About Nell, Book Recommendations

The Perfect Sunday™ 

Happy Sunday, everyone. I’ve decided that today will be The Perfect Sunday™ because wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do any of the boring adulting stuff and could just indulge in things that make up happy? So in that perfect world, my Perfect Sunday™ would look like this:

(Oh, and a caveat: this is The Perfect Sunday™ for November. If you ask me in July, it’ll look completely different.)

The Perfect Sunday: a Moodboard. I should’ve added a rain cloud because rain will preferably smatter on my roof.

Warm sweaters, fuzzy socks, bowls of soup and cups of tea. Candles and music and books. Of course books, because without books, it wouldn’t be perfect. It would be a perfectly ordinary good day, but we’re striving for perfection today, and books are necessary for perfection. And on days like today, when I just want to wrap myself in warm, cozy things, I’ve decided that re-reading titles from my Goodreads feelgood-shelf is in order. So on this Perfect Sunday, I’ll be reading either of these:

Four titles from my Goodreads re-read feelgod shelf.

Fluff and romance, my two favorite things in books. Fluff and romance make my soul feel good, sort of like tea and a fireplace make my body feel good.

So there you have it. My recipe for a perfect Sunday. Now, if all of you could keep your fingers crossed that my day will actually turn out like this, I’d be grateful. ❤️

Tell me: what would your perfect Sunday look like?

About Nell

New Release Spotlight: The Quid Pro Quo by A.L. Lester

Today, I welcome the lovely A.L. Lester back to my blog. She’s here to talk about her newest release, The Quid Pro Quo.

The Quid Pro Quo: Walter Kennett

Hello there everyone! Thank you so much to Nell for letting me drop in today to tell you all about my latest release.

The Quid Pro Quo is the second in the Bradfield trilogy, although it will stand alone. It’s set a few months after the end of The Fog of War and stars Walter Kennett, Sylvia’s friend, and Simon Frost, a detective who comes to Bradfield to investigate a murder. It’s a gay, historical, paranormal, romantic murder-mystery with a m/transm couple set in rural England in 1920.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the main characters, Walter Kennett!

Walter Kennett (Walt)

Born: 1880, East End of London.

Profession: Nurse. Joined army at age of eighteen in place of their twin brother, who joined up and then changed their mind. Army nurse (orderly) with Royal Army Medical Corps until discharge in 1919. Served in Second Boer War in South Africa among other places.

Smokes: A pipe.
Drives: Does drive. Not much bothered about it.
Lives: Went where army sent him during his service. Now living at Bradfield, with Sylvia.
Appearance: Small, running a little bit to fat now he’s forty, dark brown hair and eyes, London accent.
Personality: Sarcastic, loyal, competent, secretly in love with Sylvia. Pansexual, transgender. Can cook. Reads travelogues for pleasure. He’s never found a woman he liked enough to marry and the chap he liked like that died in the war.

So the first thing to say about Walter is that he’s trans. It wasn’t relevant in the first book, and I don’t think I even mentioned it, but as I was writing I knew in my own mind. And it’s a massive plot fudge. When I was sketching out the characters for the trilogy I wrote a short scene for each of them, to work out a bit about who they were. However I approached it, Walter was trans. And by the 1890s, there were medicals for army admission. There are certainly women and trans men who have served in the military—James Barry is the most well known, but there were a few soldiers in the American Civil War and someone called Phoebe Hassel, who was discharged in 1817 when she was flogged and discovered to be a man (bottom of page seven, you have to register, but it’s free). But you only ever find out about the ones people noticed, not the ones who went through their whole career without being found out.

Walter is trans. There was no way of getting round it—when I began writing I tried to make him a cis man and I just couldn’t, he wouldn’t cooperate. So I’ve fudged it. He joins up in place of his twin brother, who bottles out after signing the papers. And if I can use enough creative license to write a story with creepy howling creatures who come from the great beyond and people enjoy it, I hope I can be allowed enough wiggle room to let him go through his army career without being found out. Or if he was found out, for people to cover up for him.

