Absorbing sunshine

It’s been soooo gray and dreary and rainy here in the south of Sweden for so long, so when the sun was shining brightly from the sky on Friday after my morning writing session was over, I hurried outside to recharge in the daylight. There’s a teeny-tiny park near where I live, mostly meant for kids, but there’s a wooden path and a few trees, and I love hanging out there. I bought a cup of mint tea and went for a walk while listening to my current favorite album on Spotify.

I returned from my walk with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. The thing I miss most from Malaysia is the proximity to the equator and the resulting 12 hours of daylight every day, all year long (give or take half an hour). The constant darkness makes me tired and feeling down, but I’m trying my best to find things that cheer me up. Like my morning writing sessions, home made chai syrup, walks in the sunlight, and a good album.

What do you do to keep your spirits up during the cold and dark season?

Nell on a walk
My favorite song from my current favorite album: The Neon by Erasure ❤️

Reading slump

I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Since the summer, really, since my university courses. I should have realized this would happen: it happened the last time I took literature courses at university and was forced into required reading, and it happened again this time. In my defense, I didn’t know one of the courses would require such an excessive amount of reading, considering it was a writing course. And yes, I understand and acknowledge and agree that reading is very important for a writer, but when a writing course consists of 75% reading and 25% writing, something has gone wrong if you ask me.

So I haven’t read a lot this fall. Oh, I’ve read books, don’t misunderstand me. But compared to the usual amount of books and fanfic I’m usually consuming, I’ve read very little. I’m 12 books behind schedule on my Goodreads challenge to read 200 books this year. And usually 200 books in a year would be no problem at all.

Very few books or stories grip me. I’ve downloaded a gazillion samples from Amazon, read them and discarded them again. I’ve searched my favorite tropes and ships on AO3, but nope. And to be honest, I’m starting to despair. Especially since I’ve planned a Christmas thingy for my blog, but have reading to do to complete it. Now I fear that I have to scrap those plans, and I don’t want to.

But the other day I stumbled upon a video recommendation in my YouTube feed, titled How To Get Out of a Reading Slump. It was as if the YouTube algorithm read my mind and provided me with exactly what I needed (for once, it never happens, but needle-haystack and all that). YouTuber gabbyreads has made a list of 7 action points for you to try if you’re in a reading slump, and I’m definitely trying them out. I’m linking the video at the bottom of this post for you to watch if you want; it’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time if you’re in a similar situation like me, but I’m writing out her suggestions here, too, in case you don’t like watching YouTube videos.

  1. Take a break. Spend some time doing some of your other hobbies.
  2. Re-read a favorite book, even if it hasn’t been long since you read it. It will remind you why you love reading in the first place.
  3. Read short books
  4. Try an audio book, maybe listen to a favorite book on audio
  5. Read something that’s easy to get through, something lighter. Maybe a thriller with shorter chapters, or a romance that makes you smile
  6. Read something out of your comfort zone. Choose a genre you usually don’t read
  7. Try to find an atmosphere that makes you want to read

Those are excellent and thoughtful suggestions, and her arguments for each item on the list are interesting. Some of them won’t help me. I already read mostly short books, and audio books drive me crazy because I’m a fast reader and audio is sooooo slooooooow, and my preferred genre is romance, so number 5 won’t help either. And taking a break, spending time on one of my other hobbies? What other hobbies? Reading is my hobby. But yeah…maybe I’ll try to find those watercolors I bought earlier this year and give it another go?

I’ve already got number seven figured out: I curl up on the couch, light some candles, make a cup of tea, and put on a YouTube fire. That works perfectly.

So I guess that leaves number two and number six. And number one, if I can find my watercolors. I’ve found The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Scribd for number six. I don’t read Gothic novels, at least not anymore, but I watched another YouTube video where the creator said she knew of the story but had never read it, so she decided to change that and loved it. It’s the same for me, so I’ll try it.

And when it comes to re-reading a favorite, I’ve made a list of eight books, hoping I don’t need to re-read them all to get back into the swing of things.

8 favorite books

Tell me: do you have any tricks of what you do when you’re in a book slump?

And here’s the video I’m talking about:

#TBT: In My Arms Again

A reviewer gave In My Arms Again five stars and said it was “engrossing, atmospheric, and utterly heartwarming.”

Trapped in a growing sense of restlessness, Oxen the hunter is lonely. Feeling like he’s waiting for something—or someone—he’s unable to focus on getting ready for winter. But when a handsome and very ill stranger collapses on his doorstep, everything changes.

