Guestpost

Audiobook spotlight: The Lost in Time Trilogy by A.L. Lester

Finding happiness between the cracks

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit today, Nell! (You’re always welcome here, my friend ❤️) I’m doing some guests post around and about to let people know the 1920s London Border Magic trilogy has relaunched in audio. The books are now available wide rather than just with Audible.

If you’ve never read or listened to any of my books before, I usually describe them as paranormal, historical and queer. There’s a scattering of contemporary short stories and a couple of novellas that are lacking in screaming monsters from beyond the void, but most of my books are set in 1920s England. The 1920s London trilogy features a gay couple—Lew and Alec—and a gay/non-binary couple—Fenn and Will.

Writing Lost in Time seems aeons ago now. I finished it during NaNoWriMo in 2016-the only thing I’ve ever managed to get to the end of during the month and then only because I’d already written a lot of it! It really was a labour of love; and looking back now with a few more books under my belt I think it does show that it’s a first book. When I finished it, I felt I’d brought things to a satisfactory happy-for-now conclusion with Alec and Lew. Shadows on the Border is in effect a second volume of the same story and then begins another with Will and Fenn that is brought to a conclusion in The Hunted and the Hind.

My personal opinion is that you can’t ever have a happy-ever-after with a story that ends any time in the first half of the twentieth century. You’ve got two world wars looming there that foreshadow everything. All you can do with your historical characters is show them finding happiness in the cracks.

I think a lot of my stories tend to have that sort of vibe about them, because that’s the sort of life I live. Those of you who follow my newsletter etc will know Mr AL and I have a life-limited teenager. When she was born we never thought we’d get this far with her, but here we are. She turned thirteen this month! Our life revolves around her care—she’s very severely disabled. And the thing they say about parenting a disabled child is you live your life in the cracks. I think a lot of people live like that, whether they’re in our situation or not. People are just jogging along, trying to get through the day at work, scrape up the cash to pay the electricity bill and fill up the car, remember to buy some more potatoes on the way home, remember wash the kids’ PE kit and buy a birthday card for their mother-in-law.

All those day-to-day things we do in real life braid around our more abstract thoughts and feelings.

That’s what I try and show in my stories—extraordinary things happening to ordinary people, who have to deal with them regardless of what else they have going on in their lives. I sometimes think I have too much plot…my characters tend to have complicated lives and then whoops, magic is real! What do they do about that! ends up being another plot-strand I have to weave in.

In 1920s London everyone is trundling along dealing with their residual trauma of having fought a terrible four year war…and suddenly, bang, into the middle of all of that is Lew, who is from 2016 and completely skews everyone’s perceptions of reality. Even the people who already knew about the border and magic, because no-one realised you could travel through time. And of course Lew is completely off balance as well.

As always, Callum Hale, my narrator, was brilliant at pinning down the tones of each of the characters, modern, historical or fantastical. Lost in Time was out in audio before I finished writing The Hunted and the Hind and I found myself hearing his interpretation of the characters in my head as I was putting them down on the page. I have four audiobooks with him so far and fully intend to use him for future projects if I can persuade him to put up with me! Lew comes across as a modern Londoner, and Alec and Will are perfect for their class and their time. Fenn has this eerie sort of tone to them in Shadows on the Border which we toned down slightly for The Hunted and the Hind where they had more ‘screen-time’, so to speak. I felt that it would be easier for readers to identify with them if that was the case.

You can find most of my audiobooks at my Authors Direct page—all three 1920s London books can be bought for $20!—but they are also available wide at Apple, Hoopla, Scribd, LibroFM, Kobo, Chirp etc. and I think Audible have them on Whispersync—I am perpetually confused by how they work. I know some audio-library services are carrying them too. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I’ve enjoyed hearing Callum bring the characters to life!

Lost in Time

You can listen to the first half hour of Lost in Time here at Bookfunnel!