The other thing Walter doesn’t want people to find out at the beginning of the book is that he’s deeply in love with Sylvia. He met her in 1915 when he was seconded to the hospital at Royaumont to help the Scottish Women’s Hospital people set up. For some inexplicable plot reason he was never un-seconded. When he was discharged in 1919, he went to work with Sylvia as her Practice Nurse. He knows he doesn’t have a chance with her, but she knows his secrets, he knows hers and they’re very good friends. He keeps his feelings under wraps and he was very happy to watch her developing relationship with Lucy in The Fog of War.

Now though, he’s got his own story. I hope you like him!

Blurb

Village nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate a inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but  he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on  a relationship of his own?

The second in the Bradfield trilogy, set in the Border Magic universe. Stands alone. Transm/m couple.

Buy-link :: Buy from JMS Books ::  Add on Goodreads :: Find on author-website

Excerpt

As Simon was replacing the device on the telephone table a pretty young woman put her head out of a door at toward the end of the hall. “Sylv!” she said, “Do you want tea? I’ve boiled the kettle.” and then when she realised he wasn’t who she thought he was, “Oh, I do beg your pardon! I thought you were Dr Marks!”.

“She’s still in the surgery,” Simon nodded across the hall.

The woman emerged into the hall. “Lucille Hall-Bridges,” she said, extending a hand. “I’m a friend of Sylvia’s. I help with the house.”

Simon took her hand in his. Her grip was sure and warm. “Detective Frost,” he replied. “Nice to meet you, Miss Hall-Bridges. She had a recent bruise running from her jaw to just below her eye, entering the black-and-purple stage.

“I’ve made a pot of tea,” she was saying. “I don’t know whether anyone will want any, but I do like to feel useful and tea is so…normal-making, isn’t it?”

He nodded, slightly bemused at her chatter. “Yes, indeed,” he said. “Very normal.”

She gave a perfunctory tap on the surgery door, opened it and disappeared inside without waiting for a response. “Sylv, Walter, I’ve made tea. Would you and your detective like to come into the drawing room?” Her voice faded, presumably as she joined them in the examination room.

There was a pause. Then, “Oh!” he heard her say. “Oh.” She sounded a little shocked. “What’s happened to her hands?” she asked.

“Scraped on the bottom on the pond I think,” Simon heard Dr Marks say. “She was face-down in the water.”

“Oh.” Miss Hall-Bridges’ voice was small. “Sylvia…there’s…she’s…I can feel…do you think…?” Her voice trailed off and Dr Marks spoke over her, clearly away they might be overhead.

“Let’s not worry about that now, shall we? The policeman is sending her down to Taunton to a postmortem. You go and take the tea-things into the drawing room. We’ll just cover her up.”

Awaiting Buy-link : Buy from JMS Books  Add on Goodreads : Find on author-website

About A. L. Lester

Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

Facebook Group :: Twitter :: Newsletter (free story) :: Website :: Link-tree for everywhere else

Guestpost, Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: How to Soothe a Dragon by Holly Day

My friend Holly Day is back on the blog! This is her eleventh release this year, so can we just take a moment to admire how freaking productive and creative she is? And on top of that, she’s a lovely human being, so if you’ve never read any of her stories, maybe give her a try? 🙂


Hello! *waves* Thank you so much, Nell, for letting me swing by again. Yesterday, How to Soothe a Dragon was released. It’s a story I wrote to celebrate National Button Day, which is on November 16.

I had this vision… I thought I’d write a story similar to There Will Be Aliens. If you haven’t read it, it’s a story I wrote for Extraterrestrial Abductions Day, and it’s a rather silly little tale about a human man and his best friend. They’re walking home from the pub after one beer too many when they get abducted by aliens. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I wanted to do something similar, only now on Earth.

Yeah. So. Badass aliens, right?

I wrote and I wrote and I grew more and more frustrated. I liked my characters, I liked the story, but I just couldn’t get it to work, and do you know why? What I’ve written is waaaayyyy more like a paranormal romance story than a sci-fi story. And in my mind, I was writing sci-fi.

Yes, Ocren is from another planet, but this is a fated mates dragon shifter story. No matter how hard I tried to push it into being sci-fi, it’s not – not really *shakes head*

I was about to toss it all together. Took a few days off writing, and when I read it again, I was amused. You think, as an author, you have control. You make up the world, right? You create the characters. You decide what they’re gonna think, feel, and do. Right? WRONG.

