Archive for category conventions

#RWA14 Wrap Up

The weird thing about being in charge of something is that you do a lot of work that nobody sees.

You gotta pimp out your badge before you get started.

You gotta pimp out your badge before you get started.

I spent the bulk of my five days in San Antonio for RWA 2014 on Rainbow Romance Writers chapter business. This morning, I wrote up a report of what I learned and posted it to the members-only area of RRW website. Then I thought, “I should write up something for my own website, but… what is there to say?”

I mean, the general populace, my fans, gay romance fans, etc., probably don’t care about RWA policy and procedure. A hot discussion topic at this year’s conference was the possibility of the national organization creating new membership classifications, for example, and if you’re not a member, you don’t care. (Considering less than a tenth of the people at the conference attended the Annual General Meeting, a lot of members don’t care about RWA policy and procedure, either, actually.)

I can say, though, that I got a lot out of the conference, and I left San Antonio feeling really inspired and excited. I feel re-energized to tackle my position as RRW president. I’ve got a short list of things I’d like to accomplish during the rest of my tenure.

Otherwise:

Tara Sue Me, Jennifer McQuiston, and Yours Truly take a selfie before the literacy signing. I do a lot of signings with these ladies because of the alphabet.

Tara Sue Me, Jennifer McQuiston, and Yours Truly take a selfie before the literacy signing. I do a lot of signings with these ladies because of the alphabet.

I did the Literacy Signing this year. It went okay. I wore my dress that has a print of comic panels showing people kissing, and really, where else are you going to wear a dress like that? There were only two other gay romance writers signing that I knew about (Ally Blue and LB Gregg) which made me wonder why there was such a low LGBT romance turnout this year. Was it Texas?

I attended fewer workshops than I intended to because I kept having schedule conflicts, but some highlights for me included the chat with Nora Roberts; a panel discussion on romance and feminism with Lorelie Brown, Tessa Dare, Carrie Lofty, Zoe Archer, and Julie Leto; and a panel on book marketing with Barbara Vey, Eileen Dreyer, and Maggie Mae Gallagher. I liked Sylvia Day’s keynote speech; not as emotionally moving as Kristan Higgins’ speech from last year, during which I cried for real, but still inspiring. At one point I looked around and felt such pride and awe to be surrounded by all of these smart, successful women.

I got to fangirl quite a bit. I think maybe one of my favorite single moments of the conference was going up to Mary Jo Putney at one of the publisher signings. She asked which chapter I was the president of, so I told her about Rainbow Romance Writers, and she said she was really happy with how the definition of romance has expanded to be more inclusive. We chatted about gay romance for a few minutes and I tried not to be too much of a dork. I mean, Mary Jo Putney. She’s one of the elder stateswomen of the genre and I’m such a fan.

That was a recurring theme of the conference. They gave me a Chapter President ribbon to wear, so people kept asking me which chapter I was the president of. Every single person had a positive response. Many told me they were glad RRW was doing the work it does. I had a lot of people tell me about the LGBT activism their siblings or children were involved with and that sort of thing. So that was pretty great.

I remembered to visit the Alamo!

I remembered to visit the Alamo!

I think RWA may be my favorite conference, in fact, more than RT and GRL even. My past experience with those was awesome, but RWA just has a different vibe. Everyone is so friendly and open to talking. I think part of that is that authors are there looking to network, and it’s more of a “we’re all in this together” environment than a reader conference where the purpose is different. Not that RT’s purpose is bad, I just have found it a lot easier to talk to random strangers at RWA than at other conferences. (I mean, I decided to sit with strangers during the keynote luncheon just to meet new people and had a very nice conversation with a couple of sisters from Dallas who had just joined RWA and with a Harlequin editor on diversity in romance. That sort of thing is so well encouraged at RWA that it happens all the time. You make friends in elevators and while waiting for drinks at the bar.)

I even got to see a little bit of the city. I had lunch free Friday, so I walked to the Alamo, only about a block from the hotel. Friday night, I met with an editor from a French publisher to talk about gay romance, and we took a walk on the Riverwalk to a bar that was a fair distance from the hotel. It was a really nice walk. San Antonio is a cute city. I would have liked it even better if it hadn’t been so hot.

So that, briefly, was my RWA experience. I can’t really begin to convey how great it all went.

RWA National Conference Next week! #RWA14

RWA is next week. I’ve been at turns excited and anxious about it. As one is, I guess. I’ll get a shiny Chapter President ribbon, so that’s cool, and I have a handful of meetings set up with various people, so I hope to have lots to report when I get home. I like the RWA conference, though it’s more business and less fun than a convention like RT; it’s more business casual and sensible shoes, basically. Last year, I actually had time to go to panels, though—which is not so much true of RT—and there look like there will be some good ones this year, so I hope to do that again, too.

