Welcome to authors Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn and the virtual blog tour for their newest collaboration, Off the Ice! We’ve got a great little character piece to share with you today, and there’s also a fun giveaway! So be sure to check out the details at the end.
THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: THE BACKUP PLAN
DEFENSEMAN / ATLANTA VENOM
A lot of my teammates have asked me why I’d bother going back to school to finish my degree when I already have a career – and salary – many people would envy. To up-and-coming junior hockey players, I’m living the dream. I’m playing in the greatest league in the world. My name is on jerseys and T-shirts and in news articles. On my parents’ mantle sits the requisite awkward draft photo with me as a fresh-faced, pimply teenager. Last season, I was listed as one of the NHL’s best players under 25.
I’ve never wanted to do anything but play hockey. From the very first time my mom helped me lace up my skates and I stepped onto the ice, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I made it. Theoretically, I have nowhere to go but up.
But – and yes, there is a “but” – what happens if I can’t play hockey anymore? What if I get injured, badly, and lose my lucrative new contract extension? What if I’m forced to retire early because I can’t physically play the game I love anymore?
What if, what if, what if.
I can hear my defense partner, Morley, yelling for me to knock on wood or throw a ball even as I type this. We hockey players are a superstitious breed, and while I do have superstitions of my own, I’m also built on a strong foundation of good old Midwestern pragmatism.
My parents were overjoyed when I got drafted and even more so when I landed my first contract. They don’t ever want to see me fail, but they also believe in being prepared for the worst, and they passed that belief onto me and my siblings.
So I have a backup plan for after hockey: finish the international business degree I started back at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. (Go, Badgers!)
Not that I’ve ever had any true aspirations to be an international businessman. I chose my major for purely practical reasons. My parents are business people first, and farmers second. That’s how it has to be if they want to thrive and stay competitive in the industry. I don’t want to take over the farm – I’ll leave that to my brother, who loves the Holt family spread as much as my parents do – but it makes sense to me that if I should choose a career path outside of hockey, it should be something practical, in a field in which I’d never lack for options.
Juggling both school and professional ice hockey isn’t easy. It feels like my every spare waking moment is spent studying or working on assignments. I lug heavy textbooks on buses and planes and into dressing rooms with the rest of my gear. Sometimes I fall asleep bent over my laptop. I’m reacclimating to prepping for quizzes and exams when I’d rather be napping.
Sometimes I want to quit.
Then I feel the support from my friends, and especially my family. The encouragement and admiration from some of my teammates.
I remind myself that getting to the NHL was as much luck as it was hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. In life there really are no guarantees.
I wouldn’t jump out of an airplane without a parachute. I wouldn’t step out onto the ice without my pads.
I need to know there’ll be something there to protect me if I fall.
But once I have my degree, to be honest, I’ll probably just stick it in a drawer.
It’s a backup plan, true. One I hope to never need.
About the Book
Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.
Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.
But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules.
About the Authors
Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all (and has an over-two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She’s an avid tea drinker, a hockey fanatic, a vintage typewriter collector, and loves to travel so much she has “wanderlust” tattooed on her ankle and dozens of countries on her bucket list. Recently, she discovered the world of nail art and realized she’s pretty handy with a paintbrush—as long as it’s a miniature one.
As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son, and a cat that has Piper wrapped around her little paw. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.
Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.
At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.
To celebrate the release of Off the Ice, one lucky winner will receive a Venom t-shirt in their size and Venom notebook! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 4, 2017. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!