This story is a perfect example of things getting out of hand, so much so that I didn’t even know what it was I was writing.

But we have alien dragons, people dressed as The Beatles on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover and there is nothing more dangerous than lemons 😆

Derek does his best to avoid his neighbour, a big, scary Pacurian male (the alien race). Ocren, Derek’s neighbour, doesn’t know what it is about Derek, but he simply can’t stay away. He’s shunned by his people for being born under the Zatera moon. It makes him dangerous and unpredictable, but Derek could soothe him – if only he stopped running away every time he saw Ocren.

Excerpt:

Ocren Starburst leaned his forehead against Derek’s door. He was gone. He knew it in his soul. The ache was welling up again. His hands shook as he pushed away from the wall.

Next time. He’d handle it better the next time.

Shaking his head, he went back to his apartment. Hopelessness painted the walls, and cold sweat coated his skin. He needed Derek. The moment he’d seen him, he’d known he needed him. He didn’t know what to do.

As soon as he saw him, he wanted to push. Wanted to take over his mind. Wanted to crawl into him, and he feared taking over his mind wouldn’t be enough. It was as if Derek was the key, the one person who could heal the rip in his soul. The only one who could calm him.

He was born under the Zatera moon—volatile and feared by most. His stay on Earth wasn’t one he’d chosen, but it was an effective way to get rid of the Zatera born. Put them on Earth, and since most of them never sired any offspring, they’d remain there. The only way to get back home, unless you were of an important family, was to sire a child. Then they welcomed you with open arms. A Zatera born would never be welcomed with open arms.

He growled.

They’d placed him in a human building because no one wanted to be close to him. Fine with him, he didn’t want to be close to them either. His teeth grew sharp as he neared the window and looked at the ugly fire escape blocking most of the view.

After a second’s thought, he opened the window and pushed through. Derek would have no problem climbing out the window, he was small and fine-limbed—maybe not by human standards but compared to him at least. A metallic groan sounded as he put his boots on the grid and climbed up the two flights to Derek’s apartment.

Part of him was ashamed of his behavior, but he was only gonna make sure Derek was okay. He isn’t there. Whatever he told himself, it was a lie. Derek wasn’t in the building. Ocren sensed when he was nearby, and when he wasn’t.

Biting back a snarl, he looked through the glass into Derek’s living room—tidy. There weren’t many things, only a couch, a coffee table, a TV, and a bookshelf. His heart ached. Derek’s scent would be strong inside.

He glanced toward the bed and pictured Derek sleeping there, warm and cozy. His pale skin fascinated Ocren, and he wanted to run his hands over it, over every part of him. Burning heat coursed through his veins and his cock was painfully hard—it always was when he could breathe in Derek’s scent.

The scent wasn’t enough, though. He needed Derek, and he needed him now. It had been four years, and Ocren didn’t have much time left. He wanted to spend whatever time he had with Derek.

Ocren was forty-four, and he’d never heard of any Zatera born living that long without a mate. The few who lived long, happy lives were those who found a mate born under a more balanced moon. Hardly anyone would ever consider mating a Zatera born. They were cruel, turned feral, got violent… or so everyone was told—Zatera born included.

Ocren had been violent, he’d been angry—still was—but he’d never hurt someone he loved.

He didn’t have anyone to love here on Earth.

His rage was getting out of control. He’d almost taken off his boss’s head earlier today. The fucker had touched him—no one touched him—and Ocren had snapped. He’d thrown him into the wall and had been about to pounce when Kan had stepped into his line of sight.

Kan was another Zatera born, the only other Zatera born at their department. He was mated to Ilqan, a quiet Pacurian male with a soft face and sharp eyes. Ilqan leveled him.

Ocren had seen Kan at his worst, but after meeting Ilqan he’d turned into another man. He was still Zatera born, still sharp and harsh, as warriors should be, but he was more balanced.

Because of the incident earlier in the day, Ocren was on a week’s leave from work, and he feared it would tip him over the edge. What if he ended up slaughtering the inhabitants of the entire apartment block? He wanted to sink his fangs into anyone who’d ever spoken to Derek, and while part of him knew it wasn’t a charming trait, he couldn’t stop his brain from painting pictures of blood-sprayed walls and broken bodies.