Gruesome murders taking place across 1920s London draw Lew and Alec together through the desolation of the East End and the smoky music clubs of Soho. They both have secrets that could get them arrested or killed. In the middle of a murder investigation that involves wild magic, mysterious creatures and illegal sexual desire, who is safe to trust?

Not Lew, who is struggling to get to grips with life a century before he was born. Or Alec, who wants Lew in his bed, despite liking him for murder.

#1 in the 1920s London series. Gay paranormal, historical, romantic suspense of 53,000 words, set in the Border Magic Universe.

Buy the audiobooks!

About A. L. Lester

Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.

She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.

Join my newsletter for a free copy of the novella An Irregular Arrangement, visit my website at allester.co.uk or find me on social media via my link-tree.

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: October by Candlelight by K.L. Noone

Today, I welcome K.L. Noone back to the blog. She’s here to talk about her brand spanking new book that’s released today, so let’s all throw some virtual confetti her way and maybe even a virtual cake? Let me tell you a secret before I let Kristin take over: I adore her writing, fall is my favorite season and, stories described as “a soft domestic sort of love” is my crack. So this book could be written just for me. But I’d never be so selfish and not share it with you. Great writing is best shared with friends, don’t you agree. So while you read the post, I’ll go download my pre-ordered copy, make a cup of tea, light some candles (and my fire), and start reading…😍


Hi, Nell and Nell’s readers! Happy October to you—and thanks to Nell for letting me stop by to share my seasonal new release!

October by Candlelight might be among my favorite stories I’ve written—autumn is my favorite season, made of bonfire-leaves and candy-corn sugar and bone-thin branches and glowing jack-o-lantern gold, and I loved getting to imagine the decorations and atmosphere for this story!

Finn and Wes are also some of my favorite characters; they fit together so well, they make each other happy, and they’re very fun to write! Wes more or less has my day job, by the way, though he’s more of a medieval historian and my specialty is more literature-focused. And Finn has my sense of humor, with the dreadful puns…so, well, apologies for pun-ishing you (and Wes) with that!

When JMS Books put out the call for Trick or Treat themed stories, I knew I wanted to write a Treat: because I love the season, and because I was in the mood for a soft domestic sort of love, a love written in book-presents and apology candles and pumpkin-spice cinnamon rolls, learning to live together (they’ve just moved in together!) and learning to listen.

The world knows a lot about Finn, or it thinks it does—he was a teen idol mega-star, after all, all those posters and interviews and television shows, over a decade ago—but there’re some things he doesn’t talk about much. Like how badly he’s always wanted a home, someplace snug and warm and settled, someplace he can fill with books and his favorite season and leaf-garlands and pumpkins everyplace, a fantasy of coziness. Wes, on the other hand, wanted their new home together to be neat and clean and minimalistic and ruthlessly tidy…

But, of course, they’ll work it out. Because they’re in love. And did I mention book-presents and pumpkin-spice cinnamon rolls and autumn-themed apology candles?

I hope you enjoy meeting them—and all the autumn scents and glowing lights—in October by Candlelight!

Living with former teen idol Finn Ransom isn’t like a movie. But it’s worth it.

Wes loves his boyfriend, and he knows all the stories about Finn’s celebrity past and old accidents and rebuilt career — or he thinks he does. But Wes also loves his organized historian’s life, neat and tidy and efficient — and moving in with Finn is the opposite.

Finn’s messy, colorful, exuberant … and in love with autumn. Pumpkins. Black cats. Fall leaves. Rain. Wes wants to be patient, but one more cinnamon candle might be one too many.

But maybe Wes doesn’t know everything about Finn’s past. And autumn candlelight is good for sharing stories … and opening up hearts.

Buy links:

Excerpt:

Two days later, on Saturday, a delivery arrived: three pumpkin-spice candles, a paperback copy of The History of Silver Age Superheroes, a zucchini, and a loaf of raspberry wheat bread. None of these had been on the shopping list tacked to the fridge, except Finn’s zucchini, which had a muffin-related destiny.

Wes, who’d answered the door and opened the package, considered this fact. “I’m not sure you’re allowed to buy things without me.”

