Archive for category reviews

five things: post-Sandy edition

It’s been a very weird week. Here’s my wrap-up:

1. Oh, Sandy! I made it through the storm pretty well, all things considered. I live on high enough ground that there wasn’t any flooding, my building didn’t suffer any property damage, and we’ve had power the whole time. There were a number of downed trees in the neighborhood—a few that looked like they just got yanked, roots and all, right out of the sidewalk—but that was the worst of it. So, really, I’m good. It’s been a strange couple of days, though, with the subway down, all kinds of technical difficulties at the office, and a lot of storm-related zaniness in the neighborhood (well, maybe zaniness is the wrong word, but things that aren’t normal: really obscene car traffic, grocery stores running out of food, gas stations nearly out of gas, and so on).

So I came through unscathed, but I’ve got friends who still don’t have power and are dealing with much bigger problems than what I experienced.

I don’t think the bigger picture really sank in until Wednesday. I spent a lot of time Tuesday on the phone or online connecting with my friends and family and making sure everyone was accounted for and doing okay. (Everyone’s fine, albeit with setbacks like no power. Con Ed says lower Manhattan will be back Saturday night. Westchester County—where my mother is currently living in an apartment without heat or hot water—is a bigger question mark, maybe not back to normal until next week. A tree fell on my dad’s house in Connecticut, but the damage seems minimal.) I had some sense of the scope of things because I was more or less glued to the local news from Sunday evening until Tuesday evening. But I didn’t get it. It took hearing from some people I know in New Jersey, who are dealing with terrible flooding, no power, and now they’re running out of food because the grocery stores have nothing. It took watching the national news last night and seeing how the rest of the country is seeing the fallout from Sandy before I really felt how bad this was.

And, you know, I’m a Jersey girl first and foremost. I grew up in Bergen County. My family has all moved out of the state, but old friends, people I grew up with, they’re still in New Jersey. The Hackensack River flooded near my hometown and displaced a lot of people. It really breaks my heart, watching all the destruction in my home state. (I’m making big donations to the Red Cross and other aid organizations because I hope that normal life can resume as soon as possible for all of these people who are suffering now. This one really hit close to home for me, literally and figuratively.)

So, yeah, this is very surreal. Life in NYC will probably be mostly back to normal by early next week, and I look forward to that, but my heart goes out to everyone who was more severely affected by the storm than I was.

2. Halloween! Well, because of all that, Halloween was mostly canceled this year. No parade in the Village. I woke up on the 31st and just plumb forgot. I walked through Park Slope that night, though, and there were trick-or-treaters everywhere, so that was good. The public schools are closed this week and I think the kids enjoyed being out of the house.

Actually, that was the funny thing about Wednesday. People were EVERYWHERE. After everyone was cooped up for three days, all of the restaurants in this part of Brooklyn were slammed.

3. NaNoWriMo I decided to do it again. I’d been kicking around an urban fantasy idea, but then decided Saturday that it sucked, so I’m resurrecting a novel I started and abandoned over the summer, a m/m contemporary about two guys who are down on their luck and just happen to live across the hall from each other in a crappy apartment building in Brooklyn. Back to basics, you know? I’m setting the novel in my brother’s neighborhood (Crown Heights), which has developed a lot in the last couple of years. I might have to go to some bars there. You know, for research.

4. Future Books I don’t know if I announced this anywhere, but the pub date for my next book, Show and Tell, got bumped up to January 8. So hang onto that $10 bill your grandma sends you for Christmas!

5. Reviews Four Corners got top billing in the All Romance eBooks newsletter Tuesday (thanks, Val!) and Hearts on Fire Reviews gave it five hearts. Yay! If you want a slightly angsty contemporary to snuggle up with this weekend (and seriously, why is it suddenly so cold out? You’d think it was November or something) that is not a bad way to go.

So now I gotta brush the dust off my wool coat and get down to the business of writing a novel in a month. I hope your November got off to a less strange start than mine did!

five things: GRL (OMG); swag disasters; reviews

Weekly wrap-up, comin’ at ya:

1. I was chatting with a coworker yesterday about my travel plans in October, and she said, “Why are you staying in Albuquerque? There’s nothing to do there.” Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem for me.

