Pictures from Sweden

I’ve been talking about my trip to Sweden for a while, and I thought you might like to see some pictures? I’ve posted pictures on Instagram from my trip, too, but except for one or two, these on the blog haven’t been published before.

So, here’s what I did in Sweden.

emirates bar

Drank bubbly in the business class bar on the plane.


Traveled from Malaysia to Sweden and visited the Malaysian embassy.

skriva på cafe

Wrote at a café, because apparently books don’t write themselves and deadlines are a real thing.


Grumbled about all the snow. Ugh.


Paid a visit to the house I used to live in before I moved to Malaysia. It’s not visible in this picture (I’m standing right next to it, taking this photo), but this is the street I lived on.

fina hus

Took the long way to the grocery store so I could look at all the old houses that I love so much.


Fika – of course!!


Had to go to the bathroom at the train station and was flabbergasted when they wanted me to pay by texting or downloading an app. In Malaysia when there’s a fee to use the bathroom, someone actually sits outside and takes my money. 🙂


Ate homemade elephant ginger bread cookies at my mom’s house.


Giggled at my sister-in-law’s ingenuity. This is their graduation gift to my daughter. We (me and my husband) gave her a trip to Iceland as a gift (it’s on the top of my daughter’s bucket list) and my parents and brother’s family gave her this, for the trip. Pocket money, get it? My SIL actually stole one of my brother’s pockets from his jeans and stuffed it full of money. So funny.


Realized that if you’re married to a musician, he takes his instruments with him everywhere he goes. Even halfway across the world 🙂


Was fascinated by this emergency phone I found in an old elevator. Don’t worry, they had a modern phone, too, but I’m glad they saved the old one.


Drank tea as I watched the full moon and pink sky, waiting for the sun to rise.


Celebrated my husband’s nephew’s 11th birthday. I couldn’t eat the cake (I’m not allowed to eat dairy) but judging from the noises the other people made when they ate it, it was delicious 🙂


Received a love declaration from someone when I took out the garbage. I love you, too, unknown person! (What do you mean it wasn’t meant for me? How do you know? 😀 )


Grumbled some more about the snow.


And the whole reason for the trip: I attended my daughter’s university graduation ceremony. And if you’re wondering which one of these happy people is my daughter, she’s the one who’s cutest and smartest and loveliest. 😍 I’m sure you can pick her out in the crowd after that spot-on description 😀

That’s all. Have a great Monday!


WIP teaser and guest post

One of the new things here on the blog now that I’m trying to produce regular content, is a teaser from current WIP. I’ve mentioned it earlier here, and it’s the May/December project I’m teasing from. It’s still untitled and I haven’t written a lot more since I told you about it (I’m traveling and I’ve had to prioritize writing my chapters in the collab project I’m working on with Kris T. Bethke.)

If you need a reminder, the story is about two neighbors called Buck and Pippin. They’ve known each other since Pippin was six, but now that he’s all grown up, things are starting to happen. This is the (unedited) beginning of the story.

wip teaser banner

I see him immediately as I turn my truck onto our street. Huddled up under a threadbare blanket, he’s curled into a ball at the top of the stairs leading up to the tiny, rundown house he shares with his mom. He has a paperback book open on his lap and he uses the flashlight on his cell phone so he can see to read since it’s still dark outside.

I frown and grip the steering wheel until my knuckles whiten. It’s too cold for him to sit there. It’s the second week of January, and even though we still haven’t gotten any snow—it was our first green Christmas in years—the temperature hovers in the low thirties. Even in the dim light, I can see him shiver.

With a huff, I park on my driveway, throw open the door, and step out. “Hey Pippin,” I holler, and his head shoots up. How he missed the rumble of my truck is a mystery, but he tends to shut out everything around him when he’s got his nose in a book.

His generous mouth stretches in a wide smile and he raises his hand in a wave.

“Get your butt over here,” I call.

He pulls the blanket tighter around his narrow shoulders. “I’m okay. You must be tired after your shift.”

I roll my eyes, not caring that he can’t see me. That guy! He doesn’t wanna be a bother but doesn’t realize that he never is. Not when I first moved back in with my ma to take care of her when she was sick—I was twenty-two and he was six the first time I found him on the stairs because his mother had a “gentleman caller” as Ma used to call them—and not now.

“Don’t make me come get ya, Pippin Olander. That’ll make me grumpy for sure.” I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him, but that only makes him laugh.


Just one thing before I go: today, I’m a guest over at Joyfully Jay where I talk about Awakenings & French Songs. I’m giving you an insight into a writer’s life and share an excerpt from the story exclusive for Joyfully Jay. There’s also a giveaway.

If this sounds like fun, clickety-click here to read the post.

