to epilogue or not to epilogue?

I just finished the first round of edits on my next new book, a book called Across the East River Bridge, which is a romance that involves a couple of ghosts. (The romance is between two flesh and blood people, but the ghosts bring them together. Sort of.) So I’m thinking about whether or not the book needs an epilogue.

Some of the early feedback I’m getting about Blind Items is that readers want an epilogue, or a sequel maybe; they want to know what happens to the characters down the road. I actually usually really like epilogues, especially in books in which I’m really liking the characters—I want to spend more time in the author’s world or with the characters, or want to see them together happily if only for a few pages. With Blind Items, though, I felt like I’d gotten to the end of the story… although that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a sequel somewhere down the line.

But not all readers like epilogues, or don’t feel that they’re necessary if the book ends with the characters committing to each other, or clearly on their way toward a happily ever after (I’m talking about romance specifically here, obviously). And I for sure am not always a fan of marriage-and-babies epilogues that mostly just serve to show the couple in gratuitous domestic bliss. So I’m of two minds about it.

What say you? Do you like epilogues? Do you hate them?

a few newsy items

First, the Literary Nymphs gave The Boy Next Door 4.5 out of 5 nymphs.

Second, I will be appearing in public! I’m still working out my convention schedule, but I will for certain be at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC with a gaggle of other Dreamspinner authors. That’s on March 26. I’m also planning to attend the GayRomLit Retreat in New Orleans in October. (Reader registration opens soon!)

Third, by now you’ve heard about Borders filing for chapter 11. There’s one store in NYC that is closing, the one on Park Ave and 57th Street, so I raided it yesterday. One of the great things about living in New York is that the book stores have a pretty impressive selection of m/m books, and at store-closing discounts, I felt a little like I won the lottery. (Plus I found a few Suzanne Brockmann reissues I hadn’t read yet.) Here’s a peek at what I bought (with special guest, my cat Molly):

Click to embiggen.

That’s a lot of naked male torso! Borders had a lot of other great books, but most of them I’d read already. 😉 Still, it was good timing on the paper books; I broke my Kindle this morning. Luckily, Amazon is sending a replacement, but not until Tuesday.

I’ve been thinking about writing a retrospective post—somehow, I managed to get three books published in a year, which seems like such an impossible feat—but right now I have books to read (and books to write!).

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.

sports and things

By some amazing coincidence, Jessewave had a post up yesterday about the lack of m/m novels about sports. I may have mentioned, I have been similarly bemoaning this lack. It seems like a natural combination, men and sports. Well, and also, I like sports.

My brother and I half-heartedly collected baseball cards as kids. Or, more likely, my brother collected them and, as with a lot of his toys, I sort of borrowed and looked at them. (Our toys were largely gender segregated, and I have no idea why. I mean, I liked Barbies, but I also liked action figures and Legos and baseball cards, you know?) As a kid, I was a Mets fan, if only because basically everyone who was a kid in the greater New York metropolitan area in the 80s was a Mets fan. (Also, it’s kind of a rule of living in New York: regardless of whether you follow a sport, you are required to declare a team loyalty. Mets or Yankees? Jets or Giants? And so on.) Then, when I was 12 or 13, my parents took me to my first real major league baseball game: Orioles at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees lost, but it didn’t matter: I was hooked.

It’s hard to articulate what I love about baseball exactly. I love all of it. I love the history, the legends. I love the statistics and math. I love how superstitious the players are, how insane the fans are. I love the players (and, okay, I like some players look in their uniforms). I like just sitting in the stadium, soaking it up, sipping a beer.

I missed out on baseball last summer, so I didn’t actually make it to the new Yankee Stadium (which opened last year) until last night. My friend J accompanied me to a game—he’s a foul, loathsome, evil Red Sox fan, but he’s also one of my favorite people to argue the sport with, so he’s good company. He reminded me that the last time he’d been on Yankee territory was ten years ago, when we went to a Yankees-Sox game that got rained out. Anyway, the new stadium is gorgeous. All the photos in this post are ones I took last night.

I’ve started to write a baseball romance. It’s very early stages yet, I’ve got a loose outline and the first scene written, but that’s kind of it. I feel like this is my mission now, though. I mean, baseball! Romance! What more could you want?

