Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged blogging
It's Not About the Bacon

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Things only my family would understand

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

As of this writing, my parents just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. In addition to the Douglas Adams-ian significance to that (have they reached enlightenment?) that is a hell of a long time. Add in a few (now adult) kids, and it's inevitable that we've invented a few of our own catch phrases.

My mom is big on compartmentalization, and understanding why you're feeling the way you do. Are you hungry? Angry? Feeling anxious about that other thing, but taking it out on the current situation?

To which we say It's not about the bacon.

Picture this. Christmas time. The Temple family is on vacation. Mama Temple is making her famous pasta broccoli bake, the key ingredient of which is bacon (everything is better with bacon). Suddenly, half the bacon is missing. Where did it go? Papa Temple has mixed it into his only slightly less well known caesar salad!

Mama Temple is pissed. There is yelling. My brother and I watch from the couch, simultaneously confused and a little afraid. It's inevitable that there have been some fights in the last 42 years, but my parents actually get into full blown yelling matches only rarely.

Dinner is tense. The pasta bake doesn't have its usual kick. Dishes are washed sullenly.

Later, my mom sits me down.

"I want to talk about what happened," she says.

Ok.

"Your father and I weren't really fighting about the bacon."

Ok.

Years later, the actual cause of the argument is lost to the mists of time. Work? Money? How many nights we were required to have dinner with my grandmother during the holiday season? We don't know anymore.

But, whenever someone gets upset about something, we can calmly look at each other and say "You're clearly upset, but is this really about the bacon?"

To which the other party almost always sighs heavily and shake their head.

"No. It's not about the bacon."

The Beach

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What's your earliest memory?

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

The beach is long (or I am very small) (or both). There was a storm, or maybe it's always like this, but the waves make a noise I've never heard before.

Boom

In my toddler brain, surely these are the drums of death.

Boom

Surely something that makes this noise cannot be safe, or good.

It does not want us here.

Boom

I stumble back, chubby legs that have only known how to walk for a few months crumble. Warm hands, soft voices that are supposed to protect me tell me that everything is fine.

They are wrong.

Boom

I start to cry. The voices tell me it's okay, but I know my mother lies. How can this monster be okay?

Boom

The memory fades.

There are pictures, that say that it was okay. There is me, white blonde, with fistfuls of dark sand. My baby belly hangs carelessly over the top of a diaper.

There are stories. My aunt drawing hearts in the sand with her toes, a diversion that takes my mind off the boom of the surf as it rolls and retreats on the sand.

Boom

What I remember is the sound.

My Favourite Piece (slightly NSFW)

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What is your favourite thing you've written (and why)?

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

Oh god, you're asking me this? That's like choosing between my children! Except it's worse, because I don't even have any children!! You want me to pick one of my word babies?!

The Pick Up will always have a special place in my heart, because it's my first and you never forget your first.

Really though, if I had to pick one, there's this short I wrote at a workshop a couple years ago. It was the first time I'd shared something sexy in a group. And they liked it, so much that I got invited to read it at an erotica night.

And sometimes, when I write, the words just flow like this giant out of body experience that means suddenly there's a whole person on the page who I've never met before. This was one of those times.

So here's my TED Talk...er...here's my favourite piece. I hope this preamble has made it clear that it's a little racy, but no one will ever know if you read it quietly at the office.


Old Gods

With him, it is fever and it is ice. With him, I burn and he leaves me frozen in place at the same time.  We come together with the pace of glaciers, and the force of oceans. It is everything I said I would never be, and everything I wanted to become. I am helpless to be anything but his, while my body and my blood scream to take back even the smallest amount of what I have given up.

This is entirely my doing; he has never asked for nor taken anything from me. He has been a benevolent guide, the north star in the night sky, who let me turn in his orbit until he had become so intrinsic to my universe that I couldn’t remember when and where we started. The vastness that surrounds us lets in no light, no sound from beyond the world that he has made. With no path behind me, there is no path forward and out. There is only the path that he chooses for us, and I have become a willing apostle to his teachings. I will sit at his feet, or at his right hand, keep myself close to catch even the smallest truth from his lips.

