Erotic Romance Panel at the NYPL on 2/12

I’m going to be sitting on a panel about erotic romance at the Jefferson Market Library this Wednesday 2/12. My co-panelists are a great group of smart women, so I think it’ll be a great event. If you’re in the NYC area, stop by!

More info, including a list of panelists, can be found here.

The Pollyanna Principle

I am, generally speaking, an upbeat, optimistic person. I have dark moments—we all do—but for the most part, I try to keep a positive attitude.

But lately I’ve developed a complex about this.

This post is about to get kind of rambley, so apologies in advance.

First, an aside: A coworker of mine announced a few weeks ago that she was only going to read YA and not read literary fiction anymore. I am personally not a YA reader and have struggled to figure out why the genre is so popular among adults, but my coworker summed it up in a way I appreciated: YA is optimistic. Even in the darkest, most violent post-apocalyptic books, the teenage characters tend to have hope and optimism in the way only young people can, and my coworker liked that hope more than the sometimes depressing stories found in the literary fiction section of the book store.

And I said, “Why do you think I read romance novels?”

Romance is an optimistic genre. There are dark books and fluffy books and deeply emotional books and sweet books and basically anything that will hit your emotional sweet spot, but the key to the romance genre is the optimistic ending. Love will conquer all, the characters will end up together (at least for now), and good will triumph over evil.

I find that reassuring. There’s hope in the world, you know?

cheerleaderSo back to my complex. I’ve been working on an article that I want to pitch to a magazine about how having a positive attitude can help with book marketing. The gist is that getting bogged down in negativity—which publishing is rife with in the form of things like rejections, disappointing sales figures, bad reviews, and the like—could affect both your approach to self-promotion and how you come across to readers.

And I wrote a post for the new Rainbow Romance Writers blog about thinking bigger and LGBT romance breaking out of its niche to go mainstream, which I think a lot of people don’t realize is possible, but that I think totally is now in a way it never has been before.

But then I thought, Wow, do I come across as a ditzy cheerleader or what?

I believe every word of what I wrote. I believe that new opportunities for writers of LGBT romance open up every day. I believe that our little community does not need to be relegated to the ghetto, that readers are out there who want to buy our books in droves, that editors want these books.

But.

Just showing up is not enough. There’s still something of a disconnect between mainstream publishing and what indie/digital publishing has been up to for a while. The Big Five still aren’t really sure how to market LGBT romance, or aren’t sure how to acquire the good stuff. We’ve got a ways to go there.

I choose to view the fact that many editors I’ve talked to over the last few months are open to new things: Big Five publishers want LGBT romance; digital-first pubs that have only ever put out m/m are interested in the other colors of the rainbow. (Guys, a Big Five editor just told me this past Saturday that she’d love to see a good lesbian romance. For real!)

But maybe you are not so optimistic. And so I have a complex. Because I think maybe I’m coming across as the insane person, but I do believe, deep in my gut, that there are opportunities here for those willing to put in the effort to take advantage of them.

On the other side of the coin is the effort it takes. LGBT books won’t win major awards if none are entered in those contests. There won’t be LGBT panels at the big conventions if no one submits workshop proposals. The Big Five say they want LGBT romance but I get the impression some editors aren’t sure where to look for it, so we should bring it to them. It means pitching to editors or finding an agent, maybe, or taking a risk and trying something new. And, dude, I know, it’s not easy. Just writing a novel is a lot of work, and doing all this on top of it, putting yourself out there? That’s tough.

And, yeah, sure, for every editor on a panel at a conference who says she wants an LGBT YA book, there’s somebody in the audience who says, “Good luck with that. I hope you’re ready to lose readers and get threatening letters.” (This actually happened at a panel I attended. I was like, “Way to rain on the parade, lady.”) It’s also true, unfortunately, that not every writer who wants one can get a Big Five contract, that some writers will just never catch on with readers, that some books are too niche-y and weird to ever gain mainstream attention, or even that real life will get in the way of a budding career before it takes off.