COMPLETELY UNRELATED: Did you guys see this great essay by a gay 15 year old who is trying to get more GLBT books in libraries? If you haven’t, you should read it, it’s really good.

And speaking of books, there are about a million I want to read right now. And things I want to write. I should get cracking!

the inside reader + bonus books

Today I am The Inside Reader at Elisa Rolle’s blog.

my bookshelves are messyTo the left is a quick and dirty snapshot of two of the… uh… six? bookcases I have in my apartment. The book hoarding, it’s a disease. I totally will be the old lady you find out about who got crushed under the weight of all the stuff in her apartment. Thank goodness for ebooks; owning an ereader has cut my paper book acquisition down to a small fraction of what it once was (although then the Brooklyn Public Library or the Housing Works Bookstore has a sale, and I have a tote bag full of new books, dammit).

I have a lot of books, is what I’m saying. I’ve read a lot, too, because I live a couple of blocks from the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, so they keep me in books even when my budget doesn’t allow for new ones. So narrowing the best/my favorites/my influences is a task that is well nigh impossible.

So IN ADDITION to the ones on my list, here are a few more books that didn’t make my cut but maybe should have.

A note first! I went through a few years in which I thought I was too good for romance novels, and only started reading them again a few years ago. A friend of mine loaned me a romance novel, then I had to spend 4 hours on a bus, so I read it. And was completely engrossed and entertained by the book. I had forgotten how much pleasure could be found in a book that, even while maybe not being the most erudite or groundbreaking, is just a fun read. A few months after that, I got a job as a proofreader at a law firm. After spending all day looking at contracts and newsletters, I wanted my recreational reading to be fun and easy, and romance novels filled that need pretty nicely. I’ve since moved on, job-wise, but I’ve been a regular romance reader ever since. As such, a lot of my favorite books of the last 3-4 years have probably been romances. And I would argue, actually, that the genre gets a lot of flak that is undeserved. Sure, there’s some crap, but there’s also some really fantastic writing and storytelling that goes unrecognized (or under-recognized?). So my shelves, and my list of favorite books, contain both more literary works and romance novels. So there.

I’m sticking with a mostly LGBT theme here. I have many, many other favorite books, too.

Whisting in the Dark by Tamara Allen. It pained me a little to leave this off the list. I’ve been fascinated by the 1920s for a long time, and as soon as I knew of the existence of an m/m romance that took place just after WWI, I bought it immediately. It’s a really lovely book, full of great period detail and interesting characters.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson. I love Winterson’s prose. It’s a moving book, about a lesbian growing up in a religious community.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. And speaking of bad girlhoods. This is a book that will stick with you for a while.

Taking Woodstock by Eliot Tiber. Maybe an odd choice. Here’s why, though: I saw the movie last summer with my mother, who is still a hippie on the inside. I am, apparently, the only one who liked the movie. Something about it really worked for me, I guess. I loved Liev Schreiber’s performance. I love that no special attention is paid to the fact that Eliot is gay, it’s just a fact of his life. I got home afterwards and Googled the movie, which is how I stumbled upon the book. The book… was not in any way what I expected. Though the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the second half of the book, it was the first part of the book that really surprised me. It’s a frank account of life for a gay man in New York City in the 60s. It’s flawed—the prose is straightforward and unadorned, it’s name-droppy, it’s peppered with too-good-to-be-true coincidences—but it’s interesting, too. (There is some explicit discussion of BDSM, fair warning.)

The real reason this book makes the list is that there was something about it I found inspiring. It indirectly was the catalyst for the novel I wrote during the last NaNoWriMo. I’ve long been interested in life in New York in the 70s—Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentleman, The Bronx is Burning is excellent, and also, I’m personally fascinated by how much the city has changed since I was a kid in the 80s, and I think the period of time between the late 60s and the mid-90s is key to understanding how cities ebb and flow and grow and decay (something that I am interested in)—and after reading Taking Woodstock, I started reading other first-hand accounts of various events of the 60s in New York, and that became my novel. (I’ll finish it some day. It is, in part, about a gay man who comes of age in Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s.) Incidentally, this and Stone Butch Blues both contain scenes during the Stonewall riots. And, having read a bunch of accounts of Stonewall, I guess I was surprised at how small the inn itself seemed when I walked by it recently, how nondescript Christopher Street is, even, in the middle-of-a-weekday sunlight in 2010.

