Now Available: What There Is

BMMmzbmCUAA7N6N.jpg_largeMy short novella What There Is is now available from Dreamspinner Press and an ebook retailer near you. The blurb:

Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn’t exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.

Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.

They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.

Happy reading!

5 things on friday are coming soon

I usually use this space to wrap-up my week, talking about 5 things I’ve been doing or reading or thinking about. Since I’ve had a not terribly exciting week, I thought I would instead talk about 5 writing projects I’m working on. Most of these are not contracted yet, so these are like sneaky-sneaky previews of what you may see in 2014 and 2015.

1. Let’s get the upcoming publications out of the way first. Due out this fall from Dreamspinner:

One Man to Remember—[part of the Playing Ball anthology I’m doing with Shae Connor, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe (2/3 of whom I got to see in Atlanta last week!] This is a historical novella set in 1927 (my first published historical, you guys!) in which a talented but media-shy rookie falls in love with a flamboyant sports reporter.

The Stars that Tremble—Here’s hoping readers feel about opera the same way they did about baseball—this is an emotional opposites attract romance between a former opera star and a contractor who renovates kitchens.

More detailed blurbs for both of these are available on the upcoming page.

2. I’ve written here before about how I suck at writing sequels. I often sit down to write one, get 5 or 6,000 words into it, and then lose all interest. Books for which I have done this: I started a sequel to In Hot Pursuit in which one hero is Noah’s police partner and is tasked with tracking down Harry’s infant nephew while also hooking up with a sexy FBI agent; Neal from The Boy Next Door was always supposed to have his own book, but I don’t have it quite right yet; there’s a sequel to Blind Items in which Drew and Rey produce a play together and there’s a subplot about the lead actor. After I kept crashing and burning with the TBND sequel, I swore off sequels, but people were clamoring for something after Blind Items. (And I get it. The book ends at a specific moment and I thought the story was over, but after the fact I regretted not writing an epilogue. Things work out for Drew and Jonathan! I promise!)

Anyhoo. Here we are again. I put a character in The Stars that Tremble named Sandy, and he sort of took over every scene he’s in, and I cannot deny that the epilogue is deliberately kind of sequel-bait-y, and… well, you’ll see. And then every single person, from betas to editors, who has breathed near the manuscript has been like, “When does Sandy get his own book? I want that yesterday!” So, fine, Sandy is getting his own book. I’ve written about 10,000 words of it so far. So I broke the 6K wall!

The gist: Sandy is a veteran of the global war on terror. He received a medical discharge from the army after he took some shrapnel to the should when he ran into a car bomb in Afghanistan. (I think. I’m still kind of working out this part.) So he’s got some PTSD but is in deep denial about having PTSD and he uses humor and his sunny personality to deflect attention from the fact that he’s hurting pretty badly inside. He meets a super hot violinist named Everett and they start fucking and it’s supposed to just be fun until feelings get involved. And then we have some sweet, delicious conflict.

I think the world of the Olcott School, where Gio from The Stars that Tremble and Everett from the unnamed sequel are both teachers, could be ripe for stories. There could be a New Adult story involving musical prodigies, for example. Lots of possibilities! So we’ll see about that.

3. I’m finishing up a Jazz Age historical about a vaudeville dancer and a mid-level Mob boss that’s a lot darker than the stuff I usually write. I’m so glad I’m in the home stretch with this one, because I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now. (So much research! Although that’s part of why I was able to write One Man to Remember quickly; I had a lot of the period research in my brain already.) I don’t have a title yet, and this has been the source of much contemplation and agony on my part, but soon, my pretties, soon I will have something more to say about that, I hope.

4. I started writing this crazy contemporary about a month ago that’s an angsty friends-to-lovers set in New York. It has some Unpopular Themes. I feel like this is my, “Just as everyone started complaining about Trope 1 and Trope 2 in romance novel, I got this plot bunny that includes all of them!” novel. So!

5. At RWA, I attended a workshop taught by two of my favorite authors, Eloisa James and Sarah MacLean, on writing series, which I’ve never seriously attempted but very much want to. I mentioned as much to Damon Suede later that evening, and he was like, “You’re the baseball girl. You should write a baseball series.” And then we ran with that. So on Tuesday, I bought a new notebook and started mapping out what I want the series to look like. I think the only way to do this successfully is to actually plan at least the first three books. And because I’m a plotter and NOT a pantser, I plan to outline those suckers first. So I’ve got part of an outline for the first book in a series about a gay amateur baseball league.