He gives only as it suits him and I am grateful because when he gives I am blinded with the intensity of it. His fingers play my ribs like strings on a harp, pulling notes from my lungs that sing hymns of ancient pleasure. His breath on my neck as he stands behind me makes tiny hairs dance with the exaltation of angels whose king has finally come.

Our sacrifices are few, and at bedtime, more often than not, I am left alone, a tangled mess of want in cold sheets. I can warm them on my own with little coaxing, clever fingers knowing how to tease small tremors from my thighs and quiet sighs from my lips. It is not enough, cannot ever fill the need that he has never named. The craving is a beast, trapped in a maze of desire with the only way free through him.

“What do you want?” he whispers into my mouth, as his long man’s fingers trace curves in search of what I will give him. The weight of him on me, the heat of skin on skin has melted my thoughts and I cannot say the thing I want most. I arch and he presses against me, holding me in place, but I feel him, his humanity betrayed, hard and already leaking, and this time I know it is real, really happening. He will bless me tonight and I will be grateful for every moment.

“What do you want?” he says again. His cheek rasps against my skin. His lips are on my nipple, sucking pleasure from pain and I would tell him what I want if I had not already given all my want to him. I want what he wants, whatever he will give or take, demand or offer. I want to see his control shatter and crash, a ship on the rocks, contrasting so much with the way I have offered myself up, crumb by crumb, leaving me naked and open with no voice but the one that moans his name as he touches needy heat.

“What do you want?” he asks as fingers stroke through my desire. My only possible answer is to roll my hips up and my head back, to show him where to touch when I have no way to tell him. I feel breath on my skin, puffed out over his low laugh as he continues to forge his own trail. He takes his pleasure in mine, and I lack the words to say that I am the same, that our pleasure is shared, although he seems so big, and I have made myself so small. We are the same animal, because he has made me that way. Carved me out and moulded me against him until my edges are soft again.

“What do you want?” he asks as tongue and fingers invade at the same time, pushing into me, searching for my response to fire his own. He rocks against me in the old dance, two partners spinning together and away, accompanied only by the music of our breath. He seeks entrance, but will not ask for it. He will wait until I am high and spent and then take it, because I gave him my silent permission so many ages before.

“What do you want?” His fingers leave me, empty, slide forward, find the spot. His voice purrs encouragement in my ear, a commanding litany, as I roll into him, helpless against the pull of his tide. Like a moon, he circles without getting nearer. If I had voice I would weep at the need that trembles low in my belly as his fingers stray from their course to brush closer. The trembling spreads as the tension creeps forward. I bite my lip to keep silent as he continues to work my pleasure up to meet his. Muscles tighten, try to curl in on themselves, even while stretching to reach for his warmth and weight at the same time.

“What do you want?” he asks one more time, knowing in his voice. He knows I am lost again, I have followed him down his path once more. I would tell him not to stop, but my teeth are fastened to his shoulder; they will leave a small mark to show my passing. When the trap springs inside me, even then I do not expect it, and the blaze that follows is a fire in the forest that consumes me. It leaves me stripped and bare for him to finally take and use as he wants, to build up again in his own image, which is all I have wanted from the very beginning.

 

 

Succeeding(ish) at the Publishing Game

pug-1210025_1920 Almost two months ago, I wrote to my agent. It was a short email that said something like "Let's talk about what's next. And let's do it soon, because The Pick Up is going to be out next week and I just finished the draft for Cold Pressed, and I'm expecting the emotional hangover to be EPIC."

Boy, did I not even know.

The Pick Up is almost two months old now. In the ensuing 60ish days, I've watched publishing dreams (mine and others) stumble and collapse under the weight of racism, harassment, and the giant angry echo chamber that is the internet.

There were tears (mine and others).

There were promises to do better (mine and others).

There were admissions that it's hard to find momentum after so much uncertainty (fortunately, not mine...except for Good Friday when I nearly deleted the complete Cold Pressed draft in a fit of inadequacy).

So here's what I've learned in the last two months, as voiced by so many other people in the same boat.

A nightmare you say? Tell me more.