So, YES, GAYROMLIT, LESS THAN TWO WEEKS. I am REALLY EXCITED, if that was not obvious from the caps lock abuse. We’re close enough now that it’s not too weird if I start pre-planning my outfits (not that I didn’t start that already, but now it’s not crazy… right?). Everyone in my social networks is atwitter about it. (Har har.) I would like to get on that plane right now.

I have run into one snafu, which is that the pens I ordered arrived last week and they were misprinted. (Seems to have been a font issue, so some letters were replaced with random characters.) Panic ensued, followed by ranting all over anyone who would listen, and then it took me two days to get anyone at the pen company on the phone. The customer service people, when I did finally get through, were really nice at least and they are sending me new pens, so now we play the game of hoping and praying that they arrive before I fly to ABQ. Man. I really want those pens. My thought process had been that the swag I always keep after conventions are pens. (I always need pens.) These ones I ordered are not top of the line, but they’re nice and they came in a variety of bright colors. *pouts*

Even if the pens don’t come in time, I do have postcards, bookmarks, Matt & Iggy baseball cards, and some other goodies for an event the Rainbow Romance Writers are doing. Between all that and the books I’m going to be selling, my bedroom is currently Box City.

2. BUT FIRST, I’m going back to my home state for the New Jersey Romance Writers convention next weekend and also kind of double-guessing the wisdom of doing two conventions two weekends in a row. (Who needs sleep? Bah.) I’m actually pretty psyched for that one, too, but my plan is to sit back and observe, figure out how these kinds of conventions go down. Well, also to represent the hot gay love contingent of the romance writing universe.

I was going to try to fit New York Comic Con in there, too (also next weekend) but then the part of my conscience that deals with my sanity laughed like a lunatic. So… no Comic Con this year. Maybe next year.

3. Dreamspinner is doing a Halloween Extravaganza, so they’re having sales all month. If for some reason you haven’t read Blind Items or Four Corners, you’ll be able to purchase them for 25% off during GayRomLit (sale is on the 19th–21st) and there might be some things you should pay attention to the @dreamspinners twitter account for.

4. I’m finishing up revisions on Show and Tell this week AND I got a release date yesterday: the book will be out January 22. (That’s soon!)

5. Reviews! I haven’t posted any of these in a while. The Novel Spot gave Across the East River Bridge 4.5 stars. Lisa says, “This is one of those books that not only entertained but also informed, which resulted in a really lovely read for me.”

Top 2 Bottom Reviews gave Four Corners 4.5 stars. Gabbi says, “I enjoyed watching both men work hard to find their way back to each other, and I appreciated the solid foundation of love and trust that they once again build between them.”

Announcement: Sports Week will be happening on this here blog the week of October 22nd, so you’ll have something to read during your GayRomLit hangover. I so far have 3 fantastic guest bloggers lined up, and we’re gonna talk about sports and romance and it will be fun! More details soon!

friday! five things!

Happy release week to me! The theme of today’s post is, “Taste is subjective.”

1. Watching! But this is not subjective: American women athletes are kicking all kinds of ass at the Olympics. So here’s a photo of Allyson Felix, because she won a gold medal Wednesday, and also just because I think she’s really pretty. She comes across as friendly and chill in interviews. Here are some more lady athletes!

I have some sadness that the Olympics are about to come to an end because I’ve enjoyed watching so much, but I also look forward to going to bed at reasonable times again.

2. Reading! I took a day off from work Monday to recover from all the madness that happened last week at work, and I took the opportunity to basically read a whole novel in one sitting. That novel was Rock and a Hard Place by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow, and I LOVED it. I went to add it to my Goodreads account, and I saw that reviews were mixed, which should have surprised me less than it did, I guess. Just goes to show.

I mean, I disagree with reviews all the time. Reading is such a personal thing. One reader’s dealbreaker is another’s enticement.

Or it’s like the experience I had when I saw The Dark Knight Rises. While I was watching the movie, I was totally into it. I have a hard time sitting still that long, but the movie totally captured my attention and entertained me. Then the friend I saw it with and I rode the subway home together and discussed the movie, and it started to retroactively fall apart. (I still liked the movie on the whole, but there were parts of it that were real head scratchers, you know?) That happens when I read sometimes, where I’ll be so caught up in a story that all flaws become invisible, and it’s only after the fact that I’ll realize what might not have worked.