If you’re in the San Antonio area, I’m signing at the literacy signing Wednesday night. I’ll have copies of The Stars that Tremble and The Silence of the Stars for sale. We have a small enough space that I didn’t go overboard with swag, but I will likely have bookmarks and things, too. And if you’ll be there, let me know so I can say hi. :)

Romance Festival in NYC on 6/14!

I’ll be there selling books and will also be speaking on a panel about the shiny new anthology of multicultural romance stories that we hope to have available for your reading pleasure by Saturday (more on that when it goes live).

This is an event put on by the New York City chapter of RWA, and it’s the first event we’ve ever done like this, so we’re super excited. I think it will be a great day.

Here are the details:

Saturday, June 14th 2014
1:00 – 4:30 pm

The Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace
(between West 160th & 162nd Street)

Admission is FREE!

Guest Speakers
Anna DePalo (USA Today Best Selling Contemporary Romance Writer: The Romance Genre)
Elizabeth Mahon (Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women)
Carol Ward (Director Morris-Jumel Mansion: The Loves of Eliza Jumel)

Panel
For Love and Liberty:
Multicultural and LGBT Love Stories during the American Revolution
With – Stacey Agdern, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Kate McMurray

Tours of the Morris-Jumel Mansion will be available throughout the day!

Authors Readings * Books for Sale

Raffles * Giveaways

upcoming events

I’ll be at two big events in the next few weeks if you want to come say hi:

Book Expo America is this week. I’ll be signing at the Dreamspinner booth (#1421) at 10:30 Saturday morning, so if you’re there, come by and get a copy of The Silence of the Stars! (Then Tere Michaels and Elle Brownlee are signing at 11:00 and Damon Suede is singing at 11:30. In the afternoon, Michael Murphy, Ariel Trachna, and Andrew Grey will be signing, starting at 1pm.)

Then on Saturday, June 14th, there’s going to be a Romance Festival at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in NYC. Admission is free. A bunch of area authors will have tables there where they will be signing and selling books. I’m doing a panel to talk about For Love and Liberty and multicultural Revolutionary War stories. It’ll be a good time and you should come if you’re in the area.

RT 2014 Wrap-Up

Well, I have my second RT under my belt. I had fun, I learned things, I’m still kind of a post-con zombie.

Highlights:

• I saw 3 panels (that’s 1 more than last year! It’s tough finding the time in that daunting schedule to see and do everything). The first was an LGBT panel moderated by Sarah Frantz featuring Suzanne Brockmann, SE Jakes, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, and Heidi Belleau. The third was also an LGBT panel moderated by Sarah Frantz, this one featuring Ruth Sternglatz (an editor at Bold Strokes Books), Christopher Rice, Heather Osborn from Samhain, Amy Lane, blogger Joyfully Jay, and Kelly Jamieson. Both were enjoyable and everyone had interesting things to say. I also attended a panel on multicultural romance moderated by RT editor Mala Bhattacharjee featuring Farrah Rochon, Alisha Rai, Jeannie Lin, and Sandra Kitt. That was also pretty great.

Someone asked me to compare RT and RWA panels. I think panels at RWA are more educational; panels at RT are mostly about seeing people you admire say interesting things. I’m not sure I learned anything new at any of the panels I went to, but I did really enjoy them all. Also I ended up winning the hardcover of Suzanne Brockmann’s new book at that first panel, which made me ridiculously happy. (I can fangirl with the best of them, too.)

• I helped out with Cinema Craptastique—if you don’t know, that’s basically live MST3K—and we had a lot of weird technical difficulties, but we got it up and running in time. I highly encourage everyone to fly in early to attend.

• I co-hosted a game party called Romance Pride Wheel of Fortune. The readers seemed to have fun and I will totally do it again next year, though it felt a little chaotic. It’s good to have these experiences and work out what will work better the next time.

• I won a fifth of bourbon playing bingo at a party I attended. I don’t drink bourbon, but that’s still pretty cool.

• I ran into someone I went to college with and haven’t seen since I graduated. Not only is she a romance author, we have the same agent. *sings* It’s a small world after all. (I figured it was only a matter of time before I ran into someone from my “other life” at a convention.)

• I got to wear a lot of cute dresses. Someone told me I was the cutest ever, and I considered changing my tagline. Would you buy a romance novel from “Kate McMurray, the cutest ever”?

