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!

Question for the Masses: Bookmarks

My general philosophy with swag is that I want to offer up things people will actually take. The two things I almost always take at conventions are pens and bookmarks. (I like to take bookmarks because I still read a fair number of paper books and I am really good at losing bookmarks. I’ve already lost a few of the bookmarks I took at BEA, and that was less than a month ago. Skills, I has them.)

Anyway, I’m almost out of the bookmarks I ordered last year so it’s time to re-stock. That seems like a good reason to re-design, since the old one is a generic one from last year that doesn’t show anything published this year.

So, okay, pretend you are at a convention and you’re walking through Swag Alley or whatever and you stop at the Kate McMurray table because you think she’s a swell gal, and, oh hey, bookmarks! What do you want to see on said bookmark?

Is it better to have a generic bookmark for the author or a specific one for one particular book? What info besides the author’s name and wesbite do you want to see? Or are eye-catching graphics and sturdy paper really all you need from a bookmark?

Just curious! Let me know what you think, readers.

five things: RT preview

Weekly wrap-up!

1. RT is next week! I’m excited and also a little nervous and there’s still a lot to do to get ready! If you will also be there, I should be easily locatable if you want to say hi. Here’s where I will be for sure:

• Cinema Craptastique Tuesday night: We’re watching a movie I’ve never seen called The Covenant, which I’m told is pretty worthless except for the abundance of homoeroticism and pretty boys. A bunch of authors will be there tweeting about the movie; even if you are not there, you can follow along with the Twitter hashtag #RTmovieslam.

• I’m doing both signing events:
a. Thursday eBook Expo: I got some little cards made up with a QR code that goes to my author page at All Romance eBooks and I’ll have some paper books for sale as well. Even if you won’t be there, I believe the ARe promotions will be available to everyone, so keep an eye on the site. I will try to remember to Tweet about that.
b. Giant Book Fair: I got a spot at the last minute, so I will try not to get lost among the 400-some other authors. 🙂 I’ll have books for sale.

• I’ll be at the Romance Pride party with bells on.

• I’m doing the FAN-tastic author thingie Saturday. I’m not totally sure what that entails, but there will be prizes and giveaways. I’m in the 7:15 session.

• Confidential to RRW members: we’re meeting Wednesday night and details are on the chapter website.

I also made a list of all the workshops and spotlights and things I want to attend. There’s one on m/m I think on Friday. So I think it will be good.

I’ll try to remember to Tweet my whereabouts, although no promises because I tend to space out about Twitter being a thing at conventions. If you aren’t already following me, my Twitter handle is @katemcmwriter.

2. I am OBSESSING about what to wear. Like, I think for the sake of not carrying seventeen bags to Kansas City, I’m going to have to start narrowing down my costume changes. And shoes, I own so many pairs of shoes. I love excuses to dress up, I’ll be honest. I’m not so much for costumes, so I probably won’t be looking too whacky, but I do love fashion, and, I mean, how many excuses will I have to wear my brand new electric blue Steve Madden pumps?

Who's a pretty, pretty princess?

Who’s a pretty, pretty princess?

3. What else is going on? Well, I bought a new sofa on Sunday, which is probably only significant to me, but it was a Big Deal because I finally got to replace this old, ugly, hand-me-down futon in my living room. I splurged on some new throw pillows, too, which the cat immediately took advantage of. I call this her pretty princess pillow.

4. I’ve been working all week on a historical baseball story that will hopefully see the light of day this fall. If all goes to plan, I will finish the first draft of that this weekend.

5. I’m reading an Amish romance for my romance book club, which could be an interesting experience, although I may have to find the dirtiest, raunchiest book I can to counterbalance all this sweetness. I’ve never read an Amish romance before, so I’m looking forward to the book club discussion. I feel like it’s part of my romance education.

back from vacation!

I survived a week in the wilderness!

I spent seven days in the north woods of Wisconsin and two in the Twin Cities and managed to do very little of what I thought I would. I only read two books, I didn’t really do any writing, I let my work sit unfinished, I rarely even turned on my computer. It was kind of nice to unplug for a week and I wasn’t really that excited to come back, but alas, things were waiting for me.

This bear cub walked right up to the house—no zoom was employed in the taking of this photo. Sorry the screen’s in the way; I didn’t want to go outside for fear Mama was close by.

I saw a lot of wildlife on my trip, including a pair of bear cubs (no idea where Mama Bear was), a few bald eagles, a ton of loons and hummingbirds and other indigenous animals. I stayed at my family’s property with my immediate family—dad, stepmother, both brothers, and my sister-in-law—and we kept ourselves busy. (I think this is the first vacation we’ve managed with all of us in almost a decade; it’s certainly the first big family trip with my SIL. We don’t all end up in the same place that often.) I did some kayaking, we had one night where we cooked dinner over a fire, I saw some of my very extended family, I tasted wine at a winery, I went window shopping in a tourist-trap area.

