About Nell

Wrapping up 2020

2020 started slow for me, writing wise. Moving across the world, making a home in a new city in Sweden where I’ve never lived before, finding new routines, took longer than I expected. I had a lovely office, but somehow it wasn’t right. And then the pandemic hit and gave us all anxiety and heartache, and that sure didn’t help. Because of the pandemic, I also had to move a second time; we had no choice because my landlady decided to sell the house. So after living only for six months in the house we moved to a small-ish apartment instead.

And here I found my stride. I don’t have an office; we have an open floor plan and my desk is sitting between the kitchen and the living room area, and I love it here. And at the end of June, I fount my morning writing crew and started getting up to write at 6am every day. As a result, the second half of 2020 has been very productive for me and I already have 4 books on JMS Books release schedule for 2021. But the slow start made this into a slow-ish year for me, book release wise. At least compared to 2019.

Let’s take a look:

I’ve released four new stories this year, five if you count the super-short freebie continuation to 9 Willow Street. I’ve released one box set containing previously released Cinnamon Eyes and Promise Me We’ll Be Okay. And two of my stories are featured in two anthologies released by JMS Books this year: Unexpected Christmas in A Decade of Gay Romance and Always You in 2020 Top Ten Gay Romance.

It hasn’t been a bad year, especially not when you take everything that’s happened into consideration. But when I compare myself to 2019 me, I’m a bit disappointed. Even if I wrote in my 2019 wrap-up that “And maybe, we can all agree that this many releases in one year is a bitโ€ฆexcessive?” It felt excessive then, but now…not so much. ๐Ÿ˜

That being said, I’m happy that I’ve found a routine that works for me, especially after this weird and difficult year. I even managed to write a book about cheating (the big no-no topic of romance stories) that was mostly well received, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that ๐Ÿ™‚

Late Night Poetry | Always You | Regaining Trust | Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday | 9 Willow Street: And Then They Were Three | One More Chance | A Decade of Gay Romance | 2020 Top Ten Gay Romance
About Nell

Goals for 2021

I’m not the type who makes big over-reaching goals for myself; I usually just go with the flow, and seeing other people making goals for 1-2-3 years ahead makes me break out in hives because of stress. To each their own, and all that, but that’s not for me.

But since I want to take my author career more seriously, I decided to try this goals thing for 2021. Vague goals, but things that would be good for me. Even if not all of them are things I want to do. What do you mean, Nell? you ask.

I’ll tell you what I mean. It’s the last goal I’m not friends with. “Start a newsletter.”

Newsletters. I intensely dislike them. I don’t want my inbox spammed with unwelcome emails, and subsequently, I’ve resisted getting one of my own for several years now. Despite lots of my author friends telling me I need one because of lots of reasons that all sounds reasonable (duh!), but my personal dislike of the newsletter concept has made me stubbornly refuse. At one point, I even bought a book about newsletters, thinking it would help, but no. On the contrary, it scared me away for another year or so.

But I think I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re right. It is good for me for reasonable reasons (heh), so I grudgingly added it as one of my 2021 goals. And then I decided I’d start researching it right away, because if I procrastinate it, I’m going to come up with reasons why I shouldn’t do it, and suddenly it’s 2022 and Nell still has no newsletter.

So this morning, after my writing session, I googled some and found the following:

Yes, Katie Rose Guest Pryal author of the article, I completely agree. When am I supposed to write my actual books? I’ve already spent a godawful long time planning social media this year, and it’s only January 4! So I’m sorry, dear readers, but there’ll be no Nell Iris books this year (yeah, that’s a lie because one is already up for pre-order). I’ll be busy with social media and my newsletter…but at least I’ll have a newsletter! ๐Ÿ˜†

So that’s what I’ll be doing in January. Setting up a newsletter. And probably moaning and whining about it, too ๐Ÿ˜

But if you want to help me out, you can tell me if you like newsletters? And if yes, what especially do you like with author newsletters (aside for the free book, ofc ๐Ÿ™‚ )?

About Nell

Goodbye December

…and 2020. You won’t be missed. But since I want my blog to be a happy, positive space, I’m focusing on the good things of this year, number one among them is that I became a grandmother. Who can be unhappy when such a monumental thing happens? ๐Ÿ™‚

But this post is primarily for things that happened in December. I hope you don’t expect grand adventures or travel photos from exotic locations, because December was mostly spent at home in my tiny apartment. Because you know… ๐Ÿ˜€

But let’s not talk about that now.

