Baseball Monday: Out in the Field Epilogue

Baseball MondaysIn light of it both being Pride weekend in NYC and the recent Supreme Court ruling, I thought it might be fun to revisit some old friends, and so today, I give you a little epilogue with Matt and Iggy from Out in the Field.

Matt lingered in bed, enjoying the sun streaming in through the window and nothing in particular on his agenda for the day. Maybe he’d read a book or take a walk, or maybe he’d just sleep another hour; there was no rush on anything.

He wasn’t even that sore. Well, he was a little sore, especially through his legs, probably from all the jumping and cheering he’d done when the high school kids he’d been coaching had won the city-wide baseball finals. And, since today was technically the last day of school, he was done coaching for a while, unless he decided to get involved with Little League or something over the summer. Iggy had been encouraging him to do just that. He’d grumbled about getting old and needing some time off, but he knew perfectly well he coped better with Iggy’s time away during the baseball season by keeping busy. So, yeah, maybe he’d look into a coaching gig for the summer now that the academic year was over. He’d worry about that tomorrow, because right now, he was drifting back to sleep.

Just as he was slipping into dreamworld, though, there was a crash at the front door. Matt jerked up in bed, convinced the apartment was being broken into. He was about to scramble out of bed and grab a bat or something when he heard, “Matt! Matt, oh my god, Matt! Where are you?”

“Bedroom. Jesus, Iggy, you scared the shit out of me.”

Iggy appeared at the bedroom doorway with a sheepish grin. “Sorry. Well, not really. Have you heard the news?”

“What news? I just woke up.” Matt stretched his arms and wondered if he should bother to lay back down. “Shouldn’t you be at practice?”

“Fuck practice. This is more important.”

Matt spared a thought for what on earth could have Iggy this wound up, but instead patted Iggy’s side of the bed and said, “All right. Tell me.”

Iggy smiled, so clearly it wasn’t bad news. He sat on the bed and put a hand on Matt’s thigh. “Babe, the Supreme Court ruling was just announced. We won!”

Through the haze of sleepy misunderstanding, Matt stared at Iggy until he remembered that the Court was supposed to have ruled on marriage equality. “Wait, what? We won?”

“It’s unconstitutional to ban us from marrying each other. Not just here in New York, but across all fifty states. Can you believe that? Did you ever think you’d see the day?”

“No. I really didn’t.” It was overwhelming. Matt’s heart raced as he thought about it. But then, the world had changed so fast. When Matt had retired from the game, coming out publicly seemed inconceivable. But now Iggy was out and proud and still an active player. He got some shit for it in some stadiums, but the Eagles organization made it clear that they always had his back. They’d even issued tee-shirts just that season that showed the Eagles’ logo done in a rainbow. Fans could purchase Rodriguez jerseys (and faux vintage Blanco journeys, even) with pride messages or rainbow flags on them.

Matt had been following the news. He and Iggy had talked quite a bit when the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. But Matt was still adjusting his expectations. He was a gay man in his forties, after all, and he’d spent most of his life hiding that he was gay; marriage had never felt like it was in the cards. Not even after the state of New York had ruled it legal.

He looked at Iggy, who was still smiling ear to ear. “It’s really…” Matt tried. Then he shook his head. “I mean, across the United States. All of the states. Gay couples can get married?”

Out in the Field“Yup. I mean, I imagine there will be some resistance in some states, you know, but it’s… I had pushed the whole thing out of my mind. I was worried the Court would rule with the appeals court and the bans would be upheld, and I didn’t want to think about that, so I had pushed it aside. We’ve got that series against the Sox starting tonight, which is what I really should be thinking about, and Bill is going to kill me, but… I got an alert on my phone just as I was raising my hand to hail a cab to the stadium, so I came back because I had to tell you in person.”

Matt closed his eyes for a moment to just feel everything that was happening. It had been a strange couple of years. Iggy was still widely considered one of the most valuable players in the Majors, Matt was highly sought after as both a coach and a public speaker, and the anticipated apocalypse hadn’t happened. So life was good. But Matt’s reluctance to even think the word “marriage” near Iggy had stemmed in part from his constant fear that all of this was about to crumble down around them.

But, no, the Supreme Court had ruled that gay couples across the whole country could get married.

Iggy was saying something now; Matt stopped thinking to listen.

“So in the eyes of the law, we’re real people, you know? Our relationship is real. And it means something important.”

