an actor friend who played a witness on an episode of Law & Order, which is maybe only cool to me. Every actor in New York has had at least a bit part on that show. (Not to mention the fact that an episode of Criminal Intent was filmed on the very same block where that drive-by shooting take place, but before the shooting, IIRC. And I tried to sneak onto the set of an episode of L&O filming in Prospect Park once, but the director figured out I was not an official extra and yelled at me. And another episode was spoiled for me because I knew SVU had been filming near Grand Army Plaza—which is right near my apartment in Brooklyn; I walk through it every morning on the way to work—and Detective Benson got some clue about archways, but it wasn’t the Washington Square Arch, and I sat on my couch and shouted, “Grand Army Plaza! Grand Army Plaza!” and lo, the victim was found in Brooklyn.)

I have a character in one of my WIPs who is a mystery writer who finds himself tangled up in a homicide investigation, and although he writes really gruesome things, crime scenes make him nauseous. That’s about where I’m at, I think. I have a lot of respect for cops, I’m fascinated by police procedure, but I’m content to write about it instead of experience it for real.

the future of publishing! dude lit! stereotypes!

I made kind of an off-hand tweet about this Galley Cat post with some publishing predictions, and someone said they wanted to see my analysis, so now they’re paying the price! The most interesting of the predictions to me were that 95% of books would be read on screens within the next ten years [something I would be in favor of but which I find unlikely, given an informal survey I conducted, i.e. based on conversations I've had on the subway with people who interrupt my reading to say, "Woah, is that one of those Kindle things? What's it like?" This conversation invariably ends with the other person saying, "I don't know, it looks cool, but I don't think I could give up paper books."] and that all authors will be “indie authors.” I’m not sure what this means. I think it means that indie publishers will start to take a lot of the market share away from the big publishers.

Coincidentally, I had dinner with my mother last night, and this came up in conversation. We are both publishing industry vets; I still work in the industry (albeit in academic publishing, which is an entirely different market), she’s basically retired. My mom worked at a bunch of the big houses, though, so I feel she has some insight. And we came to similar conclusions. The current advance-paying model of publishing is unsustainable. I read recently that only a very small percentage of books earn back their advances. Paying a 7-figure advance for a book penned by a celebrity, for example, seems like a big gamble for an industry already struggling.

And don’t even get me started on delaying ebooks to give hardcovers a chance to sell. When I mentioned this to my mom, she said, “That’s stupid, they’re different markets.” Exactly! I rarely buy hardcovers. Most of the hardcovers I own were purchased at used book stores or the bargain table at Barnes & Noble, you know? So even if I were not an ebook reader, it’s unlikely I’d buy the stupid hardcover. But I am an ebook reader, and there have been a number of times recently where I’ve followed a link to an interesting-looking book and thought, “Oh, not available in ebook? Guess I’m not buying it.” I mean, take my anecdotal arguments with a grain of salt, I guess, but I can’t be the only reader who thinks this way.

Although, this also ignores the fact that half the reason I wanted to own an ebook reader to begin with was that about half the books I purchase these days come from the epubs, and reading on my laptop is not as fun or portable as you’d think. Well, and also, once I realized that I could desire a book and then have it in my hands in less than a minute, I was drunk with power.

Anyway! So then NPR has this article about how ebooks will change reading and writing. So let’s pull it apart.

Apart from Twitter books and cell phone novels, Grossman, who is also a novelist, says the real challenge for writers is electronic-book readers like the Kindle. He says the increasingly popular devices force people to read books in a different way.

“They scroll and scroll and scroll. You don’t have this business of handling pages and turning them and savoring them.” Grossman says that particular function of the e-book leads to a certain kind of reading and writing: “Very forward moving, very fast narrative … and likewise you don’t tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on.”

Oh, where to start. Here’s the thing. I like paper books. I own a whole lot of them. I went into publishing in the first place because I love books. I like how they smell, I like how paper feels, I find the process by which they are put together fascinating. I also live in an apartment with limited space.

I would say my reading experience is not markedly different on the Kindle. Just because the words are on a screen doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate lovely prose when I see it. I still get lost in a book the same way I used to with paper books. I don’t see why or how books would have to be different, content-wise, in the ebook era. (And, infuriatingly, the NPR article talks about Twitter, makes the argument that authors will have to write pulp in order to be successful, and then ends. Um, what?)

Smart Bitch Sarah makes the argument that a book has to hook her in the first 30 pages or she’s moving onto the next thing in the queue, but I personally am this way with paper books, too. Sarah goes on to talk about single-purpose ebook readers like the Kindle and the flaws therein, which I think is a separate blog post. (I keep seeing buzz about the Apple Tablet and think “Ooh, shiny!” and I sometimes wish the web browser on the Kindle were less clunky, but I like that eInk is easy on the eyes and the Kindle fits in my purse. The Kindle certainly has flaws, but it gets the job done while I wait for the Next Big Thing.)

While we’re talking about publishing trends, there’s the Katie Roiphe essay that’s getting a lot of buzz. Honestly, I feel out of my element here. I have a lit degree and normally love this kind of analysis, but my focus was primarily on women writers. I’ve read almost all of the authors mentioned, and I’ve seen lots of reactions to the article today (everything from, “Well, of course heterosexual novelists have issues with sex; talking about sex and emotion is perceived as feminine and/or gay” to “ooh, pink infographics” to “Roiphe kind of has a point” to “why is Roiphe publishing her college term paper?”) but I still have no conclusion, just thought the essay was interesting.

Finally, via this Queerty post, I discovered this article on writing gay characters. My favorite bit is the “avoid at all costs” section. I read the list of cliches to avoid and thought, “Wow, this is basically the first season of Queer as Folk.” Bonus: there’s a list of recommended books at the end.

quote

From an excerpt of Edmund White’s new memoir:

I suppose that finally New York is a Broadway theatre where one play after another, decade after decade, occupies the stage and the dressing rooms – then clears out. Each play is the biggest possible deal (sets, publicity, opening-night celebrations, stars’ names on the marquee), then it vanishes. With every new play the theatre itself is just a bit more dilapidated, the walls scarred, the velvet rubbed bald, the gilt tarnished. Because they are plays and not movies, no one remembers them precisely. The actors are forgotten, the plays are just battered scripts showing coffee stains and missing pages. Nothing lasts in New York. The life that is lived there, however, is as intense as it gets.

[Funny how that's what I take away from the whole excerpt, when there is so much else there. I like this metaphor, basically, but White says a lot of other interesting things, too, about famous people, about New York in the 70s, about being gay and promiscuous, about AIDS. I'm holding out for the paperback or ebook of City Boy, but I definitely want to read it.]

new story

I decided to post the Christmas story I mentioned in my last post. I wrote this for an online writing community, to a slightly absurd prompt, but the community organizer decreed that I should write romance (and I’m not sure she even knew I am a romance writer!) and this is what I came up with. The ending is a little too easy, but it’s a feel-good holiday tale. You can read it here. My one-sentence summary is thus: Two very lonely people find what they’re looking for on the roof of the Empire State Building on Christmas Eve. (I’d rate it PG-13 for language.)

I may occasionally post free stories and things. Plus, stay tuned, my novel is coming out in February, so hopefully there will soon be an excerpt and a cover and those exciting things.