So I guess my point is not to be all Mary Sunshine about this but to just say that these opportunities exist.

And I know there’s been some criticism of romance’s “culture of niceness.” It’s not limited to romance; I think this is something endemic to spaces dominated by women. Perhaps in some cases it can stifle legitimate criticism—the pressure put on reviewers to be nicer, for example, which I don’t think they are under any obligation to do. But there is also something to be said for professional courtesy. I view it this way: I treat other writers the same way I treat my coworkers at my day job. I try to be polite and respectful, basically. I want to foster creativity and create opportunity, not tear people down.

So I don’t know. Perhaps what I’m trying to say here is that I’m aware of the challenges because I’m well-informed and not delusional (…as far as I can tell), but at the same time, I can’t help but be hopeful. So I’ll keep churning out these cheerleader posts and hoping that some of what I say will stick and we will enter a brave new world where gender and race and those kinds of things matter not a whit, when the majority of readers just want a good story and that drives the market instead of vague inaccurate perceptions of what readers are really looking for. (Okay, now I’ve gone over the edge with the optimism, but I think the point holds.)

Being the president of Rainbow Romance Writers gives me a platform, and I choose to use it to inspire others because I want to see LGBT romance (and multicultural romance and anything else that people want to write that is considered outside the “mainstream”) prosper and succeed, not even for personal gain but just because I think these are stories that should be told and deserve an audience. I want to see an LGBT book win a RITA, be a New York Times bestseller, be that book that everybody is talking about. I want us writers to be taken seriously because we work hard at what we do and we deserve respect.

I want a lot of things, I guess.

So… Go team!

class participation

Because I am a total sucker for a clearance sale, I bought these beautiful shoes that are too nice and summery for the gray, slushy New York City winter we’re currently having. Because I am a writer, part of me thought, “That’s a really great metaphor for an essay I’ve been meaning to write.” Basically, a lot of us pay for opportunity—pink Fluevog pumps that can’t be worn until spring, say, or a membership in a professional organization—without fully taking advantage.

As you may be aware, I’m currently serving as president of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. It’s an online chapter, as opposed to a local chapter (for example, I am also a member of RWANYC). All exist to serve the interests of career-focused romance writers.

I get asked frequently whether joining RWA is worth it. “What’s in it for me?” writers want to know.

Here’s my answer: Maybe nothing. Or maybe a great deal. It depends on what you put into it.

My first year in RWA, I paid my dues and then… did nothing. I’m not sure I really understood RWA’s mission or how it operates, so I mostly waited, figuring the value would make itself apparent. It didn’t. I joined my local chapter, which has an active email loop, but I mostly ignored that. I didn’t attend any events. When it came time to renew my membership, I almost didn’t, because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be getting out of the organization.

But then I renewed and also joined Rainbow Romance Writers. I volunteered for RRW projects and started attending local RWANYC meetings. New York City actually has a wonderful, thriving community of romance writers and fans, and I had no idea until I started going to events.

Anyone who has ever been to a convention knows that feeling of walking into a room and feeling like you’ve found your people. That’s been my experience at RWA events, at conventions, at readings and signings. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to get involved in person. Because it’s not just meeting your fellow tribe members; every chapter of RWA has writers at all stages of their career, from “pre-published,” in the parlance of RWANYC, to bestselling. Everyone’s experience has been unique. I find it tremendously valuable just to talk to other writers, to learn from their experiences or to spitball ideas or even just to talk about books we love or tropes we could do without. I actually spent a lot of time this past weekend having meals with other writers and talking about the biz. It’s inspiring.

My local chapter, probably primarily because of its location, also attracts a lot of industry people to our meetings. We get editors and agents and librarians and lawyers and publicists and bloggers and so on as guest speakers. That’s been educational. I’ve gotten to meet and have great one-on-one conversations with some of my favorite writers. Hell, meeting Nora Roberts at last year’s RWA conference and gawking at her shoes was basically worth the price of admission if you have been reading her books as long as I have.