December was mostly a gray and dreary month, consisting of rain, rain, and more rain. But every now and then a pink sky appeared to make me happy, and whenever it did, I photographed it.

I bought myself a tea and short story advent calendar, so I spent every Sunday morning reading a short holiday story written by well-known and classic Swedish authors (and one Danish author this year) and drinking the tea that came with it. The tea and novella in the picture was for second advent. The story was on the depressing side, but it was written by one of Sweden’s most famous poets, Dan Andersson, so it was beautifully written. So I liked it, even if I prefer my stories (especially holiday ones) to be a little more uplifting.

My daughter and I always decorate our Christmas trees with a theme, and this year it was “nature” and DIY, so we had a Skype date where we made our own ornaments. I put on some Christmas music, warmed some glรถgg (mulled wine), and had some skumtomtar (marshmallow santas) to eat with that as we made the ornaments. This is me making gold-painted pinecones. It was lovely, and the tree turned out fantastic. But I’ll show you that later.

Speaking of DIY: I also made my own gift tags for the Christmas presents for my granddaughter. I thought How hard can it be to paint a Christmas tree? It’s an abstract green triangle, right? So I gave it my best, and the end result (not in the picture) turned out great. So great, my husband asked me to paint a Christmas card to send to his nephew, too…which I did. It was fun. But I need more practice. Lots more practice! ๐Ÿ™‚

December 13 is Lucia Day in Sweden, and I watched it on my tablet during my morning writing session. It was a responsible, socially distant celebration, outside in the snow. It was so beautiful I couldn’t stop crying as I watched it. I can’t wait until my granddaughter is old enough to participate in the Lucia celebration. I’ll be the Gramma who sits in the front, beaming with pride, and crying my eyes out because of the beauty of the tradition.

We spent Christmas with my daughter and her family, the only people we see during the pandemic. And this is the tree; everything is DIYed, except for the lights of course. We were very happy with how it turned out. And 85% of the presents under the tree was for the 3-month old baby. Just as it should be ๐Ÿ™‚

My daughter had bought a bunch of festive headbands. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen me in reindeer antlers and a Christmas tree headband, but there were more. Like this one with presents ๐Ÿ˜€

Christmas Eve (that’s the day Sweden celebrates Christmas) came with sunshine and a blue sky, so we went out for a walk.

…and then we did what a lot of Swedes do on Christmas Eve: watch Donald Duck. It’s a weird Swedish tradition and if you’re curious, you can read about it here. ๐Ÿ˜€

On Christmas Day, we went back home and I set up my Christmas present on my desk: a lovely moon lamp.

And finally, New Year’s Eve, which I spent alone at home with my husband with an epic charcuterie board, bubbly, and great music.

Tell me about something you did in December! ๐Ÿ™‚

About Nell, Nell Iris' Christmas

Holidays at Nell’s: Day 12

Today’s book recommendation is really imaginative and creative, and I admit I was in awe of the author when I read this little gem. Read it, you won’t regret it!

Day 12 of Holidays at Nell’s: The Holiday Spirit by Carole Cummings
Click for blurb

Itโ€™s hard being the PA for the Holiday Spirit.

Julian is more dedicated than most, and knows the job inside and out. But that doesnโ€™t mean heโ€™ll still have a job when the new Holiday Spirit is elected. It also doesn’t mean heโ€™s immune to the *cough* charms of the office, but that’s a whole other problem.

The Holiday Spirit in this book isn’t some abstract concept of how we’re all supposed to be merry and bright around the holidays; no, it’s an actual office to which you’re chosen, much like a new pope is chosen.

White puffs of smoke chugged heart-shaped from the candy-striped chimney of the Council building. The sky filled with them quickly, thick as meringue.

“Oh my God.” Rowan’s voice was breathy, awed. “They’ve chosen.”

Quote from The Holiday Spirit

Our MC Julian is the PA to the Holiday Spirit and he’s had a hectic few years because his previous boss wasn’t…eh…good:

That was right about when the Holiday Spirit had discovered Vegas. Things had not been the same since, and Julian had spent nearly every second of his life trying to keep things going here while the Spirit got acquainted with keno tables and legal prostitutes. Apparently a lot of them were really fond of candy canes, or at least that’s what the Spirit used to say. Usually with a vulgar wave at his crotch and vague but gleeful references to the Naughty list.

