Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Nana Through the Looking Glass
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"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Seb's story is unpublished, but it's going to be, someday.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.

We Can Be Heroes
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Tomorrow is tomato sauce day. In honour of that proud tradition, here's a post from my non-author blog about the time the tomatoes nearly killed us!

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No Singing!
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My most memorable experience?

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

Here's the set up:

18-year-old Allison is on a trip to Chicago with her parents. It's a graduation trip, as Allison has just finished her last year of high school. It is also a birthday trip, because it's June and...

Okay, talking about myself in the third person is weird.

We're in Chicago. We go out for dinner. We have always been food people, and my parents decided early on that traveling with children was no reason to avoid restaurants with a decent wine list. So by the time I'm 18, I know what the deal is in fancy restaurants, and this one is Fancy (years later I would learn it was a favourite of the Obamas when they lived in Chicago). It must be a weeknight, because the restaurant is pretty empty. Just the touristy Temple family and a few groups of gentleman in suits. They may be businessmen, they may be mafia dons. It is unclear, and we don't ask.

Dinner is memorable all on its own. It's Italian, but there isn't a baked lasagne for miles. No fettuccine, no ravioli. None of the pastas have names I recognize. I don't remember what I ordered. I remember my mother telling the server it was my birthday, and she nearly let me order a glass of wine before her American sensibilities (21?? Are you kidding me? You can vote and buy porn but you can't drink??) got the best of her.

But what I remember mostly clearly is dessert. It is my birthday after all. Actually, I just remember them bringing it out, not even what it was. It had a sparkler on it, and Happy Birthday scrawled in chocolate at the edge of the plate. And as she set this creation in front of me, my dad looked up at her with excited eyes and said

"Do you sing Happy Birthday too?"

Like this was Kelsey's or TGI Fridays.

And the server, who is used to giving her customers the best dining experience possible, but also doesn't want to upset the dons in the corner by turning this place into a chain restaurant for the sake of a nearly 19-year-old Canadian tourist says

"Well...we don't really do that here but...I guess we could hum?"

So we did. Mom, Dad, and server. Dad looked so pleased. The mafia dons probably wondered what twilight zone they had stepped into.

And that is the story of how I had Happy Birthday hummed to me in a swanky Chicago eatery that would someday be a favourite of the ambitious junior Senator who would become president.

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)!

The Love Letter
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My Most Romantic Memory

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

It's late. I'm exhausted. That bone deep exhaustion from too many days at work in an environment that doesn't do anything for your physical and mental health. That gnawing grind that comes from feeling like you have to do everything by yourself. That corrosive weight that eats at your insides when someone has let you down again, even when you knew that would, but hoped they wouldn't.

I'm on the phone with Mr. Temple, except he wasn't Mr. Temple then. He was just my boyfriend. But he called me...or I called him. It's 10 pm. I'm home alone. He's just getting off work.

I'm crying. That hiccupping snot mess that kids have a knack for but that adults teach themselves not to do. I don't care anymore. I can't do this anymore, this adulting thing. There are too many demands.

"I'm exhausted and hungry, and I have to go to bed, because I have to be up in seven hours and I haven't even had time to go to the groceries this week, so there isn't any food for me to eat, even if I had time to eat it."

He listens. Later, I found out he was sitting on a bench, outside his office, in the dark, watching the busses that would have taken him home roll by.

Eventually he tells me to go to sleep, that there's nothing we can do to make it better tonight. He tells me he'll come by after work tomorrow and we can watch a movie and just chill. It's cold comfort, but I know it's the best he can offer.

I sleep. Go to work. It's all a bit numb, but it's all okay because at the end of it, I will go home and Mr. Temple will be there and we can forget about the outside world.

I get home. The apartment is empty, but the smell is different. Warm. On my dining room table is a note.

Allison,

something came up and I can't stay. I'm so sorry. I hope you had a good day. I went to the store and bought you some food. It's put away in the cupboards. Also, there is a pizza staying warm in the oven. Buffalo chicken, your favourite. I hope you like it. 