The stranger, Vinge, is from a Pegasus family but has never been able to transform. As soon as he awakens, both men feel an instant connection, and it grows deeper as Oxen nurses him back to health. Something profound within each man calls out to the other, but neither of them knows what it is.

The questions surrounding Vinge and their deepening relationship are many. Why is Vinge so familiar to Oxen when they clearly have never met? Why are they both reluctant to take the first step to a real commitment?  And what will it take for the true depth of their connection be revealed?

M/M paranormal historical fantasy / 21809 words

BUY LINKS / ADD TO GOODREADS

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A pegasus shifter who can’t shift. A lonely hunter. An unexpected familiarity.

As I feared, the effect of the fever-reducing tea wanes even quicker this time, and soon the stranger grows restless. His legs move under the covers, his head whipping from side to side, and he mumbles something I can’t make out. I hurry over to his side and kneel by the bed. Carefully, I place my hand on his shoulder and squeeze.

“Honored stranger.” I keep my voice low and movements slow, so I won’t scare him. His eyes move rapidly under his eyelids and he turns his head toward my voice. It’s the most reaction I’ve gotten from him so far.

He struggles to free his arms from under the covers, and I lift the rabbit fur to help them out in the open. He calms a little when his arms are no longer restrained, so I take the opportunity to study him.

His color is much better than before; the grayish tinge and the fever roses are gone. I lay my wrist against his forehead and sigh in relief as he’s no longer burning up.

I sit back on my heels.

Curious. Very curious.

Maybe my fears that the tea hurt him were unfounded. Instead, it seems as though it has helped him, but at an accelerated pace.

Never in my life have I seen someone with such a high fever recover so quickly.

I brush away a strand of hair from his face. “Who are you?” I whisper.

When he seems to be sleeping restfully again, I get to my feet, but as I turn to leave, a tug on my sleeve and his faint voice stops me. “Do not leave. Please.”

The sound of his voice makes me jump, even though it’s more like a whisper than anything else. I look down on him; his arm out, hand holding my sleeve, eyes still closed.

“Do not leave,” he repeats.

“I will only fetch you some water, stranger. You must be parched.”

He tugs on my sleeve again as if to stop me, but after a moment he releases his grip. Crossing the floor with a few hurried steps, I pour fresh cool water from the flagon into a bowl.

His eyes are still closed when I kneel next to the bed again, but I can tell he’s awake by the way his head tracks my movements.

“I will lift your head and help you drink,” I explain before touching him again, and he tilts his chin down, giving me permission. I slide my hand around his neck, cup the back of his head, and ease it off the bed. He drinks in deep gulps until the bowl is empty, and when I lower him back down to the pillow, he sighs.

“Thank you, Hunter.”

I stiffen at his words. “Do you know me?”

Slowly, he moves his hand from his side and lays it on his chest. “I feel you,” he says.

“How?” My head is spinning with all the questions this man’s arrival has brought. For every passing hour, they multiply, and I can no longer keep track of them all.

The stranger doesn’t answer my question — somehow I knew he wouldn’t — so I try another approach. “I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I know not who you are.”

His pries his eyelids open, long eyelashes fluttering like a hummingbird’s wing. Even in the dim light of the cabin — cast only by the flames in the hearth — I can make out the color of his eyes: so dark they’re almost completely black, generously sprinkled with flecks of gleaming gold, and despite the obvious tiredness, his gaze is bottomless and intense. It pulls me in and settles some of the restlessness in my chest at the same time.

And when he looks at me, I understand what he’s talking about.

I can feel him, his presence. As though his heart beats next to mine in my chest. As though his breath mingles with mine when it leaves my mouth, as though I see myself through his eyes. As though I know him.

“My name …” His voice falters.

“… is Vinge,” I finish, a gasp escaping at my own words.

“Yes.”

5 things and 1 Facebook Party

Happy Saturday, everyone. This post starts with five things I’ve loved lately, and ends with one huge Facebook Party. First the list:

Rocketman. My husband and I watched this movie a couple weeks ago, and I really loved it. I don’t watch a lot of movies (or shows), so my hubby tries to find things he knows will entice me, and Rocketman was definitely one of those things. If we’re comparing musical films, i.e. Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, I think I liked BR better, probably because I like Queen a little more than I like Elton John. Because objectively, Rocketman was a better movie. The scene below was fabulous. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it?