So that is the state of my WIPs!

RWA 2013 Wrap-Up

After a heavy dose of Murphy’s Law to the trip home and 11 hours of sleep, I’m… well, to say “recovered” from the 2013 Romance Writers of America national conference might be overstating, but I’m awake, which is more than I could say for yesterday.

Short version: RWA was fun, educational, supportive, overwhelming, tiring, well-heeled, coffee-fueled, and really great over all.

Long version:

Background: I joined RWA at the beginning of 2011, so I haven’t been a member very long, but in that time I have been active, joining my local chapter, attending local conferences, and, of course, getting myself elected vice president/president-elect of the Rainbow Romance Writers chapter. But this was the first year that I could afford to go to Nationals, so I went and made the most of it.

Here are 10 things I learned at my first RWA conference:

1. It’s a conference, not a convention. It’s a meeting of professionals more than a meeting of fans (like RT). People are there to do business and behave accordingly. (Well, given how much time is spent at the bar, it’s not ALL business, but you get what I mean.)

2. I found it much easier to network at this convention than I have at others, RT in particular. This is probably for a few reasons. My conference roommate (and RRW president) Damon Suede suggested it was mostly geography—the hotel at RT had a layout that was far more spread out, whereas the Marriott in Atlanta had more centralized areas where people congregated. I think also people are encouraged to network and interact with each other—that’s the purpose of a conference, after all—so strangers were more willing to talk to me. Also “What do you write?” is a pretty easy ice breaker.

3. I went all out with the wardrobe, doing a lot of pre-conference shopping and then wearing my cutest shoes and dresses around. I like clothes, though, so take this with a grain of salt, but dressing up was totally worth it (and fun!) because I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said, “I love your dress!” and then launched into conversation. It’s good for networking AND self-esteem.

4. Nora Roberts always wears awesome shoes. Always.

5. The vibe is super positive. Aside: I went to the workshop presented by two sociologists on their observations of women in the romance writing community, which was absolutely fascinating—I couldn’t scribble down notes fast enough—and one of the things they mentioned is the supportive nature of the community and the emphasis on niceness. That’s a lot to get into in a blog post that is already getting long, but I thought of that as I realized that everyone had a very, “You can do it!” attitude. That was, in fact, the message of the week from all corners: keep trying and eventually you will find success.

Generally speaking, the workshops I attended were pretty great. If you should snag the recordings, the best ones I saw in person were, in no particular order: the one on series with Eloisa James and Sarah MacLean; The Numbers, which was full of wonky publishing industry stuff; the incomparable Jude Devereux sharing writing advice; the above-mentioned sociology panel (I’m already on line to buy that book when it’s published); and Cherry Adair’s talk about a career plan, because, though it went a little off-topic, I was completely charmed by Ms. Adair.

6. I have some kind of disease that makes me want ALL THE BOOKS. Whenever an opportunity to get a free book arose, my heart sped up a little in anticipation. I’m always going to be that kid who blew her allowance money at the local book store, I guess. I had to actively tell myself not to take too many books, and still I was desperately wedging them into my suitcase when I packed to go home. (And I was selective only taking books I was pretty sure I’d read. There were hundreds of books I talked myself out of picking up.) I, in fact, fretted all the way to the airport that I’d be over the 50-pound weight limit and have to pay the overweight bag fee. Final verdict: 49 pounds.

(As I mentioned above, that was basically the only thing that went right on my trip through the Atlanta airport with Damon. He, in fact, got stopped by security, because they apparently found it suspicious that his carry-on was full of paperback romance novels. This was after we found out that what we thought was a direct flight from ATL to LGA actually had a connection in Charlotte. Damon was like, “At least there were no cavity searches.” That was how that went. I was convinced when we got to New York that our luggage was going to be in North Dakota. It wasn’t, but still, it was that kind of day.)

7. I learned a lot about tax exemptions and bylaws a the Chapter Leadership Seminar, but you, the layperson, probably don’t care about that. That and the Annual General Meeting were interesting peeks into the way RWA is run. My takeaway was mostly positive, although there was a small scandal involving term limits for board positions as dictated by the new universal chapter bylaws, which could have negative consequences for small chapters.