Even celebrities (except possibly Sean Penn and Morrissey) are not immune from the crushing weight of authorly uncertainty.

Yup. Publishing will rip your heart out. It will tell you that your hours, days, weeks, months, years of hard work don't matter, because what publishing really wants is another white duke, or a lonely gay superhero (but not your lonely gay superhero*).  And yeah, I'm talking about traditional publishing, and yes, I know self-publishing will let me write my dukes, superheroes, or neurotic professors and put them out into the world without the grind and the waiting game of trad publishing. I'm pretty sure it will just rip your heart out in other ways instead. Like when Amazon suddenly decides your story is too gay and too sexy to inflict on decent people and stops promoting your titles. Or when the limitations of stock photography mean your cover model appears on seven covers in three months.

I was on Facebook this week (spoiler, don't go on Facebook), and someone asked what the lesson is, if you put in all this time, and effort, ink, sweat and tears, and no on reads it? What if the book happens, but the reading doesn't? If you don't succeed, what was the lesson?

Writing is my joy. That's the lesson. Bree said it above, but it's true for me too. I say it all the time. I am happier writing than doing just about anything else. If you're writing novels for any other reason, I'm not sure how you'll succeed, because the rest of it has the very real potential to be a nightmare.

In the last 60ish days, there have been hurdles and hiccups the likes of which my poor debut author brain could not have fathomed. I lost sleep. There were so many tears. And then you know what I did? I kept writing. Because publishing is going to rip my heart out, but writing is going to put it back together again. And every time I write something new, or edit something new, I create another opportunity to succeed at my joy (before the heart ripping starts again).

Someone on Twitter asked last week what piece of advice you'd give to your younger self. And despite everything, this is what I said.

I'm succeeding on my own terms. Come at me. I'm ready.


*I don't currently have a lonely gay superhero...but now I'm thinking about it.

My Mom Might See This

caleb-woods-182648 Last week there was much righteous angst and furor over Romance's 'feature' in the New York Time Book Review. Apparently it started out promising, with an entwined couple on the review's cover. The NYT promised readers a Roundup of the Season's Romances. Then things started to fall apart, the roundup written by someone who either has an axe to grind or couldn't be bothered to do anything like research.

By the time I heard about the sexist and patronizing drivel contained in said roundup, the editorials and angry rants had already started happening online. I mean, some of the books cited weren't even published this season, or even in this decade. What was the point of the title? And then the review's author rounded it all up with "Why shouldn't women dream?"

Thanks. I didn't need your permission. I'll dream on my own terms.

 When I got married, Jane Austen loomed large in speeches from family. My cousin played a guessing game of romantic quotes (she might have spiked the deck with a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just because she could). My mom referred to the ubiquitous accomplished woman, but pointed out that in the 21st century, we liked to snorkel, could rock a hard hat on a job site, and our extensive reading now included sparkling vampires (it was the height of the Twilight craze, don't judge).

I don't feel the need to defend my reading preferences, or my writing ones. I like what I like. There are so many moving and beautifully written romances out there. It's disheartening to see articles like the NYT that perpetuate the attitudes that romance novels are something that should be hidden under your mattress, and that the genre only includes heterosexual dukes, governesses, billionaires and pregnant virgins. I know that's not true and, if you're reading this, you probably know that's not true too. Those of us who write queer characters, or space pirates, or even Scottish lairds not in the Regency period, are all very disappointed to hear that we don't write 'real' romance.

My bio is up on the Riptide website. I showed it to my boss, who is white, male, and in his fifties. He poked around the website for a minute. "I'm noticing a trend in what they publish," he said. Nary a heterosexual duke or pregnant virgin to be seen. I just raised an eyebrow. He's an observant fellow, my boss.

I shared the bio link on every social media channel I have. Mid-day today, Facebook told me my mom had liked my author page. That made my heart skip a little. She's been very supportive my adventures in publishing, going so far as to scoop up a stack of my newly printed business cards to give to friends the last time she came to visit, but she hasn't hunted me down online until now. On my drive home, she proudly told me over the phone that she has added my blog to her Wordpress favourites (I didn't even know she knew how to do that). Cue another heart skip.

