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/

About Nell

Goodbye September

September is a really lovely month here on the northern hemisphere, don’t you agree? It’s sort of like the best of both worlds, a little bit of summer still lingering, but also the start of fall. Add my birthday into the mix and it’s no wonder September is one of my favorite months. But alas, now it’s over, so let’s look back at my September, shall we?

Like I mentioned above, my birthday is in September (on the eleventh. Yes. That day.) and the month started out strong with an early birthday gift for me: a new Macbook Pro. My husband had grown tired of listening to me whining and groaning about how terrible my PC was, and when a big electronics store in Sweden held a huge sale on Macbook Pros (reduced price by $350-ish) he bought one for me. I love it! And instead of threatening to throw my stupid computer in the pool, I’m now hugging my Macbook and telling my hubby how much I love it, so we’re both happy 😁

I’m never buying a PC ever again. That’s a promise.

My team at work decided we should go out and have dinner together one day after we got off work. The sun was shining so we enjoyed our food and drinks outside. This carpaccio was my appetizer, and it was yummy. It was also nice to get to know my coworkers outside of work, too. They’re a good bunch.

“The weather varies between heavy fog and pale sunshine; My thoughts follow the exact same process.”

Virginia Woolf

I wonder if Virginia Woolf wrote about September when she wrote that? Even if she didn’t, it describes the past month perfectly. This was the road passing by my house one foggy morning in September.

My birthday on the other hand, was full of pale sunshine. It was so lovely and warm, we ate my birthday lunch outside on our patio: Italian cold cuts and bubbly, which has become the traditional meal for my birthday (see for yourself in this post from last year.) Lots of people called to wish me a happy birthday, my mother-in-law sent me flowers, and I got another fabulous gift from my family: a concert ticket to one of my absolute favorite artists. It’s a Swedish artist called Thåström, and I’ve written about him here on the blog before (he was my inspiration for Cinnamon Eyes for example) but even though I’ve loved him for about 40 years, I’ve never managed to catch him live. But come May 2022, that will change. I can’t wait.

Someone else has a birthday in September; my darling granddaughter who turned 1 on September 17. Of course we had to go see her and celebrate this momentous occasion. She’s a ray of sunshine and broke out in a wide smile when we arrived, held out her arms, demanding a hug. I absolutely didn’t cry when she wrapped her tiny arms around me after not seeing us IRL for over a month. Nope, that was all allergies 😂

The answer to the question how many birthday presents does a one-year-old need? is apparently “a lot.” But in our defense, she’s all the grandparents’ first grandbaby, so she’s gonna be spoiled. ❤️

When it was time for the young lady to go to bed, the hubby and I went back to our hotel and had a beer at a pub before we went to bed. It was nice but weird. And isn’t sad how something that was completely normal two years ago now makes you feel weird and guilty even if you follow all the rules? Ugh, can we have our lives back now, please? Anyway, we found a quiet corner of the pub, endured the crappy music, and enjoyed each other’s company. And the beer was yummy, too.

One sunny Saturday, I decided to pick apples from our trees and bake apple bread. Coincidentally, that day was apparently National Apple Day in Sweden, which I didn’t know at the time. The apples were really good, tartt but yummy, and the apple bread was fantastic, if I may say so myself. If you, like me, have a garden full of apples, may I suggest you try this recipe? You won’t regret it 🙂

This crow kept me company one morning when I waited for the train to take me to work. I wondered if it was Grackle the Crow who was there to see me off, but he flew away before he ever told me his name.

I end this blog post with the picture that most represents my September: a collage of pictures of my fireplace (one of them at least). I’ve spent so much time by the fire, reading by the fire, drinking tea by the fire, writing by the fire, chilling by the fire, listening to music by the fire, speaking on the phone by the fire, sleeping by the fire…I’m sure you get it. The fire nurtures my soul and makes me happy, and I can’t wait for chillier weather so I can enjoy it even more.

And that, my friends, was my September. Tell me something that happened to you last month in the comments, please. 🙂

About Nell, Nell Iris' Christmas

One Week in the Life of a Writer on a Deadline

I’ve been writing a Christmas story for what feels like forever, but I’m still struggling to find time for my writing with the Day Job taking up so much of my time these days. Then suddenly the deadline approached rapidly: Christmas stories needs to be submitted by September 30, full stop. Which, you know, is completely understandable, because no one’s going to move Christmas just because a writer can’t make their deadline, amirite?

For a long time, I didn’t think I’d make the deadline, and I even started considering self-publishing to give myself time. But last Sunday, I said to myself, Stop with the whining, Nell. Millions of authors have a Day Job and manage to find time to write. Make time, princess!

So I did. I needed to write at least 4k words to make the lowest range of the word count, so come Monday morning last week, I packed my notebook and pens in my work bag and got to work.

