Coming Soon, So Far Away

Coming Soon: So Far Away

Hello everyone! I’m sorry about my absence; it feels like I haven’t been here forever. I know it might not seem that way to you, because I’ve scheduled posts in advance to keep this place from being empty. But I’ve been busy with the move so I haven’t posted as much as I want to. But I’ve moved now, so hopefully things will be back to normal around here.

Because of this, I haven’t spoken much about my upcoming release, but today’s the day. 🙂


Some months back, I read an article in a major Swedish newspaper about a married couple being separated because of the pandemic. They were elderly, and one of them lived in a nursing home but the other didn’t, and because of restrictions, they weren’t allowed into the same room. They could only see each other through the window and they wrote each other letters and they were both sad because they’d been married for decades.

That story made me tear up, but it also sparked a slew of questions in my head, questions that led me to writing this story. It’s not a story about an old married couple; it’s the story about Zakarias who’s infected with a virus and his fiancé ICU nurse Julian and how they cope with being separated.

Caveat: while this story is definitely inspired by the covid-19 pandemic, the virus in my story is a figment of my imagination and not covid-19.

Engaged couple Zakarias and Julian are convinced nothing can separate them…until a global pandemic hits. Zakarias catches the virus with mild symptoms and isolates in the couple’s guest house. The few meters dividing them might as well be the moon as he watches Julian, an ICU nurse, work himself to the bone, unable to support him the way he needs. Frustration and worry build as the weeks pass. Will Zakarias be declared healthy before Julian burns out?

M/M Contemporary / 14 567 words

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment: The Conclusion

This is the final installment of my audiobook experiment, and I thought I’d summarize my experiences. But first, if you’ve missed the previous four installments, here are the links if you want to catch up:

Part 1 :: Part 2 :: Part 3 :: Part 4

All sixteen audiobooks I’ve talked about in the previous installments

The Practical Stuff

During this experiment, I’ve listened to books on Storytel, Nextory, Scribd, and Audible. Storytel and Nextory are great because there’s no limit to how many books I can listen to. Scribd apparently makes books temporarily unavailable for me when they feel I’ve listened to too many, and Audible…Well, I signed up because one of the YouTubers I follow is sponsored by Audible and I got a free credit, so I thought why not? But seriously; 1 credit/month for $14.95? When I can listen to unlimited books every month for 169SEK (about $19) on Storytel? I don’t know if I’ll keep my Audible membership, but we’ll see 🙂

The Verdict

As I’m sure you’ve figured out if you’ve followed this blog series, I’m a convert! I’ve gone from Audiobooks, no thank you! to being a huge fan. The whole reason for me starting the experiment was that I need something to entertain me while I mow our new huge lawn, and audiobooks are going to be perfect for that. As a matter of fact, I love how I can listen to a book while doing chores; cooking has never been this much fun. Nor has cleaning or doing laundry. And I predict all garden work will be much more fun if I can listen to a good story.

But Nell, you said audiobooks are too sloooooooow!

I did, and it’s still true. I can finish a book much quicker when reading it with my eyeballs than when listening to it. But I can’t make dinner and eyeball-read, so this is a clear win for audiobooks. I’ve also tried speeding it up, but I don’t like it. I feel like a lot of the nuance of the narration is lost if I listen to it at a higher speed, and I don’t want that. A really great narrator adds so much to every sentence, and it feels disrespectful of me to not pay attention to their hard work.

Speaking of great narrators…

I hadn’t expected the importance of the narrator, how the narrator can make or break a book. Literally. I’ve listened to and enjoyed books I never would have read had it not been for the narrator. And I’ve listened to and not enjoyed books I’ve previously read and re-read several times that didn’t work for me in audio format because of the narrator. In one case I even deducted a star from my previous rating because of this. Whether you like a narrator or not is of course a personal preference, and I’ve read reviews bashing narrators I’ve loved, and I’ve read reviews glorifying narrators I don’t like, so really. Personal preference is the deciding factor when it comes to the narrator.

But these four gentlemen are my favorite narrators so far (in no particular order): Chris Chambers (managed to make me really like Ranch Daddy despite that I disliked the sample I downloaded), Teddy Hamilton (his narration of Deacon in Without You made me cry), Greg Boudreaux (I didn’t think I could love Invitation to the Blues more than I did when I read it, but Greg Boudreaux proved me wrong), and Kirt Graves (he slays me narrating Felix in Raze). 😍

Saving the best for last?