Iggy was right. All the years he and Matt had been together had been good. Not without problems, both outside of their relationship and within it, but definitely good. Great. Amazing, even. Matt’s love for Iggy hadn’t dimmed in the years they’d been together, even after they settled into routines and habits. Matt loved Iggy even more now than he had that night of his going away party, back when he’d been traded to Texas and was planning to move across the country, and Iggy had stood in the kitchen and told Matt he loved him and wasn’t ready to let him go yet, and Matt’s heart had neatly burst because he loved Iggy right back. He loved Iggy more now than he had when Iggy had supported him through his injury and retirement. He loved Iggy more now than he did the day Iggy came out to the public and they’d hugged in the stadium in front of God and the Eagles and everyone.

And because they’d been together for nearly six years, and because the world had not ended because of it, and because the Supreme Court of the United States had just more or less blessed their relationship, Matt said, “Marry me.”

Iggy’s smile was incandescent. “Oh, baby. I thought you’d never ask.”

Baseball Mondays: Mustaches

Baseball MondaysSure, baseball is a game of strategy and statistics, of skill and athleticism, of nail-biting pitchers’ duels and home-run glory. But I want to talk today about another crucial part of the game: facial hair.

I took some delight when, earlier this year, my beloved Yankees started growing mustaches during a winning streak. There was magical power in those mustaches. The Yankees grew them… and kept winning. These things must be related.

So can we take a moment to discuss the city of Cincinnati’s All-Star Game celebration, which consists of putting giant mustaches all over the city? Because it’s kind of my favorite thing right now.

Mustaches in Cincinnati from @AllStarGame on Twitter.

Mustaches in Cincinnati from @AllStarGame on Twitter.

Here’s a little more info.

If it were not already clear, I have a thing about baseball mustaches. They’re so old-timey and whimsical. I mean…

Circa 1870s

Circa 1870s

Anybody else have opinions on baseball mustaches? For my money, the greatest one of all time was Rollie Fingers’ curly-cued beauty. I mean, get a load of this mustache.

Rollie Fingers

Rollie Fingers

Pretty glorious, right? I’m willing to entertain alternate candidates in the comments.

If you need more, there’s a whole Baseball Mustaches tumblr. It makes me happy.

If you want more hot baseball action (sadly lacking in mustaches) The Windup and Thrown a Curve are now available just about everywhere.

Thrown a Curve is OUT NOW!

Thrown a CurveAvailable today! Rainbow League Book 2: THROWN A CURVE

Mason made headlines when, after his professional baseball career was sidelined by an injury, he very publicly came out of the closet. Now he’s scratching the baseball itch playing in the Rainbow League while making his way through New York’s population of beefcakes, even though they all come up short. Plus, he’s still thinking about last summer’s encounter with hot, effeminate, pierced and tattooed Patrick—pretty much the opposite of the sort of man he has long pictured himself with.

Patrick hasn’t been able to forget Mason either, and now that baseball season is back upon them, he’s determined to have him again. Mason is unlike any man Patrick has ever been with before, and not just because he’s an ex-Yankee. All Patrick has to do is convince a reluctant Mason that their one night wasn’t just a crazy fluke and that they could be great together…if only Mason could get past his old hang-ups and his intolerant family.

Available from Dreamspinner Press or wherever you buy ebooks.

a little more about Thrown a Curve

Thrown a CurveBecause I was out of town for pretty much all of May, I didn’t really have sufficient time to organize a blog tour for Thrown a Curve. Usually, I save my dorky explanations of the characters or the process behind the book for the blog tour, but since I didn’t really ever put that together, I thought I’d put a few of my thoughts up on the blog.

So here’s a bit more about how the series came about. When I knew I was creating a baseball league, I figured it should be representative of New York City. I therefore aimed for the league to have a truly diverse cast of characters. That really comes to the fore in Thrown a Curve.

So we have Mason, an African-American former professional baseball player (for the Yankees, obvs) who is athletic and would prefer to blend in with a crowd. (Although after he came out on the cover of People, he doesn’t really care that much.) As you may recall, he met Patrick at the end of The Windup. Patrick is an effeminate, pierced, tattooed hairdresser who is constantly dying his hair crazy colors. He, uh, sticks out in a crowd.

I like an opposites attract situation, although Mason and Patrick have more in common than they think. Mason in particular thinks he should be attracted to guys like himself—athletic, masculine, not obviously gay—but in reality is strongly attracted to men who play around with gender. His attraction to Patrick taps into something in himself, something his career and his family prevented him from expressing. One of the themes of the book is staying safe vs. taking a risk, of going after the thing you want instead of the thing you think you’re supposed to want. That is something I think we can all related to, to a degree.