• Then there was New Orleans itself! So much great food! So many things to see! It’s a wonderful city and I was happy to be there for the second time.

• I’m still working out my feelings about how the book fair went—you’ve heard about that by now, probably. The main point of contention was the separation of traditional and indie published authors into separate rooms, which I figured was mostly a money thing—indie books were sold on consignment, traditional books were sold through the book store. Other authors can probably write smarter things than I’m capable of writing on that. I was in the traditional published room. I sat next to Lindsay McKenna, who has been writing military romance for Harlequin for 30 years, and we had a really nice conversation about the progress of LGBT romance and digital-first publishing, and she’s a really nice woman. I met some fans, too, always the highlight of any signing.

• For me, the BEST part of RT is hanging out with old friends and meeting new people. I got to talk to readers and bloggers a lot more this year than I did last year, which I enjoyed. I miss you all already!

• LGBT romance was very well represented, which was awesome to see. This was true both in terms of ads on display and authors attending. On the plane home, my friend Stacey wanted book recs for gay romance, and I was like, “Any LGBT author you met this weekend.” It would be hard to go wrong with any of the attending authors, of which there were at least 25 at my count, all of them people you’ve heard of and adore, I imagine. (Actually, it was probably way more than 25, I’m just bad at counting, and when I mentally ran through everyone I talked to, there are also a bunch of authors who write a bit of everything, including het romance and gay romance and menage and all of those things.) If you’re a gay romance fan, this was a great conference at which to meet your favorite authors. I felt like it also warmly embraced writers of LGBT fiction.

So that was RT in a nutshell, for me anyway. I’m already looking ahead to Dallas in 2015! Thanks for putting on a great show, all of the RT staff and volunteers!

Next up I’ve got BEA next week and RWA in July. I just got confirmation that I’m all signed up for the Literacy Signing at RWA, so if you’ll be in San Antonio on July 23, come see me there!

Going to RT? Come to Romance Pride!

Spread the word! I’m co-hosting the Romance Pride: Wheel of Fortune event at RT, and it is going to be so awesome, you will be sad if you miss it.

Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

Want more info? Check out the event Facebook page.

The short version is that we will be playing games and giving out prizes. So many prizes. You want a teaser? Well, as it happens, I live with a jewelry designer, so I commissioned some super cute McMurray-themed earrings. Here is one pair:

Bookish Earrings

The party’s at 10am Monday. Fortify with caffeine, then come play!

convention tips: don’t just survive, be AWESOME

RT is just under a month away, and I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about “how to survive a con.” Viewing a con as something to survive is looking at it the wrong way. It’s not a white-water rafting trip or a jungle safari or [insert other scary journey here]. It’s a con. A lot of people attend them for FUN, even. Crazy! So don’t just survive. Thrive!

I went to 5 cons last year, which is a lot. Whether you go to one or one dozen each year, I hope you can take something from what I have learned. So, without further ado:

Kate’s Tips for Making Your Con Experience Awesome

1. Tote bag.
Have a bag to put stuff in. Almost every con I have ever been to gives these out when you register, so don’t feel like you have to buy one, but definitely carry one. You can both carry the stuff you need and have a place to put stuff you accumulate throughout the day. This will save you trips back to your hotel room. I always make sure to have: my phone, money, my room key, a little notebook or something to write on, a couple of pens, Chapstick, a snack, emergency flats (see below), a cardigan if I’m not already wearing one (hotels get cold), aspirin or some kind of headache pill, my business cards, and a limited quantity of swag to hand out to people I run into.

2. Attire.
I love the recent JC Penney’s ads that are about finding that piece that fits well and makes you feel good. This is my personal approach to fashion. Now, look, I love clothes. I view conventions as an opportunity to pull some of my funkier pieces out of the closet. I bought a bunch of cute dresses to wear at RT this year. Having one attention-grabbing piece is a great ice breaker because people will walk up to you and tell you they love your dress/shoes/necklace and then you can chat about books/your writing/panels/whatever. But I always feel good about myself when I’ve got my best clothes on.

I get that not everyone is as obsessive about clothes as I am, so here’s my advice: wear clothes that make you feel good. If dresses and bright colors are not your thing, don’t dress that way. If you’ve got pieces in colors you like or that fit very well or that just make you happy, wear those. If you’re happy and comfortable in your attire, you’ll project confidence. That’s a good quality to have in a con. (But do put in a little effort. Particularly if you’re attending as an author, you don’t want to fade into the background.)

Also, I recommend dressing in layers so you can adjust to heat/air-conditioning/surprise snow accordingly.