There’s one audiobook I’m really looking forward to listening to; The Remaking of Corbin Wale. I freaking adore this book (my review, in case you missed it), and when I saw that Chris Chambers narrates it, I gasped. Out loud. This must be good. Great even. The holy grail of audiobooks. A unicorn! So I’m saving it for a really awfully bad day when I need cheering up. No pressure or anything, audiobook version of Corbin Wale! 😀

The ones I haven’t talked about

I’ve also listened to these books, but they haven’t made it into my previous posts (except for Invitation to the Blues that I’ve mentioned). Strong Enough was the book mentioned above that got a star deducted from my rating. Evolved was peculiarly narrated, something that both fit the story and annoyed me a little. Born Again Sinner is one of those books I’d never have listened to had it not been for the narrators (Chris Chambers + southern drawl = 😍 ). I’ve also been on a Roan Parrish binge as you can see. I loved all three of her books below, even if there were too many pets in Better Than People (I couldn’t tell them apart!), and some of the music elements in Riven bugged me (as the wife of a musician). Invitation to the Blues was pure perfection, though, so listen to it if you haven’t already.

The Conclusion

And that’s it for this audiobook experiment. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as I’ve enjoyed conducting it. And if you listen to a really great book, feel free to recommend it to me anytime, even if this experiment is officially ended.

TL;DR

Nell Iris was wrong about audiobooks. Audiobooks are great. Nell Iris loves audiobooks. 🙂

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: As the Crows Fly by A.L. Lester

Today, we welcome my friend and morning writing buddy to the blog, Ally Lester and their new book As the Crows Fly. This book sounds right up my alley: short, loosely based on a Celtic myth, featuring a loner. Gimme!! *grabby hands* 🙂


Thank you so much to Nell for having me here to day to tell you about As the Crows Fly, my new short story—11,500 words—in my Reworked Celtic Myths collection. The stories are a loose set of contemporary stories set in Wales, and the seed of each one comes from a Welsh or Irish legend.

The seed for As the Crows Fly is the story of St Kevin. You can read about him in the afterword of the story (ha! See what I did there!) or on my blog. The story was a bit lacking in romance, even more so that my previous story Playing Chicken, which involved St Dwynwen and a magic well full of eels.

The thing I really wanted to write about though, and which sent me off to find a Celtic myth I could twist to fit, was crows. I’ve always been fascinated by their intelligence and their ability. A friend of mine talks a lot about a place she goes to deliver crafting courses where there is a resident jackdaw. He’s called Harry and he’s a real character (here’s his advice about staying safe during covid in a short facebook video) and of course there’s a long tradition of corvids being associated with both magic and shiny things.

I spent a lot of time in Wales in my young adulthood and one of the things that has stayed with me is the way crows circle and play in the wind around the ruined castles that dot the coastline. There’s this great sense of history past, and also loss, I think, that I get from places like that and somehow that has become associated with crows for me.

So my Kevin is a lonely young man, living alone on the south coast of Wales. He’s made friends with a local group of crows, called a murder. One in particular, Grackle (which is an old world for crow) is particularly friendly.  Kevin works as a veterinary nurse during the day and in his free time he hangs out with his crow-friends and draws them.

He meets Webster one day by chance, offers him hospitality during a storm, and they just click.

It’s a short, hopeful story, a complete change from my usual longer historical angst-and-magic-filled queer books. I hope you enjoy it! I’m planning on adding to the collection regularly over the next few months!

Paul Webster has come out the army after a twenty-two year stretch with a trick hip and no idea what to do with his life. He takes a few weeks walking along the Welsh coast to get his head on straight.

Kevin Davies is a veterinary nurse and an artist. He’s getting lonelier and lonelier in his cottage on the edge of the sea, kept company by his cats and a friendly flock of crows.

What happens when the two men hunker down together to wait out a wild March gale?

A 11,500-word short story in the Reworked Celtic Myths series. This time, there are crows.

Buy As the Crows Fly

Find Ally

A. L. Lester is a writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense. She lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, and some hens. She likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Find her at her website, allester.co.uk or you can find on your preferred social media via lnk.bio. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now, shockingly, Tiktok!

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment pt 4

Welcome to part four of The Audiobook Experiment. Audiobooks have been my best friends these past weeks when I’ve been focused on packing our stuff in preparation for the move; listening to a book make packing bearable and I’ve been a lot less grumpy than I expected 🙂

This installment has a theme: follow the narrator. I’ve listened to enough books now to have found a few favorite narrators, so I’ve searched their names and picked the books I’ve listened to because of them, not the authors. So this time, I present four books I wouldn’t have read had it not been for the narrators.

