First Page Critique: Hauntings and Prophecies

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Welcome to our first-page critiques! These critiques are meant to give insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because it’s only about 800 words, 2 pages at the most, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than a couple of pages!

It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically to be critiqued on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions for this purpose. We’re not going to pull your piece out of our submissions inbox and critique it, so no need to worry about that!

The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open soon, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for more.

This month’s editor providing critique is Carina Press Freelance Editor Kate Marope.

The First Page

Author A described this manuscript as a paranormal romance where “Holly and Callum are hired as a team to clear a haunting in the ancestral home of the mysterious Mr. Western and they unearth a blood-soaked connection between the Western family’s fortunes and the witch hunts of the 1600s.”

Holly jumped as her alarm jangled to life startling her with its annoying buzz. What the hell? How is it time to get up? It felt like only a minute since she’d crawled into bed. She fumbled for her phone, shutting off the offending noise and squinting angrily at the sunlight peeking through her curtains. It’d been a long, hard night and Holly was exhausted, physically and mentally. The spirit she’d been hired to clear was vicious and fought tooth and nail to stay in this world. But Holly won in the end. She always did. Ghosts zero – Holly…she’d lost count.

Lifting her aching body off the mattress with an involuntary groan, Holly shuffled towards the shower, cursing as she stumbled over her discarded boots. Fifteen minutes later, dressed in grey pants and a fitted, white shirt she was slipping on her shoes and heading out the door. Holly Daniels was a no fuss human.

“Coffee. Must have coffee,” she muttered to herself as she practically fell into her car. Why on earth did I organized a 9am meeting? Ugh. Must have been a moment of insanity. Another one. She internally grumbled at her own stupidity as she pulled out into the traffic. When her phone rang, she answered without even looking.

“Good morning sunshine,” the voice said brightly. “How’s my favorite Ghost Whisperer this morning?”

 Holy gritted her teeth. God damn it. Not today. “Don’t call me that, Callum,” she didn’t even try to hide her impatience. “What do you want?”

“Don’t call you what? Sunshine or Ghost….”

“Callum…”

“Well, aren’t we chirpy today? What happened, Casper make a break for it?”

The teasing in his voice infuriated her. “No. Casper did not…,” Holly sighed. “Look, I’m tired, okay? So, I repeat, what do you want, Callum?”

“Where are you?”

“On my way to the office, why?”

“I’ll meet you there, I’ve got something to discuss with you, I’ll even bring coffeeeee.” He sung the last part. “Cream with 2 sugars, right?”

Oh. My. God. Holly puffed out a tense breath. “Non-fat, no sugar, as you damn well…”

“Right,” Callum continued breezily, totally ignoring Holly’s mood. “How could I forget? You’re obviously sweet enough!”

Holly squeezed the steering wheel in frustration, she knew he was winding her up, but it didn’t make her any less annoyed. “I don’t have the energy for you this morning, Callum, I really don’t, and I’ve got a meeting, so…”

“No worries. See you there, princess.”

“Don’t call me….AGGGHHH!”

All she heard was laughter as he hung up.

Callum Jefferies was a pain in Holly’s ass. He was crazy good looking and annoyingly charming, and he knew it. He pushed Holly’s buttons like no one else. In fact, Holly thought he made a sport out of it. Like Holly, he was a spiritual clearer for hire, and a damn good one. He was some kind of paranormal savant, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the supernatural. They worked together on occasion, when Holly needed a bit of extra muscle on a job. Callum definitely had muscle, in all the right places. In truth, she could have done with his help last night, and the only reason she was now sporting this awesome bruise which was threatening to become a shiner, was because she was too proud to bring him in. He just…bugged her, with his smart-ass attitude, brilliant smile and unnaturally green eyes. Damn those eyes. You could get lost for days in those eyes.

Holly shook her head. “Argh. Stop it,” she said, chastising herself out loud as she pulled into her car space.

When Holly arrived at her office, Callum was waiting for her, all six foot two of him, looking gorgeous casually leaning against the door and holding out her coffee.

“Here you go sweetheart,” he said, handing her the cup. “Whoa! What happened to you?” He reached out to touch Holly’s face.

