The Wee Things kickoff: Robert’s rubber duckies

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

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!

Interview with the Lads: Liam & Robert

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!

Play Hard: A triumph of fun over real-world rubbish

It’s release day for Play Hard! I’m here today to share the story behind the story. But first, the essentials:

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.

Book promo graphic. Text: "I'll always want more of you." and "Liam & Robert return! Book cover features two young men snuggling on a tartan duvet, plus title “Play Hard: A Glasgow Lads Novella by Avery Cockburn"
I love this cover. Thanks, Damonza!

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.

Foodie Friday: Popcakes!

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.

The porn-tastic music accompanying this video feels so appropriate somehow.

Liam’s Alarming Alarm

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.”

Playing With Fire, Chapter 17