On Thursday, my dad hauled me out of bed at 5:30am and we went fishing with a guide. My dad is an avid fisherman, and I agreed to go along on this outing because I have a really great memory of a fishing trip the two of us took when I was a teenager. (I’m apparently the good luck charm; I don’t dislike fishing, but I don’t like touching fish, so I’m not usually the first one to volunteer to go on these outings. Still, I caught a few big ones.) So off we went, and we literally caught our dinner, enough fish to feed the twelve people who came to the house where we were staying (we invited everyone we knew in the area). My brother S loves to cook, so he put together a pretty nice meal. (I don’t want to see any more fish for a while, though.)

That’s about as rustic as I get. I am definitely a city girl at heart. It was nice to unplug, but it’s also nice to be back in the land of noise and people and concrete.

And now I’m catching up—I missed a lot last week! And I got an idea for a book that I’m really excited about. I think my next project is going to be a historical either way, so you all have that to look forward to.

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!

one of those times

I had a pretty intense week. With the upcoming publication of Out in the Field (Tuesday!) and my various other projects, most of my concentration had been on my writing, but then a bunch of stuff came up to my divert my attention. It was one of those weeks that made me sort of reevaluate my priorities—not that anything drastic will be changing, but I think there are things that happen sometimes that make you realize what’s really important.

Brooklyn Bridge The County of Kings (otherwise known as Brooklyn) saw fit to put me on a trial jury this week. That was kind of an interesting experience. The case ultimately settled without input from the jury, but I went to court for two days and sat in the jury box and listened to testimony. It was kind of a fun break in my routine, although man, justice does not move fast. I think I probably spent more time sitting in the deliberation room than I actually did in the court room. I read a lot while I was stuck sitting around, and I’m working on a post about some of my observations. (I was on a historical romance kick and I had some thoughts about why the genre was so popular.) I also liked walking around Downtown Brooklyn. That area maybe holds a special place in my heart because a) it was one of the first places in Brooklyn I got a chance to explore after I moved here, and b) I’m a history nerd (if that wasn’t obvious) and Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn has a LOT of interesting history. The courthouses are at the foot of the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. I had plans with a friend of mine at a place on the Lower East Side Wednesday night, so I decided to just walk there when court let out that afternoon. The weather was a little dreary, but it’s still a nice walk (that’s when/where this photo was taken—click to embiggen; you can see the still-under-construction tower they’re building where the WTC used to be on the left there). I then took a circuitous route up through lower Manhattan and Chinatown and the LES, which I enjoyed.

Some family stuff came up, too, which has been a little bit taxing emotionally. Some of my extended family came to New York to visit/help out, which was really great. My parents are both midwesterners who moved to the Northeast when I was a toddler, so pretty much all of my extended family lives a fair distance away and I don’t see them as often as I’d like. We had dinner Friday night at a seafood restaurant at South Street Seaport, which is a silly touristy thing to do, but the restaurant had a spectacular view up the East River of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges.

Most of yesterday was spent working on the family stuff, and then I went out dancing last night, so I’m pretty tired today. I’m catching up on things, basically.

Final business: Thanks to everyone who has taken the RRW romance reader survey! Your input is really valuable to us. If you haven’t taken it yet, you can find it here.

And, to fulfill my hot baseball player quotient, here’s a video of Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher on How I Met Your Mother a few years ago:


Two blog posts in one day! Crazy! Let’s do it in bullet points this time.

  • It’s Beat Your Winter Blues tour day again. This week we’re at Ellis Carrington’s blog talking about where we’d go if we could leave right now. Hop on over for information on how to win books, or leave a comment to be entered into the big drawing, a $200 gift card.
  • I blogged today at the RWANYC blog about how to write a love scene. (The title of the post “No Gratuitous Sex” is a leeetle misleading; look, I’m all in favor of gratuitous sex, but my point about writing love scenes in romance novels is that each scene should have a purpose. Go read the post for more.)
  • Speaking of Lady Jane’s Salon, it looks like I’ll be reading there next month, so if you’re in the NYC area on Monday March 5th, stop by! (I believe I will be reading from The Boy Next Door to celebrate its recent paperback release!) I’ll have more details about that soon. (I just confirmed it this morning, so I’m all buzzing with excitement and nervousness. This is only the second reading I’ve done… ever.)

brand new

This is going to sound hokey, but I’m reading a book on personal branding. One of my goals for this year is to find a better, more efficient way to market my writing. It’s basically a given that, in the 21st Century, authors are responsible for a lot of their own marketing, and sure, putting a good book out there goes a long way, but you have to let readers know it exists. And my problem is that, at the end of the day, once I’m done with my day job and I’ve put in some solid writing time, there just is not much time leftover for marketing. So how do I make the most of the little time I have?