But, yeah. Everyone likes different things. Which is not a revolutionary thought, but it seems like in this era of authors and reviewers and drama and high anxiety, it’s good to remember that. (I will have more to say about this shortly.)

3. Writing! Shipped a manuscript off to my editor yesterday. I have, I’m not even joking, four new projects open on my computer right now. I’m hoping to make some headway with some new stories over the next few weeks

I know I’ve posted this cover a zillion times, but I really love it. Let’s stare at it some more.

4. Four Corners! This release was especially nerve-wracking for me. Here’s our theme of the week: when I first started shopping it around, I kinda knew it was a novel not everyone would like. It’s probably the angstiest of my published novels. Jake and Adam both behave in ways that mean they aren’t always likable or sympathetic (although I hope that they are on the whole). I wanted to tell a good story and make you think and entertain you, and hopefully I’ve accomplished that. It’s a story that’s heavy on emotion and light on plot with heroes that don’t always act the way the reader might like them to, and that felt a little risky.

At my local chapter’s RWA meeting last weekend, one of the other women at the meeting said that it’s important to keep track of and follow trends, to adapt to the market. She thought that if paranormals are big, writers should try their hands at paranormals, for example. I disagreed quite vocally; I think if you try to adhere to trends, by the time your book comes out, everyone’s over it and has moved on to the next thing. So why not set the trend?

I write mostly for myself; I write the kinds of books that I want to read. I’m finding that the more I write, the more I want to take risks and try different genres and experiment. I hope my readers come along for the ride, that what they find appealing about my voice will carry over as I try to write different kinds of books. I hope there’s something about my writing and my brand that readers continue to connect with even if I’m not writing contemporaries.

Basically, I couldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t love it—it’s hard work—and my writing sucks when I’m trying to push through a story I’m not really feeling. And I think I’d get bored if I stuck with one tried-and-true thing. So I’m writing stories I want to tell, trying not to analyze market trends too closely. (Which is to say, it’s good to keep on top of trends and pay attention to the market, but as a writer, you have to follow your heart, too.)

So I wrote this novel that I really feel passionate about, but I’m assiduously avoiding places like Goodreads in an attempt to just ride the high of successfully getting another book out and telling my nerves to shut up. That’s only kind of working. (It’s so hard not to look. It’s kind of like waiting for grades to get posted after an exam.)

So, yeah, I don’t know. I love this book. I love these characters. I hope you do, too. (But I still feel nervous.)

That said, we’re off to a good start: 5 stars from Jessewave.

Also, you can check out some things I wrote about about angst and also enter to win a copy of the book at Joyfully Jay.

Also, I seem to have made #3 on the Amazon Gay Romance list the day after the book was published. So I guess I sold a few copies! (THANK YOU to everyone who bought the book or supported me!)

5. Doing! I have a zillion things going on, like always, and lots of work to do this weekend. Ugh. But I leave for my week in the woods a week from tomorrow. I need a vacation so bad, I can’t even tell you.

Also, I was very sad to hear about the passing of David Rakoff, long one of my favorite writers and contributors to This American Life. (True story: just last month, I downloaded the This American Life app to my phone and have been listening to the archives, and one of the episodes I listened to recently was What You Lookin’ At from 1998, in which Rakoff recounts a story of going to a tiny town in New Hampshire and feeling like a fish out of water. As with a lot of his material, it’s darkly funny and poignant, and I love his speaking voice also.) (That episode is also worth it for the Sarah Vowell story about getting a goth makeover.)

five things on friday

Thursday was insane and stressful and I’m glad it’s over! Let’s Friday it up!

1. Saying! The obvious headline is the article on m/m in RT. I had the opportunity to talk to the author of the article a couple of months ago, so she quoted me, along with Damon Suede, Heidi Cullinan, Kate Douglas, Josh Lanyon, and some others. The article is pretty great and you should check it out.

