Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged the pick up
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.

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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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 :)

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.
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.

If You Liked The Pick Up...

Presenting Where's Waldo...Kyle Edition! img_0026

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Today is The Pick Up's one month anniversary! Hearing from those of you who read and loved Kyle and Adam's story was one of the best feelings ever! And then you asked when there would be more stories and...well...it's complicated. The Hook Up (a prequel short about how Kyle met Olivia) is out now, and I've got another short planned a few months from now. But, for reasons, the date of the next novel is TBD.

In the meantime, I'd like to make some recommendations. We started talking in my Facebook group this week about covers and stock photos. I like to think that The Pick Up's cover is distinctly cute but the fact remains that that smiley dude is a stock photo model and you can find him having all kinds of adventures over on DepositPhoto. My particular favourites are the ones where he can't figure out laundry, and where he makes an especially dorky face in the mirror, because spinach in your teeth is never cool.

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But even weirder than seeing Kyle in the controlled realm of stock photos is seeing him on other people's covers. He's everywhere! Literally everywhere. The Pick Up is one of seven covers I've found in the last six months with Mr. Smiley on the cover. And that's just in m/m romance! God only knows what he's up to in the heterosexual world!

So while you're waiting for my further novel-length adventures, here are six novels that feature the same guy on the cover. If you liked The Pick Up, maybe you'll like the continued antics of Smiley Stock Photo Guy! He is perpetually adorable, although I have to admit the maternal writer in me wants to tell him to put on a shirt sometimes.

Kyle Covers

Buy links are here:

The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores, book 6) by Rosalind Abel Something New (Something About Him, book 1) by Sean Ashcroft Champagne Kiss (Rose Falls, book 3) by Raleigh Ruebins Heart of Glass (Lawyers in Love, book 3) by Ari McKay Rock a Bye (Cray's Quarry, book 1) by Rachel Kane Blaze (A Masterson Novel, book 1) by Avery Ford

If you find SSPG anywhere else, maybe leave a comment so we can continue to expand our libraries? Good book recs are always appreciated.

Happy reading!

The Hook Up

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

 

Okay folks, Mondays are hard, so how about a freebie?

The most common thing I saw in reviews for The Pick Up was that people wanted to know more about Kyle's history with Olivia.

Fortunately, I wrote a short story about that very thing! Here's the night that Kyle met Olivia.

Remember the fights? The lost phone? It's all there. But also, there's karaoke! Ice sculptures! Revenge via veggie fries!

Don't worry though, if you haven't read The Pick Up (although you totally should anyway), The Hook Up stands on its own.

And did I mention it's free?

And available right now?

All you have to do is clicky click on the link and grab a copy!

Happy reading!

PS, I've got more Red Creek shorts planned for later this year. Members of my Facebook group always get them first. Join us if that's a thing that sounds like fun!

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.

On The Eve of Release

calendar-2763496_1280 The Pick Up is out in less than 72 hours (less than 24 if you preordered). Because I'm a typical author with typical insecurities, I've spent most of the last nine months being at least 50% sure that this is all an elaborate practical joke. A long con by people I've never met. I'm told the imposter syndrome makes me a Real Writer.

At this point though, I think I have to accept that this is actually going to happen.

There have been a lot of things that have surprised me about this process. The big one is how fast it happened. I'm one of the lucky ones who sold her first book quickly, with minimum angst and gnashing of teeth. I even got a bonus which is there are two more books coming, and I didn't have to query either! Undoubtedly, there will be some speed bumps and roadblocks ahead, and I will still be mostly languishing in obscurity this time next year, but it's been a fun ride so far!

But there have been a lot of other things, the ones you never picture when you sit down at your keyboard and think to yourself 'I'm going to write a book!' Someday I'm going to write about them, but here's the short list.

First and foremost, I've learned that editors are wizards. My editor Caz has this preternatural ability to see the little things in my manuscript, the hiccups in language and plot that I was never going to find. They have all made my story better. Also, she has this amazing precognition of when is the most inconvenient time to send me revisions. Nobody's perfect, I guess. Caz says she's still waiting for her Hogwarts letter, but I am confident it is only a matter of time.

Also, I've met some pretty amazing people. Online and in person. Writing is lonely, and even though I am a staunch introvert, I've made some amazing connections over the course of the last few years. Shaunta Grimes and the Ninja Writers, Firefly Creative Writing, the Toronto Romance Writers. And there's all of Writer!Twitter; so big and numerous I can't begin to name them all.

And I've done some pretty cool things. Last fall, I found myself wearing a vintage riding skirt, gingham shirt, authentic Australian cowboy hat, and a dollar store moustache. What was I doing? Waiting in line to buy a beer at GRL (I'm a Supporting Author this year, come see me!). They definitely don't tell you about the dollar store moustache when you write your first book.

There are other things. Unpleasant things. Reviews that weren't glowing. Taglines. Don't get me started on taglines. Has anyone ever been truly satisfied with the tagline for their book? Still for every awkward tagline and grumpy review, there's a tweet or a text from someone who liked the book, or at least likes me enough to be kind!

It's been quite the adventure. Monday is going to be fun! And then . . .

I might have an exciting update early next week! Tune in, same bat time, same bat channel!

Thanks for reading,

A

 

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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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