Holly batted him away. “Nothing. Got tossed into a wall. And don’t call me sweetheart.”

“Impressive. Looks painful. You shoulda called me.”

“I could handle it.”

“I know, but…”

“The spirit is gone isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but…”

“I’m fine!” She practically shouted as she shoved him out of the way.

“Okay, okay,” Callum said, throwing up his hands in mock surrender.

Holly unlocked her office door, stomped into the room and tossed her bag onto the floor beside her desk. Dropping heavily into her chair she rummaged through her draws for some painkillers, the side of her face was starting to throb. Nope. It was her whole head. “Make it quick,” she said. “I’ve got a 9am.” She tossed back some pills with a mouthful of coffee.

“That’s why I’m here,” Callum said, fiddling with the mail on her desk. “Your 9am is my 9am.”

The Critique

As far as first lines went, this could’ve been more unique. The late night phone call or groggy alarm wake up is a very common disturbance plot device in the genre (I guess since more paranormal bogeys go bump in the night), and though it reads like a paranormal romance, it doesn’t do much to differentiate this story from others like it.

But then the author made a quick job of letting the reader know the heroine’s occupation (ghost removalist of some kind), and her disposition towards her job. The “she’d lost count” quite deftly communicated Holly’s dissatisfaction and growing weariness.

As you read on, you learn a lot about Holly’s habits and general character. She’s a low maintenance, messy (or clumsy), coffee-fueled “no fuss human”. Her character was relatable and pragmatic. Again, nice, but still a common enough paranormal romance or urban fantasy heroine. What makes her stand out?

Then we got to Callum, Holly’s PITA co-worker. Unfortunately, most of their dialogue didn’t do much by way of furthering the plot. It was just there to show how much Callum annoys Holly. He calls to annoy her, then he does it in person. That’s a lot of word count to spend on one reveal, and it slowed the pacing that was built with Holly’s utilitarian movement.

Moreover, it isn’t good character building for Callum, as it puts him firmly in the I’d sooner stab you than date you column (not quite enemies, but close). The author already has an uphill battle in convincing Holly (and the reader) that Callum might be good for something other than annoyance, so belaboring this aspect of his character doesn’t help. The narrative between their phone call and in-person interaction did a better job of summarizing their current relationship in a meaningful, but concise way that doesn’t clip their budding romance before it even starts.

Unfortunately, due to the word count spent on PITA Callum, the author didn’t have a chance to set up the mystery plot before the two-pages were over. That’s something you want to get in as soon as possible, because that’s where the hook lies. Not every reader will like your characters, but you can compel them to read further with a good set up of the main plot yet to come. From the query letter, I know there is a life-endangering spirit prophecy mystery in store, so that’s a hook you want to build intrigue for as quickly as you can.

Craft-wise, there were a few times where Holly’s thoughts told what her actions showed, and that repetition slowed down the pacing and reduced the impact her actions could’ve had (e.g. “God damn it. Not today.” tells of the irritation her gritted teeth and subsequent dialogue showed). I’d suggest that the author go back and either rework the telling or cut it out completely (trust the reader to pick up on the context clues you give them). Also, the story lacked a sense of place, which was another missed opportunity to distinguish this book from others.

Would I keep reading? No. Maybe I would read the first chapter, just to see if there is anything standout in the way the author handles the set-up of the mystery plot, but chances are the craft and story aren’t strong enough to keep me reading beyond that.

Do you have questions about my feedback or the First-Page Critique program? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section! Or email generalinquiries@carinapress.com.

Authors entering their work for critique can choose to have the blog post comments open or closed. Comments are open, so please utilize them to ask questions or to offer your own critique, but please remember to offer useful criticism. Comments will be moderated and deleted if not deemed to be useful or appropriate.

Making A Long-Distance Relationship Last

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Our current relationship with technology is an interesting one. One of the coolest things about it is how flat it’s made the world in terms of communication. Nowadays you can easily talk to anyone, no matter where they might be located. This has allowed so many different kinds of relationships—ones that otherwise would have never had the chance to exist.

