Where to Find Me at GRL

GRL Chicago With LoveThe convention is nigh! I’m a featured author at the GayRomLit (GRL) retreat in the Chicago area. This will be my fourth time! I’m so excited to see everyone! Here is my schedule:

Author Lounge, Friday 12:30pm–1:10pm

Fun Fair: Scrapbooking with the Rainbow Romance Writers, Friday 2:30pm–4:20pm (Crafty fun!)

Storyteller Spotlight: Unspeakable Love: Gay Romance of the Past with Charlie Cochet, Jordan L. Hawk, and yours truly, Saturday 9:00am–9:55am

Featured Author Booksigning, Saturday 2:00pm–5:00pm (Be sure to pick up the Featured Author sampler; I contributed an excerpt.)

I’m sure I’ll also put in appearances at the parties and just be floating around. If you’re an RRW member, I’ve got member pins I can bestow on you. I went low key with the swag, but you’ll be able to pick up Kate McMurray pins, postcards, bookmarks, magnets, and a limited number of pens.

Rainbow Awards

FinalistSMI’m elated to announced that two of my books have moved on to the second round of the Rainbow Awards.

The Silence of the Stars is a finalist in gay contemporary romance. It also won an honorable mention (meaning it scored a 36/40 or better from at least one judge).

Playing Ball, the baseball anthology I put together with Shae Connor, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe, is a finalist in the LGBT anthology category.

Woot! 8-)

Huge congratulations to the other finalists. I’ve got some stiff competition!

Here’s the complete list of finalists. In addition, the contest raised nearly $11,500 for charity.

When the Planets Align: Dirty Tease Excerpt

I’m working on the second round of edits for When the Planets Align—due out in December!—so, hey, want a preview? Sorry that you have to wait 3 months to read this. (Not that sorry. I’m building up anticipation here!) Here’s a tease:

There was a spring in the sofa bed that must have come uncoiled or something, because it stabbed Michael in the back every time he moved. He wondered if perhaps this was his penance for persuading Simon to come home even though Simon hadn’t seemed ready.

Simon had spent most of the afternoon lamenting how much the city had changed, not only in the six years he’d been away, but since they’d been in college. Michael had tried to argue that the changes were for the better; sure, everything was more expensive now, but the city was so much cleaner and safer, and it wasn’t like Simon couldn’t afford to live here with his fancy finance job.

Simon himself had hardly changed at all. His bright blond hair looked a little dustier, maybe, but he was still in good shape, he still had the same perpetually flushed pale skin, he still wore glasses with dark frames. Not that it had even been that long since they’d seen each other, only eight months, maybe, but having Simon back in New York for the long term made it feel like Simon had never left.

Michael reflected, as he squirmed across the mattress to get away from the spring, that a lot had changed since Simon had left. Joan was currently enjoying the quiet, open air of the Catskills with Trevor, for one thing.
And with that thought, Michael was awake and knew he would not be sleeping for the rest of the night.

His stomach churned as he got out of bed and walked into the kitchen, where he poured a glass of water and fished through the cabinets for crackers or some other bland snack food.

What was it that he wanted here? He wanted Simon back. He’d take Simon’s presence in his life again, though he wanted his friendship and craved his love. But there was damage to repair.

Michael had hurt Simon and he knew that, even though he had often pretended he didn’t understand why his taking up with Joan had cut Simon so badly. But Simon and he had been at odds back in those days, and Simon could never understand about Joan. Michael didn’t understand what had happened with Joan either most of the time.

She was one in a million, no doubt about that.

She and Trevor had a nice spread up there in the Catskills, which Michael could say with authority since he’d seen it, both on occasions he’d been invited and ones he hadn’t. The last time he’d said, “I could sue,” without really meaning it, which probably hadn’t been the way to go and had only served to piss Joan off more.

Regrets. Michael had a lot of them.