Finn gave him a sorrowful-kitten look. Wes knew that look. He gave in to that look just about every time.

“Is this what living with you is like? It is, isn’t it? Not,” he added hastily, “that I mind.”

He didn’t. Not at all. This house had room for their combined eclectic library; Wes’s organized desk and an old guitar from his wayward college rock band days lived alongside Finn’s hobby-of-the-month origami and card-trick magic practice and ocean-themed coloring books, finding three-month-old harmony. The pool out back was good for Finn’s physical therapy and also just for floating around in, and they did a lot of that. These days Wes’s world was wondrous.

He lifted up a bright orange shape, turned it around. “More candles?”

“They were on sale,” Finn protested. He’d gotten up, and Wes nearly argued, but it seemed to be a good day; that wasn’t even much of a limp. “They smell like pumpkins. And autumn grass. And bonfire smoke. Here, I can help—”

“Yes, thank you,” Wes said, now juggling three candles and bread and zucchini and a book, trailing Finn into the kitchen. “You want pumpkins and bonfires in our house.”

“I’ll make cinnamon rolls with pumpkin cream cheese.” Finn was only half paying attention, entranced by autumnal temptation and finding gleaming silver to put candles inside. “Anyway you like pumpkin spice.”

“I’m not sure I want to, you know, breathe and eat pumpkin…” He did love Finn, though. And he loved the sparkle in those huge eyes, diving into the world with full-on enthusiasm. “I can build a fire if you want. In our fireplace. For you.”

Finn set down the third candle. Smiled. “Come on, baby, light my fire.”

“Terrible classic rock puns,” Wes informed him, “mean absolutely guaranteed seduction,” and took a step forward, everything else shoved onto a countertop, hands finding and cupping Finn’s face, thumb skimming over a dimple because it was there and he could.

Finn looked at him, smiling, waiting; pure anticipation danced in every line of him, every lifted eyebrow. Wes kissed him for it.

Bio

K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, usually LGBTQ, and always with happy endings – when not grading papers or researching medieval outlaw life. She is currently the servant of a large black cat named Merlyn, who demands treats on a regular basis.

About Nell

New Release Spotlight: The Featherbed Puzzle by K.L. Noone

Today, I have a very special guest on my blog; the fabulous K.L. Noone is here to talk about her latest release The Featherbed Puzzle. I’m scheduling this post on the actual release date, so as soon as I’m done writing this, I’m heading over to JMS Books and downloading my pre-ordered copy. Because you haven’t missed that I’m a huge fan of K.L. Noone’s writing, have you? Didn’t think so 🙂 So please, help me make her feel welcome, so she’ll consider coming back again!


Hi, everyone!

I’m K.L. Noone, and Nell, being a lovely and generous human and equally lovely and generous fellow author, has agreed to let me drop by today to ramble about my newest release, The Featherbed Puzzle!

The Featherbed Puzzle is roughly 47,000 words of…well, an m/m romance retelling of “The Princess and the Pea,” in a fluffy vaguely alternate-history eighteenth century—no magic as such, but artificers, canals, clockwork, and serving dishes that stay warm!

There’s also a dark and stormy night, quite a lot of pastries, several Awful Suitors and one True Love, and at least one jigsaw puzzle. And a terrible pun or two. And many, many featherbeds, of course.

Since puzzles are something of a theme, I thought I’d share five puzzle-pieces that went into the writing of this story! Let’s see…

One – this story essentially happened because I’d just finished Magician (which, more and less noisily, had been living in my head for about ten years), and I really wanted to write something that would be, in Jane Austen’s famous turn of phrase, light and bright and sparkling—just a pure spun-sugar confection, no real angst or epic quests or family drama, just a gaggle of suitors, a “helpful” best friend, a walk or two in a rose garden, a literal mountain of fluff, and characters figuring out what they want for themselves and their future.