One of my first acts upon joining Rainbow Romance writers was to volunteer for a chapter project, which also turned into other opportunities. The most notable thing I did was co-write a survey of romance readers and then later analyze all the data. I learned a ton. That work apparently convinced the powers that be that I was board material, so I was persuaded to run and now I’m sitting here wearing the proverbial tiara as president.

A lot of what RRW does is probably not obvious to its membership, but I can point to some tangible things that happened before my time on the board (helping to get reviews of LGBT romance in RT magazine being the big one) or things I had a direct hand in (like the Writers Workshop at GayRomLit).

My project for my presidency is bookstore and library outreach—I want to see more LGBT romance in those places, to raise the profile of LGBT romance writers and get books into the hand of more readers. That’s maybe a lofty goal, but I believe it’s doable. I’ve already talked to bookstores and I’m doing a panel at a library next month and I’m hard at work as president. Library outreach in particular has been a pet project of mine for a while, particularly since I learned via the aforementioned survey that many, many readers discover new books at the library. That’s a huge opportunity our community might be missing out on.

I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I hadn’t gotten involved. I wouldn’t be having these experiences, and I do believe my life and career have been greatly enriched by my involvement with RWA. My dues money would be like throwing a fistful of cash into thin air if I hadn’t started going to meetings and volunteering.

RWA, RRW, local RWA chapters, all of these things can do a lot for you, but only if you get in there and take advantage of what’s being offered.

controlled chaos

The theme of this week has been controlled chaos.

I cannot explain to you why this is true, but I seem to be the most productive and do my best work when I’ve got a million other things going on. I think part of it is that I’m so revved up from being busy that when I sit down to write, I channel all that energy into my stories. This week has been like that. I have so many balls in the air that I’m worried I’ll lose a few, but my writing stuff is going really well!

A lot of the stuff I’m working on now is stuff I can’t talk about yet or it’s minutiae you don’t care about, so it’s hard to really convey just how insane this week has been, but I can say that literally every day since last Thursday, I have received an email along the lines of “Remember that thing we talked about months ago? I need you to do something about it RIGHT NOW.” I got THREE of these on Tuesday. For the most part, it’s good: planning out what I’m doing at conferences this year, Rainbow Romance Writers business (I’m the president now, god help us all), cover specs for my next book, etc. This chaos is all on top of my day job, so it’s been… not the best week I’ve ever had. And yet I’ve somehow conquered the draft of the contemporary novel I’d been working and struggling with all last fall and am getting ready to send it out to betas. Crazy.

Or, as an example of how things are going: I must have entered a drawing for a book giveaway in December, and somehow I won—I never win, and I rarely enter giveaways, so when the blogger who ran the contest emailed me, I was genuinely shocked—and this huge box of books showed up on my doorstep earlier this week. [Aside: I live in a Brooklyn apartment. Space is not abundant.] Unpacking the box was fun because a) I remembered entering the giveaway once I saw what was inside, and b) it’s an interesting mix of authors I like, authors I’ve wanted to try, and authors I’ve never heard of but whose books look interesting. So that was exciting. But there were twenty books in that box, you guys. Where on earth will I put them? (If you answered, “On the floor of your bedroom,” you may be right. I tried to put them back in the box, but the cat had already claimed it as her new fort.) Then yesterday, I got my box of books for RITA judging. (The cat does not fit in this box, much to her consternation.) So that’s eight more books. If you’re keeping track, that is nearly thirty books that arrived at my home this week.

I love new books, but yikes.

It feels like a metaphor for how my life is lately. I have an embarrassment of riches in terms of new opportunities and exciting stuff happening, but doing all the work for it is tough. It’s hard to complain about, because most of this is stuff I want and that I willingly signed on for. Just… maybe it could not happen all at the same time?