In my novel, Play It Again, characters Dovid and Sam live in the US and Ireland respectively with an eight-hour time difference. They run across each other on the internet by chance; Dovid’s sister Rachel introduces Dovid to Sam’s Let’s Play videos, and Dovid proceeds to plug Sam on his own channel. Since both are YouTubers, they each have the chance to start getting to know the other first by watching videos. Dovid and Sam (and readers) get peeks at who they both are as people even before they actually begin to talk. When they do start talking, their interactions are primarily done through instant messaging, starting first with Twitter DMs and moving on to WhatsApp texting. This allows them to send messages at any time of day, which helps bridge the incredible distance and further allows them to get to know each other. Eventually they move to WhatsApp calls and Skype conversations as well, but in all cases, technology is what helps their relationship grow.

And grow it does. Dovid falls for Sam first, and he falls hard. He finds Sam’s voice and accent incredibly endearing, and Sam himself is a soft-spoken, pleasant person with speech patterns Dovid is quick to describe as “adorable.” Being blind, Dovid doesn’t really care about appearances; he’s head over heels for Sam’s personality (though when he does finally end up meeting Sam in person, he’s very happy that they’re able to touch).

On Sam’s end, since Dovid is the star of his own YouTube show, Sam knows what he looks like at once. And he finds him…very attractive. He’s a bit intimidated by Dovid to start, truth be told, but Dovid is so open and friendly that Sam can’t help but be pulled into his orbit. His own feelings for Dovid develop a little more slowly, but with time (and hours of DM-ing), they settle into something sure and strong.

When Dovid and Sam share the feelings they have for each other and officially enter into a romantic relationship, not a whole lot changes, since they live so far apart. They still talk whenever they can, as often as they can. They still set aside special time for phone calls so that they can hear each other’s voices. The conversations might turn more personal or intimate now, but the biggest difference is knowing that their feelings are returned. They start sending each other care packages—and when Dovid wears the shirt that Sam sends him, it gives him the feeling of a phantom hug.

And then they finally get the chance to meet in person.

It’s nerve-wracking, leading up to the meeting. Dovid is beyond excited, Sam so happy he could burst, but they also both worry that after months of talking with an ocean between them, they won’t know what to say to each other once they’re face to face. It’s a real fear a lot of people in long-distance relationships experience. But I won’t spoil what happens in the book!

Long-distance relationships can get such a bad rap. Some people are quick to say things like, “it’ll never last” and “it’s not a ‘real’ relationship.” But what makes a long-distance relationship work? Communication, of course. And, as mentioned before, it’s incredibly easy to talk to someone now. Texting, phone calls, Skype, social media…all are ways to keep the line of communication open. Of course, it’s not just being able to talk, it’s communicating. What you say and how you say it. Being upfront with your feelings, what is working, what isn’t working. There’s also the all-important trust aspect. You have to believe in each other and what you both have and want. You also have to believe that the relationship will work and that it’s worth the effort required.

So what does it take to make a long-distance relationship last? Using technology to keep in touch with each other—in the very same way everyone stays in contact now, regardless of where they live. Trust. Love. Belief in yourself and your partner and what you two have. A commitment to making things work. The same things that make any relationship last.

That sounds like something real to me. And it’s certainly real for Dovid and Sam.

About Play It Again:

Play It Again by Aidan Wayne The videos are fun.

But it’s the host who has him coming back for more…

When Seattle-based blind YouTuber Dovid Rosenstein finds Sam Doyle’s Let’s Play channel, playitagainsam, he’s instantly captivated by the Irish gamer. Everything about Sam is adorable, from his accent to his personality, and Dovid can’t get enough of his content.

Dovid’s glowing shout-out on Don’t Look Now, his own successful channel, sends Sam’s subscriber numbers skyrocketing overnight. He has more comments than he can read. And while the sudden surge in popularity is anxiety inducing, Sam decides it’s only right to dedicate his next episode to Dovid…which soon leads to a heart-pounding exchange of DMs.

They may have never met in person, but Dovid’s never felt this close to anyone before. What they have feels worth exploring—no matter the distance. But is it possible to already be in love with someone who’s half a world away?

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Are You Ready for an Alaskan Adventure?