Two – Arthur, our prince in need of a betrothed at the beginning, can best be described as, oh, “awkward, kindhearted, and the sort of prince who does conscientious civic planning and also jigsaw puzzles for fun”. Alan, on the other hand, is more the “I swear I had a cup of tea, where did I put that, oh wait there’s a kitten sleeping in it, maybe I should design a new cat bed instead of this commissioned grandfather clock, what if she’s hungry, she can have my sandwich, also we have a kitten now” sort of person.

Three – there are a lot of literary influences in this one, but probably the biggest are Robin McKinley’s fairytale retellings, Eloisa James’s fairytale-inspired historical romances, Jane Austen’s Emma, and of course Hans Christian Andersen himself; I like to think Andersen, as that self-described “amphibious creature” who fell in love with both women and men, and who wasn’t opposed to lightly affectionate satire, would be amused.

Four – four songs on my playlist for this one: The All-American Rejects, I Wanna, Neon Trees, Mess Me Up, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Save Tonight, and, of course, Buzzcocks, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen In Love With).

Five – as far as puzzles, the Awesome Husband and I do them for fun, in fact! The first puzzle Arthur’s working on is very similar to one we have, with the underwater theme and sunken ship, in fact…

The Featherbed Puzzle is available now, in all the usual places! I hope you enjoy!

Buy links

JMS Books :: Amazon

Blurb

Prince Arthur needs to get married. He’s the only heir, he’s twenty-five years old, and his mother keeps sending eligible princes and princesses his direction. Arthur’s not opposed to the idea, but so far every suitor’s been awful, and he’d like to at least like a prospective future spouse. But on one dark and stormy night, a mysterious young man in need of rescue just might be the answer Arthur’s looking for …

Alan never intended to join the ranks of Prince Arthur’s suitors. After all, Alan might technically be a prince himself, but he doesn’t use the title and he works for a living. But when a carriage accident leaves him stranded in the rain at the castle door, Alan can’t help falling for Arthur’s kind heart and lonely eyes. It’s just too bad he’s not an acceptable match …

Gay Fantasy Erotic Romance / 47,121 words

Excerpt:

“Mother,” Arthur said patiently, “that’s the eighth princess. And the fifth prince. It’s only been two weeks.”

Queen Tatiana Amaretta Marguerite de Fleur of Starskeep set down her teacup with a tiny porcelain clink and a frown gathering between her eyes. Sunlight laced the palace’s renovated breakfast room with gold, flying like bird’s wings over blue-striped wallpaper. The paper was new and delicate and perfectly in fashion, as were the chairs and the idyllic landscape paintings and the aubergine silk of her gown. “And you’ve liked none of them. You did say you were willing to consider marriage, darling.”

“Consider,” Arthur said. “Not propose on the spot. And this last one informed me that she’d overlook my unfortunate literary tendencies because of our money. While her brother tried to put a hand on my thigh under the table at dinner.”

Tatiana considered this. “Did he say it was only about the money?”

“Mother…”

“I want you to be happy, you know.” She reached for his hand, patted it, gave him the melting smile that charmed courtiers and diplomats into agreement. Starskeep sat at the intersection of three gently flowing trading-hub rivers, and had blossomed into a wealthy marzipan confection of a city-state, full of tulips and canals and prosperity and Tatiana’s chess-master mind behind negotiations and import-export arrangements. Arthur adored his mother, and sometimes thought it was a good thing she’d never harbored ambitions to conquer the world.

He said, “I know. And I love you, you know that. But I don’t actually need to meet every eligible person on your list in the span of a single fortnight. How long is your list, anyway?”

“Extensive,” his mother retorted without batting an eye. “And exhaustive. Darling, I want the best for you. A proper match. Someone utterly lovely. Someone with impeccable royal bloodlines. Someone who knows how to direct a household and whether the Duke of Oakenwood or the Marchioness of Vervian should have the order of precedence. Someone who brings you a dowry of gold and jewels and roses carved from rubies.”

Arthur sighed.

“Wouldn’t you like rubies?” his mother inquired, with hope. “I’ve always thought one can never have too many.”