2. Reading! I finally finished Game of Thrones and am about 150 pages into Clash of Kings and I’m liking it. If I can find the time, I want to also read one of the, like, 15 romance novels I’ve downloaded in the last month. (Amazon sent me a, “You should review your recent purchases!” email yesterday, and I realized I hadn’t read a single one of the books listed yet. I should get on that!)

3. Writing! Reviewed proofs for Four Corners this week. I have that pre-release jumble of emotions, simultaneously elated and incredibly nervous. (I’m really pleased with the book and I’m excited for it to be published, but I always fret about how my new books will be received.)

I have a whole list of new ideas. I’m hoping for more free time in August to pursue them.

4. Doing! Earlier this week, a friend of mine had an “I quit my job to get an MFA!” party in the East Village. The party was at a nice bar on Avenue C. I can’t think of the last time I was that far east in Manhattan. Here’s your bit of insider New Yorker knowledge: I hate going to the East Village because it’s really inconvenient, subway-wise. This was the sort of special occasion I make an exception for, and I’m really psyched for my friend (also kind of jealous, because if I could afford to quit my job to focus on my writing, I would do it in a hot minute). Anyway, I walked East on Houston on a hot night and reflected on how different and weird and outside of my usual zone it was. That’s the funny thing about New York; most residents stay in their section of the city and don’t venture out of it much. That I both live and work in the same part of Brooklyn means I don’t leave a 2 mile radius all that often. It’s kind of sad, now that I think about it. So hooray for friends making me go places I don’t usually go! There’s a whole big city out there!

I’m also pretty psyched for the Olympics. I like sports! I’m going to watch as much of the coverage as I can, and I’ve got TWO Olympics-related apps on my phone. My favorite things to watch are gymnastics, diving, track, and swimming (how hot are swimmers?) but I usually also pick some random sport to follow, and this year, I think it’s going to be women’s weightlifting, because how great is Sarah Robles? So great! Strongest woman in the US!

5. Linking! Lead Us Not got a nice review from Rainbow Book Reviews. That story is still totally free. You can click on the book cover in the sidebar to get to the download links.

That’s it! Until next week…

Five Things on Fr—Saturday

I had this idea for a weekly wrap up post yesterday. “I could make a list!” I thought. “And post it on Friday! It could have five things! It could be called ‘Five Things on Friday!’ Maybe it’ll even catch on and become A Thing!” Alas, I also worked a thirteen-hour day at the day job yesterday, so when I got home from the office, pretty much the last thing I wanted to do was stare at a computer screen and try to form words. But I still like this weekly wrap-up idea, so here are five things I’m reading and doing, in no particular order. Hopefully this will become a regular thing.

So many books!1. Reading! This is part of the pile of books next to my bed. I’m taking a break from reading romance to delve into some nonfiction, and also Game of Thrones. I may finish the whole series someday! I think I mentioned that my summer project is to learn a lot about British history, not for any real purpose beyond just to do it. But the funny thing about dipping your toe into the water is that soon you realize how vast the ocean is. I started reading this book on the Wars of the Roses (Alison Weir’s, which is really well-written and engaging) which soon made me realize how little I know about European history on the whole. I picked up John Davies’s book on Wales because I myself have a whole lot of Welsh ancestors (and some cousins who are still in Wales), and yet I know almost nothing about the country. (I do know that my Welsh family’s tartan is red and green and looks like Christmas, though, so there’s some trivia for you.) I’m also reading Sherry Jones’s Four Sisters, All Queens, which I got at a reading I went to a couple of months ago. It’s a nice supplement to my new case of Anglophilia. My only issue with the book is that it requires me to believe that these very young queens have a lot of political savvy, that teenaged girls are capable of playing politics with the big boys—no, wait, that makes perfect sense, never mind. :)

2. Doing! I saw the Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar last week. It’s one of my favorite musicals ever. It was enjoyable, but not very innovative, which is maybe why the show isn’t doing that well. (I saw the touring production a few years ago, the one with old Ted Neely as Jesus—he also played Jesus in the 70s movie; Google tells me he is 68 years old—and Corey Glover as Judas, and that was a fun show.) Still, it’s hard to go wrong with that music, and the actor playing Judas is outstanding, so if you’re in New York and can get cheap tickets, it’s worth seeing. I’ve had “Heaven on Their Minds” stuck in my head ever since.

