Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged family
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.

Nana Through the Looking Glass
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IMG_1219.JPG

"Whether I knew it then or not, I've been a writer since the second grade, when I wrote a short story about a girl and her horse. My grandmother typed it out for me and said she’d never seen so many quotation marks from a seven-year-old before."

You'll recognize this if you've read my bio (on this blog, in my books, or elsewhere). I guess you could say my Nana was my first editor.

A year ago, nearly 30 years after that first horsey short story, I wrote a novel about an artist who lived above a used bookstore. Seb makes a living taking the books people don't want anymore and turning them into something new. One afternoon, Martin (the bookstore's newest employee and Seb's love interest) finds an illustrated copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the store and gives it to Seb who, in turn, makes it into something special—a birthday gift for his grandmother.

Two weeks ago, my Nana couldn't get out of bed. She's 86 and still living on her own. They called the ambulance, took her to the hospital, ran tests.

A week ago, I passed a used bookstore. It wasn't in my neighbourhood. I'd never been inside it. But there, in the window, was an illustrated copy of Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. I was on my way to an appointment, and by the time I walked back the other way, the store was closed. But I knew I needed that book. For Seb. For his Nana. For mine too, because she loved to read and loved the old stories best. I went back and bought it yesterday.

Today, we said goodbye to my Nana.

Her favourite books were Seven Years in Tibet and the complete collection of Churchill's Letters to Roosevelt. She raised five daughters, had eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She made the best pea soup in the world and she gave even better hugs. She never finished high school, but left her home on Vancouver Island to move with my grandfather to Montreal in 1953. She lived in Morocco and the Cameroons. In 1988, she helped me publish my first book*

Seb's story is unpublished, but it's going to be, someday. When it is, there will be two words in the dedication.

For Nana.

Miss you bunches already.

*the first story had what you might call a limited distribution deal. It might still be available to be borrowed from my elementary school library though.

About Chapter 25

The risks of living my author life in the open

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secret-2725302_1920

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 :)

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.

2018 - New Adventures, More Good Stuff

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On this day last year, I wrote a post about my goals for 2017. It wasn't a resolution post, because resolutions are about what you want to change, and I wanted to focus on keeping up the things that were working in my life. A lot has changed on its own since then, but the good stuff remains, broadly, the same. So here's how I did and what I'm going to do about it this year.

Write More

Last Year

Well that certainly worked out. Last year I wrote half a first draft for a paranormal romance while I was querying. It got back-burnered when publishing offers for The Pick Up came in, and also because it turns out I need to learn some world building techniques, but I was more than halfway through when I shelved it. I'll come back to it someday. After that, I wrote and polished the full draft of The Hang Up and I have to say I'm super proud of it.

This Year

Just keep swimming, right? I'm starting the Set Up. It's due in July, but I'm hoping to get it done earlier. After that? Who knows? So many little plot bunnies in my head. I even picked up a new one this weekend about a marriage that ends in an IKEA. So I'm just going to keep on writing until the plot bunnies are all out.

Work More

Last Year

Oh boy did I work. I survived a merger, hired a new team member, managed ten people and struggled to meet the needs and expectations of several hundred. Then I took on a second job by signing on to write three books for Riptide. So yeah. I worked.

This Year

Those of you who follow me on Medium will also know that I quit my job late last year. On the surface of it, the timing looks like I did it so I could write full time, but the reasoning is more complicated than that. I'm going to take some time to figure out what the next best professional step for me will be. This is not retirement. I'm 36 and there are bills to pay so I'm still going to have to work this year. I'm just going to do it on my terms. What that looks like, on this second day of the year, is largely TBD.

Relax More

Last Year

Well I did my best. We traveled. I went to GRL and met some awesome people. I did a few writers weekends. I spent an unexpected week at my parents'. I also took on the aforementioned second job via book writing which is, actually, relaxing for me, but did add some extra pressure to my life at the same time.

This Year

Well, without that 40-hour a week commitment of my office job, there is the potential to relax more. I keep hearing that I'm going to fill my time so fast I'll wonder how I ever managed to fit a job in there. I'm okay with that as long as, for the most part, I fill it with things that are satisfying. I loved my co-workers, but I used to expend a lot of energy being 'on' at my job. If I can expend that same energy towards really satisfying work this year, I will probably find my mental health is all the better for it.

Hang Out More

Last Year

I tried. Really. I stage managed a play and went to some writers meet ups, and spent more time with family. But the short story is I'm a solid introvert and I like my alone time. Plus I had a book to write so, you know, hermit.

This Year

When Jay and I started talking about me leaving my job, the second thing he said was "I'm worried you'll never leave the house." He knows me so well. We should have an over/under on how many days I can hang out in this house before I start to get cabin fever. My money is on 12. This year, I'm going to have to actively look for opportunities to connect with people in person. If you're in the GTA and need a writerly coffee date, I'm your girl!!

So that's the plan for 2018. I'm sure I'll find I'm wrong about at least 50% of this. This time last year, I could not have imagined I'd be working on the third instalment of a 3-book contract and that I'd have left the corporate world in my rearview mirror. Undoubtedly, 2018 will have all sorts of unforeseen twists in it that will derail this plan by March. I'll keep you posted.

How about you? What good stuff are you going to try to hang on to this year?

 

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.

 

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%

 

On the Road (10 Days to 20k, Day 4)

20525952_1827568790891004_6562911098027768361_n.jpg Short day today. We hit the road early to spend the day with family in Stratford, one of Ontario's theatre meccas. Fortunately, my chauffeur likes driving. I had to marry to get him to drive full time, but it meant I squeezed in a few words.

A year and a half ago, I met Shaunta Grimes. She's a multi-talented writer and teacher. Her theory is that you set small goals and do it every day. 10 minutes. 500 words. I knew today wasn't going to be a big word day, so I told myself to just try to write 500 on the drive. The nice thing about small goals is they're easy to hit, and often times by the time you've hit them, you've picked up some momentum and want to keep going. I'm going to need more than 500 words a day to meet my goal of getting this draft done by October, but on the days when I know I won't write much with mitigating circumstances, hitting a small goal makes me feel like I've still accomplished something.

What's one small goal you can set?

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 4 Words Written Today: 1,073 Total Words Written: 10,749 Words Left: 9,251 Percent Complete: 54%