excerpt: baseball

Babe Ruth!You guys want a taste of my baseball WIP? I wrote this scene this evening.

The dream always started the same way. Matt stepped out of the dugout. He picked up his bat and walked to the on deck circle, where he took a few practice swings. Then it was his turn at bat. He paused to acknowledge the crowd, which gave an uproarious cheer. He walked up to the plate and swung the bat again. Finally, just like Babe fucking Ruth, he pointed. Where he pointed varied, but it was usually towards the left field bleachers.

Anytime he had the dream, he was confident that his bat would connect and he’d drive that ball out of the stadium. Everything from the wind to the velocity of the pitch was under his control. He choked the bat, he lifted it, he saw the pitch, and he swung.

What happened next was a crapshoot. Sometimes he got the home run he expected. He’d run triumphantly around the bases. Best case, the bases were loaded before he got up to bat and he became the hero of the game. That version of the game usually ended when he was hoisted up on the shoulders of his teammates. Sometimes the bat whooshed right over the ball and he woke up just after he heard the slap of the ball hitting the catcher’s glove. Sometimes the bat connected but the ball soared into an outfielder’s glove. Sometimes the ball hit him in the head.

He had the dream the night after Ignacio Rodriguez’s first game. Instead of Cruz or Roger, the person who slapped his back before he got up to stand on deck was the Rodriguez kid. Although, Matt knew even in his dream that Rodriguez was clearly not a kid, he was a man, and a sinfully attractive man at that. His touch was affectionate, supposed to be encouraging, maybe even a promise for something to happen later. It felt a little like a kiss before being sent off to war, only Rodriguez was right there in the trenches with him. More than that, Rodriguez was probably the better player, now that Matt’s knees ached, now that his batting average had plummeted. But in the dream, he was aware of these things, but they didn’t matter, because then he was at bat, then he saw the pitch, then he was swinging.

Slap! Strike 1.

“No,” Matt said. “That’s not how that was supposed to go.”

He choked the bat and held it up. He could see everything as if it were in slow motion. He saw the pitcher spit, his right leg draw up, his glove rise, saw the way his fingers fit around the ball before he threw it, saw that ball flying right for him. He had this one. He could control it. He moved the bat forward slowly, knowing it would connect. Then whoosh! Slap! Strike 2.

Matt cursed. He glanced towards the dugout, where Rodriguez waited expectantly. He could not disappoint this man. He would not. He went through the routine. Practice swing, point to the left field bleachers, Babe fucking Ruth. He had this.

And again, there was the windup. The pitch. The ball hurtling through towards him. The bat slicing through the air. And slap! Strike 3.

Matt fell forward onto his knees. He cried out in anguish. The crowd booed.

He woke up with a start.

details, details

This weekend was really unbearably hot and humid in New York. This is going to make me sound a little like a pretentious snob, but I decided to beat the heat by spending a chunk of Saturday at the Met. The Met is by far my favorite museum in the city, maybe because its collections are so vast. You could spend a week there and still not see everything. I’ve been probably a dozen times in the last five years, and I bet there are galleries I have yet to step foot in.

One of the funny things about living in New York is that it’s easy to take cultural institutions for granted. It’s always there, so you can go see it later. Although, I sometimes fill in stretches of idle time with tourism. I get bored and go wandering. I’m pretty well-read on New York City history, so it’s fun to put a visual to something I’ve read about.

I was thinking about this today because my knowledge of some New Yorkish things is maybe unusual, even for a New Yorker. My current WIP is about two historians, and I wrote what I thought was a pretty clever line about how how bad an idea it would have been for a Victorian gentleman to have put a Civil War monument in Upper Manhattan. (“Exhibit A being Grant’s Tomb,” one of the characters says.) And then I realized—I bet plenty of people have no idea where Grant’s tomb is located, New Yorkers included. The point of the line, of course, is that it’s not a popular tourist attraction, although I’ve been a few times. (I should get some extra history nerd points for having been at its re-dedication in 1997.) It’s up in Riverside Park, near-ish 120th Street, a pretty easy walk from the Columbia University campus. Grant’s wife, Julia Dent Grant, chose the location primarily so that she could visit the tomb frequently. Apparently Central Park was a possibility, but she settled on Riverside Park, overlooking the Hudson. A pretty spot, to be sure, but out of the way enough that it doesn’t attract many visitors. Or, at least, historical sites like that don’t have the same cachet as some other places in the city. I expect this is something two historians living in New York would know—both where Grant’s tomb is and the fact that hardly anybody ever goes there; for the record, there are some neat little exhibits on Grant’s life and Civil War history generally inside the mausoleum, which Wikipedia says is the largest mausoleum in North America—but I added a sentence explaining the joke.

It’s one of those things. Where do you find the fine line between sounding authentic and being so obscure as to lose your reader’s interest.

