Read Around the Rainbow Web Ring

Read Around the Rainbow: Setting Books Where You Live

Read Around the Rainbow is a blogging project featuring yours truly, A.L. Lester, Ofelia Gränd, Holly Day, K.L. Noone, Amy Spector, Addison Albright, Fiona Glass, Lilian Francis, and Ellie Thomas. Every month, we pick a topic and then we blog about it. Check the other blog posts by clicking the RAtR widget in the sidebar, or the links at the bottom of this post.

The RAtR topic for June is “Do you set your books in the place you live (or have lived) in?”

In the early nineties, I read The Witching Hour by Anne Rice and I read it in the way that only a Deep Thinking Broody Teenager™️ could, i.e. I devoured it with my entire being, fell head over heels in love with it, and wanted to live out my life in the world created by the author. I wanted to be a witch, I wanted to be the main character Rowan Mayfair, and I desperately wanted to live in New Orleans where the book is set, especially in the First Street mansion the characters own, and the surrounding neighborhood. When refreshing my memory for this blogpost (the early nineties is a long time ago), I learned that Anne Rice actually modeled the Mayfair residence on her own First Street mansion, so she clearly sets her stories in the place where she lives.

I remember falling so deeply in love with New Orleans that I actively sought out other stories set in the same area, but nothing ever grabbed me the way the setting in The Witching Hour did. And nothing really has since then.

I mean, I love a general setting description as much as the next person. Reading my dear friend A.L. Lester’s Very British Books™️ makes me want to go to Britain, sit by a wood stove and look out on a farm while sipping tea, reading about a cowboy makes me want to move to a farm and learn to ride horses and wrangle cows, or reading about a character strolling the streets of Paris makes me want to return, find that nice sidewalk bar again, that was located next to the golden statue and the ancient merry-go-round, where the husband and I spent a glorious afternoon sipping wine and enjoying life back in 2009.

But, and here’s a big but, the setting can’t be too detailed, it can’t take over the story! I don’t want to know the name of the street in Paris where the imaginary character is walking, I don’t want every building described, I don’t want to know about every crack in the sidewalk, I don’t want to read about the old lady that always walks her dog at the same time every morning and never picks up its poop. Or the smell of garbage on a hot summer day.

One or two of those details is fine, it sets the scene and ignites my imagination. Too much makes me bored, uninterested, and prone to DNF:ing the story (I’m looking at you The Fellowship of the Ring). And with the exception of Anne Rice’s New Orleans, I’ve never fallen in love with a city, a province, or a country based on the descriptions in the story. I’ve read stories where the setting is almost like a character in the story, and that’s not really what I’m looking for.

And of course my attitude towards settings influences my own writing, so to circle back to the topic of today’s blog post; no. In general, I don’t set my stories where I live. I keep my locations vague on purpose. People live in Sweden (where I live, does that make me a liar? 😀 ) but they live “in the south” or “up north.” They live in “a tiny shitty town” or “close to the forest” or “at the end of the street.” I only include enough details to tickle the reader’s imagination, to let them fill in the blanks themselves. That’s what I prefer to read, so that’s what I write.

Also: there’s one more – very pragmatic – reason. If I set my story in a vague location, no one can ever get mad at me or give me a bad review because I got their hometown wrong. 😆

But, there are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I’m no exception 😀 So my story Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday is set in a very real location, that I describe in the book: Ale’s Stones in Skåne county, Sweden, where I live. At least the stones themselves are accurate, but I’ve taken liberties with the tiny village at the foot of the hill where the stones are located. Ale’s Stones is an iron-age stone ship, and the hubby and I went to see them a couple years ago. I was completely in awe of them, and when a fellow writer suggested I include them in a story, I thought “hmmmm…I just might.”

And I came up with Resolutions for an Arbitrary Holiday.

Two strangers, a twisted ankle, an ancient stone ship, and a New Year’s Eve they’ll never forget

Petter sneaks out of the New Year’s party he didn’t want to go to and treks to an old burial site he’s dying to see. Alone. Without telling anyone on a freezing December night. Without cell service…a huge problem when he twists his ankle.

Someone passes by Isak’s house on the path leading to the stone ship. When the person never returns, Isak worries and sets off to investigate. What he finds is Petter, a pack of sparklers, and an instant connection.

Under a starry sky, they learn they have a lot in common. Will the attraction burn hot and fizzle out like the fireworks going off over their heads when they return to the real world? Or will it deepen, grow, and turn into something real? Something everlasting like the stone ship?