Patrick is also not a Hipster—it’s an inter-team romance.

There’s more of the Nate-Carlos-Aiden triangle in this book, too, setting up Nate and Carlos for Book 3. (The Long Slide Home, out in August!)

This was a tough book to write, mostly because I wanted to do these characters justice; I was aiming to write characters a little outside of the norm of what you see in gay romance, while also keeping the tone light and fun and just angsty enough to hook readers. Hopefully you’ll agree it’s a good story.

Get a sneak peak; I added an excerpt to the book page.

Preorder links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

How to Succeed While Speaking in Public

I periodically get asked to give tips on public speaking, so I thought it might be useful to write some things down. I don’t think all authors should be required to do public appearances, but it’s one of those things that, if you’re good at it, can be a real asset to your career. Perhaps I’m lucky in that I’ve never really experienced any kind of social anxiety and I love going to cons, so I try to plunge head-first into in-person author promotion situations, hopefully with élan and charm. Not everyone’s bag. I tell people that your author promotion strategy should play to your strengths. I’m personally not the best at social media and online marketing, for example, but some authors are really great at it. But I also try to be game and take a “try anything once” approach to promoting myself, so if you are also like that and want to try a speaking gig or public reading, here are some quick and dirty tips.

Side note: I was on my high school debate team and then taught debate for quite a long time after that, so I have some fluency with public speaking. The style of debate I did—policy debate, if you’re curious—requires debaters to both read pre-prepared speeches and articles and to speak extemporaneously in response to an opponent’s arguments. Those are likely the two types of public speaking—reading aloud or speaking on panels—you’d do as an author, so I try to apply debate principals to public speaking. To whit:

Tip #1: Print it Out.
If you’re doing a reading, print it out in a format that is easily read. I usually blow the text up to giant-size, but my vision is terrible, so your mileage may vary with that. You can also make changes to this print-out, which I’ll outline below. You can read directly from your bound book, and some writers do that well, but it can be awkward to hold. I’ve seen people read from ereaders, which you can also do if that’s your preference, but I have a debilitating fear of technological failure at critical moments, so I always go with a paper copy.

Tip #2: Practice.
If you’re reading from your novel, practice at home first a few times. Probably obvious, but every time you read, you’ll make fewer mistakes. Some people recommend reading to a mirror, but I find that wiggy, so I practice by reading to my cats, who are usually unimpressed.

Tip #3: Adapt and Change.
Not all prose passages are well-suited to a public reading, because they were written to be read by a person holding a book. Sometimes, you need to make a few changes. When I’m planning to do a reading, I’ll read my chosen excerpt aloud first and then mark it up as needed. This includes:

• Adding dialogue tags if it’s not clear who’s talking. (I don’t do voices.)
• Cutting long bits of description that are important for later in the novel but only slow down the current scene.
• Deleting words I don’t feel comfortable saying out loud to an audience full of strangers. (The first time I read at Lady Jane’s, I had to take the word “cock” out of a scene because I kept giggling when I read it. I’m twelve, basically.)

That’s usually it, but circumstances may vary, or you might read from two scenes and need to put a bit in the middle where you explain what happens in between. If you’re not great at improvising, write everything down.

Tip #4: Fugeddaboudit.
Debaters are trained not to think about what they’re reading, because thinking too much will just tie up your tongue. My mind often wanders while I’m reading. But you still want your reading to have emphasis and personality. In debate, we’d circle words in our speeches that we called “punch words” or words we wanted in particular to emphasize. So as I read, when I see a circled word, I know I should change my tone when reading it. I’ve also considered highlighting different characters’ dialogue in different colors so I know to change my tone when speaking, but that’s some advanced level stuff there. (Do audiobook readers do that? I always wondered.)

Tip #5: Stand Up!
Stand up straight and hold any papers/books below you so they don’t block your face. Speak to the audience, not the paper. In debate, we used to build podiums out of books and boxes so that the paper we were reading from was at the optimal height. It’s generally my habit to hold the paper about mid-chest high and hold my head up while looking down to read, occasionally making eye contact with a spot in the audience, particularly if I’m pausing for impact or a laugh line. More on this below.