So that’s about where I’m at right now and why I haven’t been blogging.

So my plan for the weekend is to follow up on the eight or so things that need my immediate attention (not exaggerating) but then I’ve got a ticket to a knitting convention. I’m almost hoping there’s crappy phone reception inside so I can just escape and pet yarn for a while. Sometimes you need to take a break. (My heart rates goes up every time the icon in the dock flashes that I have a new email. It’s a problem.)

It’s good. It’s busy. I hope that this doesn’t end up being how all of 2014 goes.

5 resolutions

I’m actually pretty good at resolutions. I think the trick to keep them both specific and realistic and for them to be things I actually want to do. Like, resolving to take up yoga this year is probably not a great idea, because although I think yoga would be a good thing for me to do, I have disliked yoga classes I’ve taken in the past, so I keep dragging my heels on signing up. (I have no excuse! There’s a yoga studio ON MY BLOCK, a thirty-second walk from my apartment, and the people who work there seem very nice! And yet!) But there was the time in my late twenties when I went to a classical music concert, thought, “I really miss playing the violin,” and then the following January resolved to do more of that. That very month, I went out and auditioned for an orchestra and signed up for refresher lessons. In 2008, I resolved to finish a novel, which I accomplished. The year after that, I gave myself until the end of the year to actually submit something for publication; I sent In Hot Pursuit to Loose Id that summer.

Basically, I’m the sort of Type A who does what she sets out to, most of the time anyway.

Here are my resolutions for this year:

1. Spend more time acknowledging what I’ve accomplished instead of fretting about what I have to do.

Here’s what I mean by that. At New Year’s, a friend’s husband asked about my writing career. “How many books have you written now?” I couldn’t even remember. I was like, “Uh, I think I have nine published novels now?” This blew my friend away. He said, “That’s a lot for a short amount of time.” Well, I said, these are the books I’ve written over 5 years or so. He pointed out, “That means you’ve written two novels each year! That’s incredible!”

It’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. Publishing is a tough industry, and I’ve been working in it in various capacities for twelve years. Everyone’s always worried about what’s next. I’m always worried.

But it’s good to remember that one novel, let alone nine, is more than a lot of people will ever write, and it’s no small feat. Those books represent a lot of hard work on my part. I should take the time to, as Damon Suede often says, feel that fact.

2. Make a real schedule.

My whole life is in my iPhone calendar, and I wish the engineers or software developers or whoever at Apple would leave well enough alone, because I HAAAAATE the new calendar in iOS7. So, for the first time in probably five years, I bought a paper calendar. It has pretty vintage New York City photos on it. So far I have found a place to hang it and taken it out of the plastic.

Anyway. This is kind of more a personal growth thing, but I want to not get so overwhelmed by the great many things I have on my schedule in any given week. I think breaking it down into reasonable chunks and being prepared for what’s ahead is the key. Otherwise, I just look at all those little dots on the phone calendar and silently scream.

3. Be the best damned Rainbow Romance Writers president I can be.

Self explanatory, I think.

4. Finish reading all those damn books in the pile next to the bed.

I have a terrible habit with nonfiction, in that I very frequently start a book, get about halfway through it, put it down, and never pick it up again. I’ve got five of these on a variety of topics—namely, the American Revolution, Theodore Roosevelt, Greenwich Village, homosexuality in Victorian England, and personal finance—sitting in a pile next to my bed, and I do want to finish all of them. They are all really interesting! I will do that this year! I will!

5. Moar Reading!

I read about 70 books in 2013, if you count shorts and novellas, plus another 18 for contest judging, so I still fell short of the 100-book goal I set for myself. That’s not an issue per se. But I had a few months this year where I had so many other commitments that I didn’t really read purely for pleasure, which made even reading for my book club feel like a chore.

I’d like to set aside more time to just read for fun. That will certainly help with Goal #4.