All this to say, my mom might see this post. I'm not stuffing my writing under the mattress. I started dreaming about this long before the New York Times told me it was okay. I'm lucky I have family who support this crazy publishing dream, when so many people, both strangers and others, are more than happy to roll their eyes and snicker at the inhabitants and creators Romancelandia.

My mom is going to see this post. Leave a comment to say hi, so she knows how cool we all are.

 

My Glamourous Writing Life

nick-karvounis-156086.jpg Today. Yom Kippur. Mr. Temple is at home and fasting. That's my cue to lie low and write elsewhere, so I don't antagonize him with my Gentile propensity for procrastination via snacking.

Take the subway downtown for a writer's meet up. The laptop is having a senior citizen moment and take twenty minutes to boot. In that time, I determine no one else has come to meet up. I order pancakes and a coffee, since eating in front of Mr. Temple felt like a dick move, even though he assured me it wasn't.

Good news: pancakes are delicious. Bad news: no further writers show up. Also, Word will only let me write three sentences before it takes a pause and the little rainbow wheel spins for a minute before I'm allowed to proceed.

Despite the fact the writer's meet up is supposed to run from 2 til 5, at 4 pm, I am informed the coffee shop is closing. I smile, save my work, pack up, and walk down the street to the next coffee shop. There is no point in going home until the sun has gone down. The last few hours of Yom Kippur are always the worst.

Coffee shop 2: laptop takes another ten minutes to boot back up. I was hoping to finish this short story today, but at the rate I'm going, it's going to be tomorrow instead.

5 pm. No battery left. I'm 500 words from The End and I'm going to have to pack up and go home to recharge.

When I say 'three book deal' it sounds pretty glamorous, doesn't it?

Yup...pretty glamourous indeed.

The Finish Line(ish) (10 Days to 20k, Day 10)

road-908176_1920.jpg Well. That's it folks. Except not really. I crossed 30k in 10 days today. I didn't think that was even possible when I left the office 10 days ago. I'd put my hands up and cry like an Olympic sprinter, except I haven't really finished anything. My best estimate is I've got 40k to go to get to the end of this draft, and I already know I have to completely rewrite Martin's back story for the first 30k or so.

No one said novel writing is easy.

Here are the things I've learned over the last 10 days and 30,000 words

  • Writing is work. If you want to finish writing in a timely manner, understand you've got to put the work in.
  • I write best when I'm writing fast. I'd written about 30k when I started 10 days ago. It had taken a little over 3 months to write. I had no confidence in this story, because it had no momentum and neither did I. Now, I know where this is going, and I know there's some good bits in here.
  • Just keep writing. I don't correct typos when I'm drafting. If my your and you're are out of place, if my characters right an email instead of writing an email, tough. I'll fix them later. Ain't nobody got time right now.
  • A Pomodoro timer is awesome. 25 minutes on, 5 minutes to surf the internet. My tiny attention span is a problem when I'm writing at home. The timer was a great way to keep me working even when I wanted to see if anything new had happened on Twitter in the last 5.2 milliseconds.
  • Your mileage may vary. Writing is not a race or a contest. If you take 10 days off to write, you might write 30k too. But you might write 300 words, or 60k. I am not your guru. Celebrate your successes, whatever they are.

I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm a baby writer with a tiny fledgling career. I sent Kyle and Adam to Riptide to start editing today. I have no idea what that means really, except sometime in the next several months, I'll get an email with my document all marked to hell and I'll have to do something about it. The 30k this week means hopefully I'll have time to balance both works in progress when that happens.

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 10 Words Written Today: 3,820 Total Words Written: 30,451 Words Left: 0 Percent Complete: 152%

The Home Stretch (10 Days to 20k, Day 9)

patrick-fore-41134.jpg Back at it today. For realz.

I wrote about homes today. Seb drove Martin to his childhood home. It didn't go well because Act 2, drama, blah blah blah.

I'm going home tomorrow, except I've been home all week. When does your parent's home stop being yours? I haven't lived here full time in 17 years. It's gotta be soon, right?