Tip #6: Make Notes.
Say you’re on a panel on a particular topic. If you don’t know the questions in advance but do know the general thrust of the panel, write down a couple of things you want to be sure to convey. You may never get to that answer, so go with the flow, but at least you have something prepared if your co-panelists get quiet.

Tip #7: Create Your Own Shorthand.
I teach classes at conferences sometimes, and my teaching involves a lot of improvising and extemporaneous speaking. That’s another debate skill. Often when constructing a rebuttal, you’ve got a couple of minutes (tops) to work out a five-minute speech that responds directly to your opponent. Debaters use a lot of shorthand. They have a stash of arguments they tend to use over and over, so they write down a couple of symbols as a reminder to make those arguments. Teaching works kind of the same way. When I’m developing a class, I’ll teach it to my cats first—they are never impressed—mostly to work out if it will fit in the given time parameters, and from there, I jot down a few points I want to be sure I make. Anything I’ll have trouble remembering—specific examples, usually—I’ll definitely write down, but most things I can remember just by writing down a few words. I will then glance at my notes but mostly speak off the top of my head.

This also means, incidentally, that you’re actually speaking to your audience instead of the paper on which you’ve written your speech. That’s another debate trick; speaking at the judge means both you are connecting with the person actually judging whether you should win and by necessity standing up straighter and thus speaking more clearly. And connecting with your audience is key in these sorts of public speaking situations. You’re reaching out to potential readers, after all.

Tip #8: You Have Something to Say!
Presumably if you’re teaching a class, sitting on a panel, or even doing a reading, somebody somewhere thinks you have something worthwhile to say. I know just telling you to believe in yourself doesn’t necessarily work, but know that what you have to say matters. I hope that gives you some confidence.

Tip #9: Tell Jokes.
I find audience response validating. If someone makes a comment or asks a question, that usually means they’re listening and engaged, which is what you want. That’s harder to gauge during a reading. Jokes tend to get laughs, so I usually choose to read an excerpt with some laugh lines, because if I hear laughter, I know people are still with me.

Tip #10: Be Polite and Professional.
You always want to present yourself in the best light. You can do that by being respectful of your co-panelists and your audience. This also means not hogging attention or talking about your own books too much. Some self-promotion is okay, but if you’re on a panel, stay on topic and answer questions and give the other panelists room to speak. (I was that kid in your classes you hated who always dominated class discussion, so this is something I try to be conscious of.) Enthusiasm is good, too, for the topic or your genre or what have you. Talk up books by other authors, too, where appropriate.

Connected to being professional is dressing appropriately for the venue. When in doubt, business casual never hurts. There’s a larger discussion to be had about clothes and your brand, but again, put your best self out there. Spend a little time on personal grooming. Not every conference requires you to dress up, but wearing ripped tee-shirts to a professional conference is not the way to go. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask someone who has been to the venue before.

Bonus Tip: Relax and Have Fun!
Easier said than done, I know, but seriously, public appearances should be fun for you. Take a deep breath and try not to worry. Put your best self forward and you’ll be great!

Thrown a Curve up for preorder

Thrown a CurveIt’s out Friday, but if you can’t possibly wait any longer, Thrown a Curve is now available for preorder now just about everywhere. Here are some links:

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble


Book 2 in the Rainbow League series

Mason made headlines when, after his professional baseball career was sidelined by an injury, he very publicly came out of the closet. Now he’s scratching the baseball itch playing in the Rainbow League while making his way through New York’s population of beefcakes, even though they all come up short. Plus, he’s still thinking about last summer’s encounter with hot, effeminate, pierced and tattooed Patrick—pretty much the opposite of the sort of man he has long pictured himself with.

Patrick hasn’t been able to forget Mason either, and now that baseball season is back upon them, he’s determined to have him again. Mason is unlike any man Patrick has ever been with before, and not just because he’s an ex-Yankee. All Patrick has to do is convince a reluctant Mason that their one night wasn’t just a crazy fluke and that they could be great together…if only Mason could get past his old hang-ups and his intolerant family.

State of Kate: What I’ve Been Up To

This past May was one of those months that was so insane and busy that people got a glazed, tired look on their face just from me telling them everything I was doing. Here’s what went down:

Such a Dance charms!

Kensington put these little book charms on Mardi Gras beads to give out at their party. This book’ll be out in October!