(PS: I’ve had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on repeat in my head since we watched it. Doesn’t matter if I listen to anything else, it’s still stuck. So I’m getting a bit annoyed now, tbh 😀 )

My new fountain pen and the new ink. I can almost hear you guys: But Nell, don’t you already have a thousand fountain pens? Hush, you! I’m a writer, and writers need pens! Also: I was in need of some serious retail therapy, so I indulged 🙂

(I was going to post pictures of my pen and my ink bottle, but it’s a depressingly gray day here today and barely any daylight, so all the pics I’ve taken look like crap. So instead I snagged pics from Lamy’s webpage)

Fountain pen plus fabulous ink

An older Andy Bell (singer of Erasure) with a white beard 😍 I loved him when he was younger and flamboyantly gay, and I love him in a daddy beard. It doesn’t hurt that their new album is the best they’ve released in 20 years or so.

The re-release of Shifting Silver by Brandon Witt. I already own this book, I bought it back in 2017 when it was available through Dreamspinner Press. But because DSP stopped paying their authors, Brandon Witt pulled his titles and has worked on re-releasing them. And because I love this book so much – I love all books I’ve read by this author but Shifting Silver is my absolute favorite – I decided to buy this re-released version, too. I often do that with books I really love. Or buy one ebook and one print book. Anyway, when it came up for pre-order months ago, I one-clicked it faster than the speed of light. Then I forgot all about it, so when it showed up in my Kindle app a few days ago, I was ecstatic. I re-read it and it was as great as I remembered it. If you haven’t read this beautiful story, you really should. Buy it here.

Shifting Silver book cover

YouTube write-ins / write with me: Some days, my beloved morning writing crew has real world stuff they need to deal with (jobs! kids! sleep!) and can’t join me in my writing mornings. And since I prefer the company, even if it’s virtual, I’ve watched write-with-me videos on YouTube on these lonely mornings. Mostly on authortuber Kate Cavanaugh’s channel. I found her when one of her videos, I tried writing like Stephen King for a day, showed up in my YouTube feed. I enjoyed it, so I stayed with her. She’s done more “I tried writing like” experiments ever since, and other writing experiments, too, like 24-hour writeathon for example. She posts regularly and puts out high quality content, which are two things that make me happy. So if you want to follow an authortuber, I highly recommend her channel.


Now for the Facebook Party: today, Love Bytes Reviews celebrates that they’ve reached 1000 members in their FB group by putting on a huge party. It starts now, 9 am CET (Central European Time) November 7, and will continue until tomorrow, November 8 9:45 am CET. Each author has 15 minutes to party, so as you probably understand, considering it’s going for over 24 hours, there are a lot of authors participating.

If you want to party with me, my fifteen minutes start at 3:30 pm CET / 9:30 am EST, but I’d definitely recommend you popping by whenever you have the time. You can expect Giveaways Galore! 🙂

So come join us. Here’s the link to the group.

Screenshot Love Bytes Lovers Facebook group

Hello November

October has been a boring month. I scrolled through my camera roll on my phone and was amazed over how few pictures I have from October, and most of the ones I’ve taken are of food I’ve made. Because cooking is one of the few things I did last month. And reading and writing of course, but other than that…nothing.

So here are ten boring pictures from my October. Tell me, was your month better than mine? 🙂

I’m starting off this blogpost with a picture of raindrops on my balcony door because this is what October has been for me; rainy and gray and depressing. If you’d asked me before the scroll through my camera roll, I could have sworn that we hadn’t had a single sunny day in all of October, but…

…clearly I was wrong. We had at least one sunny day as evidenced by this picture I took when I was out for a walk and found this cute little bridge 🙂

Like I wrote in the beginning: I cooked a lot, and one night I was in desperate need of pizza. But since I don’t eat dairy, I had to make my own. I made it with mozzarella (made from buffalo milk) and pecorino (made from sheeps’ milk), Parma ham and baby spinach. It was delicious.

I’ve done a gazillion online puzzles, and it’s all Ofelia Gränd’s fault. She’s started to include puzzles in her newsletters, and after I finished hers, I thought Hmmm, this was fun, lemme check if there are any more. And there are. Too many. 😀

My husband bought me a beer. An autumn beer that was very yummy, and suitable for the infatuation with fall I’ve nursed this year.