3. Shoes.
Always carry emergency flats. I keep a pair of reliably comfortable shoes in my con bag at all times. I always hit a point in the day, even in my most comfortable heels, where I just can’t anymore, and having the flats handy is such a relief.

4. Snacks.
Pack something snacky. I like to have granola bars or trail mix handy, or something similarly portable. Sometimes you forget to eat or go a long time between meals or just don’t get enough to eat at a luncheon. If you feel yourself dragging, stop and have a snack.

5. Water.
Carry a water bottle. Nothing will dehydrate you faster than being in a hotel all day.

6. Planning.
Have a rough plan of what you will do before you leave for the con. Look at the agenda or schedule and decide which events you will attend. This will affect what you pack, first of all, especially if there are parties or events with costumes, but also it will give you an idea for what to expect. On the other hand, be open to that plan changing once you’re on the ground. Because it totally will.

7. Free stuff.
You will get a lot of it, especially books. “But I don’t plan to take any…” Doesn’t matter. You will. I swore up and down I would take home zero books from GRL last year and wound up with five. Leave space in your luggage in anticipation of this. You might also bring pre-addressed shipping labels so you can send stuff home. Check with the hotel in advance to see if they will ship things for you. Convention hotels usually do or can direct you to the nearest courier.

8. Socializing.
Cons are one place where it is cool to talk to strangers. We’re all there to meet other members of our tribe. There are definitely going to be people who don’t know anyone or who have never been to a con before and will welcome making friends with similar people. Breeze through the lobby or hotel bar, introduce yourself, talk to people. Talk about books if you need an ice-breaker topic—at a romance or reader con, that’s the thing we all have in common.

And let me just say, it is a great feeling to find people who are just as passionate about your interests as you are.

9. Have fun.
Cons can be stressful when you’re preparing to attend them, but once you’re there, relax and enjoy!

Tips Specific to Authors:

1. Swag.
The late comedian Mitch Hedberg had a bit in his stand-up about people handing out flyers. He viewed someone handing him a flyer as, “Here, you throw this away.” I always think of this when someone hands me swag unsolicited. If we’re talking about your book and I express interest, then sure, hand me a postcard. But if I don’t know you and you hand me something, it’s going in the trash. This is a peeve of mine, because I have so little space in my luggage and I’d really rather not ship stuff home, so I don’t need MORE stuff, you know? Offer swag and have it available for people to take, but don’t make them take it.

Also, don’t feel like you have to break the bank to be impressive with your swag. Work within your budget. If all you can do are postcards with your book covers, that’s a great start—the goal is to spread the word about you as an author and your brand, and you shouldn’t have to spend big money to do that.

One last thing: a lot of cons have a swag room where people can peruse and take stuff. Take a tour yourself and see what great things other people are doing. You might get some ideas for your own swag.

2. Business cards.
All authors should have them. If we meet, I will likely ask you for one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just give me a way to find you online: your website, your email, and possibly also your social media accounts. Most cons have badge holders with little pockets in the back that are ideal business card holders; I always stuff a bunch of my own in there so I can pull them out on the fly, and I put the ones I get in there, too. Also, don’t make these too glossy; you want something someone can write on. I will sometimes write a note about where I met the person who gave me the card so I can follow up with them later.

3. Don’t limit yourself to your own events.
Go to other author panels/readings/whatever. Take advantage of the opportunities cons present to network and learn things. If there’s a publisher you’re interested in submitting to, attend their spotlight. If there’s a panel on something related to what you write, go attend it. Support your fellow authors.

4. Signings.
Signings are not my favorite thing, honestly. I’m a small fish in a big pond at cons like RT, and when you’re competing for reader attention with Nora Roberts and Sylvia Day, you’re probably going to lose. Still, be friendly to people who stop by. Chat with readers. Smile. Put out some candy to lure people to your table. Have something generic planned to write in books that people ask you to sign. Be prepared for long lulls when you don’t get much activity. Make friends with the writers sitting next to you. Don’t get offended if someone tells you they only read ebooks and so won’t be buying anything. (Readers have apologized to me a lot at signings. “I’m sorry, I only buy ebooks.” Hey, that’s totally cool with me! Help yourself to any of my swag. But the fact that so many readers apologize make me think some authors are dicks about that. Don’t be a dick.)

Actually, “Don’t be a dick,” is good con advice generally.

Do you have other tips for making a convention an awesome experience? Please share them in the comments!

Poll: Best in Swag

I’m going low-key on swag for RT this year, but I am doing a party for which I’m contributing items for door-prize bags, so I’m wondering, of the things I have on-hand, which of these would you most prefer to receive in a prize bag: one of my custom pin-back buttons (with the “smart • savvy • sexy” phrase on them), a postcard featuring the gorgeous cover of The Silence of the Stars, or an awesome Kate McMurray bookmark?