Quote from The Holiday Spirit

When the story opens, a new Holiday Spirit has just been chosen and Julian worries that he’ll be fired because what he’s had to do to cover for his previous boss. When Julian finally meets him, that’s not exactly what happens, though… ๐Ÿ˜

The romance in this story isn’t much – blink and you’ll miss it – and it’s definitely more about potential than a HEA or even a HFN. But I don’t care. Did you see that? Me, the romanceoholic, not caring that the romance in this story is somewhat lacking? But the story was so creative and funny, and I would have loved it even if there hadn’t been the slightest potential of a romance. Julian is funny, the other characters are great, the entire premise for the book is simply fantastic, and what little romance there is, fits perfectly with the rest of the story.

I read this book through my Scribd subscription, and when I was done with it, I went straight to Amazon and one-clicked it. This is definitely a book I need to own and re-read again and again.

I absolutely adored it. ๐Ÿ˜

Buy link

“You’ve got penguins cross-referenced with wombats.”

“But that’s -“

Julian cut himself off. Because, okay, that was only because they were both small, adorable animals on the outside but vicious little assholes on the inside, which was probably not a good reason for separate subheadings, and Julian might have had a little too much mulled wine when he’d done it.

Quote from The Holiday Spirit
About Nell

Goodbye November

We’ve finally reached the end of November, the longest dreariest month of a long dreary year. I’m happy to be entering the holiday season; it’ll be a little brighter and lighter, even if it’s only due to all the Christmas lights. I love Christmas lights, so I really don’t mind!

But before that, here are 10 pictures from my November.

What took up most of my time in November was of course NaNoWriMo and I questioned my sanity many, many times during the month for signing up. But on November 27, I crossed the 50K word threshold and I was so happy I could cry. I could never have done it without my morning writing crew, so here are a bunch of cyber kisses for Ofelia Grรคnd, A.L. Lester, and J.M. Snyder. ๐Ÿ˜˜

I’ve always found the darkness this far up north the hardest thing to cope with during the winter season. I can dress for cold weather, but I can’t magically make more daylight. So I’m trying to find things that cheer me up in the darkness. Like a candles everywhere (as in my writing pictures above). Or homemade chai syrup for the soul-soothing chai lattes I love to drink when it’s cold outside.

I met a pony huge dog, a great Dane, in November. He loves me, all animals do since I’m allergic and can’t cuddle them, and he’s still just an over-enthusiastic puppy who thinks he’s a lap dog and wants to sit on my lap. So I barricaded myself behind a chair so he wouldn’t get the opportunity, and look at how sad that made him. Those sad eyes!! ๐Ÿ˜ญ Why don’t you love me, human?

I’m happy to be back in Sweden, but I have to admit I miss Malaysia sometimes. Especially when it’s dark and cold like November has been. On those days, I cook something that will remind me of Malaysia, like Hainanese chicken rice, which is a Malaysian culinary staple and so tasty. It’s ginger and spring onion and garlic and all the things I love.

Every day the sun was shining, I went out for a walk to soak up some light. One day, I stumbled upon a street where I want to live. Skrivaregatan. Means Writer’s Street. Perfect, don’t you think?

What do you do when you can’t see your BFFs IRL because of a stupid pandemic? Have Skype parties, of course. These are my dearest friends who graciously allowed me to post their picture on my blog. So say hello to Eva and Johanna everyone!! They’re awesome people and we’ve known each other for a long time. โค๏ธ

One day, I made a frittata for dinner. I used a mitten to take the frying pan out of the oven and put it on the counter. Then it was in the way when I was going to do something, so I grabbed the handle, forgetting I’d literally just taken the pan out of a 200C (400F) oven. It hurt like a bitch, let me tell you. But I soaked my hand in cold water for five minutes, then I constantly applied aloe vera gel to it, and when I woke up the next day it didn’t hurt at all. That was pretty fucking lucky, if you ask me. “Lucky it wasn’t your writing hand,” my husband said, and yes. I wholeheartedly agree ๐Ÿ™‚

We started the holiday season early with glรถgg and saffron buns. Adventsfika is not to be trifled with, but my husband and I didn’t want to wait for actual advent so we may have started a bit early. I regret nothing!

Speaking of Christmas lights: I put up ours, too, of course. I love this new star I bought, and I just wish you could see how glittery it is IRL.

And today, on the last day of November I woke up to snow. And everyone knows that when life gives you snow, you make a (teeny-tiny) snowman. This is Frosty the Mini Snowman, complete with peppercorns for eyes, and a tiny tip of a carrot sculpted into a nose. Unfortunately, as I write this, Frosty the Mini Snowman is already melting, and my balcony is now a sad tragic place. Can I please have a moment of silence for Frosty? ๐Ÿ˜