Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged real life
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.

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)!

Stranger than Fiction
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Family, friends, and pets you've written into your books

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

I try really hard not to obviously write family, friends and pets into my stories. It's awkward, right? How would your mom feel about being a main character in your romance novel?

Once, I accidentally wrote a coworker into The Pick Up. You can read about that misadventure here. I don't work there anymore.

I do specifically write small town romances (at least for now) and while they're not set in my hometown, they definitely draw on my 20ish years living there. I live in Toronto now, which is sort of the anti-thesis of a small town, but I love the feeling of going home.

Small towns have their own quirks, their own histories. At a panel about small towns at GRL, someone talked about a clown marching band that anyone who could play in instrument in town joined. My hometown, Brockville, does not have a clown band, but it is home to the oldest railway tunnel in Canada. It has been a point of pride, but also kind of sketchy; this century-old tunnel that was almost always gated off because otherwise it was a great place to find broken bottles and other unsavoury paraphernalia at night. But last year, as part of Canada's 150th birthday, they refurbished and reopened the tunnel, and now it's this amazing thing with glowing lights and music.

And a ghost train.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36yK9HQerV0]

I like to give my towns quirks like this. Farmers markets, central meeting places where everyone goes to get the latest gossip, fun fundraisers with too many volunteers.

Maybe someday I'll add a ghost train in a glowing tunnel too.

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.

 

Please Don't

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Worst Writing Advice I've Ever Gotten

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

That is an excellent question. For every aspiring writer there is a book, course, website, blog, podcast, or man on the street with pamphlets, with helpful tips on how to BE a writer. Many have conflicting points of view. So what might be the worst advice for me, might be the exact motivation you need.

I can tell you the things that I do and don't do.

DO

  1. Plot
  2. Write sequentially
  3. Skip sentences and paragraphs
  4. Tell your inner editor to shut up while drafting
  5. Deviate from your plot, but find a way back to it by the end
  6. Make time for your writing and guard that time fiercely
  7. Read your book out loud at least once before you let anyone else read it
  8. Keep looking for ways to improve your craft and your process

DON'T

  1. Mix editing and drafting. Fix a typo if you must, leave the rest until the draft is done
  2. Skip whole scenes. If you don't know why you need this scene, go back to your plotting
  3. Write every day if you don't feel like it
  4. Jump into a draft because you're sure you know what's going to happen, even if you haven't finished plotting
  5. Compare your progress to anyone else's
  6. Get discouraged when you realize your first (or sixth) draft is crap. Everything is fixable
  7. Start drafting something new until you've finished the first draft you're currently working on

The worst advice? Someone (Stephen King? Obama? I don't know) said that if you haven't finished your draft within six months (a year? two years? I don't know that either), then you're probably never going to finish it. This is crap. See my list above. If you want to write, commit to writing, but don't set a time limit on whether you pass or fail. The Pick Up took me two years to write the first draft. I just wrote Cold Pressed in five weeks. Neither is more or less valid. As long as your still making progress, it's all good.

Bearing Witness

rawpixel-570890-unsplash I went to a wedding this weekend.

Bride's side or groom's?

None of the above. The only person I knew was the minister, but I was the guest of honour.

It happened like this:

Friday night, said minister, who I've known for a few years, put out a call on Facebook.

I have a very small wedding tomorrow. So small that we need one more person as a witness. Let me know if you’re free at 3pm tomorrow.

And I thought, why not? The church is home to my theatre company and we had a rehearsal on Saturday at 4, so I'd be in the building anyway. And I'd just had my nails done on Friday afternoon (to celebrate sending the Cold Pressed draft to beta readers!), so I wouldn't even embarrass my mother's sensibilities by showing up to a stranger's wedding with the chipped Tiffany blue that had been there the other day.

And really, if I were getting married and for whatever reason my wedding party was so small as to be non-existent, I would want some kind soul to volunteer promptly to be my witness so that I had one less thing to worry about on my last night of unmarried bliss.

Also, because a wedding that doesn't come with all the stress of gifts and travel, and finding the perfect dress and then trying to lose five more pounds so it fits perfectly, has to be the best kind of wedding ever.

