Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
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The Best (and Others) of 2018
So Long 2018.jpg

So Long 2018.jpg

So first off, this is being posted in error, because there is NO WAY IN HELL that 2018 is almost over. This has without a doubt been one of the most action packed years of my life...which is funny, because I spent an awful lot of it working from my couch.

I wanted to write about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2018, but since we also all want to leave here in a good mood, I'm going to do it backwards. This is going to be like one of those food blog posts where I ramble and you keep scanning for the recipe. Bear with me. There are some good bits in here.

The Ugly

I had a publishing deal....and then I didn't. You can read a bit about it here, but let's just say I have to tell myself it was the right decision, even when everything else is uncertain.

The Bad

My grandmother passed away in October. It was quick without being sudden. We are all sad, but I can't say we were surprised.

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Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 6.03.31 PM

Her passing overlapped with the GRL Retreat. I was on the highway somewhere in Pennsylvania when she left us. My family and I had talked a lot whether or not I should go to Virginia at all, and in the end decided I should.

It's surreal to be all by yourself in a place you don't know when one of the pillars of your childhood leaves this world, but I drove 3000 km that week (see Figure 1) and had lots of time to grieve, remember, and distract myself with hours of Sam of Wilds' audiobooks shenanigans (more on that below).

Okay that that's done, let's get to the stuff you actually click the link for.

The Good

So much good. Good reads. Good friends. In no particular order these are:

I published a book!!

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Untitled design-9

Four books, actually. 2018 was the year I became an honest to god published romance author. It has been awesome and exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking, but I would do it all over again.

Three of these stories are short and can be found here for free. Going Down is brand spanking new and features the sexiest truth or dare game ever played in an elevator. It will also be moving to Amazon in the new year, so you should pick up your free copy now.

Speaking of pick ups, The Pick Up you have to pay for, but it's averaging 4.4 stars on Amazon, so I promise this small town single dad romance is worth your time. Also, it's on sale until January 5 if you use the code SALE18 when purchasing from the publisher's website. If you need more convincing, you can read about it here.

I discovered Verania.

I'm a slow reader. Super slow. A book a month is about my speed.

Last year, I was at GRL in Denver and Brandon Witt was speaking in a panel and said something like "And then I read The Lightning-Struck Heart and it had Gary the Hornless Gay Unicorn," and I had never heard of the book, but there was a ripple of . . . something in the room.

I didn't think about the book again until this past winter when Wish Upon the Stars came out and so there was a sale on The Lightning-Struck Heart and so I bought it and then whispersynced that puppy to get the audiobook and . . . is it hubris if I say my life changed?

Sam appreciates hubris. Let's go with it.

TJ Klune does not need my shout out. His fans are legion. And most of you are rolling your eyes going "Come on Allison, I knew about Verania ages ago!" But for me, as a long-time audiobook afficianado, this series is one of the best produced I've ever listened to. If you haven't done so already, give yourself the Gift Of Verania this holiday season (I capitalized it, so you know it's true).

I met some awesome people and read their awesome books.

I hesitate to write this, because just like we hope-click 'best of' lists even though we know our books won't be on them, someone is going to look at my recommendations and be disappointed that I didn't include their story.

Know that, if we are writerly friends, I appreciate every conversation we've had this year. A lot of writing is navel gazing and pep talks and it's awesome that the community is supportive enough that these can happen any time of the day.

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Untitled design-3

Craft Brew is book 2 in the Trouble Brewing series, which means you should probably read book 1. . . and that means you should probably read the Agents Irish and Whisky series to get the full impact. But if you're not down for that kind of commitment, just start with Imperial Stout and get ready for Nic's silver-fox-in-a-suit-hiding-so-many-yummy-tattoos and Cam's balls-out-Boston-but-Cam's-not-out-and-I-have-so-many-feelings-about-this. Seriously. The books are fast paced, the eye candy (even if it's in my head) is delightful, and there's still one more book in the series to go in 2019!

Life of Bliss is also a book 2 and I've been going back and forth about whether I like or its predecessor, Life on Pause, more. In the end, I picked Life of Bliss because I didn't know wake-up-married was a trope I'd be down for, but Vic and Todd are so frigging cute, the pining is so sweet and earnest, and Erin McLellan is my favourite sex toy queen, and this story is tamer than some of her others, but still doesn't disappoint.

Where Death Meets the Devil was quite possibly the best book I read in 2018 and LJ Hayward has subsequently put out a Coda, three novellas, and an excellent second novel in the Death and the Devil series, so while I still like the opening gambit (I'm just in awe of the dual timelines) the best, there are lots more words to help get you through your book hangover.

At some point, I'm going to write a 'what's up for 2019?' post. The short answer is SO MUCH! Thanks for being part of my debut year misadventures. Let's continue the journey next year!

