It's apparently June, which is simply ridiculous because last time I checked it was March 2020 and I was debating buying tickets to the upcoming Bruins game. Spoiler alert: it was cancelled.
Emerging into the world again, fully vaccinated with my family and friends healthy and more or less in one piece feels like... well, it feels like everything else everyone has been saying. Painful, grateful, surprising, horrifying - all of it, all at once. And despite the chaos and sorrow and hope of the past year, life somehow continued onwards as the months ticked past. I defended my dissertation and received my doctorate. We adopted three cats and said goodbye to our 16 year old puppy. I spent many, many days hiking and camping, lucky enough to live in a part of the world where that was a possibility. I spent far more days clicking through news articles in fear and dread and occasionally a faint brush of optimism. We cooked a lot, ate a lot, spent so much wonderful time with our dogs, lost sleep over worrying about the world, protested, called our senators, representatives, and governor, and were thankful that our little family of two (plus aforementioned cats, dogs, our resident hummingbird Susannah and other miscellany of our household menagerie) is as strong and loving and amazing as it is. A long-ago coworker once gave some pretty important advice on choosing a partner: she said life only gets harder as it goes on, so make sure you're with someone who'll go through everything that is to come standing by your side. Well, I like to think that the husband and I chose well, since after months of being trapped at home, we're still having fun, laughing, and continuing to narrate all of our pets thoughts and conversations.
This year has also been full of writing. Very full. Full to brimming, especially last fall when I was putting out The Place Between while going through the final revisions of my dissertation. My account on 4 the Words was half filled with word smithing my analysis of various theorists' papers as applied to my own research and the other half was Ned making hearteyes at Abbot. And since that final zoom call with my committee chair? It's just been those hearteyes. And hand holding. And forehead kisses and spooning and teasing-or-is-it-fighting-or-is-it-flirting.
With all that work done, Cooper and Whit heading towards a bookshelf near you this summer as I get closer and closer to publishing Cattle Stop. I cannot wait for you all to meet them, since they've been kicking around my laptop and my brain for years now. A combination of 'whoops we kissed' with good old fashioned 'they were roommates' and a sprinkle of 'enemies to lovers' topped with 'found family' and it's just *chef's kiss* amazing if I do say so myself.
In more writing news, Cooper and Whit's supporting cast of side characters just so happen to also be crushing on each other. What's that? They're - oh, they're in love? They're best friends who have secretly been in love for years? What????? Set six months after the end of Cattle Stop, While the Sun Shines picks up with Cooper and Whit's new relationship and Drew and Penny coming head to head with their feelings and the difficulty of making a life that fits each other. It's also going to mean either changing my website header to include m/f romance titles or just ignoring that small tweak, since most of my future books remain m/m. Either way, it's still a queer romance novel so heck yeah to pride month and the joy that is writing these goofballs falling in love with each other.
With Cattle Stop and While the Sun Shines in the publishing queue, the next chapter of my life is figuring out what writing looks like when I don't have a dissertation to drag around like a 100 pound brick ruining my life. Both Cattle Stop and While the Sun Shines were the final projects I was working on in tandem with my doctorate, so everything that comes next will happily, delightfully, and wonderfully be written out from under the shadow of the poor life choice that was academia. What will it be like to work on projects freely and unencumbered? Who knows! But I'm excited to find out.
In the line up is: a short sequel to Another Shot, in which Cal and Tim talk about coffee and try to play it cool. Second spoiler alert: they fail. The two large projects on the horizon are finally starting my NHL series where I pretend it's definitely, absolutely, entirely reasonable that the whole team would be dating each other, one after the next as the books and sequels pile up. What is that? An over stretched premise just so I can have fun writing about the joy that is ice hockey with a side of kissing? Yes, that's exactly what it is. The second novel I'm gearing up for is Princess Diaries meets modern DNA tests meets [checks notes] Cattle Stop. That's right, I'm fully reusing all the research I did on small farms for yet another book because hey, once you earn your PhD you're exempt from ever having to try hard again.
I'm actually not kidding about that. Very soon into my doctorate program, I saw the life waiting for me down the long road of academia and said a loud and enthusiastic no fucking thank you. Trying to write romance novels professionally is delightfully antithetical to the career I could have had. Sure, there are similarities in relying on my writing skills, the endurance of long hours in front of a computer tapping away at a keyboard, and the churn churn churn of work with very little to show since projects are long enough the end doesn't come into sight until well past the point of wanting to just throw in the towel. But apart from some of the stubbornness both paths require, writing books allows me the freedom to say: I've worked as hard on this project as I want to, and now it's done. There's no second reviewer, there's no defending my argument, and there's no committee to prove myself to. Sure, there's the difficulties of marketing, of finding and retaining you lovely readers, and there's always the chance of publishing a complete flop, but at least all that work resides more firmly in my hands than it would have otherwise.
As such (a phrase I used perhaps slightly too many times in my dissertation), I can write my Princess Diaries/DNA test/Cattle Stop mash-up with all the delight and enthusiasm this story brings to my life. This is even despite the fact I'm getting a nagging feeling I should change the title since, as I discovered the first time I spoke it aloud when excitedly describing the premise to my husband, I realized it doesn't actually rhyme: Royal Crowns and Horse Drawn Plows. In my head, Crowns and Plows sound exactly the same, so I either don't know how to read or don't know how to speak or, more probably, got so excited to use this title that I never really thought it through.
But oh well! Perfectionism got me my BA, my masters, my doctorate, and severe anxiety. I'm trying a new thing called 'not caring as much' or maybe more accurately: focusing on having fun and chasing after self-fulfillment and happiness over the platonic ideal of flawlessness. Good luck to me, because (in the spirit of the newly released Friends reunion) could I BE any worse at relaxing?
At least it's summer, and if there's ever a time to practice those skills, it's now. I've got several backpacking trips on my calendar, so many day hikes planned, and I'm already counting down the days until the local rink puts the ice back in so I can start playing hockey again. I'm also looking forward to Camp Nano in July, when I'll be trying to pound out the first draft of RC&HDP, and of course at some point this summer sharing Cattle Stop with you all. For those who want an early taste, check out this tweet because I swear it was posted by Cooper himself.
I'll be putting out the call for ARC readers soon, so make sure you're signed up for my mailing list if you're interested in getting an early copy of Cattle Stop! You'll get a copy of Another Shot to enjoy in the meantime, and all it takes is just putting in your email address on my homepage here.
I hope you're all gearing up for a great summer and are recovering from this past year. Come hang out with me on Twitter (which I use the most) or Instagram and keep an eye out for news on the publication date for Cattle Stop! Happy summer, happy pride - and go Bruins!