“I just thought,” Arthur said, while the sunbeam stretched out to touch the tip of his boot, “that I’d like someone I can talk to. Someone who might be interested in books. Or at least curious about…I don’t know. The world.”

“What could be more interesting than ruby roses?”

Someone who could carve roses out of gemstones would likely be interesting to talk to, at that; Arthur sighed again, but found himself smiling. His mother meant well. And he did need to start thinking about marriage, as an only son and prince and heir.

He’d managed to put it off until his twenty-fifth birthday, two weeks ago. That’d been the catalyst for the onslaught of prospective spouses, beginning the night of the birthday ball his mother’d thrown. There’d been six flattering sugar sculptures of his head, and an entire wall of rare indigo orchids.

He said, “I’ll consider whomever you invite, but no promises, all right?”

“That’s all I ask.” His mother picked up her teacup again. “That and you settling on a perfectly faultless and advantageous match, of course.”

Of course, Arthur thought. Just like that. So easy.

About K.L. Noone

K.L. Noone teaches college students about superheroes and Shakespeare by day, and in her not-so-secret identity writes romance – frequently paranormal or with fantasy elements, often LGBTQA+, and always with happy endings! She also likes cats, tea, and the sound of ocean waves. Come visit her at https://klnoone.wordpress.com/

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: Ghost Dater by Ofelia Gränd

Hi! 👋 Thank you, Nell, for letting me stop by again (You’re always welcome, my friend!). Today, I’m actually here to talk about a new release. It feels like I’ve been here a lot this year, but I’ve mostly talked about re-releases.

Ghost Dater is a short story about Thaddeus and Sandy from Soul Eater, and I think it’s best if you’ve read it first. I’m not gonna tell you what to do, but it’s my suggestion 😄

This is part of Rockshade’s PID series, which are paranormal mysteries. The plan is to write one more 50k-ish story, but I keep procrastinating. I tell myself that as soon as I’ve finished this or that story, I’m gonna start writing it, but then I sign up for something else and manage to get another deadline.

When JMS Books sent out an in-house call about short stories that either should be a Trick or a Treat, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get back to Rockshade. A short little story to see what everyone was up to.

I meant to write about Jaecar and Elijah from Mind Scrambler, even told my publisher the story was gonna be about them when I signed up to write it, but things don’t always turn out the way I plan – they seldom turn out the way I plan.

So there I was with characters who didn’t want to be written and with another pair who did, and somehow I was gonna have a trick or a treat. With Jaecar and Elijah, I had an idea about a trick of emotions – how do you trick an empath? But since Thaddeus all of a sudden was pissed off at Sandy, I had to rethink things.

How do you trick a ghost werewolf? Especially since he’s your mate and tied to you so he never can be more than 150 feet from you. By making him believe he’s gonna be dressing up as a pirate for Halloween of course – no one can think beyond that LOL

It was great to visit Thad and Sandy again, and I will write about Ulf and Beau – I will. Soon.

Excerpt:

Trying to be sneaky about things wasn’t easy when you had a ghost werewolf as your mate and familiar. Sandy saw everything he did and could never leave his side, so Thaddeus bought way more food than he needed. He should write a manual: How to Trick Your Ghost Werewolf into Believing You’re having a Party. He was sure it would become a bestseller.

“Weren’t you grocery shopping yesterday?” Sandy had his arms crossed over his chest as he eyed the meat Thaddeus had grabbed.

“You know I did. You were there.”

“So why are we here again?” Some of the grumpiness was back, but not nearly as bad as it had been.

“Because we’re having a party tomorrow.”

“You knew that yesterday.”

Thaddeus nodded absently as he eyed the vegetable display. “I didn’t know how many would show.”

He’d persuaded Sandy not to follow him into the clothing store where he’d bought black pants and a dress shirt for Sandy. At first, he’d planned to buy a suit, but then he’d changed his mind. Sandy wasn’t a suit kind of guy.

The grocery shopping he could fake too, but Elora was getting him blood candles. He hated blood candles, and Sandy would freak out the moment he lit them, but he needed a blood sacrifice for a circle.