Monday

My train ride to work is 35 minutes, so I claimed a spot in the quiet compartment and unpacked my pens. Yes, pens because everyone knows a self-respecting writer needs more than one fountain pen for a 30-something minute writing session.

Tuesday

I was tired on Tuesday and my headphones and the new Spotify playlist I’d recently made looked very appealing, but I gave myself a stern talking to and wrote more words.

Wednesday

I reached the end of the notebook (but not the story unfortunately) just as the train rolled into my station. It’s almost as though I’d planned it. 😁

Thursday

On Thursday, I worked from home, so I met up with my morning writing crew before work to transcribe what I’d written on the train. But I needed to work harder, so I sat down in front on the fire after I’d quit working for the day to continue writing. It was lovely and I got a lot done.

Friday

I worked from home on Friday, too, and woke up at 4:45 am, before the alarm even went off. But I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I started my writing session at 5:30 instead of 6am. It was pitch black outside my window (yes, there’s a window there behind the computer) and got a lot done. Gawd, I love these morning writing sessions and I miss the good old days when there were no Day Jobs interfering and we did this every day.

Saturday

My darling granddaughter turned one on Friday, so early Saturday morning we jumped into the car and I had to figure out a way of getting some writing done. So I came up with this mobile office: my shiny new Macbook Pro and a cushioned knee-laptop-tray, and I wrote in the car. I didn’t think it was going to work all that well, but I proved myself wrong. I wrote 2k words in the car and two of them was “The End.”

Sunday

The day after the big birthday party, I woke up in a hotel bed, and decided To heck with this, I’m writing in bed today. So I spent my morning writing session editing my manuscript one-handed (because my husband wanted to hold my hand in his sleep) before it was time to say goodbye to Ofelia and Ally and go eat hotel breakfast.

Summary

Somehow, I’d forgotten one important fact about myself: that I work really well under pressure. So when I decided to just do it, I got it done. I wrote 6k words, finished the story, and as I write this blog post (at 8pm Sunday evening) the story needs a bit more tweaking before it’s ready for betas, but it’ll probably be ready tomorrow. Or Tuesday the latest.

One thing I always told my darling daughter when she grew up was You can do anything if you set your mind to it. I won’t forget it again.

Oh, and the name of the Christmas story I worked so hard on last week is The Santa Emergency.

About Nell

Goodbye August

September is here. But even more importantly, fall is here. And last year, something happened to me that transformed me into a fall-loving person when my favorite season has always been spring before. So I’ve been longing for fall for weeks already; I’ve been craving lit candles and full red wines and hearty stews and warming soups and evenings spent reading in front of a sparkling fire. And now that time is finally here. Yay.

But before this blog goes into full-blown autumn-mode, let’s take a look at 10 pictures from August, shall we?

In case you’ve forgotten, when we said goodbye to July, I was in the middle of a vacation from work, something that continued for two weeks into August. Vacation was great; it started out with a visit from my grandbaby, daughter, and son-in-law, and continued with evenings like these; hubby and I on the porch, listening to a great playlist, having a glass of bubbly or three.

I also repotted some of my indoor plants: these are coleus that I grew from seed that needed to be put into individual pots. I also gave the Chinese Money Plant (to the right) a bigger pot. I’ve never had a green thumb before, but apparently I do now. 😁

Our friends told us about a ramen restaurant that opened in Malmö (where we used to live before we moved to the house in the country), and if you’ve followed my blog since I lived in Malaysia you probably know that ramen is my favorite food in the whole wide world. So the hubby and I jumped into the car and drove to the restaurant to try it out. It looked good, but sadly we were disappointed. They made the ramen with chicken broth instead of that deep flavorful pork broth that has simmered for hours and hours, and that gives the dish its complexity. This was a nice enough noodle soup, but it wasn’t a real ramen.

I had such high hopes. Do I have to return to Kuala Lumpur for a decent bowl of ramen?

The last week of our vacation, we jumped into the car and drove toward our old hometown: it was time to visit our families for the first time in over a year. On the way there, we stopped by Cliff Burton’s (Metallica’s bass player) memorial stone, that sits where he tragically died in a bus crash in 1986.

On our way to visit a friend, we stopped at Granbergsdals Hytta. It’s a smelting furnace built in 1642 even if it didn’t look like this back then. Hubby and I have a soft spot for this place; back in our youth (we’re talking early nineties) we were members of an amateur theatre company, and we acted in a couple plays here in this old, lovely building. Back in 1994, I played one of the gods in The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht. Wanna see a pic? The young girl in the middle of this picture is Nell as a 22-year-old aspiring actor. 😂

(Wanna see another pic? Again, the young girl in the middle is me, but here I’m playing a tree. A rowanberry tree to be exact, in a Swedish play called The Story of a Tree.)

Let me tell you: spending an entire summer in that old building with likeminded people was awesome.