First, I went to Dallas for RT, which was zany fun as always. I like RT because it’s a flat-out fun time, and it’s big and overwhelming and can be hard work from the author side of things, but I always walk away thinking, “That was amazing.” I met a lot of really cool people and got to hang out with good friends. I talked to readers about books we liked and fangirled authors I like—or tried to keep my cool, like the time I started chatting with Tessa Dare and we talked about feather boas because I didn’t want to get all screechy about how much I love the Spindle Cove series, although I do love it a lot and kept thinking, “I’m just casually talking to one of my favorite authors like it’s no big thing and I can’t believe this is my life”—and it was generally surreal and awesome. I love, too, that the general reaction to me saying, “I write gay romance,” was, “Uh-huh. Tell me more.”

Kate McMurray as Rosie the Riveter

Doing my best Rosie the Riveter at the National WWII Museum in NOLA.

I was home for four days, during which time I went to a book club meeting and took a history class, because why take time off, really. Then I flew to New Orleans for a family wedding and stayed a few extra days for visiting with family/tourism. Highlights of the trip for me include all of the fantastic food I ate (my favorite meal was probably the catfish at Superior Seafood in the Garden District, so there’s a rec if you want one); going to the World War II museum with my 90-year-old grandpa (who is a WWII vet and was duly honored by the museum staff, which was heartwarming—although Grandpa was like, “I don’t get what all this fuss is about”); the wedding itself, which took place in this gorgeous old house; and finally touring the Cabildo and Presbytere, which were great if you, like me, derive dorky joy from history museums.

Kate McMurray in the Harlequin photo booth.

Harlequin had a photo booth at BookCon, so this happened.

I got home in time for Book Expo America/BookCon, which I attended as a Dreamspinner author, so the majority of my time there was spent working the booth. I did get to meet Gloria Steinem and Michelle Visage on the same afternoon, because that’s how BEA rolls. BookCon felt more organized this year, which was nice. And we got a nice reception at the Dreamspinner booth, especially for the YA imprint, Harmony Ink. We talked to a lot of librarians who told us about how important books are for those kids who feel isolated and misunderstood.

Michelle Visage

That time my friend Alexis and I were total crazy RuPaul’s Drag Race fangirls and Michelle Visage gave me a hug because we’re both Jersey girls.

We did a signing on Saturday as part of BookCon. I just found out there were 18,000 attendees, which is one of those numbers that seems so large it’s incomprehensible. When it ended Sunday, I got caught up in a terrible thunderstorm, but wound up riding the subway next to a girl who had also just come from BookCon and had nothing but excited things to say to her friend. Watching teenage girls with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm for books was pretty exciting for me. Gives me hope, you know?

Anyway, all of this was enough, but during the same period of time, I also had a bunch of things going on behind the scenes, among them: I dealt with second edits of Rainbow League Book 2 and proofs for Such a Dance; I edited 3 novels in my capacity as a freelance editor; and I put in a few hours at the day job. So that was bananas.

Kate McMurray at Lady Jane's Salon.

Here I am reading at Lady Jane’s.

The day after BEA, I read at Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC. Then this past Saturday, I taught my setting workshop at my local RWA chapter meeting. And that, my friends, was basically four weeks of fun insanity. I am TIRED. Sunday, I did nothing (well, I knit and watched TV, but mostly I was taking a break).

I’m currently getting ready for the next things: RWANYC’s Romance Festival on June 20th and then the RWA national conference in July. Then the second half of the year will be a much welcome break from public appearances; I don’t have anything scheduled again until 2016, so I hope to use the time to write, etc. And that’s a wrap!

Baseball Monday: DIY Plushy Baseballs

Baseball MondaysSorry for my long hiatus! It’s been a really zany few weeks, what with RT, vacation, and BEA. But I’m back, and ready to carry on these weekly baseball posts at least until Rainbow League Book 3 releases later this summer!

Today, I’ve got a craft project. I made a bunch of these plushy baseballs to give out as prizes at RT (and I’ve made them before for other conventions). I invented the pattern, and it’s pretty easy if you know knitting basics. So I figured I’d make the pattern available for anyone who wants to try it out.

Finished products, done in neon in honor of the Rainbow League.

Finished products, done in neon in honor of the Rainbow League.

You should be able to download a PDF of the pattern from the bottom of this post. I’ve used worsted weight cotton or superwash wool for most of these. It’s kind of just a fun, goofy project. Also they seem to work pretty well as cat toys.

You can download the pattern here: Kate’s Knit Plushy Baseballs

And remember, Book 2: Thrown a Curve is available for pre-order.