During the dot-com boom, I had a job as a copywriter at a startup that was primarily concerned with helping out executive types. My boss was a retired CEO who had once worked at one of the biggest insurance companies in the country, so that’s the sort of person I was dealing with. He was the Idea Man. We’d have these long meetings where he’d talk and I’d take dictation and my job was to translate his ideas into copy for the website. Branding was a big thing with him, which is probably why I thought the whole concept was silly for a long time. But he put forth the argument, one that is pretty true actually, that the way you present and market yourself goes a long way toward how people perceive you, and if you have a cohesive brand, that’s something people are going to remember.

But how does this relate to writing?

There was a post on Jessewave on Friday about crossing genre lines. When writers write in a different genre than the one they’ve become known for, how do readers react? This is a mild concern for me; while I will probably always write romance, I am interested in trying out different sub-genres. Sometimes the muse wants what it wants, you know?

This got me thinking about brand, though. If you buy six books by the same author, even if they are in six different genres, what do they all have in common? The author’s voice, for one thing, and probably similar sensibilities, senses of humor, moral bases. When you ask editors what they look for when singing new authors, they often answer “voice,” and that’s something that is unique to the writer. So if you buy those six books, no matter how different they are, they’re part of the same brand.

I as a reader often follow authors through different genres (with some limits—I avoid anything with graphic violence because I am a weak-stomached wuss, for example, but that is not the author’s fault, obviously) particularly once I’ve found an author whose style I mesh with or appreciate. I have genre preferences, but I’ve picked up books by authors I like in genres I usually don’t because, to a certain extent, I know what I’m getting into. I even bought a book recently that had gotten some pretty negative reviews because I’d read many other books by the author and really liked them.

I don’t really have any conclusions yet beyond that this stuff is just on the brain. I’m trying to get a head start on swag for the events I’m attending this year, which means I have to think about design and come up with a slogan and all that. Slogans are hard, because it’s difficult for me to figure out what I represent as a writer. I like to write books that are smart and funny and romantic and a little angsty. So how do I put that into something readers will remember, the sort of thing I could slap on a tote bag? That’s what I intend to figure out in the coming months.

happy 2012!

Happy New Year!

2011 was a really amazing year both personally and professionally, and I’m hoping for even bigger and better things in 2012. I wanted to reflect a little on how this year has gone. As far as my writing goes, here were some 2011 highlights:

The Boy Next Door was published in January. This was my third book, and my second novel-length work. The story has a lot of emotional resonance, at least for me. And it’ll be out in print sometime this month!

• In March, I went to the Rainbow Book Fair here in New York City and spent the day hanging out with a bunch of my fellow Dreamspinner authors. Everyone I met was wonderful. I think I met a dozen authors that day, and they were each friendly and welcoming and I thought it was great to feel a part of this community of m/m writers.

• In June, my friend A and I went to the literacy signing that kicked off the RWA conference in NYC. I talked to a few m/m writers there and I got to meet Suzanne Brockmann, who is one of my romance-writer idols.

Blind Items was published at the end of July. It’s funny to me that this became my breakout novel in a lot of ways. I was so unsure of how it would be received. It’s a funny book, and it’s quite New York in its sensibilities, and it’s as much about the main character’s relationships with the people in his life as it is about his romantic relationship. But I continue to be delighted by the way it’s been received, and I’m thrilled so many people enjoyed it.

• Two big things happened in October. Across the East River Bridge was published, and that is a book I’m enormously proud of. That same week, I got on a plane to New Orleans and spent four incredible days at GayRomLit, an event I’m still giddy about. I had such an amazing time meeting authors and readers and talking about books and everything else. I’ve been looking forward to Albuquerque since I got on the plane back to New York.

• In December, my fourth published work (if you exclude freebies) of the year came out, a Christmas short called A Walk in the Dark. I also accepted a job that I’m really excited about, but we’ll get to that soon.

So now a new year! I rang it in last night with good friends who live in Manhattan. Just after midnight, we went up to their building’s roof to see if we could catch a glimpse of the fireworks being shot off from Times Square. We heard them, but the view was blocked by other buildings. Still, I had one of those moments, looking up at the familiar parts of the skyline, when I was reminded just how magic this city can be sometimes.

I have a lot to look forward to this year. I just this morning got the contract for my fourth novel-length work, a romance between two baseball players tentatively titled Out in the Field. I’m hard at work on a number of other things as well, but more about that later.

A happy, healthy, prosperous New Year to you all!!

win a copy of Across the East River Bridge

I wrote a guest post for my friend Alexis’s awesome blog Parenthetical Observations. Go there and you can enter to win a copy of Across the East River Bridge, just in time for Halloween and all your novels-about-haunted-houses needs. The contest closes around noon EST on Friday (10/28).

(I’ve been flogging this everywhere, so it bears mentioning on my own website, huh? And check out Alexis’s blog while you’re there; it’s great, and I’m not just saying that because we are friends.)