And I plan to see Magic Mike later today. Other than that, I’ve been working a lot. Boo.

3. This is a great roundup of links to discussions of race and romance. (I have a lot of complicated feelings on the matter.)

4. Like me! Really like me! I never solicit things like Facebook likes, but it came out earlier this week that a great number of likes on your Amazon author page somehow boosts your visibility on the site, whatever that means. (I assumed book sales tied into this more, though. Amazon keeps recommending I read this book called Out in the Field, for example. LOL.) And I thought, hey, I never do this. I don’t care if you click the button, but if your clicker finger is feeling especially itchy, you could:

Like my Amazon author page
or
Like my Facebook page
or
Be my friend on Goodreads.

But only if you want to.

5. Links! Places I have been this week:

I was interviewed by Wave!
Out in the Field got a lovely review from the Novel Approach.
I wrote about flawed heroes for the RWA-NYC blog.

Phew! Busy week! Hopefully I’ll see you back here next week and we can do it again!

reviews and things

Good news first: “Lead Us Not” got a five-star review from The Novel Approach.

It’s enough to give a girl a complex about self-publishing. I swore up and down for a long time that I didn’t want to do it. It’s so much work—hiring editors and designers, converting files, distribution. I got a taste of that here in a micro scale, and it wasn’t so bad. So now I don’t know. I’ve got a couple of other shorts languishing on my hard drive. Maybe I’ll polish them up and make them available for $0.99 or something. (I think for novel-length work, I’d still want to go with a publisher.)

Also good: Out in the Field got a 4-star review from The Romance Reviews. That was pretty swell.

I’m hoping to spend a good chunk of this summer focusing on my writing. I started a bunch of new things this winter that I never got around to finishing. So I’m excited about that. You should be, too, because that means hopefully more books next year! My problem right now is deciding where to focus—I think contemporaries are my bread-and-butter, but I’ve got a few historicals that I’ve started and I have this insane idea for an epic fantasy. I KNOW! It keeps things interesting, though.

updates! roundups! things! exclamation points!

First, here’s where I’ve been on the webz this week:

I was interviewed by Joyfully Jay (and she gave Out in the Field 4.5 stars).

I helped Kerry Freeman celebrate baseball week on her blog with an excerpt.

Second, the rambly part!

Things have been a little crazy at the House McMurray over the last couple of weeks.

To start with, friends of mine got married last weekend. It was a gorgeous wedding, right here in Brooklyn, and I could not be happier for the couple, who a) I had a hand in getting together (in that I organized and ran the event at which they met, so I take credit) and b) are so clearly completely in love with each other, I cried like a baby during the ceremony. So that’s my little secret, I guess. I cry at weddings. I’m not ashamed! (This is probably not a very big surprise, since I write romance novels. Obviously some part of me likes this sort of thing.)

Anyway, I hosted some out-of-town friends who came to the wedding, so my apartment got a little crowded for a couple of days there—not that I minded one bit, and I like having people around, but entertaining guests is not conducive to other kinds of work.

And work, I has it. My non-writing work, especially the stuff I do freelance, has exploded lately. Which is great! I like the work and I like the extra income! But between the extra work and pimping out Matt and Iggy promoting Out in the Field, I’ve had zero time for my own writing. It’s frustrating. I want to write so badly I’m itchy.

I sometimes think it’s hokey when writers say they need to write, but it’s totally true. Writing has become one of my main emotional outlets, and not even in a “I write my feeeelings” kind of way (although I also do that sometimes) but more because it’s such an escape for me, a way to spend time in someone else’s universe or do something else with my surplus anxiety or emotion. So not having time for writing over the last week or so has been rough. It got to the point where I opened a Word doc on my lunch break yesterday and just started typing. So we’ll see how that goes.

Some of my surplus anxiety has gone into keeping an eye on how Out in the Field is being received. Really well, for the most part! Much better than I expected! I was thinking the book would land and the five people I knew who were both baseball and m/m romance fans would read it, and I’d bide my time until the contemporary romance I have coming out this fall is published. But then suddenly lots of people were talking about it! The reception to Out in the Field has been fantastic and humbling.

