I’m starting a feature here called “The Wee Things,” where I and other authors will spotlight specific objects in our books, talk about their origins, and what they mean to us and to our characters. Fun stuff!
In Play It Safe, Liam and Fergus are shopping in the Barras market when they come upon a toy merchant selling rubber duckies that light up when you put them in water.
Liam stopped in his tracks in front of a toy seller. “Rabbie used to love these.” He darted over to a small tub filled with floating rubber duckies. Two of them were blinking lights of every color.
Fergus was confused for a moment. Liam had so many younger siblings, it was hard to keep track of their names. “Our Rabbie? As in McKenzie?”
“My Rabbie,” Liam said with a growl. “You know he hates anyone else calling him that.”
Play It Safe, Chapter 2
The duckies feature in two scenes in Playing With Fire, including a very touching–literally and figuratively–scene near the end.
They undressed in silence, fingers trembling on buttons, buckles, and zippers. As his last bit of clothes hit the floor, Liam said a silent thank-you that Robert’s flat was well-heated.
He paused for a moment at the foot of the bed, taking in the sight of his naked boyfriend, as the rubber ducks’ lights flashed every color over Robert’s smooth chest and abs.
Playing With Fire, Chapter 30
So to celebrate last week’s release of Play Hard, I filmed my own two disco ducklings dancing to “Play Hard” by David Guetta featuring Ne-Yo and Akon. (Warning: video contains flashing lights)
The music choice is rather fitting, and not just because of the title. Another David Guetta song, “Dangerous,” features prominently in Playing With Fire (I won’t reveal how, because it’s too big of a spoiler).
I still remember buying the rubber duckies in a shop in New Jersey many years ago. My family thought it weird that an adult would want such toys, but I was captivated by the blinking lights. Every once in a while I still activate them (they’ve got nodes on their undersides to make them blink) just for the sheer joy of it.
To find out how Robert’s obsession with rubber duckies began (maybe), check out this interview at Gay Book Reviews. Liam spins quite a yarn about it!
Check out author RJ Scott’s blog for a spotlight feature on this exciting subgenre! Play Hard is featured alongside books by some of my favorite authors, including Amy Jo Cousins, Sarina Bowen, and Jay Northcote.
Plus you can enter to win an ebook of Changing Lines, the first in Scott’s fantastic Harrisburg Railers m/m hockey romance series with V.L. Locey!
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for Robert and Liam through Facebook, especially the Glasgow Lads readers group, the Rainbow Regiment. Their interview (and a giveaway) is now up at Gay Book Reviews! I think you’ll especially like the story of how Robert’s obsession with rubber duckies began.
While you’re there, don’t forget enter to win a four-book Glasgow Lads bundle ebook!
I wrote a guest blog post for Play Hard‘s release day over at Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews. It’s basically my silly/cynical reaction to the whole notion of workaholism. Check out the post, take my quiz and enter to win a four-book Glasgow Lads bundle ebook!
One of Play Hard’s taglines is, “The feel-good, staying-in-love story the world needs right now.” But it’s also the feel-good, staying-in-love story I needed when I wrote it.
Rewind to January of this year, if you can bear it. That month is always dark and gloomy, but January 2019 was extra dreadful. The US government was shut down, with no end to the impasse in sight. The UK government and its Parliament were battling it out over Brexit—again with no end to the impasse in sight.
My refuge from the daily drumbeat of despair was Play Hard: a purely fun, minimum-angst, maximum-sex novella.
Upon returning to the bedroom, Liam found Robert sitting up with his laptop, once again fully dressed—minus the gloves and knit cap. “Are you rating our bonk on Sex Yelp?” “Aye, five stars,” Robert said without looking up. “Action-packed, a howling good time, literally.” Liam had long ago stopped protesting he didn’t howl during sex, after witnessing video evidence to the contrary.
Play Hard, Chapter 1
Play Hard is a bit of departure from most Glasgow Lads books, in that it has very little sociopolitical content (apart from the usual LGBTQ awareness), and the characters aren’t dealing with trauma, mental illness, or other major life-quaking challenges. As a bonus: no terrorists! After the three-year odyssey of writing and rewriting Playing in the Dark, I needed a book that was a wee bit easier on the psyche*.