This is on top of the usual “write a really good novel” and “learn something new” goals I usually set for myself.

So there’s a short list of what I aspire to in 2014. Do you have any resolutions?

news briefs

Happy holidays, everyone! Here are a few things happening in 2014:

I’m reading at Lady Jane’s Salon on January 6th! If you can get yourself to Houston Street in NYC at 7pm, you should come! I’ll be reading from The Stars that Tremble.

Last week, I signed a contract for the sequel to The Stars that Tremble. It’ll be out late spring 2014. It’s called The Silence of the Stars and I pretty much put Sandy through the emotional ringer. I put up an unofficial blurb on the Upcoming page.

I just booked my hotel room for Liberty States (finally) and got my roommate situation sorted out for RT, so conventions are happening.

And I’m gearing up to take on the presidency of Rainbow Romance Writers on January 1st.

In the meantime, I spent December writing a very silly holiday novella that may be out next December? I always hate to predict these things before the ink is dry on the contract, especially for something like this that wasn’t in my schedule. I like this story, but it’s over-the-top happy holiday fluff, basically. Sometimes you need that, though.

Warm wishes to you and yours! Here’s to a stellar 2014!

Awards Season!

By now you’ve probably heard that the Rainbow Awards were announced over the weekend.

Runner-UpMD

I’m happy to announce that Show and Tell was one of the runner-ups for Best Gay Paranormal. It was an honor just to be a finalist, and I mean that honestly; there was a lot of stiff competition from some really excellent writers.

Also, the Goodreads M/M Group is having their Member Choice Awards voting right now. I’m up for two awards:

Best_Anthology.N

for Playing Ball

Best_Perform_Arts.N

for The Stars that Tremble

Details are at the Goodreads group.

…And this is me Snoopy dancing. That’s a nice cap to a great year.

Posman Books Grand Central December 11!

I’ll be signing copies of The Stars that Tremble at Posman Books in Grand Central in New York City on Wednesday, December 11 at 5:30pm!

I’ll be accompanied by Sara Humphreys and Damon Suede and we’re celebrating romance in all of its flavors. More details here.

stay with it!

(I know I promised you posts on craft. Consider this a warm-up.)

I can’t remember who coined the phrase, me or one of my critique partners, but we complain about Project ADD. I have this problem where I get super enthusiastic about a new story and can write like a furious beast for two or three weeks—sometimes that’s enough time to churn out a workable first draft, usually it isn’t—and then my interest wanes and something new and shiny comes along. My hard drive is littered with the corpses of abandoned projects, stories that I probably thought had potential at the time but which I have no desire to finish now.

Enter NaNoWriMo. I considered not even participating this year because I’ve got so much else on my plate, but I worked out in October that I could take time out to start this new series I’ve been planning for a while and still meet my other deadlines.

I’ve been splitting November between finishing the as-yet untitled sequel to The Stars that Tremble and starting this new series. And there’s a third book calling to me.

In the sequel’s case, I’m just about done now; I only need to finish formatting the manuscript and come up with a title before I can fling it out of my inbox. It wasn’t a book that was hard to write, but it did take me a long time to work out the ending. That seems like a silly thing to say about a romance novel—they end up together, duh!—but tying up all the loose threads took some time. I’m happy with the results, though. And I’m actually sad to be leaving these characters, especially Sandy, behind, but it’s time.

In the series’s case, I had two weeks of gleeful typing, but now that I’m well into week 3, I kind of want to work on other projects. I’ve got a manuscript that I wrote over the summer but put aside to finish higher priority projects, and now it’s calling to me all, “fiiinish meeee.”

But, no, I want to at least get Book 1 of this series written. I like to let first drafts steep for a little while because the revision process goes better if I go back to them with fresh eyes. So the idea would be to finish this book, then go back to the other manuscript.