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Thank you so much to my amazing Carina Press team for having me stop by the blog today! This month marks the launch of my new Frozen Hearts series, which is set in Alaska with lots of big scenery, epic feels and rugged men. A lot of readers have asked me how the series came to be, and because it’s an awesome example of the synergy that can happen between long-standing writers and their editing teams, I wanted to share a little glimpse behind the scenes of this new series.

As I approached book seven in the Out of Uniform series, which would be my eleventh book with Carina Press, I started to feel that the series was reaching an end point, and my editing team agreed that as much as we all loved that series, taking a break, at least for a little, while would be a good idea. Now as an author, this is often a time of panic. What next? The freedom to come up with something completely new is also more than a little daunting and scary.

Luckily, I have a great team on my side. And one of the things that I love most about Carina Press is the clear wish lists that the editors post. My amazing editor really, really wanted more adventure romances set in interesting locations. One of my favorite things about my SEAL books were the adventure elements and the research—the idea of big moments echoing the big feelings taking place in the book.

So I started kicking ideas around and one thing that my critique partner and I kept coming back to was how much I enjoy snowbound and forced-proximity books. And I mentioned how much my younger self had adored Debbie Macomber’s and Nora Roberts’s Alaska-set series. So the kernel of a series started to take place. I pitched it to my agent, who loved the concept, and who had great feedback for me as we prepared our proposal for my editor. (And yes, dear fellow writers, you never outgrow the need to write a strong synopsis!)

As I’d hoped, my editor felt the concept was a strong fit for her wish list—adventure, Alaska setting, rugged heroes and complex plotlines. The sort of books that we’ve really enjoyed working on together. Thus, she sent my proposal on to the acquisitions team, who agreed that they loved the idea of following my military romances with the Alaska-set books, especially since book one includes a former air force pilot, which bridges nicely from military romance to more civilian contemporaries that still have a certain flavor of adventure to them. I then got the call from my agent that the series was accepted, and I was super excited. The excitement of getting an offer doesn’t diminish over time either!

And now, a year after that proposal, I get to bring readers along with me on the Alaskan adventure. What can you expect? First, these are longer books, more emotionally complex, and have deep characterization. I’m especially proud of Arctic Sun because I feel that it really shows how I’ve grown since my early books, and it reflects the very best of what an editing process should be, as I was encouraged to dig deep and really home in on the core story. Second, you can expect a mix of adventure, scenic vistas and quiet love scenes, just as readers have come to expect from me. Doing the research for this series was such fun, and I’m looking forward to sharing all those little details with readers as well. Finally, you can expect some of my very favorite heroes. These three couples really had to work for their HEAs, and I’m so excited for everyone to meet them!

Bringing out a new series really is the work of an entire team, and I want to again extend my appreciation to everyone at Carina Press from editing to acquisitions to marketing and publicity and the amazing art department too! I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look, and to my fellow writers out there, keep studying those editor wish lists, keep submitting, keep growing your craft, and good things will follow. To my readers, thank you so much for your support—I can’t wait to take this adventure together!

About Arctic Sun:

ARCTIC SUN by Annabeth AlbertEverything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.

He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

Publisher’s Note: Arctic Sun deals with topics some readers may find difficult, including sobriety and eating disorders.

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“Every Book Still Feel Like the First”: Charlie Adhara on Thrown to the Wolves

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I’m thrilled to be here on Carina Press to celebrate the release of Thrown to the Wolves!

This is the third in the Big Bad Wolf series. Third! I keep needing to pull up the ebooks and remind myself, “Oh hey, I did that!” This whole process has gone by in a blur and I can’t believe my debut, The Wolf at the Door, came out over a year ago. The truth is every book still feels like the first. Exciting and alarming and completely fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. Can you still call yourself a debut author two years in? Just asking for a friend…

It feels a little outrageous to be offering any sort of advice when I’m still so green. But I know lots of readers and writers alike read this blog so I wanted to share a bit of my writing process and how this series came to be. Mainly that it didn’t look like a formal, organized process at all and that turned out okay.