The Last Christmas
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The Last Christmas.png

It's 12:11 on Christmas morning--or is it Christmas afternoon? My parents should be here in 20 minutes or so. This is a big deal. The first Christmas in my house. A rite of pasage

In order for new traditions have to start, old ones have to fade away. I hung on to the tradition of Christmas morning at Mom and Dad's longer than a lot of my contemporaries. My husband is Jewish, so there was never any question of whose family we go to spend Christmas with. His job has him working on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Most years I take the train to my hometown a few days ahead of the holidays, and wake up--if not in my childhood bedroom (it's the sewing room now)--at least in my childhood home.

But Christmas has been getting smaller. We don't have kids, so the frenzied magic of Santa has faded. My brother works in hospitality, so there's no question of him making the 6-hour trek at the busiest time of year. And his 13-year-old son, until this year, lived two timezones away with his mom. So Christmas got smaller.

My parents and I would roll out of bed whenever, and drink mimosas until it was time for my grandmother to arrive. Sometimes we'd be joined by an aunt and uncle, or a family friend or two. We stopped making turkey, because there weren't enough mouths to feed. We stopped collapsing into bed at 10 pm, full of too much poultry, gravy, stuffing, chocolate, wine, and whatever else, and instead started waving goodbye to our senior guests around 6 pm, and then binging something good on Netflix.

This October, we lost my grandmother, who had been too old to travel for the holidays for at least the last 10 years. I said I'd like to spend Christmas with my husband for a change (novel, I know). We said we'd move Christmas to Toronto. We'd invite the Jewish in-laws. Three weeks ago, my mom called and said she didn't think gifts were necessary this year.

You never know when the last time will be the last time. Traditions change and fade. When will be the last time you wish someone Merry Christmas? When will be the last time you rub sleep from your eyes and wander into the homey scents of your parents' kitchen?

Hug your loved ones today. Start new traditions, but appreciate the old ones, just in case it's the last time.

We Can Be Heroes
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Tomorrow is tomato sauce day. In honour of that proud tradition, here's a post from my non-author blog about the time the tomatoes nearly killed us!

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No Singing!
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My most memorable experience?

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

Here's the set up:

18-year-old Allison is on a trip to Chicago with her parents. It's a graduation trip, as Allison has just finished her last year of high school. It is also a birthday trip, because it's June and...

Okay, talking about myself in the third person is weird.

We're in Chicago. We go out for dinner. We have always been food people, and my parents decided early on that traveling with children was no reason to avoid restaurants with a decent wine list. So by the time I'm 18, I know what the deal is in fancy restaurants, and this one is Fancy (years later I would learn it was a favourite of the Obamas when they lived in Chicago). It must be a weeknight, because the restaurant is pretty empty. Just the touristy Temple family and a few groups of gentleman in suits. They may be businessmen, they may be mafia dons. It is unclear, and we don't ask.

Dinner is memorable all on its own. It's Italian, but there isn't a baked lasagne for miles. No fettuccine, no ravioli. None of the pastas have names I recognize. I don't remember what I ordered. I remember my mother telling the server it was my birthday, and she nearly let me order a glass of wine before her American sensibilities (21?? Are you kidding me? You can vote and buy porn but you can't drink??) got the best of her.

But what I remember mostly clearly is dessert. It is my birthday after all. Actually, I just remember them bringing it out, not even what it was. It had a sparkler on it, and Happy Birthday scrawled in chocolate at the edge of the plate. And as she set this creation in front of me, my dad looked up at her with excited eyes and said

"Do you sing Happy Birthday too?"

Like this was Kelsey's or TGI Fridays.

And the server, who is used to giving her customers the best dining experience possible, but also doesn't want to upset the dons in the corner by turning this place into a chain restaurant for the sake of a nearly 19-year-old Canadian tourist says

"Well...we don't really do that here but...I guess we could hum?"

So we did. Mom, Dad, and server. Dad looked so pleased. The mafia dons probably wondered what twilight zone they had stepped into.

And that is the story of how I had Happy Birthday hummed to me in a swanky Chicago eatery that would someday be a favourite of the ambitious junior Senator who would become president.

Enter the Waffle
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The best gift I ever got

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

This was a harder question to answer than I expected. Am I not materialistic enough to have good gifts? Do people just give me forgettable things?

Our first Christmas together, when were dating and still getting to know each other, Mr. Temple gave me a waffle iron. Our early bonding happened around food and cooking, so a waffle iron is not as random a gift as it might sound like at first. I think I got him a bamboo cutting board (which we still have and use). At the time, I was a big fan of the TV show Heroes, and Hiro, the time traveling IT nerd, was a big fan of waffles.

waffles

waffles

See?