I figured it wouldn’t last. I figured it would go something like this:
Me, Week 1: Play Hard is going to be sex and fun and more sex and more fun!
Me, Week 2: But also maybe with a family of refugees who need a home for themselves and their three-legged dog, and it turns out that Liam’s long-lost deadbeat father became a mercenary who burned down the refugees’ village; and then Robert, whose heart is touched by their plight, decides to give up making video games and instead develop an app which safely detects land mines from a distance.
Me, Week 3: Note to self: Learn Arabic and also British Sign Language because one of the refugee kids is deaf.
But somehow that didn’t happen. Somehow I overcame both the January blues and my natural tendency to complicate things. I wrote the first draft in about a month, which is a record for a novella to pop out of my snail brain. My beta readers and copyeditor had some minor adjustments, which I made promptly and without heartburn.
So I want to thank Liam and Robert for cooperating like no characters have cooperated before and probably never will do again. You made me happy when I needed it most, and I think you’re going to do the same for a lot of readers.
*PS: If you’ve not read Playing in the Dark, don’t let my pain in writing it deter you—it’s the book I’m most proud of and might be the best one yet.
To kick off this regular-ish feature, I had to start with breakfast, the most important meals of the day (yes, meals plural—I’m a solid fan of second breakfast and sometimes even elevensies depending on the timing).
Since I’ve been focusing on Playing With Fire this week (Play Hard comes out Tuesday!), I thought I’d feature the invention that strikes awe into Robert and Liam after their night at the hotel: the Popcake machine! I first saw one at the Glasgow Hilton and immediately thought what later became Robert’s line: “If I owned one of these, I’d never leave the house.”
I mean, you push a button AND A PANCAKE COMES OUT. Halle-freaking-lujah!
Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s how I feel about the Popcake.
I needed a laugh today, so I recorded Liam’s text-to-speech alarm from Playing With Fire, the one he uses on a Thursday when he has to wake at Fuck My Life O’Clock to go running with Fergus.
Contains profanity (beginning around 0:09), so use earphones if you’re at work. And be sure to play all the way to the end!
To make this video, I used an Android app called Gentle Alarm, which features a text-to-speech (TTS) option for both the initial alarm and the dismissal. Then I changed the date and time to match those in the book. Finally I used the AZ Screen Recorder app to capture everything that happened on the screen. The whole process took about half an hour, probably the most productive and happy-making 30 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. 😄
If you can’t listen to the video, the TTS readout–in a robot lady’s voice–says:
“It is Thursday which means it’s time to get the fuck out of bed and go running with Fergus he’s your best gay mate and really fucking important to you and anyway you didn’t work last night so you’ve no reason to be tired.”
Playing With Fire, Chapter 17
Then, after Liam shuts it off, she says:
“Did you not hear me say it’s Thursday don’t let Fergus down, you fanny.”
Thanks to all the lovely bloggers who took part in last week’s cover reveal for Play Hard (coming April 23), and an even bigger thanks to Signal Boost Promotions for organizing it. For those who missed the official reveal, here’s the cover! What do you think?
I’ve never been one for faces on covers, as a writer or a reader, but I told my cover artist (at the amazing Damonza) to try a draft with faces just to see what they came up with. And when I saw it…well, I got something in my eye. The artist managed to find a photo that perfectly captured both Robert and Liam as well as the spirit of the book: loving, playful, sexy.
The artist also sent me fonts and images used to build the cover art, and I was pleased to discover that the original photo featured a same-sex couple. Often on M/M romance covers, the artist takes two separate models and places them together. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that method if it looks convincing. But I love that there are more same-sex couples available on stock photo sites, and I’m proud that Play Hard features one of them.
For a chance to win one of 5 Advance Review Copies of Play Hard, simply share my Facebook post, retweet my cover tweet, or post the cover to your Instagram. For every social-media platform you get one entry (i.e., once each on Facebook and Twitter gets 2 entries), but only ONE entry per platform (no spamming followers with multiple shares).
Giveaway open internationally.
Entries close 11:59pm EDT Sunday, April 14.