M/M Contemporary / 20851 words

JMS Books :: Amazon

Don’t forget to check out the other posts on the topic. It’s always so interesting to read what my fellow writers come up with and I love that the same topic creates so wildly different content. I can’t wait to read what they’ve written.

Unfortunately, there won’t be a post from A.L. Lester this months, because she’s in hospital, recovering from surgery, so if you follow Ally on SM, make sure to stop by and send her some love.

Ofelia Gränd :: Holly Day :: K.L. Noone :: Amy Spector :: Addison Albright :: Fiona Glass :: Lilian Francis

Read Around the Rainbow Web Ring

Read Around the Rainbow: My Characters as Teenagers

The third topic for our Read Around the Rainbow webring is What was your character like in high school/as a teenager? And to be perfectly honest, I considered sitting this one out. You know me; I write short, slice-of-life stories mostly under 20K words (with a few exceptions). Emotional stories. The kind of stories that rarely calls for in-depth character portraits that go into every minute detail and dig deep into the teenaged years of the characters. My kind of story calls for enough backstory to make the characters come alive, so everyone reading ends up rooting for them. There can’t be too much information, though, because a short story doesn’t have room for it. That doesn’t mean I don’t know lots of backstory about my characters when I write them; it just means it never ends up on the page. And very little of it is related to the characters as teenagers or young adults. So what would I even write about in today’s topic?

But! Based on everything I do know about my characters, I can make assumptions.

Didrik in Strike a Pose was undoubtedly a confident, creative, and ambitious young man in high-school/university. He was also a horny teenager who enjoyed the attention of pretty boys and never said no to a detour to a dark corner for a hasty one-on-one groping session. Henrik in It Rained All Night clearly went to a posh, high-brow private school, because his mother, the Countess, wouldn’t allow her precious son to go to a plebeian public school, are you crazy?! Adrian in They Met in the Library obviously spent all his school years with his nose in a book, Runar in Secrets on a Train didn’t have many friends because he was competitive, stand-offish, and perceived as a hard-ass, and Buck in His Steady Heart didn’t go to high-school, because fuck that shit.

This is information I never thought about when I wrote the stories – I figured it out as I wrote this blog post – because that’s not the kind of writer I am. I don’t have character sheets detailing everything about each and every person in my books, I have scribbled, close to illegible, notes in my bullet journal with the most important traits to remember. But! I don’t write complex murder-mysteries where there needs to be a motive for the character’s actions, a motive to commit the crime, where the reason for the incident must be believable to the reader.

Because my stories are about falling in love, and falling in love needn’t necessarily be believable, does it? In fact, the falling completely for someone can be pretty unbelievable, and sometimes we fall head over heels when we least expect it. Like when we get lost in the forest (like Måns in They Met in the Woods), when our neighbor knocks on our door on Christmas Eve in desperate need of someone to play Santa (Sigge and Kristian in The Santa Emergency), or even when we really shouldn’t fall in love because the one you fell for can’t really be out (like Sully in Late Night Poetry), or the relationship won’t be accepted by the significant other’s family (like Kieran’s in All I’ll Ever See). And when that happens, does it really matter who you were in high-school?

I don’t know. Maybe it does. Maybe Adrian wouldn’t have come to Manne’s rescue when he panics in the library if Adrian hadn’t spent every second with his nose in his books when he was fourteen? Maybe Didrik wouldn’t have been so confident if he hadn’t had the support of his best friend’s father during his teenaged years?

Would my stories have been better had I come up with these details before I wrote them instead of when trying to come up with a topic to write about on my blog?

Again, I don’t know. What do you think?

Make sure to check out the other blog posts on the topic written by these fabulous people.

A.L. Lester :: Ellie Thomas :: Addison Albright :: K.L. Noone

Books mentioned in this blog post:

Strike a Pose :: It Rained All Night :: They Met in the Library :: Secrets on a Train :: His Steady Heart :: They Met in the Woods :: The Santa Emergency :: Late Night Poetry :: All I’ll Ever See

Awakenings and French Songs, Read Around the Rainbow Web Ring

Read Around the Rainbow: Weird Internet Searches

The second topic for our Read Around the Rainbow webring is Weird Internet Searches. We’ve all done them, right? Googled some weird expression you’ve never heard of, wishing you’d never done it when the search result shows up on your screen, often followed by helpful illustrations that you wish you could unsee, and when you hear a sound in the other end of the house, you slam the laptop shut and hope your significant other doesn’t ask you why you’re so red-faced.

