Hi guys! We have Morgan James stopping by today with her upcoming release Love Conventions, we have a brilliant guest post fro Morgan and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
A happy ending worthy of a TV fantasy… in real life?
Ashland Wells is an actor of sci-fi cult fame but with little direction for the future, when handsome grad student Remy Beaumont lands in his lap at a fan convention. Remy is everything Ash ever wanted and wished he could be—including out and proud. For twelve hours they’re the best of friends. But the convention ends, and saying goodbye to Remy might be the biggest mistake Ash has ever made.
A few months later, they’re reunited on a new production—Ash as an actor, Remy a writer—and though Ash doesn’t plan to let him go twice, being with Remy means going public about being gay. He’s not sure that’s a risk he—or his career—can handle, no matter how great the temptation.
If only they could write themselves the romantic happily ever after they both need.
Where does inspiration strike?
I’ve heard this question before—I’m sure every creative type has—but as I sit here writing this blog post for the release of my book, I’ve realized that, for me, it’s not so easily answered.
Inspiration comes to me from different sources. Sometimes it begins with a what-if—What if your new co-worker was last week’s one-night stand? (Hard Feelings.) Sometimes it starts with a genre and the urge to play in that sandbox. (Hair of the Dog.) And sometimes it starts with one silly idea—What about Friday Night Lights, but only more Canadian and gayer? (Winging It.)
Then there are the stories that start as a convergent of different desires.
Love Conventions began, not so surprisingly, at a convention. As I was wondering among my fellow nerds and reminding myself to be brave because no celebrity would remember me, a sudden thought struck me: What would a fan have to do to be memorable to one of the celebrity guests, who meet hundreds if not thousands of people at a day at these things?
Some answers felt too obvious—proposition them, be exceedingly rude—and didn’t offer inspiration. But then the idea of a mortifying moment came to me and took hold. What if you accidentally made yourself memorable?
I can no longer recall exactly how I came up with Love Conventions’ meet cute—it’s been over four years since—but I do know that the accidental “proposition,” the embarrassing moment that mortifies the star more than the fan, appeared in the very first draft and never left.
Once I had their meet cute, the rest of the story grew wings and took flight, fueled mostly by one thing: my love for sci-fi and fantasy culture.
Love Conventions very quickly became an ode to all things geeky. And as my alpha reader can attest to, the geek threatened at times to overwhelm other aspects of the story. (The first draft received a rather vicious culling and cutting of nuanced references that were likely to thrill no one but myself.) For as long as I can remember, fantasy and sci-fi has dominated my cultural and social lives. The first chapter book I read solo was fantasy, my oldest and closest friendships were forged over mutual appreciation of the genres, and it has long been a touchstone in my family, uniting the generations. Quickly, Ash and Remy’s romance was crafted not just to share their love, but my own.
And then, almost just as quickly, it became a space not just to love, but to love honestly. To show the thing I didn’t just adore, but that also disappointed and hurt me again and again. Sci-fi and fantasy in all it’s forms—be it movies, TV, books, comics or games—has a problem, a representation problem. Many of the creators and characters are overwhelmingly white, male, and straight, a fact which discourages participation from those that aren’t, suggests, “Maybe this isn’t for you.”
So halfway through writing this novel, I decided that if I invented TV shows for Ash to star in, I would invent shows I wanted. These shows would include characters that were not white or male. Or most importantly for Ash—not straight.
So, where do I draw inspiration from?
Well, in the case of Love Conventions, apparently from a half-formed what-if, a life-long love of things geek, and a longing to see something different.
ASHLAND WELLS smiled as he thanked the trembling, eager fan one last time before she rushed away, and then he turned to the next person in line.
A woman approaching forty stood behind a kid maybe thirteen or fourteen. Ash felt his smile warm and held out his hand for the promo shot the kid had picked from the array on the table.
“Hello,” Ash said. Not many wee ones came to his table—his biggest hit, Restraint, hadn’t exactly been kid-friendly—but he tended to get more than a couple of smitten teens. “I’m Ash.”
“I know,” the boy breathed, staring at Ash with large dark eyes. Behind him, his mother pressed her lips together, hard.
Ash’s smile widened. “Yeah, I guess you do.” He glanced down at the Post-it stuck to the picture. “Declan, is it?” Declan nodded, his head wobbling alarmingly, like a bobblehead. “Well, nice to meet you, Declan.” Ash smiled, and the kid looked like he might swoon.
