Wonder Boi Writes

A Tale of Two Winter Romances

So, lately I’ve been banging on about my new winter sports-themed romance, Edge of Glory, and that’s because I’m pretty proud of it. As I mentioned in my last blog, I really love snow.  And I think you all know by now I love sports.  It only makes sense for me to put those things together.  In fact, it makes so much sense that Edge of Glory is not the first time I’ve done so.

Way back toward the start of my career, I wrote a romance called Trails Merge, which I set at a small, family ski resort.  That book was inspired by a vacation (also mentioned in the previous blog) that I took with friends in grad school. And funnily enough, that book had come around again just in time for the release of Edge of Glory, in that Trails Merge is now available as a new release in audiobook format!

Seeing (and selling) the two books/audio books side-by-side as new releases has left me pondering the ways they are the same and different. Trails Merge has a much more home and hearth setting, while Edge of Glory sees the main characters traipsing across the globe. Both books get holiday scenes which move the romance forward in different ways, and both books also use holiday scenes with big family gatherings. And both books offered me some good fun in the research phases, albeit in very different ways.

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For Trails Merge, I took my first formal ski lessons. I’d been skiing on my own for a couple of years but didn’t know any of the formal moves or terms needed to describe the things I’d been doing. The lessons helped my form, but more importantly, they gave me the language I needed to convey that form to my readers. The scene in the book where Campbell gives Parker her first ski lesson, and then a disastrous lesson for Parker’s ex much later in the book, both have dialogue taken exactly from the conversations I wrote off on my taxes.  Not a bad gig, huh?

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The other really fun aspects of researching Trails Merge was that I took a mountain tour in a snow groomer. Snowcats are the huge, tank-like vehicles that spread and shape snow across the slopes. When the guy giving the tour found out I was writing a book, he let me ride up front wth the controls and told me way more information than any lay-person has a right to know about snowmaking and grooming.

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So, when it came time to write Edge of Glory, I already had a pretty solid base in the basics of ski and snowboard terrain, but I was no longer working the realm of mom-and-pop ski resorts, or lessons for novices like myself.  Though I did take a snowboarding lessons with my son in which he and the hill both kicked my ass for 90 minutes, most of what I needed to know so far outstripped my abilities and access that I had to employ a lesson I hadn’t learned 9 years ago when writing Trails Merge, and that is to go ahead and ask important people what they know.

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Seriously, one thing I’ve found over the years is that people generally like to talk about what they’re good at.  Everyone likes being recognized as an expert in something other people value. And generally if you cast a wide enough net and are polite about it, you’ll find someone who has the time and inclination to talk to you about almost anything.

With that in mind, I put out a call for people with top level access to the worlds of competitive skiing and snowboard cross. A Facebook friend pointed me to the contact info for several Olympic snowboard cross racers, and I just started at the top of the alphabet and worked my way down until I heard back from Jacqueline Hernandez. For those of you who don’t follow the sport of boadercross, Jacqueline Hernandez is an actual Olympian who represented Team USA in Sochi.

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I was so geeked that someone like her would actually talk to me that I pulled on her expertise at multiple stages of the project.  We chatted on Facebook about things ranging from training schedules to diets to locations, and even what a day of pre-season training would look like. There’s one scene in Edge of Glory in particular that hadn’t even been imagined until Jacqueline told me about a training exercise called “hiking the start section.”  Her description of this process was so interesting to me, I could suddenly picture my characters doing exactly what she’d described. To say that scene wouldn’t be the same without her isn’t an exaggeration, because I literally didn’t know such a thing existed until she told me. When you read the book, you’ll have to look out for Corey and Tigger stepping into Jacqueline Hernandez’s boots and know your favorite Olympians are doing the same thing right now.

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On the ski side of things, I was tremendously blessed because my friend Heather McEntarfer responded to my Facebook call, not just with contact information, but with an actual human contact.  It turned out that a man who’d grown up in the town I currently live in was a ski journalist. I would later learn that Hank McKee was legendary in the world of downhill ski reporting who had won the FIS Journalist Award, presented by ski racing’s international governing body for career contributions to the sport on a worldwide basis, but from the first Facebook message, I got to know him as a kind, exuberant and generous storyteller.

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Hank didn’t just relay information to me, he jumped in headfirst and pulled me along for the ride.  His understanding of skiing went so far beyond gear and trail maps.  He taught me what makes up a skier’s psyche. He told me stories about obsession and drive that defied the most human instincts to avoid bodily harm.  His insights shaped Elise’s formation at a minute level. And his attention to detail pops up in a million little ways. For instance, once over a big breakfast, he stopped eating and said, “If someone’s going to blow up a story about a skier’s personal life it’ll be the Austrians. Austrians are obsessed with ski gossip.  Who do you think exposed Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn?”  It was just an aside in the book, but but every time I read it, I thought of Hank and knew I got it right, even if no else ever did.

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Hank even went so far as to read a very early draft of the book and gave me some feedback while he was in town to sing with his long-time high school rock band, the Wretched Group.   Sadly that night, while he was rocking out on stage with his friends, I saw Hank for the last time.  He passed away, in true writer fashion, while working at his computer.  Hank never got to see the final draft of Edge of Glory, but I like to think he’d be proud of the role he played in the book it became.

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So as we head into this winter, I’ve got two items on the table for you.  If you’re looking to listen to a Midwestern ski romance set amid a warm home and a big family in audio book format, the new audible version of Trails Merge is there for you with plenty of authentic touches gleaned from my personal on-the-snow experiences.  If you’re looking for something a little more worldly and fast-paced, Edge of Glory is available in print and ebook and filled with insights shared by two amazing experts in sports most of us can only watch in awe.

Or you could just go ahead and buy them both!

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December 1, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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