Drawings will be performed using a random number generator.
All entries from every social-media platform will go into one pool.
Technically Oliver Doyle is not on Team Riley–in fact, he coaches their arch-rivals, Team Boyd, skipped by Luca’s brother-in-law. But he’s one of the main characters, so I couldn’t leave him out.
Also, Oliver is very special to me, because we were both diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as adults, and despite life being better since we sought treatment, we both still struggle immensely.
For instance, this post is a couple days late because a) it was the last one, and completing projects is very difficult for ADHDers and b) I knew it was the most important because I would be discussing the disorder, and the more important a task is, the more we procrastinate, until it becomes THIS HUGE THING.
So I’m making it not a huge thing by just getting it out and letting it be imperfect. Progress, yay!
Here Oliver explains to Luca why, when the athletic anti-doping agency turned down his Therapeutic Use Exemption for prescription stimulants, he never got round to appealing it, even though it meant risking his career:
“You can’t possibly fathom how anyone could put off something so important day after day after day after day.”
“I can fathom it. Everyone procrastinates. Usually it means there’s some sort of block or fear about that task.” Luca gave Oliver’s shoulder a soft tap. “Maybe deep down you didn’t want to curl anymore. Maybe it was taking over your life. Maybe this was your way of getting out without having to quit.”
Oliver knew his meds were all that kept him from kicking the boat wall in frustration. He’d hoped Luca would magically understand. But like everyone else, he needed Oliver’s help.
“Maybe that’s why most people procrastinate. But for us, it’s not so complex.” Oliver took a deep breath, preparing to feel ridiculous. “The appeals process had so many steps. Every one of them was tedious or frustrating or both. I’d get up every day and tell myself, ‘Just start the process. Just start.’ But I couldn’t see the start. All I could see was the entire journey.” Oliver shifted his feet apart, bracing them on the rolling deck. “I know this sounds insane, but the thought of filling out that paperwork and making those phone calls felt like a spike through my skull. Just imagining it made me want to take a nap, or have a drink, or play a video game. Anything to dull the dread.” Oliver gave a bitter laugh. “People asked me, ‘Didn’t you think about your future?’ as if the future was something I could clearly picture. As if the future was something that mattered.”
Throwing Stones, Chapter 6
As Oliver explains, an ADHD brain doesn’t experience time the way neurotypical brains experience it.
“The thing is, stimulants don’t fix ADHD any more than insulin fixes diabetes. They just manage it so we can live better lives. I can’t remember the last time I flew into a rage or wasted an entire day surfing the internet. But meds haven’t cured my inability to see the distant future as a real thing.”
“Hm.” Luca rubbed his dark stubble, which was becoming a pretty decent beard, Oliver had noticed. “So what you’re saying is, the way your brain is built keeps you from seeing the consequences of your actions?”
“Sometimes, yeah. People call it time-blindness, but it’s more time-nearsightedness…I can move mountains on a tight deadline or in a crisis—all that adrenaline helps me focus. But the agency gave me ninety days, which was like an eternity. It might as well have been stamped ‘Due Never.’”
“That makes sense, because tight deadlines are close to you, so you can still see them. Like some people are so shortsighted, they can only read the giant E on the eye chart, but nothing below it.” Luca’s eyes popped wide. “So your meds are like contact lenses for your brain?”
“Yes! Exactly!” Oliver wanted to hug him. “I still can’t see all of the chart. The teeny letters at the bottom will always be fuzzy. But now I can read most of it, and that feeling is…” He rubbed the back of his neck as he searched for the word. “Miraculous.”
“Wow.” Luca regarded him for a long moment. “I’m happy for you.”
Throwing Stones, Chapter 6
If this sounds like you, I suggest checking out one of these useful resources:
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to learn how to manage this condition that can result in so many difficulties, including secondary anxiety and depression, accidents, financial troubles, and damaged relationships. There’s no cure for ADHD, so we’ll never be “normal”–luckily we don’t place a high value on normalcy, so that’s okay–but with treatment we can reach a place where every day isn’t a blindfolded walk through quicksand.
Phew, wrote a whole blog post and now my brain needs a nap.*