Still smiling, Ash turned back to the picture. Declan had picked a promo shot from the final series of Restraint, in which Ash’s character looked unusually confident and healthy. Ash scrawled To Declan, “I’m one of the good guys.” Ashland Wells across the picture. On a whim, he added a heart.
He capped the Sharpie and looked up, ready to engage with the kid.
Declan stared at him. “You’re my favorite,” he blurted. “I love Zvi. He’s the best.” He blinked his calf eyes and turned bright red.
Ash smiled gently. The teens just might be his favorite fans, always so genuine and sweet. “Thank you. I’m happy to hear Zvi means so much to people.” He slid the picture across the table. “I hope you’re having fun this weekend.”
Declan nodded again, and after he gushed some more and thanked Ash a couple of times, he floated away with the picture clasped to his chest. His mother mouthed a thank-you at Ash and then followed.
Whenever Ash grew weary at a con, a fan like Declan would show up and remind him why he did them. Plenty of actors never went or only attended San Diego when ordered to, but Ash felt he owed his fans something. Besides, their appreciation really was gratifying.
Three days of meet and greet wore him out, though.
“Do you think Zvi and Moira were soul mates?” sighed one woman dreamily. “The moment you came on the show, I knew you and Moira were meant to be.”
“Well, attraction was the intent. They told me that before I got the part.” He smiled at her and signed a picture of wolfy Zvi curled around his lover—a fan favorite.
As much as Ash loved Zvi, he discharged his guardianship duties of the character after the finale. He’d held his breath with every new script, worried that would be the week they ruined his character. But Zvi—and Ash—made it through six series with fairly consistent development, which ended with Zvi and Moira together. He needn’t say more.
This fan didn’t agree, apparently. “Do you think Zvi and Moira have kids?”
Ash blinked. “I don’t think Zvi has ever thought about bairns. They lead a well-dangerous life.” Her face fell. “But you know Zvi, whatever Moira wants, right?”
“Right!” she said and soon bounded away.
Sat on his right, Etta Hayes chewed her lips to hide her amusement, and Ash flicked her knee hard under cover of the table.
He got his first body-part request of the con about twenty minutes after that. Thank Rodenberry’s ghost he was scheduled for a break right after.
Yawning over a tea, Ash wished they hadn’t flown in so late the night before. He and Etta had taken an evening flight from Vancouver to Toronto. They still weren’t late enough to avoid people waiting outside the hotel with their cameras. Ash in his old jeans, Henley, toque to hide the ginger, and shades was definitely on Twitter by now.
“Photo ops up next,” Etta said. She sipped her lemon-ginger tea and scrolled through the schedule on her phone.
Ash hid a grimace. Given the choice, he’d decline to take pictures with fans, but every convention featured photo ops. Ash’s un-Scottish personal bubble stretched about two meters wide. Sometimes he felt crippling jealousy of John Barrowman and his lack of shame.
The fans loved the ops, though. So every con, he put on his big-boy trousers, smiled like he meant it, and got his picture taken, over and over.
This photo shoot passed like the rest. Some fans wanted an arm around the shoulders, some to pose as werewolves. Some showed up in Restraint cosplay as Moira, Grif, Kliah, or even Zvi and wanted to pose in character. A few people surprised him—like the brick-house young man who asked to lift Ash off his feet. Ash eyed the lad, who obviously outweighed his own fifteen stone, and asked, “Can you do it without dropping me?” It turned out he could.
As much as Ash had a reputation for refusing to sign skin—his speech about body autonomy was well practiced—he had another for indulging pose suggestions. He imposed limits, of course—he turned down any request involving his ass—but for most, he was game.
The flash went off and Ash relaxed out of his Moira pose, the fan from her Zvi. He shook her hand, wished her well, then turned to greet the next person but found no one. He looked at Lisa, the photographer, who shrugged.
“According to my schedule, a Remy Beaumont should be here right now. Then you’ve got a twenty-minute break.”
Ash cast about—as if this Remy might hide behind the tripod—but saw only Etta and Lisa in the wee curtained-off space. He shrugged and took a sip of his water. He felt a twinge of pity for the unknown fan. Cons tended to be strict about the photo ops—no rescheduling missed appointments.