He should do something nice for Elora. She’d spent most of the day in the precinct basement, going through the old spell books they had there. It was books they’d confiscated, and while they could check them out if they were working on a case, everyone preferred it when they were locked up in the basement.

The spell Elora had found should be easy enough, but he still wasn’t sure it would work. He would draw a circle, cast a spell that would lock them in the circle—Thaddeus could break it, so the locking themselves in part didn’t worry him. What worried him was that they’d be locked out of the normal world while in there. He suspected it would freak Sandy out since they’d been trapped in a similar circle once. He didn’t plan on telling him they wouldn’t be visible should someone enter their house.

While in the circle they were supposed to be equal. Worst case: it would mean that Thad might become a ghost while in there, but since he was the one with the magic, he didn’t think so. He hoped it would mean Sandy would become like him. If that meant he would be able to do magic, he didn’t know, but as long as Sandy could eat Thad was happy.

“Why are you frowning?” Sandy’s gaze swept over the grocery store.

“Just thinking.” He looked at the items he’d picked. “I think we’re good to go.”

“Are you sure?”

Thad shrugged. “What would you like to drink?”

“I don’t drink.”

Fuck. “No, I know, but if you were to eat meat, what would you like to drink? Red wine?”

“Beer.”

Beer. Thad nodded. “Then we need some beer too.”

A look of longing stole over Sandy’s face. “Yeah, Ric would prefer beer over wine.”

He didn’t give a fuck about what Ric preferred since Ric was an ass most of the time and, perhaps more importantly, wouldn’t be coming on this date—he hoped. “Then we should skip the beer.” He grinned at Sandy and went to grab beer.

Forty-five minutes later, Thad was waiting outside the police station. Elora’s shift would end in two minutes, and they were to meet away from everyone else. He’d asked Sandy to wait in the car, which he did—while sulking again.

“Thad.” Elora pushed open the door and approached him. “I couldn’t get hold of any blood candles. You never told me they were illegal!”

Thad grimaced. “I think there are legal ones, aren’t there?”

Elora frowned at him. “I couldn’t find any, and I think we’ve learned our lesson with black markets.”

Thad grimaced.

“Here’s the book.” She wore gloves, as she always did, when she handed over the thick, scarred book that sent a chill down Thad’s spine.

“Shit, it’s creepy.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend trying most of the rites in there, and…” She looked around. “I took it from the archives without signing for it, so make sure you bring it back.”

“Of course.”

Elora grimaced. “I’d prefer it if Jaecar didn’t find out I’ve spent most of the day searching for a spell that would allow you to properly date your mate.”

“I promise, Elora. I’ll bring it back, good as new… or, you know, as scarred and creepy as it is in its current state.”

She studied him with a frown. “Thad…”

“Yeah?” He didn’t like the way she studied him.

“Are you sure this is a good idea. You don’t know what will happen, and…”

Blurb:

Thaddeus Esax has a grumpy werewolf problem. For a year, he’s been mated to Sandulf Hunter, a ghost werewolf he brought back from the dead without meaning to. It’s been great. Thad’s been happy, and he believed Sandy was too. But Sandy has been sulking for more than a week, and Thad fears their relationship isn’t going as well as he believed.

The problem with being mated to a ghost is that said ghost never can leave your side, and therefore it’s extremely hard to keep secrets. Thaddeus wants to surprise Sandy, to cheer him up, but to do that, he has to trick him into believing they’re doing something they’re not.

Telling Sandy they’re having a Halloween party doesn’t go over well, but how do you trick a ghost? By making him believe he’ll be dressed up as a pirate for an evening, of course.

Gay Paranormal Romance: 9,376 words

Buy links:

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/GhostDater

About Ofelia

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.

Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.

When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.