Some other of my favorite books of all time include some classics like Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. And, I know there are corners of the romance community that will disagree with me, but I much prefer the Bronte sisters to Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre remains a favorite book, one I’ve read probably ten times. (There’s something about a hero you can’t quite like. I wound up re-reading it last year or the year before when my book club read Wide Sargasso Sea, and, I have to say, Rochester gets some of the best lines in the book.) In maybe the same vain, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is still probably one of my favorite historical romances of all time. Louise Erdrich is also a favorite writer; of her books, Tales of Burning Love is probably my favorite. Pete Hammill’s novel Forever is wonderful; the premise is that the main character is immortal, as long as he does not leave the island of Manhattan, so he lives through 250 years of New York history. I unabashedly love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. I’ve read everything Jennifer Crusie has published (among which Faking It and Agnes and the Hit Man are probably my favorites). There are dozens of really great m/m authors I didn’t get to mention and many I’m sure I’m forgetting: K.A. Mitchell, Ethan Day, Charlie Cochrane, T.A. Chase, Astrid Amara, Lynn Lorenz, Alex Beecroft, J.L. Langley, and on and on and on. I could keep going. I have read many books.

mom’s day

Halloweeen ca. 1984

I went digging for a few old photos of my mother in honor of the holiday and came up with this one. It’s fitting in its way; every Halloween since forever, she’s dressed up as a witch. There was a box of old costumes that lived in our basement that had no fewer than 5 pointy hats in it at any given time.

My mom is also a writer, though she writes mostly non-fiction these days. My dad is a scientist. As far as following in parental footsteps, it could have gone either way; I did pretty well in my English classes in school, but I also excelled at math. Still, I became an editor and a writer, just like my mother. Because, as maybe you can guess from the photo, a part of me wanted to be her.

My mom was always trying to further our education. She has a keen interest in American history, so my brother and I got dragged around to reenactments and documentary screenings and war movies when we were kids. I probably got a better education in history from my mother than I did from school. In 10th grade, for example, I was assigned a paper on the Battle of Gettysburg, and I didn’t even have to go to the library because my mom had so many reference books on the Civil War.

Some branches of my mother’s family have been in the US since the late 1600s, which maybe explains the preoccupation with American history and genealogy. My mother told me at our early Mother’s Day dinner last night that her brother has been doing some research and discovered that we had an ancestor who’d been imprisoned at Andersonville, the worst of the Confederate prison camps during the Civil War. My brother and I both exclaimed “Wow, cool!” (And my brother’s fiancée, who was also having dinner with us, gave us a blank stare. Although, she and my brother have been together a long time, and he’s about to go back to school to get an advanced degree in history, so she’s kind of used to this.) My mom had a similar reaction, though; it’s one of those things… Andersonville was, by all accounts, a terrible place. The man who ruled over it was hanged for war crimes after the war ended. My ancestor, in fact, died a few weeks after being liberated. But my brother and I got kind of a giddy thrill to know that an ancestor of ours had been a part of this chapter in American history that we knew something about.

As an adult, when I read nonfiction, I read mostly history. (My brother recently loaned me David McCullough’s book on the Brooklyn Bridge, which is kind of a doorstopper, but I’m enjoying it so far.) I toy with writing historical fiction. I love to write (and read!) it, but a life spent with my mother makes me leery sometimes, terrified to get the details wrong. (Plus, the historical eras I’m interested in are not so universally appealing. I wrote a chapter of a novel that takes place during the Gilded Age and thought, “Geez, would anyone but me be even remotely interested in this?”)

Although the fact that I’m writing romance at all is maybe my little bit of rebellion. My mom was always reading these weighty, academic tomes (although I knew where she kept her secret stash of pulp sci fi novels) so I hid romance novels in my room when I read them as a teenager. One of the fun things about being an adult is that I don’t even bother to hide those anymore; most of my romance novels are in a bookcase in the hallway right next to the front door of my apartment. It’s like a sign that says, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

So there it is. Blame my mother.

chance to win a book

I’m going to be hanging around Ethan Day’s Gay Day again tomorrow, and this time I’m giving away a copy of In Hot Pursuit. Details below!