When I came up with this challenge, I thought 2000 words a day was aggressive but doable. It turns out I can do that in about an hour and a half if I don't have many interruptions and my synopsis is solid. 4000 words is aggressive, and requires shutting out most of the people around me for the day. That will be harder to do when I get home and have to do things like go to work and talk to my husband. But the point is, at 2000 words a day, a 120k first draft can be written in two months. That's crazy to me, but apparently achievable, particularly if I give myself some room for gravy on the weekends.

Fortunately, I like gravy and my weekends are often quiet.

Tomorrow is the last day. I've got a three hour train ride home. I could hit 30k if I really push it. I'm traveling with an eight-year-old, so we'll see how that goes.

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 9 Words Written Today: 4143 Total Words Written: 26,631 Words Left: 0 Percent Complete: 133%

 

A Day of (Not) Rest (10 Days to 20k, Day 8)

bed-linen-1149842_1920 Sometimes the best laid plans go astray.

Sometimes a freak storm blows water under the doors of your house and twists the tops off three trees in the yard.

And then sometimes you (understandably) struggle to sleep at 2 am when the next storm hits and wind starts moaning outside your windows.

And sometimes, about 3 hours later you're still awake, reading werewolf novels to keep from worrying.

And sometimes, trying to function on four hours of sleep, the words just don't come.

All this to say, there weren't many words today, despite my carefree post yesterday. I can still make 30k before the end of this challenge, but it will take some work. But then again, writing is work, so that's probably just as well.

Also, if gay werewolves and strong first person POV are your jam, read Wolf Song by TJ Klune...but maybe not at 2 am. It's a great story and has much better lists than mine.

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 8 Words Written Today: 534 Total Words Written: 22,488 Words Left: 0 Percent Complete: 112%

Writing on an Iron Stomach (10 Days to 20k, Day 5)

IMG_1597 In sixth grade, my mom came as a volunteer to my school and taught everyone in my class how to touch type. I have no idea if this is a skill still taught these days. It smacks of secretarial pools, but I gotta say it's been invaluable in my lifetime. It means I wrote papers at school faster than my classmates, and it's meant turning out reports on time at work, even when the crunch is on.

More importantly, it means I can type in a moving vehicle without puking my guts out, because I can look around, even as my brain and my fingers are generating stories.

Key skill. If you're a writer on the go, learn it. If you're one of those people who gets motion sick just thinking about this idea, I am very sorry. I don't know how I would cope.

I said a couple days ago I would talk about my planner. I meant to do it yesterday, but I was covered in family, so there wasn't really time for me to do it properly. I did mention yesterday that I've been part of Shaunta Grimes' Ninja Writers community for a little over a year and a half. Shaunta's tools have been invaluable to me, and one of the things she swears by is an Erin Condren LifePlanner. I try to keep my life organized on my phone, but as I stared down the barrel of finishing two books in the next twelve months, I knew I was going to need something to keep all my thoughts and ideas together.

I looked at the LifePlanners, but I admit they're pricey, especially once you work in the exchange rate to my Canadian dollar and the cost of shipping. But, lo and behold, I was at my local bookstore a couple weeks ago, and didn't they have knock off LifePlanners with all the pages I needed!

img_1567.jpgReader, I bought one. I thought the cover was appropriate as I launch my baby writing career.

The inside goes from August 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018. I doubt everything will be written, edited, and published by then, but I'll be well on my way. Each month gets a calendar-at-a-glance page where I keep track of daily word counts, important dates (publisher deadlines, conferences, days I know I'll get no writing done), and then there are note pages for each day where I can make notes to my future drafting self and editing self on things I need to remember. Sometimes they're little things like what colour are Sebastien's eyes????,  and other times they're more weighty questions like what the hell is the point of this scene???? Either way, they're good to have in one place.

How do you keep yourself organized?

We spent about six hours in the car today. I hit over 4,000 words. I'm starting to think I should have set a higher goal. 10 days to 30k? Can we do it?

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 5 Words Written Today: 4,049 Total Words Written: 14,798 Words Left: 5,202 Percent Complete: 74%