(NGL, this is also an excuse to try out this poll plugin for WordPress. Works pretty well, right?)

Rainbow Book Fair this Saturday, 3/29

I’ll be at the Rainbow Book Fair this Satuday, 12–6pm at the Holiday Inn on W. 57th Street in New York City. Stop by if you’re in the area! I will very likely be at the Rainbow Romance Writers table doing my chapter president thang, and I’ll have pamphlets and things on-hand for anyone looking for more info about the chapter. I will also have books for sale at the table hosted by myself, Tere Michaels, and Damon Suede. This’ll be my 4th RBF, and it’s always a good time. Hope to see you there!

some updates

This post is going to be all over the place, so bear with me, but updates!

• If you follow me on social media, you probably saw that my laptop finally bit the big one last week. I helped it along by spilling water on it, but it’s been on its way out for a while. It’s more than six years old. It was running super slow. I’ve been saving in anticipation of buying a new one this year. This just happened so suddenly that I was surprised and spent a whole day freaking out because I make my livelihood by typing on that stupid thing and… yeah. Not having a computer is a bad thing for a writer.

So that was stressful, and I haven’t replaced it yet for a few reasons, but things are okay. My entire hard drive was backed up on my external drive, so I haven’t lost anything (phew!) and I’ve got my tablet and a temporary loaner laptop to use until I can purchase a new one. This is going to slow me down a little, but I have so much going on in March I don’t have a lot of time for writing anyway.

• Barb put up a post Friday at Live Your Life, Buy the Book for her birthday in which she picked a sweet sixteen set of Loose Id books to celebrate. These same books are now on sale. They include Across the East River Bridge by yours truly as well as some of my old favorites including Duty and Devotion, Nowhere Ranch, and Long Tall Drink. She asked the authors of books she picked to write up a little something, so I talked about the ill-fated romance I found myself in when I was at a camp for overachievers at the University of Michigan when I was sixteen. I felt like that tied in nicely with the rival-academics theme of AtERB.

• I’ve got the final cover and blurb for The Silence of the Stars, so I’ll reveal that… soon. I’m not certain of the pub date, but I think May sometime. That’s the sequel to The Stars that Tremble, though it works pretty well as a standalone. This is Sandy’s story, and I put him through the ringer emotionally, but it’s actually not super angsty. More on that soon.

• Although if you plan to come to Liberty States in New Jersey next weekend, I’ll totally show you the cover. It’s gorgeous and I <3 it. (The big book signing is open to the public 4:30–6pm, so drop by if you’re in the area. A number of my favorite people will be signing books as well, including Tere Michaels, Damon Suede, and K.A. Mitchell.) Convention registration just ended, but the signing is open to everyone.

• I spent most of January and February reading books assigned to me because of contests or book club or research, so I finally got to read a book just for the hell of it this weekend, and it was glorious. (I find that, even if I’m enjoying a book, if I HAVE to read it, it feels like homework.)

I will say: reading books critically as a contest judge is tricky. It’s kind of like reviewing, I imagine, though for me, being an anonymous judge means I can be totally candid about how I feel about a book. Most of the contest books ended up being kind of middle-of-the-road for me: not terrible, but not that great either. There was competent writing and all the normal romance signposts, though some felt a little parboiled to me. (By which I mean: underdeveloped, not quite there yet.) It made me a little sad, actually; I guess if you read enough books that don’t really work for you in a row, you start to despair.

I think there’s value in reading critically in that you can analyze what it is that doesn’t work and apply those lessons to your own writing, so that’s my take away. But, for example, in a romance novel, I want that first “I love you” to be earned. I’ve read a lot of books lately where it feels like the characters are declaring their love for each other not because they actually are in love but just because we’re 3/4 of the way through the novel.

I want to write more on this topic—and on sex scenes, because I saw a few doozies in the contest books and in something I read over the weekend. (Short version: I’m noticing a lot of things that read to me as more “this is here because the author thinks it’s required” than “this is something the characters would organically do.”) I mean, romance is fantasy, no question, and there are things I can excuse in a story I’m enjoying, but a lot of what I’ve read lately doesn’t really match up with my own experience. (I have a lot to say on this topic, apparently, because I just wrote several paragraphs and then deleted them for fear I was getting too TMI, but suffice it to say we all bring our own experience to bear when we’re reading, and I have read some things lately that made me scratch my head and think, “Do actual humans behave in this way?” so.)

Anyway, this is a long enough post. Happy Monday!