Nell on social media

Last Monday, I told you about my plan for more regular content on the blog in 2019. That plan extends to being more active on other social media platforms as well, such as Twitter, Facebook (page and profile), and Instagram. Facebook is my least favorite platform, so to be perfectly honest, I mostly use it for promotion. If you want a little more personal content, I suggest following me on Twitter or Instagram.

I’m most active on Twitter, but Instagram is second. My goal is to post something every day. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Here are my most liked Instagram pictures during 2018.

nell_iris-full best nine instagram 2018

As you can see there’s a little bit of promo there too, but not as much as on Facebook. I post lots of pictures of my notebooks and fountain pens, book related stuff, and tea and other food/drink pictures. You know, like every other instagrammer (except I don’t post cat pictures. I’m allergic)!

So if you like that kind of stuff, feel free to follow me over at Instagram.

What are your favorite social media accounts that you follow?


The Fall Writing Tag

I found a fall writing tag over at Amy Tasukada’s Youtube channel, and I’m stealing it for a little Friday fun.

This year, I’m actually going to experience fall for the first time since I moved to Malaysia in 2012 (Malaysia doesn’t have fall, we have dry and rainy season). I usually go visit Sweden in the summer or around Christmas time, but this year I’m squeezing in an extra visit. I’m going on October 16, staying for two weeks, and the plan is to hug the stuffing out of my daughter, fika a lot (fika is the most important Swedish tradition), go for walks and look at fall colored leaves, and meet friends and family. But mostly just enjoy spending some time with my daughter and her boyfriend.

So I thought a fall themed tag was fitting.

Also, why not check out Amy’s answers here 🙂


Image from Pixabay


1. Crunching Leaves- The Perfect Sound. What do you like listening to while writing?

Mostly nothing. Sometimes, I listen to electronic instrumental music, but most of the time I write in silence. I can’t listen to anything with lyrics; that just makes me want to sing along and I lose my concentration.

2. Hot Bubbling Cider- What’s your favorite thing to eat or drink while writing?

Honestly, I’m not very picky. I’m happy as long as I have something to drink, whether it’s water, soda, tea, or even the occasional glass of wine. But mostly, I drink water.

3. Bon Fires- The Perfect Night. Name your perfect writing conditions or your perfect writing night.

As long as I have a good quality notebook and my favorite fountain pens, I’m good.

4. Pumpkin Spiced Latte- Something you used to like but now don’t.

I used to be obsessed with reading murder mysteries, but I severely overdosed on them so now I don’t anymore.

5. Halloween- Your favorite part of writing a novel.

Editing, because that means the hard part is done 🙂

6. Monsters & Goblins- What terrifies you most while writing/ drafting a novel?

My own laziness. That I’d rather lie on the couch reading what someone else wrote than do the work.

7. Hay Rides- A Bumpy Ride. What do you do to get over a writers block or get inspired?

Every time I’ve hit a block, it’s been because something in the story isn’t working. So I take a step back and try to objectively look at what I’ve written so far to figure out why it’s not working. And when I’ve found the problem, I change it, and writers block is gone!

8. Haunted Houses- World Building. What are some tips you have on crafting the perfect world?

Don’t forget about the details.

9. Pumpkins- Do your story ideas start with characters, plots, setting or something else?

A lot of the time the idea for an opening scene pops up in my mind and I work my way from there.

10. Ghost Stories. Share a spooky writing prompt!

People make death threats to a woman who’s been a victim of sexual assault, slander her reputation, and treat her like crap, and send a message to all women in the world that they don’t matter. No wait. That was reality. Sorry.

Under the Felt Mistletoe

If you remember my last update post, I wrote that I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a Christmas story or not this year. The same day, I picked up my beloved fountain pen and started writing the story of Finn and Nelson, and last week I submitted the story to my publisher and signed a contract.

The story is called Under the Felt Mistletoe and is a short (approximately 13K words) M/M contemporary romance. I made a mood board with pictures that inspired me to write the story. Wanna see?

Under the Felt Mistletoe without titleThe boy with the adorable smile and ginger curls, is my inspiration for Finn 😍 And isn’t that mistletoe made out of felt, florist wire, and tape fantastic?  I want to make one for this holiday season! If you want to make one, too, here’s the how-to link


The most wonderful time of the year is about to get even better.

On a cold, rainy December morning, Finn’s beloved Grampa, his best friend and rock, makes a friend outside their home who he invites for coffee. The last thing Finn expects is Nelson, a man with a painful past, who is beautiful and generous and turns Finn’s knees into jelly.

What starts out as a chance to get out of the rain, soon becomes more as Nelson helps Finn get ready for the Christmas market. They bond over coffee and fabric and Mariah Carey. Can handmade Christmas ornaments and an understanding heart give Nelson the love he’s been denied?


