a little more about Thrown a Curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Succeed While Speaking in Public

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrown a Curve up for preorder

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

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

BLURB:

Book 2 in the Rainbow League series

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

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

State of Kate: What I’ve Been Up To

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

Such a Dance charms!

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

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

Kate McMurray as Rosie the Riveter

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

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

Kate McMurray in the Harlequin photo booth.

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

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

Michelle Visage

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

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

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

Kate McMurray at Lady Jane's Salon.

Here I am reading at Lady Jane’s.

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

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

Baseball Monday: DIY Plushy Baseballs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrown a Curve is now available for pre-order!

Thrown a CurveRainbow League Book 2: Thrown a Curve is now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press! The book will be available wherever you buy ebooks on June 19th. You can also add it on Goodreads.

Here’s the blurb:

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

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

Where You Can Find Me at #RT15 and How to Play Along at Home!

The RT Booklovers Convention is next week in Dallas. I hope to see those of you who are attending! Even if you aren’t going, there are a couple of things you can do from home to participate as well.

First, one of my friends thinks I should post all of my costume changes on social media. There will be a lot of them. We’ll see if I can do it!

Second: my schedule.

TUESDAY:
5:30–8:00pm: Cinema Craptastique
I’m co-hosting this annual event where we get comfy in our PJs, eat junk food, and make fun of a silly movie. Join me, Damon Suede, Tere Michaels, Amy Lane, and Laura Kaye to kick off the conference in style.
*YOU CAN PLAY AT HOME, TOO! We’re watching Legend of Hercules with one Kellan Lutz (who I only recently realized is not the same person as Taylor Kitsch… sorry, bro). It’s available on Netflix DVD and maybe Amazon Instant Video. You can follow along at the hashtag #RTCC or by watching the Tweetwall at rtcc.tweetwall.com, which aggregates all related tweets and also will give clear PAUSE/PLAY notices. (At the live even, we’ll be stopping to give away prizes and things.) We’d be beside ourselves if the hashtag trended, so please join us, no matter where you are.
*ALSO I’ll do an ebook giveaway for someone at home. Keep an eye on my twitter account (@katemcmwriter) during the event. If you tweet @ me with the hashtags #rtcc and #rainbowleague you’ll be entered to win a book from my backlist.

THURSDAY:
5:15–6:45pm Kensington’s Sweet Heat party
Come by to see me! There will be snacks, treats, and free books for all, plus a bunch of really awesome authors to come meet. I’ll be signing cover flats for my upcoming Kensington title, Such a Dance.

FRIDAY:
11:15am–12:15pm LGBTQ Author Extravaganza with Dreamspinner Press
Join a bunch of Dreamspinner authors for games and giveaways. Ariel Trachna will be our MC.

1:30-2:30pm Wheel of Romance
This will be THE event of RT, I think. I’m giving away a New York-themed gift basket, and a bunch of my favorite authors are hosting this game show. I plan to wear sequins.

SATURDAY:
11am–2pm Giant Book Fair
*OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
I’m signing at the Giant Book Fair. I’ll have paperbacks of The Silence of the Stars, When the Planets Align, and The Windup.

6–7:45pm FAN-Tastic Day Party
Hosted by Dreamspinner Press, so I’ll be floating around talking to people and possibly also handing out swag, signing books, etc. There will be more prize-winning opportunities and lots of your favorite authors.

Then I’m flying home Sunday night. I’m sure I’ll be wiped out by then!

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it. I hope those of you who are going will drop by and say hi at one of my events.

Baseball Monday: Quick Note!

Baseball MondaysI’m skipping Baseball Monday today and next week due to RT prep and trying to finish edits on Rainbow League Book 3 before I go. (I know, “Awww.”) If you’ve got a great discussion topic for a future Baseball Monday, I’d love to hear it! Hit me up, either in a comment, or my contact info is in the sidebar.

Sunday Snippet: Thrown a Curve

Thrown a CurveI thought you all might enjoy a sneak peek at Thrown a Curve, Rainbow League Book 2, out this June. And remember, Book 1: The Windup is available now!

Mason walked to the field, feeling limber and ready to play baseball.