He couldn’t seem to undo the damage to his relationship with Joan without digging himself in further, but Simon’s presence in his apartment told him maybe he could repair his relationship with Simon, which was what he intended to do. And maybe that wouldn’t solve anything, and maybe it would make them both as miserable as they’d been when Simon moved to Dubai, but Michael wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t give it a shot.
And by “it” he meant the whole thing.

Aren’t you gay?

That was what Simon had said when Michael had come to him with the news that he’d hooked up with Joan, and for whatever reason, those words still rung through Michael’s head. Simon had been stunned. Michael knew that. He knew, also, that Simon probably would not have felt as thrilled about Joan as Michael had felt at the time. He’d hurt Simon deeply. He knew all of that.

So, fine. Michael had been a lousy friend, but all that had been years ago and he’d changed a lot since.

He supposed the problem was proving that.

The bedroom door opened and a tousled Simon emerged. “I thought I heard you get up.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Michael said.

“Sorry to hear that. I just wanted a glass of water. Do you mind if I…?” He gestured toward the cabinets.

Michael got a glass down and handed it to Simon. “I want you to know, for whatever it’s worth, that things… everything is different now.”

Simon shot him a sidelong glance. “How so?”

“A lot of shit went down while you were gone.”

“I know, but—”

“There’s a lot you don’t know. A lot I didn’t tell you.”

“Like what?”

Michael spared a thought for Trevor and then said, “Like I don’t want to get into it at three o’clock in the morning, but just… I didn’t want you to think that you would be moving back here and putting up with me and my old bullshit. It’s not like it was.”

“All right.”

Michael smirked. “I have all new bullshit now.”

Simon laughed. “Yeah. I’ll bet you do. You still can’t read a clock to save your life, though. It’s actually almost six.”

Michael looked at the microwave clock. “I’ll be damned.”

“Look, I’m sure a lot has changed. I told you when I agreed to stay here that I was willing to see how things played out, didn’t I? I do genuinely value your friendship, regardless of what else happened.”

“Really?”

Simon looked at the floor. “We did love each other once for good reasons.”

“But we don’t anymore?”

Simon looked up and met Michael’s eyes. “Well, first, you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants if someone paid you. I don’t know how I was supposed to react to that. And then there was the problem of us never quite being in the same place at the same time. But, eh, none of it matters now.”

“But it does matter,” Michael said. “All of it matters. You were the most important part of my life once.”

“So what the hell happened?”

What had happened? New York had happened.

“If I had it to do over—”

“Forget it,” said Simon. “I don’t want your apologies. I want to start fresh. All right?”

“Yeah. All right. But you should know—”

“No. Don’t tell me. Keep some secrets for now. We’ll sort all this out later. I’m going to go back to bed.”

Reading at Stonewall, October 7!

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So this is happening! Come see me read on October 7 at 7pm at the Stonewall Inn. Bring your friends!

Book Updates: New Contemporary and Four Corners in Spanish!

FourCornersSPFSI hope to have lots of new book updates soon, but quickly, here are a few things you can look out for from me in the coming months:

1. A new contemporary romance called When the Planets Align that we’re sort of billing as a gay When Harry Met Sally only with less humor and feathered hair. (I just mean that it’s a story that spans 20 years about two friends who never quite get their act together in the romance department, but it’s more on the dramatic/angsty end of the spectrum, not a romantic comedy. Also, Meg Ryan’s hair in that movie!)

2. Four Corners is going to be released in Spanish. Yup, Jake and Adam en Español! It should be available September 30th.

I have, no joke, 5 other books that are currently at the contract negotiation stage. Once everything is finalized, I’ll share more details! 2015 is going to be BUSY!

Also, quickie reminder: If you want some hot paperback action, Dreamspinner’s paperback sale is on now. All in-stock paperbacks are 35% off through Sunday. If you enter the code GRL2014, you can have the paperbacks shipped to GRL for pickup, though the sale applies to ALL authors and customers. Maybe Jake and Adam need some love; Four Corners is part of the sale.

GRL Update — Books, Scrapbooking, etc.