8. Kristan Higgins’ speech at the awards luncheon was AMAZING. If it got recorded and you can find it online, I recommend watching it. Bring tissues. (I was off-site with other business during the Cathy Maxwell keynote, but I’m sad to have missed it because I heard it was also really awesome.)

9. Despite the fact that my badge was decked out with rainbow pins, I never knew quite how to respond when some older southern lady asked what I write. I always said, “gay romance, mostly contemporaries” and was thankfully always greeted with enthusiasm.

The big guns want LGBT romance, too. A few imprints are actively seeking it. It’s exciting, watching the progress unfold.

10. I enjoyed the RITAs. I really enjoyed the Samhain after-party. I got my dance on and it was good. I went to a few of the other parties, too, but RWA is weird in that almost everything is invitation-only. With good reason, of course. I heard that I should write a 15,000 word novella for Harlequin or Carina Press just to get into the Harlequin party next year; people seem to agree it was the best party. Guess I should polish off that secret baby manuscript.

So the conference was great all around. My mind is still buzzing. Damon gave me a plot bunny for a long book series that I guess I have to write now. I met a ton of new people, including a few RRW chapter-mates. And now I have all those books to read.

BONUS: Damon took me over to the Melia hotel to check out the event spaces for GayRomLit, and it looks pretty great. I’m now doubly excited for October!

RWA is next week!

If you’re attending the Romance Writers of America convention in Atlanta next week, hopefully I’ll see you there! If you’re in the Atlanta area, the big signing Wednesday night (7/17) from 5:30 to 7:30 is open to the public. I’ll be signing there, so stop by and say hi!

I’m really looking forward to it!

I’ll start up the Five Things on Friday posts again later in July when I’m back.

five things? five things!

Hey, it’s Friday. Let’s wrap up the week.

BMMmzbmCUAA7N6N.jpg_large1. What There Is will be available July 31 and is available for pre-order now from the Dreamspinner site. It’s kind of my take on a jock-nerd romance. There’s baseball and cooking and statistics geekery. It’s only 15,000 words, so it’s more a tasty snack than a meal, but I hope you all enjoy it!

2. I hope you Americans all had a fabulous 4th of July. Mine’s pretty low-key, because I have a ton of work to do, but I’m enjoying the four-day weekend. 🙂

3. I like this quote from Mark Twain that I found yesterday:

My books are water: those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.

I think you could make a similar analogy between genre fiction and literary fiction. (Genre fiction is water. Which is still awesome and essential.)

4. So edits for BOTH of my fall releases came in this week so I am DOING ALL THE EDITS. Luckily, the editor seems to have really loved my historical baseball novella, One Man to Remember, which will be available as part of the anthology I’m doing with Shae Connor, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe. So that’s been relatively painless. But baseball + the Jazz Age = giddy Kate, so I had fun writing it. Hopefully that shows.

I haven’t looked at the edits for The Stars that Tremble yet; that’s a full novel about a former opera singer who falls for a blue-collar guy and there’s a LOT of opera in it (file under: semi-obscure things Kate is nerdy about).

Tangent: the cable channel H2 has a series called “How Sex Changed the World”; there was a recent episode that had a segment on castrati, or opera singers who were castrated pre-puberty. The lack of testosterone meant these men were quite effeminate—softer features, high voices—but they also were treated like rock stars (in other words, fame and lots of sex) all across Europe. I bet if it weren’t so barbaric, that would still get some mileage today. My mother is on the board of directors for a choir that performed an oratorio last year or the year before that had a solo part written for castrato. They hired this guy who is a high tenor but could still hit all the notes (as far as I know, his equipment was still in tact). All the women in the choir were totally in love with him. Even my mom fangirled a little at the post-concert cocktail reception. So there you go.

5. I’m sitting on a post about writing, let’s say, unpopular themes. I just churned out 45,000 words of ANGST in about two and a half weeks, and it was tough for me to turn off the voice in my head that was like, “But your readers will hate this,” but I plowed forward anyway, and I really love this story and these characters. Like, I had to finish the first draft yesterday morning before I could move on to working on stuff for my more pressing deadlines.

Given the latest Internet kerfuffle in the m/m world, I thought it was especially relevant to talk about, but I don’t have the time to give it the thought it needs at the moment. Maybe I’ll get that up next week when I have less on my plate. Generally, I think it’s better for writers to push boundaries and try new things and, yes, maybe write books people don’t like so that we don’t just get the same book over and over again.