Speaking of my weird knowledge base, I helped Z.A. Maxfield with some of her New York facts for her new release Stirring Up Trouble. It’s a really fun book, I heartily recommend it.

new writers who rock

I was nominated as a great new author at Jessewave‘s (so those of you who got here from there, welcome!). It’s humbling to be on a list with some other really great writers. (I’m familiar with Mary Calmes and P.D. Singer but haven’t read anything by Heidi Champa or Louise Blaydon… I am going on vacation soon and need things to read, however!)

So thanks to Anna who nominated me and Wave for sticking my picture up there. You can learn more about In Hot Pursuit and also stay tuned because I’ll have a new book out this winter.

on the upswing

Watch me bury the lead.

I’m a fast writer. I make up for that by being a slow editor, but when I need to, I can churn out a lot of text. Thus I, in good faith, made a commitment to myself to write 60,000 words this July. This seemed doable; I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran. I wrote 92K words last November. I churned out a 50K-word first draft in 30 days once without really breaking a sweat. (Although that was almost three years ago and I’m STILL revising that one; see, slow editor!) So I thought 60K would be a challenge but one I could rise to, but it’s proving to be a greater challenge than I anticipated. This is in part because I had other things to do July 4th weekend (house guests, baseball games, and cookouts, oh my!). I found that, 10 days into July, I’d hardly written anything.

But I had a random spot of good/bad fortune in that my access to the Internet has been unusually limited over the last couple of days. So I’ve found myself writing. And I’m really excited about my current WIP, which is my first attempt to write something speculative (there are ghosts!). Yesterday evening rolled around and I felt triumphant for having written 5,000 words and finally having found a direction for this novel that I’ve been only just sort of poking at for the last couple of months.

So then I got home and found a new contract in my inbox. That’s right, folks, the ink is drying on the contract for my second novel. I’m really excited about this one. More details on that forthcoming once I know about release dates and things.

So it was a great day for writing! Let’s hope this streak continues.

on rejection and other fun things

Everyone has to deal with rejection. It’s one of those unfortunate facts of life. You interview for jobs you don’t get. You apply for schools you don’t get into. I auditioned for orchestras a number of times when I was in my early twenties, and I can tell you at what point in each failed audition that it started to go south. (For example, When I was maybe 20, I went to an audition in which 40 people were trying to fill 2 slots, so the odds weren’t real high to begin with. But I practiced my ass off and went into that audition and not only nailed the piece I’d prepared, but that piece had been a favorite of the orchestra director. It was a Vivaldi concerto, I think. He was so impressed he handed me the toughest sight-reading sample, some Mendelssohn concerto with a melody written several lines above the staff, and all knowledge of how to play in 7th position or wherever this thing was written flew right out of my head. The orchestra director said, “Come on, you know this one.” Though Mendelssohn has turned out to be the scourge of many an orchestra audition for me—this happened again a couple of years ago, actually—I did not know this particular piece of music, and my brain completely shut down. Thus, rejection.)

This is kind of lame, but I like competition reality shows. At least the contestants have to have a skill. And there are always a couple of contestants who, when they start failing—making mistakes, winding up in the bottom of the rankings—they completely implode. Which I think says something about the nature of rejection. The rejection itself is not necessarily a testament to your skill (or maybe it is, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume some talent) but skill certainly comes into play with how you deal with that rejection. You can let it get to you, let it control how you work from that moment on, let it be an excuse to stop trying. Or you can pick yourself up, try again, and do things better the next time.

Getting rejected for anything is deeply unpleasant, to put it mildly. I’ve gotten a few writing rejections recently, and I find it frustrating, but I think the real key is to remember that one agent/publisher may not like something that another loves, or I wrote something that is good but not right in tone or theme for the person I submitted it to, or what have you. My method is to take a day to mourn the opportunity, then to get back to the writing, to figure out what, if anything, needs to be fixed in the manuscript, to send it back out again. I can only hope my persistence is rewarded.

bits and pieces

I’m featured today on the RWANYC blog’s Bits and Pieces feature. F and I met up for coffee and chatted about romance and NaNoWriMo and In Hot Pursuit. F’s intro cracks me up. “Kate says that she cannot imagine that she writes erotica and when you look at her, she is lovely and the epitome of everything pure and innocent in a lovely sundress sitting across from me.” Pure and innocent! This is what I get for wearing a pink dress to an interview! Note to self: try to look less sweet and innocent. (Heh. I guess I could claim it’s all part of an elaborate facade! You’d never guess I made money writing racy romance novels, eh?)

In completely unrelated news, I started writing a post on the topic of rejection, which I’ve had a little bit of lately, although I can’t think of anything more insightful to say than, “It sucks!” I choose instead to wallow in my success today. It’s helping me feel better about the oppressive heat in NYC. So go read my interview!