I didn’t set out to write a part-shifter, part-mystery, part-suspense romance (What a mouthful!). I was actually in the middle of working on a completely different book but had these characters and snippets of scenes that would not leave me alone. I thought, let me just write this down “real quick” to return to later and then I can focus on my first project—a plot-bunny exorcism, if you will. Three full books later, I haven’t gotten back to that original story and I’m still jotting down notes on one or two more potential adventures for my grumpy, reluctant agent and his werewolf partner, Cooper and Park.  

Even in the midst of writing the series, I jumped around quite a bit. For example, when drafting the first book I had a whole conversation between Cooper and his father that I just had to write down even though his father wasn’t even an on-page character! I kept kicking myself for “wasting time” because I knew there was no feasible way of fitting it into the story. It was taking way longer to finish the manuscript than I’d hoped and I was anxious to submit to Carina and find out if these characters even stood a chance of being read at all. But in the end, by giving in and writing what I wanted to not what I was supposed to, I figured out a lot of helpful stuff about Cooper’s character. It also made me realize I needed to focus the second book, The Wolf at Bay, on his family. That same scene turned out to be one of the main emotional beats of the story.

I try to remind myself of that whenever I hit a block or get frustrated and overwhelmed by my own lack of focus. There can be a lot of guilt at the end of the day if the word count on your manuscript isn’t higher than the day before. But it’s okay to just write what feels most exciting in that moment, because it might end up being exactly what you needed to figure out all along.

What’s next for me? I’m taking a break after Thrown to the Wolves to write a new paranormal mystery that’s been haunting me. It’s been strange and exciting and alarming (so business as usual over here) to switch gears and start all over with a brand-new couple. I have so much to learn about them! But let me tell you, I’ve got a really great scene about two-thirds in that’s really helping me write Chapter One.

In the meantime, I send out big support vibes to everyone figuring out their own process, or non-process as it may be, and I’m so grateful to the readers who have helped me become one of my top three childhood dreams, a writer! Now if someone can just work on kicking off my career as an intrepid kid detective we’ll be two for three.

Thank you for reading and good luck to all!

About Thrown to the Wolves:

Thrown to the Wolves by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf.

And he’s bringing his cat.

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.

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Two Authors, One Fantastic Sports Romance!

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Hi! This is Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn, and we’re here to talk about cowriting! Piper and I have cowritten a few books together (and have plotted many more!) and both of us are big fans of the process.

Avon Gale:

Basically, we started writing together when our mutual love of hockey brought us together as friends! Off the Ice came about as an idea when we heard a story about one of the Blues players, Colton Parayko, who was working on finishing his degree. We thought, what would it be like for a professor to have this hockey player in one of his classes, and uh-oh, what if he thought that player was hot and the feeling was mutual? We bandied the idea back and forth a bit, then spent some quality time in a coffee shop fleshing out the idea and outlining it.

Which brings me to my first point about cowriting, at least with us—Piper is a planner, and I am most certainly a Pantser! As individual writers this is fine, but when you’re writing a story together, you sort of have to pick one or the other, and honestly, being organized is a lot less stressful! Piper and I write our stories by character, and the POV switches by chapter. This means that all the chapters from Sebastian’s POV in Off the Ice were written by me, and Tristan’s, by Piper. Like all good relationships, cowriting really comes down to excellent communication, but also really knowing your characters—because obviously, even if I’m writing from Sebastian’s POV, Tristan is still in the story and it’s important to make sure my portrayal of him, even seen through another character’s viewpoint, is consistent. (Hey, all those years of fan fiction writing really do come in handy!)

While Piper and I sometimes meet in Springfield, IL (the cowriting capital of the… No, just kidding, it’s halfway between their home and mine) to hash out a few chapters, the actual story-writing we generally do at home. Most helpful, at least I think, is that we do our chapter outlines together so we can hash out, in person, what’s going to happen and what all the beats are.

One reason why our partnership works so well, I think, is that Piper and I are just generally easygoing types, creatively speaking, but also…Piper is much better with editing and details than I am, whereas I tend to be more of a “big picture” thinker in my approach. We have complementary styles, similar interests, both love grumpy characters paired with lovable cinnamon rolls, and have contrasting strengths that work well together. Even if I question their taste in hockey teams.