GRL 2014 DSPQuickie Reminder! If you want to purchase any of my books in paper for me to sign at GRL, best way to do it is via Dreamspinner’s GRL preorder sale. DSP will ship the books to GRL for you to pick up and get stamped before the signing. Order through the Dreamspinner website.

DSP will also have copies of The Stars that Tremble and The Silence of the Stars available for sale at GRL.

If you want either of my Loose Id titles available in paperback (In Hot Pursuit and The Boy Next Door) or if you want a paper copy of the Revolutionary War anthology For Love & Liberty, I have a limited number of these on-hand at home that I can bring. Email me and we’ll make arrangements. [kate at katemcmurray dot com] These are also available from most online bookstores if you want to buy in advance and bring them along.

ALSO: Rainbow Romance Writers is doing their annual scrapbook event again. If you’re an attendee, you can come hang out with the RRW members and make GRL commemorative scrapbooks. Personally, I love stickers and gluing stuff and crafts, so I’m looking forward to it.

And now to figure out one last swag item. How do we feel about refrigerator magnets?

on competition and opportunity

Or, Here’s that sweeping, inspirational post I promised last week.

I spent my formative years on my high school debate team. I mostly only joined because of peer pressure from my then best friend, although the very handsome coach was a persuasive argument as well. The funny thing is that my friend quit the team halfway through freshman year but I stuck it out. I don’t like to quit things. I still don’t think I ever had quite the right temperament for debate, but as the years went on, it certainly pounded any shyness I ever had right out of me and I learned a ton. I don’t regret the experience at all.

I imagine anyone who has ever done anything competitive probably has noticed this, but I found that debating against opponents who were better than me made me better.

In my four years on the team, I debated everyone from brand-new freshmen to national champions. By senior year, my partner and I were in the top 50 debate teams in the country—not the best, but definitely very good. In addition to honing my debate skills, one of the things I had to learn was how not to sink when faced with a weaker opponent. By that I mean that it was easy, when faced with a team I was confident I could beat, to sink a little, to play at their level, to get too cocky and not put the effort in. Some of my worst debating was actually against teams I should have handily beat and some of my best was against opponents who could handily beat me.

It’s about rising to the challenge. Eventually, I taught myself to always perform at my best, regardless of opponent, and that was really when I shone, but that was a tough thing to learn how to do.

Writing isn’t inherently competitive, but I think in these modern times, it’s hard not to feel like it’s a contact sport. We watch our Amazon ratings go up and down. We feel anxious and jealous when other books out-perform ours. We covet five-star reviews, contest wins, placement on bestseller lists. I think, too, that the anxiety that stems from this sense of competition is what brings out the worst behavior in authors. (I wrote an article about this for RWA’s Romance Writers Report that will be published in the near future. The thesis of that is that creative people operate under a scarcity mindset that assumes there is a finite amount of reader attention each author gets, so we all fight for it, but in fact, our reach is infinite.)

I’ve been following a lot of online discussions but not commenting on them, partly because I just don’t want to touch those discussions, but partly I think some of the drama and pettiness stems from this attitude, that we’re all competing with each other for readers. I think sometimes that one person can say something, can put forth an idea, and then everyone weighs in, and it becomes a sinkhole that is not unlike debating an opponent you should be able to beat in your sleep—you sink to their level instead of rising above.

I don’t say that to be superior. I’m just saying that I want to take those lessons I learned as a teenage debate nerd and focus them on my current writing career. I’m working hard and looking ahead. It’s tough not to get bogged down in all of it, from fretting about reviews and ratings and rankings to feeling like I should wade into whatever the big discussion topic of the moment is.

Because I also believe that we all rise together. Writing isn’t a competition. In fact, a career is built on support, on colleagues and friends, on the romance community. And there are some great people in this community, people who are just a pleasure to be around, people who inspire me, people who have helped open doors for me, people who make Romance better.