More cooking. I made ärtsoppa (yellow split pea soup) which is a Swedish classic. Traditionally, we eat it on Thursdays with pancakes, the thin crepe like pancakes we in Sweden call pancakes, not the thick fluffy ones from other parts of the world. But I didn’t feel like making pancakes so I skipped them, which made my husband pout for a minute or so. Maybe next time 🙂

Swedes have eaten ärtsoppa for hundreds of years: it first appears in Swedish literature in the 1300s, and also, in 1577 king Erik XIV ate ärtsoppa laced with arsenic and died. No one died after I cooked it, fortunately 🙂

I decorated my tea shelf with a string of fairy lights.

I wrote every day, drank lots of tea and burned a lot of candles.

I watched Pride and Prejudice from 2005 with Keira Knightly because I’d read a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction. Stay tuned for a post about that on the blog.

And on the last day of October, I prepared the word count tracker for November’s NaNoWriMo in my new, square bullet journal.

That’s it. That’s my exciting month. Told you it was boring. And traditionally, November is worse than October. We’ll see.

I leave you with this song by Tom Waits. (Lyrics is below the video)

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No cars
November

It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone

No prayers for November
To linger longer
Stick your spoon in the wall
We’ll slaughter them all

November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November’s cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You’re my firing squad
November

With my hair slicked back
With carrion shellac
With the blood from a pheasant
And the bone from a hare

Tied to the branches
Of a roebuck stag
Left to wave in the timber
Like a buck shot flag

Go away you rainsnout
Go away blow your brains out
November

What I miss…

…the most about Malaysia is all the wonderful food, but recently I found a place nearby that serves a lovely pho, so I bought a big bowl and finished every last drop. It was sooo good, with lots of star anise and cinnamon, and I’m definitely going back there for more.

Beef pho

Top 5

I think fall is my favorite season. It’s a recent development, spring has always been my favorite season before. But this year…fall just got into my blood and refused to leave. I want to do all fall-y things and read all the fall-y books and eat all the fall-y food.

So I thought I’d make a list of my top 5 favorite things about fall.

Four of my favorite fall things
  1. The air. There’s something so clear and fresh and crisp about the fall air. It’s feels great for the lungs and fills me with energy, and I love having the window or balcony door open and letting it into my apartment.
  2. Every day is tea day
  3. Soup season! My favorite food is soups of all kinds, but my husband doesn’t want to eat them in summer because it gets too hot. So as soon as it says September in my calendar, I declare it soup season and cook it several times a week.
  4. The colors. The flowers in the above picture was sent to me by my parents for my birthday and I absolutely fell in love with the colors. It was the most perfect fall-y bouquet I’ve ever seen 😍
  5. Candles and Chai latte and reading! We go through so many candles, but I love them. It makes everything instantly cosy!

So tell me: what’s your favorite thing about fall? 🙂

Fall to-do list

Hello October

This year is weird, because on one hand it feels like it’s been going on for-fucking-ever with the virus and the social distancing and everything else that’s been going on. On the other hand, I can’t believe it’s already October. How can it already be October when this year has craaaaaaaaawled by? Like I said. Weird.

But before we charge into October, I wanted to look back on September. September was the best month in the entire year because on the 17th, I became a grandmother to a healthy baby girl, who’s so adorable there are no words, who owns me completely even though she’s only 2 weeks old.

So you may now address me as Mormor Nell. (Swedish has different words for maternal and paternal grandparents. Mormor/morfar is maternal grandmother/grandfather, and farmor/farfar is for paternal)

But enough about that. Let’s look at some pictures from September, shall we?