And, yeah, I totally saw that review on the big famous website, and it’s okay. If nothing else, there was a little bump in my Amazon rankings for a couple of days. Which is to say, I totally support the right of anyone to say things about books on the Internet, even if those things are not glowing praise of things I have written. Actually, it’s probably good to have a balance of opinions; readers seem to be skeptical when everything is all five stars and glitter. (I don’t really review on the Internet, unless you count my silly “I liked this book!” posts on Goodreads. But I do have opinions!)

(See, this is what happens when I can’t write otherwise. I vomit up everything on my blog.)

I’ve got a couple of things lined up for the summer, but otherwise, this is basically the end of the Out in the Field blog tour. Sad! You still have about 36 hours to enter to win a copy!

news!

I’ve been too busy to post much around here, but a few things have happened in the last couple of weeks. So, without further ado…

1) I’m the featured author this week over at Lou Sylvre’s blog. You can click on the link to see everything, including an interview with me and excerpts of Blind Items and Across the East River Bridge.

2) Across the East River Bridge is now available from All Romance Ebooks!

3) Reviews! Across the East River Bridge got a great review from Sensual Reads. My Christmas short “A Walk in the Dark” got a great review from Queer Magazine Online.

4) The Dreamspinner Advent Calendar (in which you can find “A Walk in the Dark”) got a little shout out from Lambda Literary.

5) Now is as good a time as any to remind you that I’ve got a Christmas-related freebie over here. It’s on the website or you can download it as a PDF. It’s about two lost souls who find each other at the top of the Empire State Building on Christmas Eve.

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping busy, mostly with work, writing, and Christmas shopping. :)

reviews and things

I woke up this morning to find two new reviews of Across the East River Bridge:

MM Good Book Reviews gave it 4 hearts:

This is a great story that drew me in because of the interesting historical facts as well as a doomed 1870’s love story and the present love story. I must admit that I am a bit of a history nerd and love finding out new historical facts especially when it’s blended in with fiction and this author does that beautifully. This isn’t a light read; I’d class it as medium as we have two historical researcher’s digging into a mystery that is over a hundred years old and they are trying to figure out their attraction to each other; while one of them is fighting it and two ghosts are interfering with them as well.

And Cecilia Ryan at Three Crow Press gave it 4.5/5 stars:

The characters were engaging, and the mystery that formed the basis of the plot was interesting to watch unfold, with satisfying glimpses into history dotted along the way that were a bit like uncovering buried treasure. All in all, it was an entertaining read with perhaps a little more substance to the plot than you might normally find, and strong enough characters, setting and writing to hold up to the increased complexity. I can honestly say I just enjoyed reading it, in a simple sort of way that makes me perfectly happy.

(This was an especially nice review for me, since Cecilia and I are both members of the same online writing community, and we have had some, let’s say, spirited discussions. So I’m especially grateful that she took the time to read the book!)

I have crossed the 50,000-word threshold on my NaNoWriMo novel, and I’m currently about 60% of the way through my outline, so there’s still a lot of story to go. And there are fantasy elements! If you had asked me two years ago if I saw myself ever writing fantasy, I would have laughed at you, and yet here we are. Just goes to show it’s good to keep an open mind!

Across the East River Bridge releases tomorrow!

It’s hard to imagine a more serendipitous release date. I wrote a ghost story that is being published in October, when everyone is all excited about Halloween. I wrote an m/m novel that is being published on National Coming Out Day. I wrote a book that is being published two days before I leave for a convention/retreat at which I will talk about books with lots of people.

Across the East River Bridge has its first review already, too! 4.5 stars from Aunt Lynn at Jessewave.

We’re enjoying an Indian summer in New York right now—80°F and sunny, or at least it was until a few minutes ago. I took a long, somewhat aimless walk around the neighborhood and did a few last minute errands relating to my trip to New Orleans. It was really nice.

I need to at least start packing today, that’s still left on my agenda for the day. (I have piles of stuff everywhere. Clean clothes, guide books, my books, postcards, etc., etc. These would be better if placed in my suitcase, eh?)

The book is out tomorrow!