A drop of rain landed on his forehead, making him aware of being outside—not only outside, but on the fire escape, three floors up, looking into an apartment that wasn’t his.

If his colleagues found out, he’d be put in isolation. He could hold on to his sanity while being at home for a week, but there was no question what would happen if they locked him up—he’d go feral.

Blurb

Derek Herman is living a nightmare. Long before he was born, the planet was taken over by a mind-controlling alien race, and everyone is affected except for him. Derek does his best not to draw attention to himself, but it’s not going well.

Ocren Starburst is obsessed with his human neighbor. Every time he sees Derek, he wants nothing more than to grab him, hold him, and keep him forever. And four years of chasing him up the stairs in their apartment building has resulted in Derek refusing to even acknowledge his existence. That is, until Derek accuses Ocren of breaking into his apartment.

Derek found a button on his living room floor, the same kind of button Ocren wears on his police uniform. And while Ocren hasn’t broken in, he knows the button means someone has. Ocren’s race has kept their shape-shifting abilities secret for years, but now his other form wants out to slaughter everyone that dares to get too close to Derek. And staying in control proves hard when threats toward Derek increase.

Will they be able to keep Derek safe without Ocren losing control of his dragon self?

Gay Paranormal Romance / 28,195 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: www.books2read.com/HowToSootheADragon

About Holly

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

Connect with Holly on social media:

Website :: Facebook :: Twitter :: Pinterest :: BookBub :: Goodreads :: Instagram

Book Recommendations

Ode to the Short Story

I love short stories. You all know I love writing them, but I love reading them even more. They’re perfect if you’re impatient like me and don’t want to wait five hundred pages for the HEA 😁 Or for when you don’t have much time, but still want to read something. And this last part, is what I’m going to write about today.


stagestruck

My alarm goes off at 5am on the mornings I need to go into the office to work the Day Job (Tues thru Thurs), and one morning, I simply didn’t want to get out of bed. I knew I had to, I knew I needed to brush my hair, put on a bra, eat breakfast, and leave for the train on time, but this particular morning, I didn’t want to. Kind of like a toddler who refuses to do what their parent wants them to do.

Instead, I picked up Stage Struck by Ellie Thomas, fluffed my pillows and started reading. It’s not even 5000 words so I finished it quickly. And when I was done, I was okay getting out of bed. I had to sacrifice eating breakfast that morning, but it was okay because I’d fed my soul and felt uplifted and ready to face the day.

And when I arrived to Helsingborg where I work, I bought a sandwich on the train station and ate breakfast at my desk. Win-win.


seagulls

One Sunday, our friends texted us and said they were inviting themselves over for coffee, and since my husband is of the social sort, he was happy about it. But because of reasons, they were delayed, so they texted again and told us they’d be half an hour late. I didn’t want to start something I wouldn’t have time to finish, so I decided to read instead. I’d downloaded a free short story a while back and started it.

Seagulls is also less than 5000 words so I didn’t have trouble finishing it before our friends arrived. I’m also happy to report that I had time cleaning up the sobbing mess that was yours truly after finishing this story (because it was heartbreaking) and when our friends rang the doorbell, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell that I’d been crying just a few minutes before.

Another win for the short story!


My husband drives me to the train station every morning, and one day he was extra tired and not very talkative, so I decided to read a little instead of trying to force him into conversation. And I was in the mood for something Christmassy, so I picked Turning Wood that I’d had on my TBR since forever. 

Turning Wood is longer than the other two, close to 14K words, but I read it until it was time to kiss my husband goodbye and get out of the car, I read it on the platform while I waited for the train to arrive, I read it on the ride, and finished it just as we rolled into the station where I had to get off. Almost as though I’d planned it, but no. It was just a happy coincidence. 


runescribeOne day at the office, I was all alone in the break room for lunch. All my colleagues who had their lunch break at the same time I did, had stuff planned. Someone needed to run an errand, someone else hadn’t brought lunch from home so they ran out to buy something, and so on. It’s rare to be all alone in the break room; there are always people there, eating or drinking coffee, and always, always talking. 