Ash was screwing the cap back onto the bottle when he heard the first sorry.
A young Doctor, Ten, barreled into the booth. He stumbled to a halt. Panting, he waved his ticket and said, “Sorry! Sorry I’m late!” and then handed the paper to Lisa. He ran one long-fingered hand through messy black hair. He was appropriately skinny for his costume choice and wore a pair of black-plastic-framed glasses. His eyes were a bright, startling green—Harry Potter eyes—and his skin a light brown.
Lisa read the ticket. “Remy, you’re lucky you got here when you did.” She checked his name off on her list and waved him over. Ten—Remy—turned and beamed at Ash. Then he stepped forward and, in those six feet between them, tripped over… something. He fell to his knees, skidded the remaining few inches, and came to a stop at Ash’s feet. Or rather, he stopped when his hands landed on Ash’s thighs and his face near collided with his crotch.
Ash froze, staring down at the man who, for one agonizing second, pressed his forehead to Ash’s belly, which had thankfully taken the brunt of the collision. Ash’s ears burned. The thought of what Etta might say mortified him, and he hadn’t been the one to trip.
Remy stayed down, his head bent and his shoulders quivering.
Oh God, he’s crying. Ash hated when fans cried—though here was new motivation for why—and was ready to panic, when Remy threw his head back and… laughed.
And not an hysterical “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry” sort, but full-on “life is hilarious” guffaws.
After a minute, he calmed enough to say, “Oh God. I thought being late would be the worst of it.” He wiped tears from his cheeks. Collected, he stood and offered a hand. “I’m Remy and I’m so very sorry about the unintentional grope. Definitely didn’t do it on purpose. I mean, you’re cute and all, but I tend to ask permission first.” He smiled.
On autopilot, because Maw taught him manners, Ash clasped his hand. How to take this man who could trip and land in such a compromising position but laugh about it so easily? Despite Ash’s lack of body modesty—Zvi spent his first series nearly naked—he’d never mastered shaking off embarrassment.
“No hard feelings, I hope?” Remy asked, some of the levity slipping from his expression. “I mean, if you wanted to call security on me, I wouldn’t blame you. Honestly I think I’ve burned up all my time on this. But, uh….” He stumbled to a stop, apparently out of things to say at last.
Years of training took over, and Ash’s mouth said, “No, s’alright. Accidents happen, aye?”
“For sure.” Remy looked at Lisa, eyes wide. “Do I still have time for a picture?”
Lisa nodded. “Barely.” Ash caught her eye and tried to let her know he didn’t mind losing a minute or two of his break. She nodded.
“Yay,” Remy said quietly but enthusiastically. He gave Ash an expectant look.
“Right. What did, did you have in mind?” And now Ash sounded the starstruck one.
“Well,” Remy said, drawing out the word, his smile growing brighter, “I read somewhere you’re a Doctor Who fan.”
Ash nodded. He used to watch it with his brother—his maw’s VHSs in the nineties, and the reboot in the noughties.
“And I think your favorite companion was Donna?”
Ash nodded again. He never got used to strangers knowing so much about him. “Gingers gotta stick together.”
Remy pulled a red wig out of his pocket. “Want to be my companion?”
Over the years, Ash had held plenty of props for these pictures, but never a wig.
He shrugged and took it, leaned forward, slipped it on, and then straightened and tried to tame the locks into some sense of order. Remy watched him, the picture of delight.
How did Ash’s square jawline and stubble look framed by long strands?
Ash put his hands on his hips and said, in his best Donna voice, “Oy, Spaceman. We posing here, or what?”
Remy laughed. “Definitely. Allons-y!” He stepped up beside Ash and then seemed to falter. “How should…?”
“On the cover of the box set, she’s behind him, aye?”
Remy’s eyes widened. Hopefully the hair covered Ash’s burning ears. At least he hadn’t admitted how often he rewatched that series.
Remy positioned himself with one hand outstretched toward the camera to halt the oncoming danger, the other thrust to the side as if trying to keep Ash safe—or maybe from rushing forwards.
Ash crouched behind Remy, which wasn’t impossible, given Remy was almost of a height, and leaned left to peer round his shoulder, doing his best to keep his chest or thighs from touching Remy. He placed his hands on Remy’s arm and discovered a surprising bit of whipcord muscle under the suit.