I'd never actually made a waffle, but that iron is more than a decade old and man has it gotten some use! I don't even need a recipe anymore. Flour, eggs, some other stuff, there's waffles in five minutes!

Also delicious? Omelette waffles (crunchy on the outside, fluffy eggy on the inside) and falafel waffles (for when you can rationalize more sugar via maple syrup)!

The Love Letter
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My Most Romantic Memory

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

It's late. I'm exhausted. That bone deep exhaustion from too many days at work in an environment that doesn't do anything for your physical and mental health. That gnawing grind that comes from feeling like you have to do everything by yourself. That corrosive weight that eats at your insides when someone has let you down again, even when you knew that would, but hoped they wouldn't.

I'm on the phone with Mr. Temple, except he wasn't Mr. Temple then. He was just my boyfriend. But he called me...or I called him. It's 10 pm. I'm home alone. He's just getting off work.

I'm crying. That hiccupping snot mess that kids have a knack for but that adults teach themselves not to do. I don't care anymore. I can't do this anymore, this adulting thing. There are too many demands.

"I'm exhausted and hungry, and I have to go to bed, because I have to be up in seven hours and I haven't even had time to go to the groceries this week, so there isn't any food for me to eat, even if I had time to eat it."

He listens. Later, I found out he was sitting on a bench, outside his office, in the dark, watching the busses that would have taken him home roll by.

Eventually he tells me to go to sleep, that there's nothing we can do to make it better tonight. He tells me he'll come by after work tomorrow and we can watch a movie and just chill. It's cold comfort, but I know it's the best he can offer.

I sleep. Go to work. It's all a bit numb, but it's all okay because at the end of it, I will go home and Mr. Temple will be there and we can forget about the outside world.

I get home. The apartment is empty, but the smell is different. Warm. On my dining room table is a note.

Allison,

something came up and I can't stay. I'm so sorry. I hope you had a good day. I went to the store and bought you some food. It's put away in the cupboards. Also, there is a pizza staying warm in the oven. Buffalo chicken, your favourite. I hope you like it. 

See you this weekend,

Mr. T.

I cry a little more. The pizza is warm and tasty. The cupboards are full of Triscuits and other things that will stay good for a long time. They look delicious. The nicest crackers anyone has ever bought for me.

The note is still in my nightstand. It's the best love letter I've ever received.

All of the Above?
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What genre do you like to read and write?

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

I'm not fussy...there is very little in romance that is a hard no for me. I'm not a huge BDSM fan, and I don't really get MPREG, but if someone pressed their favourite BDSM MPREG into my hands and told me my life would be incomplete until I'd read it, I'd probably try it.

I find contemporary romance easiest to write. It gives me familiar settings and really lets me dig into the characters to find out what makes them tick. I'd love to write romantic suspense, but I'd need to do a ton of work on plotting big external plots and also on law enforcement...spies...terrorists...you get the idea.

My TBR pile is giant and varied though. Books I've read most recently include:

So yeah. It's all pretty gay. But otherwise, there's pretty well the whole shebang in there. Better find a couple historical romances to balance it all out.

What do you love to read or write?

Submitted!
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How do you celebrate completing a manuscript?

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

Ce-le-brate?

Is that a thing I'm supposed to do?

Look, the challenge of novel writing is you can tweak FOREVER, so I call foul on this question, because complete implies...well...completion.

When I finish a draft I...do nothing. In fact I usually go into a funk for a week or two. I should be plotting something new, but usually I just stare mournfully at the computer screen.

When I submit a manuscript to my agent and publisher I...start the next story, because not having a new story to work on makes me twitchy.

When I hit a major milestone, like my agency and publisher contracts last year, or when The Pick Up was published this year I...spend money on something frivolous but still wildly practical. Like new rubber boots! Or a laptop (confession: the old laptop was taking bi-weekly trips to the Genius Bar. It was time). And Mr. Temple takes me out for dinner, ideally one that involves much wine.

But seriously, celebrate the little things. The milestones. My local RWA chapter gives out chocolate to members who have recently completed a chapter or scene, or those who have submitted a manuscript and been rejected! Celebrate the steps, because the milestones can be a long time in coming.

About Chapter 25

The risks of living my author life in the open

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Earlier this week, I tweeted a tweet.

Had my first job interview in 13 years today. It started with “I write gay romance novels.” and ended with “Can you come in on Friday to meet the owner?” I’m feeling pretty positive about these people.

— Allison Temple (@allitemplebooks) June 5, 2018

It got more retweets and likes than almost anything else I've ever tweeted. I didn't mean to, but I think I hit on a Writer Twitter nerve. So many of us write on the side, in our spare time, our stolen moments. Or we write out in the open, but under the cover of a pen name, an online persona. Writers, especially a lot of the queer writers and the writers of queer fiction, that I know, live in fear that Facebook will inadvertently recommend their author profile to a friend or family as someone 'you might also know'. Writers are afraid, while secretly dreaming of sharing our writing lives with friends and family who accept it without blinking an eye.