I’ve spent this year as president of an organization whose sole purpose is to advance the interest of LGBT romance writers, which means I’ve been working to get more attention on LGBT romance, for it to gain more recognition, for its writers to have more opportunities. I feel really proud of the work Rainbow Romance Writers has done with our limited resources. There’s more work to do, but if we work together, we can accomplish a lot. We can make writing any kind of romance a viable career option. We can gain more readers, more sales, more respect.

It’s already an uphill battle. The general public doesn’t take romance seriously, dismissing the whole genre as being bodice-rippers or something silly, sex-obsessed women do or whatever. You’ve read the articles about the genre. LGBT romance has a steeper hill to climb by virtue of the fact that it’s a niche of romance about people historically marginalized. But it’s not an impossible hill to climb.

This was brought to you in part by this post by Chuck Wedig that expresses a similar sentiment.

Step away from the pit by recognizing that while you aren’t perfect, you can always do better. We can commit to improvement. We can challenge ourselves. In this great big creative RPG we can level up in a character class of one — the character class only we belong to.

Then he concludes:

I just wanted to say all this because we all go there. And we can all get through it. None of us are singular beings in this feeling. It hits some of us harder than others (and to those who manifest this as bonafide depression, I can only remind you again that you are genuinely not alone). But it’s something we all experience. Doubt. Frustration. Fear. The envy of others. It won’t do much for you. It’s a poison. Stop drinking it. Spit it out.

Step away from the pit.

Be you. Don’t be me.

And create the things that only you can create.

* * * * *

underdogRelated to this, viewing that hill as impossible is how we defeat ourselves as writers.

Nothing is impossible. Write that down. Repeat. “But I’ll never—” Nope. Your career is yours it can be what you want it to be.

Some examples:

At a recent meeting of my local RWA chapter, we were talking a little about book distribution. An author was frustrated because his publisher had limited distribution channels. The panel of booksellers basically said, “That’s something worth looking into before you sign with a publisher.” I absolutely agree, and I think it is essential to do your research before you even submit a manuscript. Just getting published isn’t enough—you want to work with a publisher who will able to get your book into the hands of as many readers as possible. And I get that it’s tough in certain niches and sub-genres—there are limited audiences, the big publishers aren’t quite sure how to market erotica or LGBT romance yet, etc.—but there are small presses and digital-first publishers that ARE doing great work. An unpublished writer at the meeting said, “Well, yeah, but that first offer you get, why wouldn’t you jump at it?”

You don’t have to take the first offer. Thinking that you have to take the first rope thrown at us is one of the ways writers limit ourselves and our opportunities. It can lead to rough going ahead—publishers who end up cheating us or agents we don’t work well with. If you keep at it, if you make your book as good as it can be, the right opportunity will open up. Your dream publisher could come knocking. An agent you click with could offer to represent you. That first offer could be the opportunity of a lifetime, but it could also be a shot in the foot, and it’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s your best move before jumping at it. And, hey, self-publishing has made this a buyer’s market. You don’t need a publisher or agent to get your book out there. So if you want one, hold out for the right one. Take a long view of your career and decide what you want, what’s right, and what will help you reach your goals and go after that.

We also throw roadblocks in front of ourselves by assuming what we want isn’t possible. We assume we’ll never get an agent and let that discourage us from trying. We assume we’ll never make a bestseller list and so don’t explore as many promotional opportunities as are available to us. We don’t put in the full effort or we let our doubts cloud our judgment.

Rejection sucks. No doubt. But it’s not the end of the world. If you really want an agent but fear of rejection is keeping you from querying, you’ll never get an agent. If you’ve written a weird book—and I think we all have that wacky book in us that we’re convinced no one but ourselves will want to read—but don’t submit it anywhere, it will never get published. You’ll never know unless you try. And, yeah, maybe it will get rejected. Maybe an agent will pass. Maybe your book isn’t right for that publisher. But you can’t get to that next step in your career without putting yourself out there. The worst thing that will happen is someone says no.