Sunday, February 28th is Gay Day at Ethan’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  is offering up winners choice of an e-book from her backlist
AKM Miles – Too Keen
Willa Okati – Tomcat Jones
M. Jules Aedin – Can’t Hurry Love – 2 copies are up for grabs!!
A.J. Llewellyn – Wanted
Ethan Day – an autographed Print copy of Dreaming of You
Kate McMurrayIn Hot Pursuit
Trina Lane – Taking the Chance
J.R. Patrick – Only Yours  
S.J. FrostMidnight Dalliance
Jambrea Jo Jones – Stealing My Heart
Sophia Titheniel – King of Damon’s
Charlie Cochrane – an autographed Print copy of Past Shadows
The amazing Authors below will be popping in and out to chat & post excerpts from their latest books:
Lynn LorenzBaymore’s Heir & Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Carol LynneIce Water in Hell
Z.A. Maxfield – Family Unit
Lex Valentine – Where There’s Smoke
Nix Winter – Kai Stubborn
P.A. BrownL.A. Bytes
Sloan Parker – More
M. Jules Aedin – Windows In Time
T.C. Blue – A Game of Chances
Kimberly Gardner – Bound to Please
Andrew Gray – Love Means No Boundaries
Adrianne Brennan – My Big Fat Greek Pagan Lesbian Wedding
A.J. LlewellynFawnskin w/ DJ Manly & Stephani Hecht Stealing My Heart the Anti-piracy Antho
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!
I hope everyone will stop by to catch up with your favorite authors and join in all the fun!

state of the kate

I called out sick from work today. I feel okay saying this on the internets because I am actually sick. The funny thing about sick days when you are actually sick is that, right after you get off the phone with your boss, you think, “Awesome, I’ve got this whole day off in front of me.” But then you realize you are actually sick and can’t do anything. I, for example, fell asleep in the middle of reading a book and lost the whole afternoon. I was thinking I’d get in some cold-medicine-fueled writing, but no. (Don’t pity me too much, though; I’m feeling a lot better now. And there are worse things than spending a day curled up in bed with a down quilt, a cat, and a Kindle.)

I’ve been reading a lot the last couple of days. I haven’t been reading much lately, mostly because of lack of time, but it turns out my shopping vice of late is ebooks, because I’ve bought, like, 15 of them in the last few weeks.

Here’s what I’ve read since I’ve been sick: After eying it for a couple of weeks, I finally broke down and read The Dark Tide. I knew the book would be good, and it was. I just couldn’t face the end of the Adrien English series. I guess I got a little sentimental. I mean, the series is fantastic, but also, Fatal Shadows has the distinction of being the first ebook I ever bought (and I think also the first m/m romance I ever read, although I’d read plenty of things with gay characters before). And it was a good intro to Loose Id, which, hey, is publishing my book in two weeks.

I also read LA Heat, a pretty solid procedural crime novel featuring a closeted cop who falls for the suspect in his murder investigation. It’s heavy on the police minutiae, but we’ve already talked about that, so you know it’s cool with me. And I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned page turner.

I’ve got a murder-mystery work-in-progress that I plan (hope) to finish this month, and all this cop stuff is making me want to get back to it. I’ve been working on this one for the last few months; I know whodunnit but can’t figure out how the characters figure it out, so I’ve been dragging my feet on the ending. It’s lighter in tone than In Hot Pursuit, though it has a higher body count. And I like these characters a lot, which makes it a joy to work on for the most part, except for the ending. (You appreciate mystery writers more when you try to write a mystery.) The one drawback is that one of the characters is a mystery writer, and after I was 20,000 words into the first draft, I had a conversation with a few members of my writers group who were all, “I hate characters who are writers.” Whoops! I’ll tell you, this character is not too prone to discussing his Craft. He’s more a pop writer, more opportunistic and arrogant than flighty and artistic. Plus, I thought it was funny to have a character who writes gritty crime novels with lots of gruesome details who then loses his shit when confronted with the real thing. It’s possible I have a warped sense of humor.

It occurred to me that my book comes out two days after Valentine’s Day, and it’s a romance, so there should be some celebrating? Stay tuned.

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.