But, wow, this one has been hard. Tertiary characters from the series are talking to me. I’ve got the first three books in the series outlined, and the heroes of the other books are telling me stories. It’s been pretty hard to focus on this first book.

But a series is nothing without its first book, and the first book has to be a good one to hook the reader on the series, so I really need to stick with it and not let myself get distracted.

The thing about NaNoWriMo is that it sort of forces you to stick with it. Like, dude, I write year round, I know I can write 50,000 words in a month. That’s cake. (That’s probably actually only slightly more than my average monthly output.) What’s hard is forcing myself to stick with a story.

Like, last NaNo, I actually stopped in the middle of the month and put aside my project—a novel about a young guy who falls for his agoraphobic neighbor—to write Save the Date. I have no regrets, but that novel about the agoraphobic guy never got finished. Someday, right? It’s in the revision queue with, like, six other half-finished projects.

So I keep saying to myself that I have to write AT LEAST 50,000 words of book one of this series. It’s a contemporary series based around an LGBT amateur sports league. The guys in the first book—who have really complementary personalities, in that one is strong where the other is weak—meet when one of them joins a baseball team in this league. Me telling people I’m writing about a bunch of guys in a gay baseball league makes their faces light up, so clearly I’m on to something, even if I’m not totally confident in this first book. Yet. I will edit it later. But in order to get it done, I can’t let myself get distracted by other projects.

So that’s what I’m using NaNo for, to force myself into sticking with a project when I’m getting distracted by other projects. And hopefully, I will have a completely (very) rough draft by the end of the month, and you will see book one of the Rainbow League series on shelves some time in 2015.

coming up on the blog

I’ve been kind of a blog slacker.

When I first threw this website up, I wasn’t intending to have an official blog—this was more of a space for Kate-related news such as release dates and public appearances and the like—but I apparently cannot resist the siren call of a blinky cursor and I started blogging sort of regularly. Then I started picking Five Things to write about on Fridays as a way to get myself to actually update the blog on some kind of regular schedule. I’ve been bad about actually following up with that since the summer due to busyness—and, frankly, if I only have an hour to write some days, that hour is going to be spent on a novel and not a blog post—but I think a blog is a good outlet for some of what I want to say.

I have a lot of posts I’ve written but not posted, mostly on craft-related topics, because I keep thinking that How to Write blogs are kind of a dime a dozen, and there are plenty of blogs about craft written by smart articulate people that will teach you more than I ever could.

More to the point, a lot of writing advice is subjective. I almost said, “a lot of writing advice is bunk,” but that’s not really true. I have received and incorporated a lot of great advice over the years. I still buy and read books on craft, even. But not all writing advice is good for all writers. There are very few universals or absolute truths in creative professions. Things I like, processes that work for me, tips and tricks I employ regularly, those things might not work for you. Heck, it’s November; NaNoWriMo is one of those things that is like a godsend for some writers and completely anathema to others. So, basically, if I’m like, “Hey, you should do this thing!” you would be well within your rights to listen politely and then completely ignore everything and go do something else. That’s how it goes. We all forge our own way.

But I do try to improve and learn more all the time. My goal is for each book to be better than the last. I have some sense of my own weaknesses as a writer, so I’ve been focusing on getting better at those things. I’ve attended craft workshops and read books and I read critically all the time to try to discern why some things work but others don’t. What qualities do I consistently find in the books I truly love that are absent from my own work, and how do I fix that? That sort of thing.

But there are some things I have figured out. So I thought that, for the rest of November, I’d throw some stuff up on the blog to see if any of it sticks. You all can feel free to weigh in and discuss things. But, in the interest of sharing information and bettering ourselves as writers, I don’t want to hoard what I know, nor do I want to tell you what to do. Just… here are some things I’ve figured out about writing. Maybe you will find them helpful.

Also, it’s my blog. I’ll do what I want. :-P

So those will go up sporadically throughout the rest of the month. Stay tuned.