Release blitz and #giveaway: Year Two (Would It Be Okay To Love You #4) by Amy Tasukada

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Length: 113 pages
Would It Be Okay To Love You? Box Set (Books 1 – 3) – Amazon US | Amazon UK

An ex-playboy. A robot geek. Can their love last when the whole world finds out?

Robot fanboy Sato has spent too much time alone hiding the love of his life. But when Sato comes out to his parents, it doesn’t end well. He no longer wants to conceal their relationship, but he doubts his boyfriend is ready.

Aoi might spend all day moaning as an erotic voice actor, but he doubts his legion of fangirls will approve if he comes out. With his career on the line, Aoi feels like Sato has pushed him to the breaking point.

As Sato opens up to more people about his sexuality, can they find a compromise that will make them both happy, or will it be too much for Aoi?

Year Two is the fourth book in the gay romance series Would It Be Okay to Love You? If you like Japanese culture and sizzling romance, you’ll love this year-in-the-life anthology collection.

Buy Year Two to confess your love today!

Amy Tasukada lives in North Texas with a calico cat called O’Hara. As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at age ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t cease. She can be found drinking hot tea and filming Japanese street fashion hauls on her Youtube channel.

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Website

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions


Release blitz and #giveaway: Love in the Clouds by Sarah Hadley Brook


Length: 62,771 words
Publisher: JMS Books

Rafael Patino has a great life in Rain Valley. He’s a teacher at the high school, has a great group of friends, and enjoys the occasional baseball game. Other than the sporadic call from his drunken mother, he’s pretty content.

He’s also been in love with his best friend Dustin for nearly a decade. Years of keeping those feelings under control are put to the test when they begin a summer project together.

Dustin Vance builds furniture for a living, has just earned his pilot’s license, and has an amazing best friend. When he buys a 1976 Cessna Skyhawk, he asks Rafael to help restore it, then travel with him to Wisconsin for the largest aviation convention in the world.

As they spend their days working on the plane, they begin to spend their nights together. Will they find love in the clouds, or will they stall out before they even take off?


A cool breeze blew past him as he walked out into the night. Rafael texted Dustin before he pulled out of the parking lot, letting him know he was leaving the hospital and asking about Mac’s phone number.

He put the phone back in his pocket and made the short drive home. He wasn’t going to check his phone if Dustin answered, but he didn’t hear an alert anyway. Dustin was probably sound asleep in his bed. He might have to get that number in the morning.

As he turned onto his street, he saw a vehicle in his drive and smiled when he realized it was Dustin’s. His best friend had a key, so he was probably inside. He pulled into the drive and parked behind Dustin’s Honda, peering inside just in case, as he headed inside.

He flipped on the entryway light as he closed the door and found Dustin sprawled out on his sofa, sound asleep, his arm crooked over his head. Rafael was pulled to him like a magnet and he was too damn tired to fight the urges at the moment, so he gave in and let himself look. Dustin’s T-shirt rode up, showing a stripe of pale skin and Rafael imagined it was soft and silky. His fingers itched to slip under the hem. He stared a little too long, though and by the time he dragged his gaze up to Dustin’s face, his friend’s eyes were open and he was staring right back at him, a smirk on his lips.

“You want to take a picture of … something?” he drawled out teasingly.

Heat flooded his cheeks and he forced a chuckle. “Whatever.”

Dustin rose from the sofa and strode over and hugged him hard, as if just remembering what had happened. “God, I’m so sorry, Raf. Is the girl going to be okay?”

Rafael nodded, but wrapped Dustin up in his arms, letting his head fall to Dustin’s shoulder.

They stayed like that for a while. With anyone else, Rafael might have been embarrassed that he was fighting the urge to cry. Dustin held him tight and shared his strength. It crept into Rafael, shored him up. Helped him get past the image of Daisy huddled in that hospital bed. At least for a while.

When he finally pulled away, Dustin kept his arms around him and Rafael was too exhausted to read anything into it.

“Why are you here?” Rafael’s voice was quiet as he stared at Dustin.

“Because I know you, Raf. I know you care about all of your students — you open your heart to everyone. But I also know you’ve been particularly worried about this girl. I just didn’t want you coming home to an empty house.”

Rafael’s heart cracked more and he was raw. Open. Vulnerable. The world had reared its ugly head and shown its hideousness and he was lonely. Bone tired and lonely. And he didn’t want to be lonely. At least not for the night. He swallowed hard. “Will you … stay?”

Dustin nodded, no hint of hesitation in his blue green eyes. “Of course.”


Author Bio
Sarah Hadley Brook lives smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland and is the mother of two wonderful young men, as well as two cats. During the day, she works in the nonprofit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. In her ideal world, Christmas would come at least twice a year, Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have costarred in more than three movies, and chocolate would be a daily necessity. She dreams of traveling to Scotland some day and visiting the places her ancestors lived. Sarah believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions