Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts in my books
Teaser: Top Shelf
Top Shelf contemporary gay romance from Allison Temple. Coming May 20 to Kindle Unlimited

Top Shelf is out on May 20, but you can read the beginning of chapter 1 right now!

Chapter 1

The exterior of Martin’s new workplace did not inspire confidence. Dog Ears Book Shop was a two-story brick building on Seacroft’s main street. The sign out front was painted in large black and white spots that were probably meant to look like a Dalmatian, but actually looked more like a cow. The ‘Help Wanted’ sign was still in the window. If that was an indication of his new employer’s faith in his abilities, Martin’s career in bookselling would be short.

He’d been told to be here by eight-thirty, and he was early. There was a diner next door, and he’d popped in to grab a tea to go. That had been ten minutes ago, and now the bookshop’s locked storefront staring back at him made him worry. What if he’d made the job offer up? What if this was just another punch line on the cruel practical joke that was his life lately? Not being able to hold down an obscure academic position was one thing. Not being good enough to work at a lonely used bookstore in a sleepy seaside community was another issue completely. His thesis supervisor had always said life was not a pony farm, but Martin didn’t even want the whole farm anymore. A seat at the trough would do.

A dark sedan pulled up to the curb. Martin hunched into his tea, avoiding eye contact with the driver. They didn’t need to see him like this.

“Thanks, Mom!” A teenage girl with hair like coiled springs got out of the passenger side. She leaned in and spoke to the driver for a minute, before slamming the door and waving as the car pulled away. She smiled when she spotted Martin.

“Are you the new guy?” She hiked her backpack up on her shoulders. Martin nodded, and her smile spread. “Doctor Lindsey, I presume!” She stuck out her hand for him to shake. He juggled his tea and his bike helmet before reaching for her.

“It’s just Martin,” he said.

“I’m Cassidy. Mrs. Green said you’d be starting today. I’m supposed to show you the ropes.” She pulled a ring of keys out of her backpack and stepped around him to the door. She appeared to be younger than any of his former students had been. It said a lot that someone who didn’t even have a high school diploma would be training him.

“Have you worked here long?” he asked as she fumbled with the lock. She jammed her hip against the doorframe, and then rattled the doorknob before twisting the key. The heavy old door swung open on groaning hinges that shattered the quiet Saturday morning. A jogger running by turned as he passed. Martin ducked his head while Cassidy waved.

“Since I was in tenth grade. I started working after school, and then Mrs. Green let me work full time over the summers. Now that I’m back at school, I’ll mostly be here in the afternoons and on Saturdays.” She walked in and flicked a switch by the door. Ancient strings of incandescent lights flared to life. Martin’s next question caught in his throat as the bookstore loomed in front of him.

He’d been in once before, when he dropped off his resume, but he hadn’t bothered to stay. It might have even been Cassidy he’d handed his CV to for all he knew. It had taken him two tries to walk through the front door, and then he’d finally run in, thrust the paper at the person behind the cash, and fled. It had been embarrassing, but getting this far was an improvement from the trajectory his life had taken in recent months. His doctor had said he should be proud.

Oddly enough, despite that frantic and hasty attempt at applying for a job, he still remembered the smell of the store as he walked in. It was something damp and forgotten, and the space held an incredible sense of age and weight.

Heavy dark shelves of every height and width lined the walls from floor to ceiling. Books were stacked up and down, lengthways and sideways. Martin had read a lot in his life, and he had never seen so many books all in one place.

“Welcome!” Cassidy held her arms out, as if she spoke for every title and every writer represented in the giant space. She glanced over her shoulder. “It’s kind of like the TARDIS, isn’t it?”

“Bigger on the inside than the outside?”

Cassidy’s smile grew. “You watch Doctor Who?”

Martin shrugged, ignoring the little thrill in his chest at the normalcy of this conversation.

“I missed the last few seasons,” he said. “It stopped being good after David Tennant left.”

“I guess we’re not going to be friends after all.” Cassidy’s green eyes narrowed, but her smile didn’t fade.

Feeling a little braver, Martin stepped around a low table stacked with picture books and a sign that read ‘For When They Won’t F*ing Sleep.’ Beyond that, a bookshelf was labeled with ‘100 Ways to Cheat on Your Diet.’ Most of the titles below the sign were pastry cookbooks and European travelogues.

“I made that one,” Cassidy said, as Martin examined the sign. It was done in chalk, the lettering alternating orange and green, with what looked like a steaming plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine nestled underneath it.

“It’s very nice.”

“Let me give you the tour. We won’t be open for another half hour.”

The TARDIS reference turned out to be fairly apt. Every time they came to the end of a teetering row of bookshelves, Cassidy would turn and take him in a new direction. Somehow though, they never wound up at the front of the store again. Sometimes the shelves were broken up with ancient and overstuffed armchairs before the books continued. There didn’t seem to be any logic to the way they were organized. Instead of standard headings—fiction, non-fiction, travel, mystery—each section was labeled in the same cheeky blackboards as Martin had seen up front. ‘Pets.They’re Better Than Kids’ and ‘Old Dead Guys Say Famous Things.’

“Wouldn’t it just be easier to organize them by genre?” he asked as they wound their way down another aisle.

“Why? It’s more fun this way.” Cassidy seemed to know exactly where they were, despite the fact that Martin was hopelessly turned around. They passed a shelf labeled ‘Books To Read On Dark Nights.’

“But how do people find what they’re looking for?”

She glanced over her shoulder at him, and for all there had to be over ten years between them, Martin suddenly felt like a kid asking stupid questions of a weary parent.

“Have you ever worked in a bookstore before? Mrs. Green said you had.”

“In college.” It had been humiliating to have to put that little nugget of experience back on his resume.

“When you go to buy a book, if you want a recommendation, do you ask for a contemporary mystery, written in the last two years, by an American writer?”

“Yes?”

Cassidy snorted. “Well, that’s not how most people work. Most people come in here, and they say they want something a little funny, a little sad. Something about families, but not something where someone dies. It’s easier if we organize them this way.”

“But it doesn’t make any sense!”

They passed a shelf called ‘We Didn’t Know Where Else To Put These.’

“It will.” She turned another corner, and suddenly, they were back where they started. A cyclist went by, followed by a woman with a stroller. They didn’t so much as glance through the window. Martin felt like he’d been on a kind of quest that had lasted a thousand years, only to return home and find that no time had passed at all.

“So the first thing to do is tidy up the kid’s section.” She pointed to the picture book table. “The Mommy and Me group will be here at nine-thirty.”

“Mommy and me?”

“Yes, and then the knitting circle will be here at noon.”

“Knitting circle?” Martin checked around again. “Like people? Here? Knitting?”

“Sure! Didn’t Mrs. Green tell you?”

“Tell me about what?” Here it was. He’d expected a quiet day of recommending classics and wheezing on the layer of dust that coated everything. It had all seemed too easy, and now he would find out why.

“Oh. Well. A used bookstore is only so popular. Most people just get their stuff online these days. So Mrs. Green figured out that if we get people to come for other things, they might stick around and buy a book or two. It’s Mommy and Me at nine-thirty, knitting circle at noon, and the feminist poetry circle at three on Saturdays.”

That didn’t sound too bad.

“Do I have to learn to knit?” He was pleased he could find humor over the increasing rattle of his heart.

Cassidy laughed, curly hair bouncing on her shoulders. “It couldn’t hurt.”

No, it was bad.

Cover Reveal and a Giveaway!
Cover image for Top Shelf by Allison Temple. Contemporary gay romance available May 20 on Kindle Unlimited.

It’s here!! I’m so pleased to share the cover for Top Shelf with you. Designed by the amazing Cate Ashwood, I have loved this cover since the first proof landed in my inbox.

Seb and Martin’s small town slow burn romance will be available on May 20, but you can enter to win an advance copy one of two ways.

Meet Seb and Martin
Top Shelf Contemporary MM Romance by Allison Temple

Top Shelf, the first book in my new Seacroft series is coming next month! There’s big stuff planned. Cover reveals. Advance copies for a few lucky readers :) For now, meet Seb and Martin:

Martin is a ghost. Well, not really, but he might as well be. Job gone, home gone, self-respect gone, and no one even seems to notice. The only person who really sees him is Seb, the artist who lives above the used bookstore.

Seb haunts the edges of Seacroft in search of beauty. He knows how to excavate the hidden value in abandoned things—whether it's in the pages of forgotten books or in Martin's stuttering attempts to rebuild his life—and transform them into works of art.

Two lost souls, Seb and Martin discover the strength they need to face eccentric townies and their dysfunctional families together. But as friendship sparks toward something more, neither man wants to risk what they’ve only just found. It takes two to fall in love, but it will take the whole community to bring their beauty to life.

Top Shelf is an 83k slow burn friends-to-lovers MM romance. It features an anxious professor, a drama queen artist, a bookstore that might be haunted, and a full-blown heart-eyes HEA.

To stay up to date on release news, join my newsletter, The A-List. I’ll even throw in two free short stories right now! 

Get Going Down for Free

Hey, who’s that over on the Prolific Works blog today?

Going Down is a short gay romance featuring the sexiest game of Truth or Dare ever played in an elevator.

The last place that Lucas Sanderson wants to be is his ten-year high school reunion. Nothing has changed. The bullies are still bullies. The headmaster is still stuck in the last century. And Bentley ‘Call me Ben’ Hammersmith IV is still so charming Lucas can’t even be mad at him for forgetting Lucas’s name.
All he has to do is give a speech, have a few drinks, and then he can get the hell out one last time.
Of course, what happens next involves beautiful Ben, an elevator with no power, a call center with no clue, and a game of Truth or Dare not even Lucas could see coming. Never has he ever had a night like this one.

Grab your copy now.

The Best (and Others) of 2018
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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!

Worst. Review. Ever.
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bird-525842_1920

What I learned from my worst review

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

Dudes. I have one published novel. You didn't think I was actually going to call out a particular review, did you? That way lies madness and possibly career suicide.

Here's what I know that I didn't know five months ago.

Don't. Read. Reviews.

Especially don't read early reviews. Good or bad, they will do nothing for your mental health. Nada.

Also don't respond to reviews, even those that totally missed the boat on what you were trying to convey. You don't know that reviewer. By putting a book out there, you are inviting people to read your book, but also you are inviting criticism. That's how it works.

So yeah. Stay away. No good can come, really, from reading reviews. If you must, get a trusted friend to vet them and send you the good ones. And recognize that you can't please everyone. What you think is earnest and heartfelt, may be silly or bitchy to someone else. Write your book truth, then go write another one.

Step away from the reviews.

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?

The Wake Up is Live!
Wake Up Cover baker

Wake Up Cover baker

UPDATED, JULY 2018: The Wake Up has moved. You can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter.  

If you're reading this, then The Wake Up is out and about and ready for your reading pleasure!

There's is only one man Jackson would get out of bed for . . . or invite to his bed, if he got that lucky. Unfortunately, Matt Kingston only has eyes for Jackson's buns, which would be great . . . if Jackson weren't a baker. A year of pining and wooing with sprouted wheat has been fruitless, and Jackson is ready to give up, but it turns out Matt has a secret of his own. If only he were better at rising to the occasion.

The Wake Up is a free short story set in Red Creek and I can't wait for you to read it. So clickity click over to Instafreebie to get your copy now!

Season of the Pitch

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My contest experiences

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

I'm going to admit up front that my contest experience is limited, because I went from my first query to signing with my agent in a little over three months. I got lucky. And Laura and I didn't even find each other through a pitch contest, I just cold queried her slush pile. But I did do a few pitch contests and here's what I learned.

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These are my two best pitches. Between them, they got six likes, all from publishers (as opposed to agents). Only one of those publishers wound up offering to publish me, and I decided not to sign with them. And yet, 364 days after my first pitch, The Pick Up was out in the world and my agent and I were making plans for future titles.

So here's what I learned:

  1. Pitch parties like #pitmad, #dvpit and all their brethren, are a great way to get in front of publishers and agents. They are actively looking for stories that catch their eye.
  2. These same pitch parties have hundreds and sometimes thousands of participants, so you've got to have good pitches to stand out, just like you need a good query to get through the slush pile. Some people say it's easier now, because back in my day we walked uphill both ways in bare feet only had 140 characters, and now you've got 280, but the basic form is the same. Character, hook, stakes. You need these. 280 characters of "her life will change forever" is just as vague as it was in 140 characters.
  3. There's no guarantee. I got full manuscript requests from agents I cold queried and then got turned down, and I got thanks but no thanks from publishers I submitted to after pitch parties. Both processes are worthwhile but neither is a surer route to publication.
  4. You still have to make tough decisions. If you're reading closely, you'll have noticed up above that I actually got a publishing offer through one of my pitches, and I turned them down. Just because you get likes doesn't mean you're beholden to any agent or publisher who shows interest in your pitch or your manuscript. It's flattering and often it's overwhelming, but you have to make the decisions that work for you and fit with where you're trying to go. I've got more on that here.
  5. I definitely encourage all writers to find pitch parties and contests as a means of getting some visibility. Learning to pitch your work is a skill you'll need forever. Some authors are hugely successful with the online parties. Others find success through other avenues. Don't pin your hopes on one or the other, but try as much as you can.