I've never been shy about my writing, not with family or friends, and less and less these days with strangers. Sometimes I meter the explanation to people I don't know as well, going with 'my first book is a romance about a single dad who falls in love with his daughter's teacher' and leaving them to assume as they will whether that teacher is male or female. More and more often though, I just lead with 'I write gay romance novels' and let the chips fall. Most of the time, people smile and nod, and then we move on. Sometimes I meet people like my new banker. You just never know.

I'm lucky, that I live in a place where I can say these things and not be judged too harshly. The worst that happens is people say 'oh, that's not really my thing.' No one shames me, or prays for my soul. I'm lucky.

But with my openness and good fortune comes a few awkward moments and jokes at my expense. Like when my mom told me she loved The Pick Up, but that she skipped over Chapter 25 because 'I didn't really need to read that.'

Or last night, when my childhood best friend told me that she had 'a fun week' the week she read Chapter 25. And that her mom also had 'a fun week' the week she read Chapter 25.

(Author's note. I encourage you to read Chapter 25. In fact, I encourage you to read all of The Pick Up. I can't promise anything is revolutionary, but sometimes delayed gratification makes everything better, if you know what I mean.)

Or, even better, is the fact that my childhood best friend's mother is my mother's best friend (got that? I made you a Venn diagram below if you get confused). 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 1.29.11 PM

That motherly best friend thinks it's hilarious that my mother avoided Chapter 25 for the sake of her...I don't even know? Dignity? Morality? This best friend found it so hilarious, in fact, that her family has adopted it in day to day conversation.

"Shh. We mustn't talk about Chapter 25."

"We agreed not to bring up Chapter 25."

I didn't know this was an author goal I had—to become the foundation for a family's inside joke—but now that it's happened, I'm kind of tickled.

We don't talk about Chapter 25.

Telling people about your work is scary, but sometimes the payoff is worth it.

Also, for those of you wondering, I totally rocked that interview :)

The Secret Life of Books

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What I learned while researching my book

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

As of this writing, Top Shelf does not have a home, but let me introduce you to Seb. He is an artist who has made his name in reclaimed books. He started with found poetry (spoiler: all of Shakespeare is a dick joke if you look hard enough), but now carves beautiful sculptures and pictorial narratives out of the old books he finds in the used bookstore downstairs from his apartment.

I am not an artist. Out of all the artistic mediums, visual art is my weakest. So building an art for Seb took some effort. I listened to podcasts, I did so much googling. And then I found carved books. And they were glorious. And they evoke such a complicated question about our relationships with books, and what it means to preserve the words in them.

Seb's love interest, Martin, is a professor who has spent his career researching a poet whose works were destroyed and nearly lost. And then Martin meets Seb, whose entire career is based on repurposing so many of those precious words into something new and beautiful, but also different than the author's original intention.

I really hope you get to read their love story soon.

In the meantime, can I offer you this beautiful TED Talk video about carved books?

I was an introvert before it was cool

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A book that influenced my life

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

Have you read Susan Cain's Quiet?

You haven't?

Stop reading this and go read it right now.

Go on. I'll wait.

Not an introvert? But you probably know some, right? You should still read it.

Okay, if you're still here and you haven't read it, here's my spiel.

Quiet is powerful. It's deeply researched. It's sympathetic without promoting introverts or extroverts as better than the other. It untangles introversion from so many other things like shyness, sensitivity and social anxiety.

I am an introvert. People who know me professionally never believe me when I tell them that. My husband likes to call me a ninjavert. I can be sociable and engaging in the right context, but give me a quiet house and a comfy couch and I will Make Things Happen.

Quiet is amazing in that it breaks down how introvert brains work, and why social situations don't feel the same to us as they do to extroverts.

In third grade, my teacher called a conference with my mother and told her she was worried I was too serious. My mom came home and said "Mrs. Walker says you don't smile enough." I thought that was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard.

Guess whose third grade teacher was an extrovert, back when there wasn't a word for that?

Guess which book has all kinds of examples of teachers, parents, and heart care providers trying to diagnose kids when all they were is introverted?

Guess who cried when the book was over because for the first time she didn't feel like her preference for staying in, and her habit of lying on the couch for hours after a big presentation were weird?

Yeah, that last one was me.

Quiet was published in 2013, and in the ensuing 5 years, introversion has become a buzzword, and our introverted brethren are celebrated for their preference for staying home on a Friday night and their proclivity for regretting plans made weeks ago. So maybe you think you know everything you need to know about introverts.

Quiet is still worth a read.

If you don't believe me, check out Susan's TED Talk. It is one of the most popular talks on the site.