Football Sundae by Daryl Banner – I liked Sean Crisden’s narration for Play It Again by Aidan Wayne (in part 2 of my audiobook experiment) so I decided to try this book despite the fact it has “football” in the title. And let’s face it: this book had the odds stacked against it. It’s new adult (which I rarely read anymore) and jock/nerd theme (which I’ve never read because jocks are SO not my thing), and then there’s the dreaded football on the cover (I’m really really really not a sports fan. At all!) But I thought What the hell, why not give it a chance? It’s included for free in my subscription! so I started listening to it. And without the narrators, I would never have bought the book after reading the sample. And Sean Crisden wasn’t even the highlight of this book, the second narrator, Chris Chambers was. Holy crap, I loved him! But despite that, I couldn’t finish the book and it wasn’t even because of the football. I threw in the towel at 50%, because it really wasn’t for me; I didn’t gel with the writing style, I cringed when the young men spoke like jock-y young men (“wanna taste my spruce juice?” really??) and well…I’m not sure there was a single thing I liked aside for the narrators so I had to DNF it.

Tough Guy by Rachel Reid was another sports story I decided to try because I wanted to listen to Tor Thom’s deep voice (that I fell in love with in my first installment, specifically when listening to Raze by Roan Parrish). This book also had all the odds stacked against it. Third book in a series where I haven’t read the previous two. A hockey romance. And I’d never heard of the author before. That in itself isn’t something that would deter me from trying a book, but combined with the hockey stick and the nearly headless torso on the cover this is a book I never would’ve given a second glance if I’d been looking for something to read with my eyeballs. But despite all that, I ended up enjoying the book. MC Ryan, the hockey player, is a gentle giant and you know I love characters like that. It won’t be on my “Best of 2021” list, but I gave it a solid three stars.

And can someone answer a question I’ve had for a loooong time: why are there so many hockey romances nowadays? I feel like half of the books that are released are either hockey romances or fake boyfriends, and I dislike both. Can we retire them now, please? 🙂

I downloaded a sample of Ranch Daddy by Silvia Violet a while ago, but it didn’t appeal to me so I ended up deleting the sample from my Kindle app. But when I saw that Chris Chambers (my new favorite narrator from Football Sundae) was the narrator for this book, I decided it was definitely worth a second chance. And I’m glad I did: I ended up liking the book after all and gave it four stars, but my rating wouldn’t have been so high without Chris Chambers. Because gaaaaawd, listening to him makes me weak in the knees, and now I want to send all my favorite MM romance books to him so he can narrate them for my listening pleasure. I just need to save some money first 🙂

I picked Let There Be Light by A.M. Johnson because of Teddy Hamilton (one of the narrators of Without You from part 2). This is yet another book I probably would have overlooked if I’d just scrolled by it because, like Football Sunday, this is a new adult book with a sports theme (MC Royal is on the swim theme in college). But gaaaawd, am I glad I decided to give it a try because I ended up loving it. The writing was so lyrical and beautiful and emotional and it frequently made my heart clench and my tears well up. The characters WANT to stay together, despite difficulties, and this is always something I love. And the narrators! Holy crap, they were fantastic! I love Teddy Hamilton even more after this book. Aaron Shedlock, the second narrator, was new to me, but he made Camden’s voice intense and touching and it was perfect. Fantastic writing + stellar narration = ten freaking stars!

One thing that hit me when I started reading Let There Be Light, though, is that voices of fully mature, grown men, narrating young men in their late teens/early twenties can be a bit jarring. But Royal and Cameron were more mature than their actual age, so it worked. Maybe that’s one of the things that made me put down Football Sundae? That the immature language didn’t fit the fully adult voices?


Today’s question: if you’re an audiobook listener, have you ever tried new books you maybe wouldn’t have read otherwise if it hadn’t been for the narrator?

There will be a fifth installment: the conclusion of the experiment and what I’ve learned while listening to stories for hours and hours. Stay tuned! 🙂

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: Blown Away by Holly Day

Today, my friend and morning writing buddy Holly Day is here for a visit to talk about her brand spanking new book Blown Away, and tempt us with pictures of cake. Make sure you have a tissue handy to wipe drool off your face 🙂


Hello *waves*. Thank you, Nell, for letting me drop by again. It’s lovely being here.

Do you have a sweet tooth? I admit I’m slightly addicted to sweet things, mostly chocolate and salty liquorice, but I won’t turn down cake when it’s offered. I don’t eat gluten so I have to watch it with the cakes, and with a lot of the liquorice too, but I can’t imagine life without sweet things in it.

Did you know it’s the liver that produces the hormone that makes us crave sweet things? It’s called FGF21 and it tells our brain that we need to eat something sweet.

I’m not saying I’m powerless when it comes to making choices, but some people have more of a sweet tooth than others. It’s genetic. Our brain is told more often to eat something sweet than those whose liver produces ‘normal’ levels of FGF21.

So when Espen Urso in Blown Away is craving chocolate cake with cinnamon and cayenne frosting, Tres Leches cake, red velvet cake, chocolate chip cookies, Mexican cinnamon cookies, Bunuelos or whatever it might be he wants to eat, he’s not to blame. You see, Espen is a bear shifter, and everyone knows bears have a sweet tooth. But it’s not only sweet things, Espen likes to eat, and you shouldn’t keep a bear from his food.