No is not the end. I’ve got a nice little stack of rejection letters to prove it. In a couple of cases, the novels I submitted weren’t really ready for prime time. I was able to revise and resubmit to the same publisher or substantially rework and send it elsewhere. I’ve got a story that remains unpublished because its submission was met with a form rejection.

My way of coping with that is to allow myself feel bad for a couple of hours but then to move on and figure out the next step. Because one rejection did not end my career, nor will it end yours. So if that’s the worst that can happen, what else is stopping you from trying? Probably only yourself. Because maybe someone will say no, but maybe they will say yes.

Preorder Books for GRL

If you’re going to GRL and want signed paperbacks of any of my Dreamspinner books (Blind Items, Four Corners, Playing Ball, The Stars that Tremble, The Silence of the Stars) you can pre-order the books and have them sent ahead. I’ll be at the Featured Author signing on Saturday (also around the convention, obviously). Books will also be available for purchase on site at a discount, but the selection will be limited. Here are some details

If you want either of my Loose Id paperbacks (In Hot Pursuit or The Boy Next Door) shoot me an email (kate at katemcmurray.com) and we’ll make arrangements.

this and that

I’ve been trying to write the same blog post for a week. The goal was to be sweeping and inspirational, discussing opportunity and how to throw off the limits we place on ourselves. But this has been a tough week, and nothing I write seems right to me, and then sweeping and inspirational turns into angry typing and nobody needs that.

But I haven’t updated the blog since I got back from RWA, so I felt like I should put up something. So here are some updates/rambles:

It’s been a weird summer. There’s been a lot of uncertainty at my day job, starting with lay-offs at the beginning of the summer. I’m still employed but my role has changed a little. I started picking up more freelance work, which is taking time away from my writing, unfortunately, but I have an opportunity for more work in the event I get laid off this fall (which I’m anticipating), so after a month of stress, I’m starting to feel now like things will work out. (Freelancing full time has been my plan almost since I started working in offices. I love my work, I really do, but I hate being stuck at a desk for 9 hours a day.)

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and I wrote about 52,000 words, most of which were the back 2/3 of the second book in the baseball series I’m working on. That went out to betas this week. I’m kicking around ideas for two historical novels (I actually literally just clicked “buy” on a couple of reference books for said historicals). I wrote a new adult book this spring that has already been to betas and back that has to be revised. I’m really excited about all the projects I have on deck, but there are a lot of them and I have to seriously get myself on some sort of schedule.

I have triumphed over the adversity of having a broken laptop, doing all my writing on 3 different devices until I can replace it (bless you, Dropbox). I’m finally almost able to replace the big white brick that used to be a MacBook, but if you see a crazy lady in the Apple Store petting laptops, it’s probably me.

It’s been a rough week, national news wise. I also read a couple of articles that really upset me. The context isn’t important, but I’ve been trying to write about some of these issues all week and getting nowhere productive. I finally sat my roommate down last night and said, “Okay, none of this is going to make sense to you, but I have to tell someone, so can you listen for a minute?” and she did because she is a good friend, and I feel a million times better today. I think it’s good to just talk sometimes.

And then I started reading a nonfiction book that, in retrospect, I think was a bad choice. It’s interesting but kind of depressing. This is a good Romance Novels to the Rescue! moment, but I have so many unread ones that I feel paralyzed looking at them. Which to choose next? Historical or contemporary? Favorite author or someone I’ve never read before? I mean, it’s a good problem to have, but my physical TBR pile is daunting.

The weather in New York the last couple of days has been beautiful. Sunny and warm. Usually in mid-August everyone is miserable. I’m going to revel in it.

Lastly, an administrative note: I emptied the comment spam without skimming the comments to see if anything legit got trapped in the filter. (So much spam!) If your comment got deleted, I apologize. If you do post a comment that doesn’t get approved within 24 hours, it’s cool to email me about it.

#RWA14 Wrap Up

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

You gotta pimp out your badge before you get started.

You gotta pimp out your badge before you get started.

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

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

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

Otherwise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remembered to visit the Alamo!

I remembered to visit the Alamo!

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

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

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