So when I found myself alone, I took advantage. I opened the Scribd app, found Runescribe that sounded interesting, so I dove in. I read as I ate, read long after I’d eaten all my food, and finished it right before my lunch was over and I had to return to my desk and my work. And feeding my soul as well as my body, made the afternoon easy and fun, so I hope I’ll be alone in the break room again.


I recommend all these stories if you’re in the mood for something short and only have a few moments to read. And I really recommend snatching moments here and there to read; it’s so great for the soul. Tell me: do you steal reading time in those in-between moments when it’s so easy to scroll the phone, play a mindless game, or stare out into space, doing nothing?

Nell's WIP, Secrets on a Train

Fountain Pen Day: Excerpt From My WIP

Honey, did you know today is Fountain Pen Day? the hubby asked earlier. I didn’t know, but I immediately asked him if he’d bought me another fountain pen to celebrate, but he got veeeeery busy all of a sudden so I guess the answer is no. 😁

But it sparked an idea for a blog post (even if my friend Holly Day usually is the one who’s celebrating all these weird days): I’m currently 7000 words or so into a story called Secrets on a Train for a Sugar or Spice submission call for my publisher, and there are a lot of fountain pens in that story. You know the old saying write what you know? Yeah, I took that and ran with it, so fountain pens. Lots and lots of them.

And so I thought you might like an excerpt? Keep in mind that it’s unedited and unfinished.

Excerpt:

Then he scrunches his eyebrows together. “No sugar-slush today?”

My frown returns, and I shake my head. “No time. I overslept.”

“Sit tight, I’ll be right back.”

I watch him disappear down the aisle, past the compartments, out of sight, as I shrug out of my coat and sit. He’s not gone for long; he returns carrying two cups of takeaway coffee and he sets the bigger one in front of me. With his lip curled up, he reaches into the pocket of his jacket and pulls out a handful of sugar packets.

“I don’t know how many you need, so a grabbed a bunch.”

I count them, and say, “Seven is a bit excessive, even for me.”

“Keep the rest. It can be your emergency supply.”

“It’s very thoughtful of you.” I grin, tear open three of the packets, and dump them into my coffee. He didn’t bring a spoon, so I swirl the cup around, hoping that the sugar will dissolve quickly. Then I gulp down two huge swallows, burning the roof of my mouth and my tongue, not caring one bit now that I finally have coffee. “Thank you,” I say again. “You’re a life savior.”

“You sure you don’t need more sugar?” he asks, his voice rumbling its way through me until every cell in my body resonate with it.

“Nah. I’m sweet enough as it is.” As soon as the stupidity is out of my mouth, I groan. “Can I take it back?”

Nick chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m afraid not. Besides, it’s true.”

“It’s not. I’m not sweet.”

“Oh, come on. You almost cried when I showed you the animal pictures yesterday. And you’ve brought me coffee for no reason the last two days. If that’s not sweet, I don’t know what is.”

I harrumph.

“Besides. I like sweet.” He takes a sip from his coffee.

“Oh?” I grab one of the sugar packets. “You want one?”

He wrinkles his nose. “Sugar in coffee is not sweet. It’s an abomination.”

“I could agree with you but then we’d both be wrong.”

He throws his head back and laughs, a dark, throaty sound. It rasps against my skin, finds its way into my belly, pools between my hips. God, I thought his voice affected me, but his laughter is a whole new level. I want to hear more of it.

“Where’s your pen?” I ask instead of jumping over the table and curling up in his lap like I really want to do.

“Do you have a fountain pen fetish or something?” He smirks.

“I didn’t until I met you.” I make a gimme motion with my fingers. “Come on. Show it to me.”

He nods and reaches into his inner pocket. “It was my grandfather’s favorite. The first time he used it was when he signed his marriage certificate, and since he and Gramma had a long, happy life together, he referred to it as his lucky pen.” Nick holds it out for me to see, his touch careful and affectionate. It’s a humble metal pen in a matte silver color with no frills. Just straight lines and functionality, a scratched surface that tells the story of a loved writing instrument that’s been in frequent use.

“Thank you for showing it to me. It’s my favorite, too.”

“Why?”

“Because I love the backstory. I love how much you love it.”