You’ve been there, too, right?

But for authors, it’s our job. When we write about a person who has cancer, we google everything there is to know about cancer treatment, if we write horror, we search for topics like 10 Ways to Kill Someone With A Spatula, and when we write M/M romance, we google stuff like “foam party” and “glory hole etiquette.”

Yes, that last part was me 😆

My book Awakenings & French Songs is about Iggy who has an identity crisis. When the book opens, he’s out celebrating his 36th birthday with his friends, an activity he’d usually enjoy. His friends know him well and took him to a foam party, where he’d would jump around, slide his body against other half naked bodies and do stuff with his hands that we won’t talk about here on the blog 😀

But something is off this time. He’s not enjoying himself, and after spending a couple hours in the bar drinking too much, he hides in the bathroom, where he’s doing some soul searching…but he’s rudely interrupted by an erect penis coming through a gloryhole in the wall 😆

Glory hole illustration of a hole in a brick wall and an emoji eggplant coming out of it. And foam. Made by yours truly 😀

Since I’ve never visited a gloryhole and since I’m not an expert on gloryhole behavior, I didn’t know if it was even considered rude to just stick your junk into the hole without warning, or if that was something you had to be prepared for should you visit such an establishment. So I googled “gloryhole etiquette” and learned that yes, it was considered rude to just stick it in there without a warning.

“Don’t just walk in and shove it through, unless you know there is a bona-fide cum-slut on the other side,” someone writes on Reddit. “Wait for a finger to come through the hole,” WolfDaddy writes in this informative set of instructions, and this blog post agrees; “If you notice another fellow in an adjacent stall, you can initiate contact by wiggling a finger through the hole, which is how you say “hello” in international gloryhole signaling.”

International gloryhole signaling. I’m glad it’s an international language, should the need arise to visit a gloryhole in a foreign country 😆

All jokes aside, I’m glad my research showed that it was rude, or I would’ve had to re-write the scene. And although I google a lot of stuff all the time (and not just for my writing, but for my personal life, too), this is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve ever googled.

Tell me about something weird and wonderful from your google history.

Also, check out my fellow webring authors who write on the same topic. I can’t wait to read about their bizarre internet searches 🙂

A.L. Lester :: Holly Day :: Ofelia Gränd :: K.L. Noone :: Ellie Thomas :: Fiona Glass :: Addison Albright :: Amy Spector

Here’s the scene I wrote that initiated my weird search:

I heave a sigh. I might as well just text the guys and get out of here. I pull my phone from the back pocket of my painted-on jeans and start typing a message to Dylan, when someone, without warning, sticks his erect dick through a dingy-looking, duct-tape lined glory hole I didn’t notice earlier.

The head is dark purple and already glistening, a clear indication that the owner gave themselves a little hand before offering me the treat. How thoughtful.

”Suck me,” he hisses from the other side of the wall.

“What?” My question comes out like an aggressive bark.

“Suck meeeee,” the stranger repeats and waves his cock like it’s a wand, as though he’s Harry freaking Potter trying to cast a spell on me.

“How about checking if I want to first? Ever heard of glory-hole etiquette, asshole?”

”You never say no, Iggy.”

I scowl at the dick as though it can see me. How the fuck does this guy know my name? And while what he said might be true—I’ve been called a slut more than once since I discovered what my cock is for—a little common courtesy never hurt anyone. “Yeah, well, today I do.”

“Don’t be a bitch.”

“Great way of convincing me, dude.”

The erection flags a little and I fight the impulse to flick it and force it back to where it came from. Someone give me a medal for my restraint!

“Come on,” the guy whines.

Whining. A huge turn-on. Not. I roll my eyes.

“You don’t even have to get down on your knees. Just toddle over here on your short, little legs and put your mouth on my meat.”

That’s it. I’m leaving. As I unlock the door and exit the stall, I curl my hand into a fist and slam it hard against Dick-Dude’s door when I pass it. “Making fun of my height. Very original. And attractive.”

An existential awakening and lots of French chansons equal a favorite neighbor seen in a new light.

Iggy Wilker never expected his 36th birthday to turn into an existential crisis. When Iggy’s friends celebrate him with his usual favorite pastime—drinking, dancing, and willing guys—he suddenly wants nothing to do with any of it. He’s fed up and ready for something else. The question is what?