See you this weekend,

Mr. T.

I cry a little more. The pizza is warm and tasty. The cupboards are full of Triscuits and other things that will stay good for a long time. They look delicious. The nicest crackers anyone has ever bought for me.

The note is still in my nightstand. It's the best love letter I've ever received.

Who are You?
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Work Up Character/Setting Profiles?

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

So on the one hand, I like to think of myself as an organized writer. I'm definitely a plotter. I love The Writer's Journey and Romancing the Beat. I don't start writing until I have a synopsis that breaks down what's going to happen in every scene from beginning to end.

On the other hand, I am not that meticulous about my characters, and especially about my settings. I build Pinterest boards for each book with visual inspiration (this is mostly an excuse to search for pictures of hot guys, sue me). I write character sketches and setting descriptions while I'm plotting, and then promptly never refer to them again, unlike that synopsis I mentioned, which I check in on at the start of every scene.

Last year, I found these great character questions from Mia Hopkins, and they are super useful when building character sketches (even ones you never look at again).

I say I hate you because… But I really love you because… The thing I dread most is… Because I crave… But you provide a better substitute, which is…

These are really helpful, because they make you think about your character's behaviour, rather than just the things that happen to them. So often, I see new writers put together character sketches that are just a list of facts, rather than a discussion of who their characters are. Things like what their job is, who their friends and siblings are, the tragic thing that happened to them when they were five years old. These are good, but providing the emotional context is better.

Oliver is a lawyer. He has worked for the firm for 10 years. He is a workaholic.

Oliver is a lawyer. He prides himself on putting in his best effort at everything, including his job, where he has worked for the last 10 years. This pride has taken a wrong turn somewhere, because now he feels he can't leave the office before 10 pm, otherwise people will think he's slacking. He's worried about looking less dedicated to his job than his colleagues, even though he has more case wins under his belt than anyone else at his level.

See how much richer that is? Even if I never refer to it again, it's building a more detailed character in my head, which let's me jump into my story faster.

How do you build your characters?

All of the Above?
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What genre do you like to read and write?

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

I'm not fussy...there is very little in romance that is a hard no for me. I'm not a huge BDSM fan, and I don't really get MPREG, but if someone pressed their favourite BDSM MPREG into my hands and told me my life would be incomplete until I'd read it, I'd probably try it.

I find contemporary romance easiest to write. It gives me familiar settings and really lets me dig into the characters to find out what makes them tick. I'd love to write romantic suspense, but I'd need to do a ton of work on plotting big external plots and also on law enforcement...spies...terrorists...you get the idea.

My TBR pile is giant and varied though. Books I've read most recently include:

So yeah. It's all pretty gay. But otherwise, there's pretty well the whole shebang in there. Better find a couple historical romances to balance it all out.

What do you love to read or write?

Worst. Review. Ever.
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What I learned from my worst review

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

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

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

Don't. Read. Reviews.

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

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

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

Step away from the reviews.

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.

Submitted!
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How do you celebrate completing a manuscript?

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

Ce-le-brate?

Is that a thing I'm supposed to do?

Look, the challenge of novel writing is you can tweak FOREVER, so I call foul on this question, because complete implies...well...completion.

When I finish a draft I...do nothing. In fact I usually go into a funk for a week or two. I should be plotting something new, but usually I just stare mournfully at the computer screen.

When I submit a manuscript to my agent and publisher I...start the next story, because not having a new story to work on makes me twitchy.

When I hit a major milestone, like my agency and publisher contracts last year, or when The Pick Up was published this year I...spend money on something frivolous but still wildly practical. Like new rubber boots! Or a laptop (confession: the old laptop was taking bi-weekly trips to the Genius Bar. It was time). And Mr. Temple takes me out for dinner, ideally one that involves much wine.

But seriously, celebrate the little things. The milestones. My local RWA chapter gives out chocolate to members who have recently completed a chapter or scene, or those who have submitted a manuscript and been rejected! Celebrate the steps, because the milestones can be a long time in coming.