Me and the hubby was out for a lovely Sunday lunch (appropriately socially distant) and at the table next to us, sat a Very Good Dog. It just sat there the entire time their human was inside the restaurant doing something. Didn’t move a muscle, didn’t make a sound, despite children running around and people passing by the the table. We were absolutely fascinated by the obedient, adorable creature.
I’ve cooked a lot of autumn-y foods. Like a wonderful stracotto (Italian pot roast) that cooked for hours and was supremely delicious served with mashed potatoes and an excellent bottle of red wine.
I bought candles for my desk: I need something to light up the dark Swedish fall mornings
Disney Plus launched in Sweden, so me and the hubby started a re-watch of Star Wars in numerical order. Holy crap, the guy playing Anakin in episodes 2 and 3 is such a terrible actor – even worse than I remembered – and I cringed every time he was on screen. Too bad for such an interesting character and story arc.
My birthday was on the 11th (as I told you about here) and me and the hubby celebrated it with cold cuts, fruit, and a nice prosecco. We listened to music and enjoyed ourselves. It was a lovely birthday.
My darling daughter sent me a b-day present (since she was pregnant on the verge of bursting and couldn’t come for a visit): a new kettle. There was nothing wrong with my old one, but this one has temperature control (necessary for green tea) and a “keep warm” button (excellent for my writing mornings) and I love it!
Speaking of kettles: when we went to see the darling daughter and the newest member of our family, we stayed at a hotel. I woke up early to write in the mornings and didn’t want to wake up my hubby with the rather loud kettle (I NEED tea for writing or there’ll be no words at 6 am) so I connected it in the bathroom. He did not like that when he woke up and lectured me on electricity and water and bathrooms, and told me to use it in the room the next day, he didn’t care if he woke up 😍
We spent two days cuddling our granddaughter, and I can’t believe how time flew while doing nothing but looking at a sleeping infant. When we returned to the hotel, we went to the mostly empty bar, had a beer and grinned at each other. Because what else are you supposed to do when you’re really really happy?
On the last day of September we kissed our daughter and granddaughter goodbye and drove back home, straight into the sunset
And finally: I wrote every single day in September, too. I went up to write every morning at 6 am, save one day, the day after my granddaughter was born. I allowed myself to sleep in that day, but I did my writing later instead.

Tell me something you did last month that you enjoyed!

Writing blurbs are hard

And it looks like a notebook exploded on my desk when I’m trying to do it 🙂

Happy Birthday to me!

Hi everyone. Today is my birthday, so I found a birthday tag on the Internet, that I thought would be fun. 

When is your birthday?
Today. September 11. Not the best day as birthdays go; I spent my 29th birthday watching planes fly into tall buildings on a repeat loop. And then 2 years later, 2003, Anna Lindh, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs was murdered on my birthday… so yeah 🙈

How old are you turning?
48, baby! I love being in my forties.

What was your favorite present that you’ve ever received?
Probably diving lessons, back in 2015. Me and hubby vacationed on Gili Air, Indonesia and we have a friend living there. He used to be a diving instructor, so he gifted me beginner’s diving lessons for my birthday. It was awesome.

Are you having a party this year?
No. I’ve done enough partying in my life. I gave myself the moniker The Party Princess when I was younger, but I’ve outgrown that now. This evening’s plans are Italian cold cuts, wine, vinyl records, and going to bed early. Like I said; no more party princess 😁

How do you usually celebrate your birthday?
Dinner and wine.

What was the most memorable birthday that you had?
Probably 9/11 2001, for obvious reasons. Best memorable is the diving lessons.

If you had an unlimited amount of money what would you do for your birthday?
A regular year (as in a year without a global pandemic when we’re allowed to travel), I’d go to the Maldives and stay in a fancy water villa. Something like this. And I’d bring my daughter and her fiancé, and we’d have a lovely, lazy family vacation in the ocean! (My daughter and I both used to be fish in an earlier life, I’m certain of it!)

What’s your birthday wish list?
A covid-19 vaccine? If that’s too much to ask, I want my granddaughter to be born healthy and safe.

If you only had one birthday left, what would you do for your birthday?
See Maldives fantasy above.

Show a picture from your birthday, preferably an embarrassing one
Nope, sorry, no embarrassing pictures 😁 But here’s a pic from my diving birthday of me and my friend/diving instructor, going through the basics in the pool.

img_2015-09-16-16_53_34_55fffecfddf2b352d202c5d2

Do you have any birthday traditions?
Probably dinner and wine?

What’s your favorite part about your birthday?
I don’t know really. To be perfectly honest it feels more and more like any other day of the year. But all the well-wishes from friends and family, I guess?

What’s one thing that changed a lot since your last birthday?
Last year, I lived in Malaysia and now I live in Sweden. Huge change. Another huge change is that I’m becoming a grandmother for the first time any day now.

Have you ever been thrown a surprise party?
Yes. The first year I lived in Malaysia, 2012, was the year I turned 40. My husband also turned 40 that year (in February), so when we were in Sweden in May, our friends threw us a joint surprise birthday party. It was fabulous. That’s probably the last time I had an actual birthday party, come to think of it. 😁


That was all the questions. Do you have any birthday traditions? 🙂 

Have a great weekend!