Find Ofelia on social media

Blog :: Newsletter :: Instagram :: Facebook Page :: Facebook Profile :: Goodreads :: Bookbub :: Pinterest

Guestpost, Release Blitz

Release Day Spotlight: Call Me Charles by Holly Day

Today, I welcome my friend Holly back to the blog. She’s here to talk about her brand spanking new release, and she brought an excerpt that both made me mad and broke my heart. Make sure to read it! But first, welcome Holly. It’s a pleasure to have you, as always ❤️

I’m back! Hello everyone, and thank you so much, Nell, for letting me steal a spot on your blog again. I was here a couple of weeks ago, talking about The Dragon Next Door, and now it’s time for Call Me Charles.

I wrote Call Me Charles for National Motorcycle Ride Day, which is celebrated on the second Saturday in October – so today! 🥳

For a brief moment, I played with the idea of writing a real biker story, but I don’t think I’d be able to pull it off. I mean, I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy, and, yes, there is a certain attraction to the whole anarchy thing (not to mention men wearing leather), isn’t there? But have you hung around a motorcycle club? Not the sharpest tools in the shed. Yes, I’m judgy.

And considering I can’t live without to-do lists and different coloured stick-its, I’m not sure they would like me much in a motorcycle club – at least not the Sons of Anarchy kind. Anarchy might seem alluring at a glance, but on what ClickUp lists do I fit the activities? Can I create templates to make things go smoother, you think? What do I write in my bujo?

And when it comes to books… I can’t say I’ve read many biker books at all. There is so much… pretence? I don’t know. Men in a group trying to maintain some macho culture seldom go down well with me.

Does it mean I don’t like motorcycles? No, I love going on a motorcycle. I don’t drive since I don’t have a driver’s license, but I love tagging along. And there is freedom in going on a bike. That’s what National Motorcycle Ride Day is all about – going for a ride and enjoy the freedom and autumn weather.

So in Call Me Charles, we have Hubert, who loves riding his bike, and we have Charles, who’s never been on one.

Excerpt:

Twenty minutes later, Charles was standing where they’d parked Mikael’s car. It was gone.

He clutched the paddle, tears welling up in his eyes. He was frozen to the bone. It was as if his body didn’t know if it was hot or cold. It burned, and yet he was so cold he couldn’t control the shaking.

He didn’t feel his feet as he stumbled along the narrow gravel road in the direction of the paved one. They had to come back for him. They’d already had a couple of nights where it had dropped below freezing. They couldn’t leave him cold and wet with no means to get home.

And what was he to do with the paddleboard? The number of the renting company was written on it, but he didn’t have his phone.

A tear escaped the corner of his eye, and he angrily wiped it away with the back of the hand.

They had to come back.

He kept on walking, the gravel digging into his feet, but he hardly noticed. Exhaustion settled in his bones. What was he doing? Walking half-naked in the thickening dark.

Some time later, he reached the crossing where the gravel road ended and the country road following the coastline took over. Sighing, he looked in both directions. There was no traffic.

He should know in which direction to walk, but he wasn’t sure. In the end, he took to the right and walked along the side of the road.

An eternity later, the sound of an engine came closer. Charles dropped the board and waved the paddle. He took a step out into the road, but the car only honked and drove past him.

A sob escaped before he knew he was crying. His body ached, his joints burned, his teeth chattered, and he was getting dizzy. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t had anything to drink for hours, and he had no idea where he was.

He walked and walked but the road looked the same. There was the occasional street lamp, but nothing indicating he was getting closer to the city. Was he walking in the wrong direction?

There was a vehicle coming closer. It didn’t sound like the car had.

Charles squinted at the only headlight—motorcycle? He stepped out into the grass next to the road, not wanting to get hit. He wore nothing reflective and it was truly dark now.

The motorbike passed him, and Charles continued his walk. Then the engine stopped.

“Charlie?”

Charles turned with a frown.

“Charles, is that you?”

Charles squinted at the figure dressed in black leather. He recognized the voice. “H-Hubert?” His teeth chattered, and he sucked in a shuddering breath.

“What the hell are you doing?” He rolled the bike to the side of the road, got off, and removed his helmet. Charles didn’t respond. He didn’t know what he was doing.