Focus. What did Donna’s expression look like? Knowing the character, concerned but curious probably.
The camera light flashed, and they were done.
Ash straightened and broke contact, though the heat lingered in his palms. Then he noticed Etta had moved nearer the camera and was holding up her phone. Ash arched a brow.
She shrugged and smiled sweetly. “Of course I’m taking a picture of you with the long locks. They suit you.” Ash knew better than to disagree.
Remy bounced on the balls of his feet. “Nisha is gonna freak to see you in her Donna wig.”
Ash gently extricated himself from it, well-careful now he knew it a loaner, and handed it over. “That was a good idea.”
“Thanks! I was aiming for something different. You probably get lots of people asking you to be Zvi.”
Ash nodded. “It’s fun, though,” he said, mindful that fans talked to each other.
“Sure, sure. This was awesome. I was going to get you to sign my copy of a script, but thought of this, and then couldn’t make up my mind but….”
Ash glanced at the clock. His breaks acted as buffers to avoid lagging too far behind schedule and provided time for the loo. Ash didn’t have to pee. “Script?”
“Yeah. A friend did some work on Restraint and had a copy of the script for ‘Howling’ and gave it to me as a gift. She knows me well.”
Usually Ash followed the rules Etta laid down regarding not doing free pictures or autographs while at cons. But sometimes….
“I don’t suppose you have it with you?”
Remy’s eyes widened. “Yeah?”
“Pull it out.” And Ash hoped no one else noticed the double entendre. He turned to Etta—who was clearly trying not to laugh—and she handed over one of the many Sharpies she kept in her purse. He always forgot to carry them, despite both their efforts.
The script was from series four, the episode where Zvi runs into his sister. It might be the episode Ash was most proud of, given the emotional range and the toll it had taken. Maybe that was why he offered a free autograph.
He opened the protective cover, and bracing the sixty-or-so pages against his right arm, he wrote To Remy across the top over the title and, inspired, added a great companion. He followed it with a Zvi line—I’ve got claws; what have you got?—and signed it.
He handed it back to Remy, who vibrated with excitement. “Oh man, this is too great. Thank you so much.”
Ash wrinkled his nose. “No’ a problem. Though maybe don’t tell too many folk about this. Not supposed to sign stuff away from the table.”
“Right, of course. Thanks again, so much. I’m a big fan of where you took Zvi. I know, ‘just an actor,’ but you had some influence, and he wasn’t the throwaway or the stereotype he could have been. So yeah. Thanks for being awesome?”
Ash ducked his head and rubbed his nape, stupidly shy under the praise. He’d heard this sort of thing from fans before. “Thank you.” He raised his gaze. “I wouldn’t be here without fan support.” Zvi’s role on the show had grown and lasted thanks to viewer enthusiasm.
“I bet you say that to all the boys.” Remy waved it off, but he still smiled.
Instead of one of his stock answers, Ash opened his mouth and said, “Only to the Tens.”
Remy threw his head back and laughed with delight.
Pleasure bubbled in Ash’s stomach. He looked away and caught Etta’s eye. She arched one naturally perfect eyebrow. Ash swallowed and turned back to Remy—the fan.
“Etta is giving me the ‘time to hurry up’ face.” Ash was well-familiar with that look, even if she didn’t currently wear it. He held out a hand. “Nice meeting you, Remy.”
They shook goodbye, and then Remy collected his things and left with one last waggle of his fingers, an “Allons-y!” and a bounce in his step.
Etta tutted. “You need a bathroom break? As it is, you got like ten minutes before the next group of pictures.”
Ash shook his head.
“All right. Remember, though, last chance for another hour.”
“Thanks, but I’m alright,” he said dryly, “and a big boy.”
Etta rolled her eyes and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Doubt it.”
Author bio: Morgan James is a clueless (older) millennial, who’s still trying to figure out what she’ll be when she grows up but is enjoying the journey to get there. Now, with a couple of degrees, a few stints in Europe, and more than one false start to a career, she eagerly waits to see what’s next. Morgan started writing fiction before she could spell and wrote her first (unpublished) novel in middle school. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Geek, artist, and fangirl, Morgan tends to pass free hours with imaginary worlds and people on pages and screens—it’s an addiction. As is her love of coffee and tea. She lives in Canada with her massive collection of unread books and acts the personal servant of too many four-legged creatures.