This picture is filed under Things I Never Thought I’d See. After visiting a dear friend in his new house, he said Make sure you don’t miss the camels on your way back. Hubby and I said Huh? Camels? but kept our eyes open. And sure enough, there they were. Grazing peacefully in the Swedish countryside. Let’s just say that camels are not native to Sweden, so I really hadn’t expected that.

But all things must come to an end, and that goes for vacations and summers, too. So on August 16 I had to jump on the train and go back to work. It was a drab, rainy day, as though the weather commiserated with me.

One day, we woke up to new neighbors; a herd of cows in the field next to our house. The field has been mostly empty all summer, with the exception of a girl and her horse a few times, but I’m happy about the new neighbors. They’re very curious about us and stare at us when we take out the trash, or when we…

…decide to jump into the pool one particularly sunny weekend, because who knows if this might be the last chance? Our pool isn’t heated (that’s a project for next year) and the water temperature was 19C (that’s 66F for you heathens who refuse to use the superior Celsius scale 😆). I sat by the side of the pool for the longest time, fiddling with my phone, splashing my feet in the water while considering whether I should jump in or not.

After a while, I decided that yes, I was gonna do it, so I changed into my bathing suit and literally jumped into the pool. I was gonna use the ladder, but hubby shook his head and said I’d never go through with it if I did, so I handed him my glasses and jumped. And surfaced shrieking, because holy crap that was cold. My shrieks drew the cows’ attention; they came wandering to the part of the fence where they could see my pool shenanigans, and they stood there staring at me, as though they were thinking What’s that crazy human doing? When I rushed inside to put on something warm, hubby checked on the cows only to find that they’d wandered along. The shrieking seems to be over, let’s go eat some grass instead.

Just because my vacation was over, didn’t mean everyone’s was, so one weekend we got visitors. My brother and sister-in-law came to stay for a few days and it was lovely. While they were here, we engaged in a Great Swedish Tradition: the crayfish party. My SIL brought crayfish and shrimp, and we ate it with bread and a pecorino-basil pie, drank snaps and sang silly drinking songs as tradition demands. It was lovely.

(If you’re paying attention, you’ll know that this is actually the eleventh picture, but it’s my blog and I break the rules if I want to 😁)

And on one gray, rainy day at the end of August (the 27th to be precise), we had a huge pile of firewood delivered and I declared fall season officially opened. Bring on all the autumnal things!

How was your August? Tell me something that you did in the comments!

About Nell

Sometimes You Need a Break

Yesterday morning’s writing happened at the kitchen table. My computer was already downstairs from the evening before, and I was in dire need of an ocean of tea, so I decided that it was best if I was close to the kettle. I spent three lovely hours with my best writing buddies; Ally and Ofelia/Holly, and when we closed down the morning office in favor of breakfast, I said I’ll definitely write more today, I have a deadline.

But when I made breakfast, the hubby asked if I wanted him to light a fire, and I almost screamed yes. So we ate in the den, by the fire. And I made a pot of tea (seriously, I had so much tea yesterday that I expected to see Mrs. Potts staring back at me from the bathroom mirror), picked up my e-reader to only read a chapter on the book I started the day before…and never left the couch again for the rest of the day.

That’s obviously not true; I did leave the couch for necessities like going to the bathroom and making something to eat, like yummy gyoza (although, full disclosure, the picture above isn’t from yesterday but from the day I folded them and put them into the freezer. But we ate from this batch yesterday). But I couldn’t make myself do anything else. I opened my computer, even went upstairs to fetch my notebook, but no. No words wanted to come.

Instead, I stayed on the couch, feeding more wood into the fire while wrinkling my nose at the drab gray weather outside my window. It’s been raining and raining and raining, and yesterday was no exception, so I think my soul needed the warmth, the crackle, and the smell of a wood-burning fire.

After dinner, the hubby poured me a glass of red wine and I started another book, a re-read of a favorite, Beautiful Boy by Grace R. Duncan. So I spent the rest of the evening like I spent the day: on the couch, by the fire, with a book on my e-reader. And I couldn’t part from the fire, so I didn’t go to bed until midnight, which made getting up this morning a bit hard. But so, so worth it.

Because yes, I do have a deadline and I did feel a little guilty for not writing, for wasting an entire day, one of the few I have now that I work a day job, and then I thought No! Fuck it! Everyone deserves a break sometimes, a moment to recharge, and I clearly needed that yesterday.

It was a lovely day to spend a gray, rainy Saturday, and I don’t regret it. That being said; back to work. I have a deadline.

Yesterday’s playlist:

Prayers for Rain – The Cure
The Mercy Seat – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
La Guillotine de Magritte – Einstürzende Neubauten
House of Cards – Radiohead
My Thieving Heart – Sivert Høyem + Marie Munroe