Piper Vaughn:

Hey, we actually have a few teams in common now, don’t we? I was swayed to the Blues side! How could I help it? They’re a lovable bunch, especially our dear Parayko. (It still makes me smile to think of him lugging his textbooks around during the playoffs.) Some teams we’ll never agree on, but, c’mon, rivalries are half the fun of hockey!

But in the same way teams have to work together to form a cohesive unit, so do coauthors. Avon is right—our styles and approaches are complementary but also different. This works well for us, as I feel we bolster each other’s strengths. Part of what I love about coauthoring is how much you can learn from your coauthor and how exciting it feels to build worlds and create characters together. I love brainstorming, and it’s a lot more fun and interesting when you’re doing it with a partner. It can also be a challenge because, of course, no matter how close the friendship, we don’t always agree on everything. This is when communication and compromise come into play. Even with an established outline, a story always evolves, and both Avon and I easily roll with the punches in whatever direction a story takes us, but that means plotting is pretty much a constant dialogue between us. As Avon said, communication really is the most important aspect of cowriting.

I’ve had some potential writing partnerships fail in the planning stages—and even if it’s initially disappointing, that’s okay! One lesson I’ve learned after multiple writing partnerships: it won’t always work out. It’s not meant to. Not all styles mesh and not all authors are good about compromising when they feel strongly about a plot point and they’re used to having complete creative control. Believe me, if a writing partnership is doomed to failure, you want it to happen early—before you’ve invested weeks/months on a manuscript only to have to slap it on a virtual shelf where abandoned plot bunnies go to die.

But when a book comes together and you and your coauthor are on the same wavelength, it’s amazing! This is a huge part of why Avon and I work so well together. We think in different ways, but at the same time, we share a common vision for our characters and their relationships. We’ve written three books at this point, and once we really get going, the stories just flow. Writing and plotting together is easy because we have similar writing backgrounds (*waves fanfic banner*), but, most importantly, we talk to each other. We can’t stress this enough—open, honest communication will help any coauthors overcome what is, in our opinion, the biggest hurdle to cowriting.

We hope you’ll enjoy our Hat Trick series, in which we blend our love of hockey with our passion, as two queer people, for writing characters we would’ve loved to have seen in the romances we read as teenagers! First we have Off the Ice and then, in June, Goalie Interference. Join us and root for the Venom boys as they find their ideal romantic partners and battle it out for hockey’s greatest prize.

About Off The Ice:

Off The Ice by Avon Gale, Piper VaughnHe’s hot for teacher

NHL star Tristan Holt may be at the top of his game, but he’s already thinking one play ahead. Hitting the books in the off-season means he’ll have a business degree to fall back on when it’s time to hang up his hockey skates.

But his straightforward plan is complicated by his undeniable attraction to his sexy sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Impressed by Tristan’s brain as well as his brawn, Sebastian can’t help lusting after the gorgeous jock. With tenure on the line, Sebastian won’t break the rules by becoming involved with one of his students—at least, not until the end of term. Once final grades are posted, though, their naughty mutual fantasies can become reality.

Tristan’s not sure he’s up for being the poster boy for openly gay hockey players, but Sebastian’s never been the type of man to keep his sexuality—or his relationships—in the closet. For Tristan, being with Sebastian might mean risking more than just his heart.

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***

Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced Southerner living in a liberal Midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories—either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

Connect with Avon:

Twitter: twitter.com/avongalewrites

Facebook: facebook.com/avongalewrites

Newsletter: eepurl.com/bGLSrD

Instagram: instagram.com/avongale

Website: avongalewrites.com

Piper Vaughn is a Latinx author and longtime romance reader. Since writing their first love story at age eleven, they’ve known writing in some form was exactly what they wanted to do. A reader to the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book. Piper grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago and loves putting faces and characters of every ethnicity in their stories, making their fictional worlds as colorful as the real one. Above all, Piper believes there’s no one way to have an HEA, and every person deserves to see themselves reflected on the page.

Connect with Piper:

Website: pipervaughn.com

Facebook: facebook.com/pipervaughn

Twitter: twitter.com/pipervaughn

Instagram: instagram.com/piper.vaughn

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