Ronan Clenney has had his eye on his neighbor forever, but as a single father of a precocious eleven-year-old, he’s never believed he stands a chance. But over a late-night cup of tea, it seems that circumstances have changed. Is this the right time, finally?

Iggy has never believed in romance, but can Ronan show him he’s wrong? That love is a real thing?

M/M Contemporary / 11 120 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Universal Buy Link

Read Around the Rainbow Web Ring

Read Around the Rainbow: My Ideal Writing Shack

Today is the first post for our brand new webring, Read Around the Rainbow, and the topic is My Ideal Writing Shack. I was the one who picked the topic from a list because I’m fascinated with the concept of a writing shack, of a space dedicated just for me and my writing.

To be fair, I already have such a space. I have a lovely office in my house with a big desk and space for my fountain pen collection. Aside from the desk, it’s currently pretty bare, though. I have room for book cases and a comfy chair, but we haven’t gotten to that yet; we moved into the house almost a year ago, from an apartment that was four times smaller than this house, so we’ve got a lot of space to fill, and furniture for my office hasn’t been a priority for many reasons.

I like my office, it’s open and bright and airy, but sometimes the openness can be troublesome. When the hubby wants to talk to me while I’m in the middle of writing for example. Or when we have guests; my office is located next to the guest room, and my writing doesn’t stand a chance if the guest in question is my darling grandbaby; then I abandon what I’m doing in favor of cuddling with her.

So sometimes I wish I could have something more private. A little cottage just for me, with a lock on the door, where no one could disturb me unless they were invited. Something like this.

The keywords for my ideal writing shack are water and solitude. I love lakes and oceans and rivers, I love trees and open skies, so that would be necessary. No neighbors is a must. At least one fireplace is also a requirement. And I want it to look rustic, but it needs to have all the modern amenities like a proper toilet (if there’s an outhouse = no deal), running water, electricity, and excellent wifi. Because even if I like to be alone and undisturbed in my physical space, I need to be able to connect to the internet and the morning office, because writing is so much easier in the company of other authors.

The shack also needs a kettle, a teapot, my favorite teacups, and a large variety of teas to choose from. I also need a few bottles of red wine, so I can have a glass as sit outside and look at the sunset while contemplating what’s going to happen next in my WIP. I need a stash of chocolate if the story isn’t going well, and a never-ending supply of fika, because I’m Swedish and we can’t live without fika.

I need a shelf full of notebooks, all my fountain pens, and bottles of ink in all colors of the rainbow. I need a wireless speaker so I can listen to music when I need inspiration, or just a dance party break from my writing.

I also need a room for my husband, because no matter how lovely this all sounds, I don’t like to be completely alone. Especially not in a remote cottage with no neighbors…who knows what can happen?? What if someone breaks in and steals all my tea? Or my fountain pens? 😱

So maybe I already have my ideal writing shack? I have a proper toilet next to my office, I have two fireplaces in my house, lots of tea and red wine, and space for my fountain pens. (I also have an alarm system if someone tries to break in and steal them). I have a modest creek behind the house and a pool for hot summer days, so the water is checked off. Our closest neighbor isn’t very close, I can connect to the morning office, I have a room for my husband, and so what if my darling grandbaby “disturbs” me when I’m writing? A cuddle break never hurt anyone, did it?

My ideal writing shack?

Check out the other posts on the topic from these lovely people or clickety-click the links in the sidebar widget:

Addison Albright :: A.L. Lester :: Ofelia Gränd :: Amy Spector :: Ellie Thomas :: Lillian Francis :: Fiona Glass :: K.L Noone

It Rained All Night, Read Around the Rainbow Web Ring, Strike a Pose, Writing Update

Writing Update

It’s been a while since I did one of these. A quick check in my archive tells me it was January 25 2021, so more than a year ago. I don’t really know why I stopped doing them, but lots of things have happened since then. I moved to my lovely house, I started the Time-Stealing Day Job. And we can’t forget about The Plague, of course. My social media presence has lessened in general, because I want to spend what little free time I have actually writing than on posting stuff on SM.

But I thought it’d be a good thing to bring back to the blog, and my plan is to post about it once a month. I have another monthly thing planned for the blog, but more on that later. First; what’s going on with my writing?

It Rained All Night

My publisher JMS Books have posted in-house submission calls for “this-or-that” short stories. And by this-or-that, I mean for example sugar or spice, where the author picks either sugar or spice and writes a story about it. I did. I picked sugar, and wrote Secrets on a Train, where the two MCs hit it off when Runar notices Valentin putting ALL THE SUGAR in his coffee. There are more this-or-that submission calls, like rain or shine, where I picked rain and wrote It Rained All Night.