“Charles.”

Why was he growling?

“Charlie.” He waved a hand in front of his eyes. “Are you high?”

Charles shook his head. “C-Cold.”

Hubert cursed. “Why aren’t you dressed? Where are your friends?”

Charles shrugged, and to his horror, a tear trickled down his cheek. He wiped it away and prayed Hubert wouldn’t comment on it.

“Oh, honey, what happened?” Hubert grabbed the paddle, pulled it out of Charles’s hand, and wrapped an arm around him. The leather was cold against his wet T-shirt and skin and didn’t offer any of the heat Charles needed.

“They left me on the beach.”

Hubert was quiet for several seconds. “Where are your clothes?”

Charlie shrugged—or tried to, his muscles weren’t cooperating.

“We need to get you somewhere warm. How long have you been walking wet and without clothes?”

Filling his lungs, Charles tried to think. “S-Since b-before dark.”

“For fuck’s sake.” Hubert increased the distance between them and rubbed his arms. “Why aren’t you dressed?”

“They had me paddle boarding.” He gestured at the board.

Another growl followed.

“I didn’t know where to leave it.”

“Fuck the board!”

“B-But it’s rented. I h-have to return it.”

Hubert groaned. “Charles—” Hubert never called him Charles. “—they rented the board, not you. Let them deal with it.”

“Why did you call me Charles?”

“You want me to call you Charles.”

Charles nodded. “But you never do.”

“I didn’t, no, but then they came, and they called you Charlie despite you wanting to be called Charles.”

Charles giggled. He didn’t know why, but it spilled out through his chattering teeth. Hubert who always called him Charlie wouldn’t because Connor called him Charlie? It didn’t make sense.

Hubert smiled. “You’re adorable, but I think we need to get you warm sooner rather than later.”

Charles nodded. He’d love to get warm, but how?

“I live a few minutes’ ride up this road, but I fear you’ll freeze to death on the bike.” Hubert’s gaze traveled his body from his wet hair to his dirty toes. Unzipping his jacket, he shook it off. “Here.” He held it up so Charles could stick his arms in, but he couldn’t get himself to let go of the paddleboard.

“The board.”

“Put it to the side of the road. I’ll come back for it while you take a shower, okay?”

Charles nodded and put the board by the side of the road as instructed. Then he pushed his arms through the sleeves of the jacket. It was warm but so stiff and heavy he couldn’t move.

“It’s not a good fit, but better than nothing.” Hubert zipped up. “If we crash, we’re toast, but I’ll drive really fucking slow, and you’re wearing the helmet.”

Charles looked at him. He’d never been on a motorcycle, he liked living too much.

“It’ll be cold as fuck, but it’s only a few minutes, okay?”

Charles nodded. He didn’t think he could get any colder.

It turned out he could. Once Hubert had helped him onto the bike and got them rolling, Charles realized that while he’d been frozen before, the natural wind was nothing compared to being on a bike.

He hugged Hubert hard and curled up as much as he could behind him. Hubert didn’t go fast, part of Charlie was aware of it, and yet they flew down the road. They passed the gravel road Charles had walked from the beach and continued on. The night was thick, the air cold, and Charles was floating. A sense of weightlessness filled his chest.

Blurb:

Charles Bowman was having a bad day even before his friends showed up to kidnap him for his birthday. He lost his nametag, missed the bus, and was late for his shift in the sandwich shop, but that isn’t the worst. The worst is he’s accidentally been poisoning Hubert, the owner of the candy shop across from the sandwich shop, with gluten despite Hubert ordering gluten-free sandwiches.

When Charles finds himself soaking wet on a deserted road in the chilling October night, the worst gets an entirely new meaning. But right as he’s about to give up, Hubert comes driving on his motorcycle. Being responsible for gluten poisoning aside, Charles has never been as glad to see his knight in black leather, but is going home with Hubert a good idea? Or will the worst get even worse?

Contemporary Gay Romance: 15,071 words

Buy links

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/CAllMeCharles

About Holly

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

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