So there I was, at 3 pm, in a polka dot dress I bought last year and my grandmother's necklace with the amber beads because, even if I didn't know these people, they deserved the respect of me not showing up in my stage management uniform of jeans and jersey. And there they were, bride and groom. He wore a slim fitting navy suit with a red tie. She wore an ivory dress with a high-low lace hem. Her ivory high heels were a half size too big, but that happens sometimes. She had a big bouquet of cream coloured roses. No matter how small this wedding was, they wanted it to be special.

I shook their hands and congratulated them. They shook my hand and thanked me so much for coming, like an honoured guest.

I guess I was. If I hadn't been there, they'd have been short a witness and the marriage wouldn't have happened.

We all giggled—bride, groom, minister, photographer, me—when our assembled throng was asked if there were any objections. The good thing about having a tiny wedding is there is less baggage in the crowd.

I got a bit misty eyed, as I watched strangers promise their lives to each other. Turns out this romance novelist is a romantic. Who knew?

They signed their names. I signed mine. I am part of their story now, even just a tiny piece. A crucial one though. The guest of honour.

If a couple stands together, and says their vows, if they promise to love, cherish and obey, but no one is there to see it, are they really married?

Keeping it Real on Release Day

My book: out today!

My car: won't start :(

Funny story, one of my favourite places to write is in the customer lounge at the car dealership. It's so peaceful. There's good wi-fi, bad TV, and no one to disturb you unless you count the guy who is trying to upsell you on a cabin air filter, and that's usually pretty brief. My favourite thing to do is to write the sexy bits while I wait for an oil change. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's as close to exhibitionism as I'm comfortable getting. I wrote Kyle and Adam's first kiss at the dealership. Their first love scene too.

Today though. I did not plan to do any writing at the dealership. Or to do any writing at all. I planned to lurk on social media for all the release day feels. Then I was going to have lunch with a friend. Do a little work this afternoon. Then dinner with Mr. Temple. Huzzah! A special day.

You know what curbs many of those plans?

Having your car towed when it won't get its act together on a Monday morning.

It's not even that cold out today!

Anyway. If you've read The Pick Up, you know Kyle's van is a beast with unpredictable functionality. Maybe I'm just going for the truly authentic release day experience.

If you haven't read The Pick Up, you can get it from Riptide, or click here for the other retailers. I hope you like it.

I'll just be here, keeping it real!

The Pick Up

Another excerpt from my trip to the bank.

"How long have you been a writer?"

"Well, I mean, I think people who are writers, it's always something they've done. You know? There's always a history. Bad poetry, terrible short stories and-"

"No. It's for the computer. I have to put a start date for your job."

Oh.

What do I tell him? Is it the day I started writing The Pick Up? The day I finished it and decided it was something I might try to publish?

In the end, I gave him the date last July when I signed my contract with Riptide. I was a writer long before there was a document with terms and conditions on it that said other people thought I was a writer too.

Today though. Today will always be special. Today is the day The Pick Up is released into the world, so today is the day you all find out I'm a writer too.

I hope you read Kyle and Adam's story. I really hope you like it. I'd love to hear from you. More importantly, I hope others hear from you. This industry is so dependent on word of mouth. So if you read it (even if you don't love my guys as much as I do), leave a review. On Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or just with your book club. There's more Red Creek coming. You want people to join in the fun, don't you?

If you don't have a copy of The Pick Up yet, you can get all ebook formats and hard copies direct from Riptide, or from you favourite online retailer.

Thanks for reading!

A

Conversations with the Reading Public

giphy Things I get asked a lot:

"But why are they gay?"

Why wouldn't they be?

"Do you think they'll make it into a movie?"

Think? Not in a million years. Hope? Maybe in a million years.

"Is it like The Notebook?"

That was a new one for me. It's been fourteen (14!!!!!) years since Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams made Canadians proud and melted our hearts. In the ensuing decade and a half, its place in those same organs has faded, to the point where I had to think about that question for a minute.

Here's what happened. I've even written it out in handy scripted format so that when Hollywood comes to make my biopic, it's all set!