All Rainbow League games took place at the ball fields in East River Park, in the shadow of the FDR Drive and the Williamsburg Bridge. It got noisy sometimes with the buzz of cars whizzing by on the street, but the ball field where they usually played was right on the water, which muffled the car sounds. The park was a little out of the way, in that it was a fair distance from public transportation, but Mason had always liked it. That, and it was a convenient few blocks from Barnstorm in Alphabet City.

When Mason arrived at the field, everyone was talking at once. Nate and Carlos were tossing a ball back and forth while jabbering about the previous night’s Yankees game. Ty and Ian seemed to be having some kind of argument. Mason couldn’t tell if they were being playful or not. He walked a little closer to eavesdrop.

“First of all,” Ty was saying, “as I already told you, I don’t want to leave Brooklyn. Second, your apartment doesn’t have space for all my stuff. We’d have to at least get a two-bedroom so I can have an art studio.”

“But your place is so far from my job,” said Ian. “And you’re the one who thought I should sign a longer lease on my apartment. There are still five months left on it.”

“Boys,” Mason interrupted, “we’re supposed to be friends and teammates. No time for fighting. Take your domestic quarrels off the field.”

Ty shot Mason an astonished look. He waved his hand. “Whatever, dude.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “It’s not really a domestic disturbance. This is supposed to be good news for us. The lease on Ty’s apartment is up soon, so we’ve decided to move in together, but where we move is a sticking point.”

That felt like big news—Ty and Ian had only been dating about a year, and now they were thinking of moving in together?—but Ian rattled it off as if it were just the normal course of things, like telling Mason they were going out for ice cream after practice.

“Don’t you like Brooklyn?” Ty asked Ian.

Ian patted Ty on the shoulder. “I like it fine, Texas. But Mason is right. We should take this argument off the field.”

Ty shrugged. “How are you, Mason? Long time no see.”

“I’m good. Happy to be playing baseball again.”

“Aren’t we all?”

Ian playfully punched Ty in the arm. “Weren’t you just complaining about all the weight you always put on in the off-season?”

“Actually, I weighed myself yesterday. I didn’t even gain a pound.” Ty made a bodybuilder pose. “I guess it’s all that, ah, working out I did this winter.” He elbowed Ian.

“More information than I needed, guys,” said Mason.

“Like you haven’t had your pick of the beefcakes,” said Ty.

Mason shrugged. He had gone on a second date with that bartender Travis, but he wasn’t really feeling it. Their nights together were… fine. Travis was objectively hot, but they didn’t have much chemistry. “Who are we playing tonight?”

“Was the glitter not a giveaway?” Ian asked, pointing.

Mason silently cursed himself for forgetting that he already knew. His team, the Brooklyn Hipsters, was playing the SoHoMos, a team that reveled in its queerness. Their uniform shirts this season were electric blue and their team name was scrawled across the front in a frilly script font above a picture of a unicorn. A bunch of the players had body glitter on their arms or faces or in their hair. Mason thought the whole thing was a little silly, but this was not his primary concern.

Patrick played for the ’Mos.

Patrick of the swishy walk and ridiculous hair. Patrick who had given him one crazy night in the men’s room at Barnstorm. Patrick who Mason had been unable to stop thinking about. Patrick who Mason had no business being attracted to. Though he was. So much.

He did a quick scan of the field and saw the man in question preening for one of his teammates. His hair was as crazy as ever, though gelled into spikes now. His delicate features belied an athletic body, and though he was short and pierced and tattooed and talked too much, Mason was thoroughly and completely in lust.

The Hipsters’ manager, Scott, started barking out orders so the game could get underway, thus saving Mason from thinking further on the matter.

Baseball Monday: Thrown a Curve Cover Reveal

Baseball MondaysI snuck a peak at this cover in my newsletter last week. So here’s the cover for Book 2 in the Rainbow League series, Thrown a Curve, Mason and Patrick’s story.

First, the blurb:

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

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

Thrown a Curve

The book will be out in June!

(And just a reminder, book 1 is available NOW from Dreamspinner, All Romance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the ebook store of your choice!)