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.
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.
Seventy per cent of autistic adults say that they are not getting the help they need from social services. Seventy per cent of autistic adults also told us that with more support they would feel less isolated.
A Childhood Toy
I’m thrilled to be taking part in RJ Scott’s annual Autism Awareness Blog Hop event. Check out the full list of posts and join the hop!
Once I realized this post would be going up on April 24, one day after the release of Play Hard, starring a video-game developer, I knew I had to talk about video games, a childhood love I’ve only recently welcomed back into my life.
Our first console was the Coleco Telstar and its classic “Pong” games–including handball, which, glory of glories, could be played alone (an important feature for a kid whose brother and sister were 8 and 10 years older and therefore actually had homework).
(Yes, I am totally dating myself by discussing these things. If I wanted to hide how old I was, I’d claim I played with nothing but crayons and paper (they still make paper, right?).)
Then, of course, came the Atari 2600:
And finally the Nintendo Entertainment System:
Honestly, I don’t know why my parents kept buying more video games, because the games clearly interfered with my ability to hear their voices. Maybe it was because they liked them too! In fact, when I was a teenager, playing video games with my dad was the only time we stopped arguing. 😀
But then…I went to university and put away childish things. For several years a darkness fell upon the earth, when video games seemed a fad of the past. Now we had the internet–why play silly games when you could participate in usenet chats and ooooooh…visit all the new web pages?
Then in 2015 I wrote Playing With Fireand decided to make one of the main characters a video-game designer. This required learning about the latest developments in the industry and watching play-throughs on YouTube. (I spent 8 hours watching a dude play Dragon Age: Inquisition just so I could write a single scene, but that scene was SOLID.)
Now video games have sucked me back in. I’m fascinated. All the limitations that frustrated me about classic games (“Why can’t I drive OFF the road? I want to see what’s over there!”) have vanished, and video-game creation is as much a creative endeavor as films, paintings, or novels.
To win your choice of ebook from my backlist, leave a comment about your favorite video game, past or present. OR, if you’re not into video games, tell me one toy or game you’ve rediscovered as an adult, something that brings you the sort of joy you thought was left behind in childhood.
Entries are open until 11:59pm Tuesday, April 30. Please leave a way to contact you (email, social media link, etc) in your comment.
And be sure to check out my new release, Play Hard! It’s the feel-good, staying-in-love story the world needs right now. See yesterday’s release post for more details, including an excerpt and links to more giveaways!
I’m thrilled to kick off this blog by announcing the release date for Play Hard, Liam and Robert’s “happier-ever-after” followup novella: Tuesday, April 23!
I had LOADS of fun writing it, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it as well. I think it’s the sort of feel-good book we all need during these crazy, confusing times.
Here’s the description:
“I’ll always want more of you.”
Robert McKenzie lives to work. He’s fresh out of university as a video-game entrepreneur, and his new app could actually save lives. But burning the candle at both ends means missing out on the best parts of his own life—including his boyfriend, Liam.
Liam Carroll works to live. His job as a bartender pays the rent—if not always the heating bill—and that’s plenty for now. But Robert’s workaholism reminds Liam his own life is going nowhere, and his own dreams are scaring the pants off him.
To jolt them out of their ruts, Robert invents a new game: He and Liam are to take turns offering each other sexy new challenges with irresistible rewards.
Of course, Robert gets more than he bargained for, as Liam takes their game in one surprising direction after another. Whether it’s in the bedroom, on the football pitch, or at the pub (or even the supermarket?), the things they learn about each other—and themselves—could change their lives forever.
And here is a fake cover I made in January for an Instagram challenge. The real cover will be revealed next week, but this one also captures the spirit of Play Hard.
Here are a few notes, but feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me some other way:
Play Hard features the main characters from Playing With Fire (Liam and Robert) and takes place about a year after that novel ends. You don’t strictly have to have read PWF to enjoy PH, but it helps.
There will be a first-come-first-served ARC giveaway. I will simultaneously alert my newsletter and Facebook group, so join one or both of those to have a chance at an ARC for this book or the next.
Like the rest of the Glasgow Lads series*, Play Hard will be available to borrow on Kindle Unlimited, which means it will be exclusively released on Amazon.
I will put Play Hard up for preorder on Amazon a few days in advance to make sure it drops on the proper date.
*The only book not in Kindle Unlimited is the prequel novella, Play On, which you can get for free by subscribing to my quarterly-ish newsletter. Subscribers also get an annotated version of Play On, with loads of behind-the-scenes insights such as pics of settings, characters, and props, as well as a few snarky asides.