Setting: Allison, a romance writer on the eve of her first book's publication, goes to the bank. A young man in a suit is working the customer service desk.

Young man: Can I help you?

Allison: Yes. I need to talk to someone about some changes my accounts.

Young man: One moment. I'll find someone to help you.

Allison has a seat in a generic leather chair. Pause. A moment later, a nearly identical (but not the same) young man appears from one of the offices. He is young, probably 23, and wears the Canadian banker's Friday uniform: khakis, shirt and tie, wooly sweater.

Young man #2: Can I help you?

Allison: Yes, I need to make some changes to my accounts.

The young man #2 and Allison go to his office. She describes what he wants. He opens his computer and clicks through a number of screens.

Young man #2: What's your occupation?

Allison: I write romance novels.

Young man #2: (pause) Like 50 Shades of Grey?

Allison: Not like 50 Shades of Grey

More clicking on the keyboard.

Young man #2: Like The Notebook?

Allison: (pause) A bit like The Notebook.

Young man #2: What's your book about?

Allison: It's about people falling in love in a small town.

Young man #2: The Notebook is in a small town! In North Carolina! Have you read The Notebook? I've read all of Nicholas Spark's books!

(end scene)

Never, in my entire life, did I expect this young man wax enthusiastic over Nicholas Sparks and his oeuvre (true story: I'm a sucker for all those movies. A Walk to Remember is my catnip in every way). He'd even gotten his girlfriend to read a few! The obvious moral of this story is never judge a reader by his wooly sweater.

Also, the bonus content to this scene is almost as adorable as the original exchange.

Young man #2: (pushing a pad of post-it notes towards Allison) Can you write down the name of your book for me? I'll look it up online when I get home!

Allison: (writing down the information) That's really nice of you. I should mention that my characters are gay; I know that's not what everyone wants to read about.

Young man #2: That's amazing! My sister is gay! I'll buy her a copy!

(fin)

You guys. I might have found my dream banker.

Parth, if you're reading this, you made my morning.

If you, like my new banker, have not ordered your copy of The Pick Up, you can do that here.

All Grown Up

little girl with dad dressed in super heroes, happy loving family Yesterday, I saw a very excellent tweet that said something like "Being a grown up is expensive, and also I'm not having a very good time right now."

Something like that. I wish I'd flagged it.

Being a grown up is tough. You have to pay bills on time and do things like go to work (or stay home and write books) even when you don't want to, because being a grown up is expensive.

But two things happened today that make being a grown up worthwhile.

The first, a friend invited me to her high school as a 'guest adjudicator' for the play her students are preparing for a competitive festival. She's working on a play I have performed and directed before, and I was excited just to get to see it again. I was unprepared, though, for the flood of old anxieties that bombarded me as I walked through the front doors of her school. It's been a long time since I was in high school, and still, all those weird awkward feelings are there.

And yet, when we walked into the auditorium, she introduced me, and people thanked me for being there. The kids did their show, and then they sat, with rapt attention, to hear what I (me!) had to say. "But what else could we do to make it better?"

It's always flattering when people ask your opinion and take it to heart. But somehow, being in a place that brought back so many old and anxious memories made it all the more special. Being a grown up means people believe you know what you're talking about, even when you're not sure you do.

It was a nice moment.

The other thing though.

The thing that made being a grown up pretty cool today?

Well it's just gravy.

Actually, by gravy standards, it's pretty expensive. By most other counts, it's not much.

But.

You guys :)

I got my first royalty cheque today.

I am a Professional Author.

And okay, yes, the cheque was for $45. And yes, of the copies sold so far, 10 were purchased by mom. But still, there is a cheque, made out to me, that says people (and not just my mom) have bought something that I made.

Being a grown up is expensive, and $45 doesn't go very far, but today I'm having a pretty good time.

Also, if you want to make my next royalty cheque even more exciting, The Pick Up is out in 10 days! Honestly though, the best part of it is people reading the story. Single dad, grumpy teacher, nosey families. What could go wrong? Pre-orders are still available through Riptide, and will be available on the other online retailers soon!

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