Arvid Rai, who’s a blue jay shifter, doesn’t share Espen’s fascination with food – he’s a bird! LOL

You’d think I wrote this story to celebrate World Chocolate Day (that’s on July 7th, and I haven’t written a story for it…yet) or something, but I didn’t. I wrote Blown Away for Big Wind Day that’s on April 12th.

Arvid is an omega on the run. There is a terrible storm, which makes it impossible for him to fly, and a group of hot-headed alphas are hunting him. They catch up with him in Espen’s territory.

Espen doesn’t tolerate intruders, especially not when they’re keeping him from his food, and he wants nothing to do with omegas.


Excerpt:

“Let’s see.” The bear crouched by his side, and Arvid wanted to run. He hadn’t willingly been this close to an alpha shifter since he left home at sixteen.

Gently, the bear took his hand, then he cupped his elbow, and before Arvid could prepare, he pulled. The pain made him scream, then the world went black for a few seconds.

“Easy.”

Arvid kicked, certain the bear now would take advantage of him.

“We should have someone look at it, but now it at least looks as if the bones are aligned. Whiskey?”

“What?” Arvid blinked away the black dots still dancing in his eyes.

“Would you like a glass of whiskey? A bottle perhaps?” The bear shrugged. “Might take the edge off the pain.”

“I don’t like whiskey.”

The bear huffed. “I’m making blueberry pancakes while we still have power. You want some?”

Pancakes? Now?

“With syrup.”

Arvid could’ve sworn the bear’s gaze heated at the mention of syrup—not in the creepy way most alphas’ gazes heated when they saw him, but in a… hungry way.

“I… eh…” Was it a trick? Was he trying to make him stay so he could mate with him?

The bear frowned. “I’ll go back into the kitchen. I might be allergic to birds.” He rubbed his chest. “I’m feeling… stressed. I don’t do stressed.”

Arvid took a deep breath and tried to soothe his nerves. If the bear didn’t know he was the one causing him to stress, he wasn’t about to tell him. “Pancakes would be lovely.” He didn’t move though. His arm throbbed, and he had no clothes.

“My bedroom is up the stairs in the kitchen.”

Bedroom? Arvid glanced at the door. He appreciated the bear wanting to take him in a bed instead of throwing him onto wet ground and have his way with him, but he’d almost believed this guy was different.

“Wardrobe to the left, right inside the door.” He turned his back to Arvid and walked away.

What the hell? Was it a trick? Once he walked up the stairs, there was no escape, the bear could come up after him, attack from behind.

The house shook as a gust of wind took hold of it, and in the next heartbeat, the room went dark.

“Damn. I wanted pancakes.” The statement was followed by a growl, and Arvid flinched. A hungry bear. Steps were coming closer, and Arvid’s pulse sped up.

“I should have you move to the barn. My heart reacts funny around you.” The grumpy tone would’ve been funny if it had been directed at someone else.

“Sorry.”

“Can’t help what you are.” The bear blew out a breath somewhere nearby. “Go get some clothes. I’m gonna light a fire to prevent the house from going cold.”

Arvid still didn’t move. “Eh… do you have a… flashlight or something?”

He could sense the bear watching him in the dark. “You don’t have any night vision?” He moved around, and soon there was the sound of a striking match. “Here.”

He handed him a candlestick with a short candle, two-thirds of it already burned down. “Thanks.” Arvid still didn’t move. He didn’t want to move. Everything hurt.

The bear snorted. “Wait here, I’ll go get you something.” And then he was gone.

Blurb:

Espen Urso would rather stay inside and enjoy a nice, sweet cake than be out in the worst storm of the year. But there’s a group of alpha shifters trespassing, and he needs to defend his territory and keep the people in his village safe. A group of wolf shifters he can scare off, but when he realizes they’ve hurt a defenseless little bird, he loses his patience.

Arvid Rai is having a bad day. He’s an omega on the run, with a group of alphas on his tail. If there hadn’t been a storm, he could have easily flown away before the stupid wolves got their hands on him, or the angry bear noticed he was in his territory. But there is a storm, and the idiot who grabbed him broke his wing, so now he can’t fly anywhere. Still, he deems it best to stay with the growly bear rather than having the other alphas fight over him.

Espen has never believed in the myth of omegas, and it isn’t until he takes Arvid in he realizes how much trouble he’ll be in when shifters from near and far learn he has one in his home. Will he be able to keep Arvid safe from other shifters? Is it even possible to defend his territory with an omega in it?

M/M Paranormal Romance: 13,628 words

Amazon :: JMS Books :: books2read/BlownAway

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.

Connect with Holly @ https://lnk.bio/xpae or visit her website @ hollydaywrites.wordpress.com