Wanna see the blurb?

Can a chance meeting in the rain change someone’s life? 

Meeting someone who can make him stop going is an eye-opener for Henrik. The man, Mikko, is his complete opposite, a steady rock in the wild rainstorm that is Henrik’s life, but the connection between them is both unexpected and instantaneous. Their encounter only lasts a few minutes, but before they part, they exchange phone numbers.

They live far away from each other, but soon they text and call daily, until Mikko is Henrik’s dearest friend and most trusted person. But a late-night question on the phone has Henrik re-evaluating his feelings. It’s impossible to love someone you’ve only met in person once…right? 

Is the connection Henrik and Mikko forged long distance enough to sustain them when they meet again? And will their love be strong enough to give them the happily ever after they deserve? 

It’s 7673 words long and will be released in April, and you can look forward to more short stories about rain. I know for example that the lovely K.L. Noone has written a story for this submission call that I look forward to reading.

I had a hard time coming up with the title for the story, until one day when I listened to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists, Thom Yorke (lead singer of Radiohead.) The song’s name is It Rained All Night, so I borrowed it for my story because it fits perfectly; it does rain all night. But that’s all the song and my story have in common, I promise.

And if you’ve never heard it, here’s a YouTube link where you can check it out.

Strike a Pose

The first Saturday of May is World Naked Gardening Day. That sounds like something my friend Holly Day would write a story for, because she writes stories inspired by all the weird and wonderful holidays out there. And she has written a story for it. And so have I. And a bunch of other people. Because last year when I stumbled on this fabulous holiday, I said to Holly that she should write a story for it, and Ally said we should all write stories for it, and I said okay, and suddenly we were doing a Naked Gardening collaboration. We enlisted K.L. Noone and Amy Spector, talked to JMS Books to check if they’d be on board to publish a bunch of naked gardening books on May 7, and they said yes.

So, come May 7, five stories celebrating World Naked Gardening Day will be published by JMS Books, and mine is called Strike a Pose. There’s very little actual gardening going on in my story, but there’s a lot of nakedness and people posing as famous ancient sculptures in the garden (where the statues in the picture above served as my inspiration). That counts, doesn’t it? 🙂

The story is 17545 words long and it’s surprisingly spicy for being a Nell Iris story. My stories are usually lower heat, but this one…is not 🔥🔥

Didrik would do anything for his best friend, Filip, including taking pictures of Filip’s dad, Johan, for a charity calendar. Naked pictures, of beautiful, irresistible, wonderful Johan, who was single-handedly responsible for Didrik’s gay awakening. He was also happily married and unavailable…until he wasn’t.

After losing his husband five years ago, Johan finally seems ready to move on, and as they start the charity project, everything changes. With every meeting, every conversation, every pose for the camera, the attraction between them swells and grows, until it burns hot and threatens to consume them.

Their interactions, their relationship is surprisingly easy, but it’s not without its challenges. The age difference for one thing. Telling Filip for another. Is their connection enough to last? Can they overcome the hurdles to get the happily ever after they deserve?

Read Around the Rainbow

The final update for this post is in regards to what I wrote above; that I have a new monthly feature planned for the blog. This idea was born in the morning office with Ally and Ofelia, just like the naked gardener one. (isn’t it amazing what happens when you throw a bunch of creative people into the same space?)

The idea is for us to blog about the same topic on the same day each month, like a webring. Or exactly like a webring, because Ally promptly set one up, recruited more people, made a handful of lovely graphics, and provided us with links and codes and spreadsheets. If you think that sounds scarily organized, you’re right 😁

Maybe you’ve noticed the new, fancy Read Around the Rainbow widget in my sidebar? You can use it to check out all the participating blogs, but we’ll also link to each other in the monthly post. Currently, we’re ten authors participating; A.L. Lester, Ofelia Gränd/Holly Day, Ellie Thomas, Addison Albright, K.L. Noone, Amy Spector, Fiona Glass, Lillian Francis, and J.R Hart, but all of us might not post every time.

The first date for this is March 25, and the topic for our first posts will be our ideal writing shack. It’ll be great fun. I love blogging, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with topics, so this’ll be a great help.

Also, check out what Fiona Glass wrote about this new webring thing. She explains it much better than I do.