Please welcome a Dynamic Duo!

Ofelia Gränd and Nell Iris are here this week in a tandem takeover!

As you know, Ofelia, Nell and I write together regularly, along with JM Snyder. They start at 6AM Swedish time, which is a horrific 5am for me and very late at night for JM, so I tend to come in to the chatroom late. They’re very tolerant of my unreliablity though, and have popped in today to talk about their respective new releases. The post alternates between the two of them, and I’ve given them each a different colour background! Take it away, Nell and Ofelia!

First of all, we’d like to express our eternal gratitude to the lovely Ally for lending us the blog so we can talk about our new releases. Thank you, you’re the best! 😘

Our new books #PictaBook (by Ofelia) and #SlidingIntoMyDMs (by Nell) are both a part of a multi-authored series released by JMS Books, our publisher. Last summer, JMS Books sent out an in-house submission call for their authors, where the theme was “falling into love on social media.” We could either pick an existing SM platform where our MCs would meet and fall in love, or we could come up with a new one. The title for the submission call was #Love, and the title of our stories had to start with a hashtag. Hence #PictaBook and #SlidingIntoMyDMs.

We write together early most mornings (meeting in a chatroom for JMS’ authors, very fitting for the topic, don’t you think? 😊 ) and we both loved the idea and jumped to the chance of joining in. We spent last summer writing our #Love stories, but we chose different approaches. While Nell chose to set her story on an existing SM platform, Instagram, Ofelia took the other route of creating her own, PictaBook. And we’re here today to tell you about why.

Nell Iris image. "It all started with a DM on Instagram" Available now!
#SlidingIntoMyDMs by Nell Iris

The inspiration for my story was a real-life Instagram DM from an old acquaintance of mine I haven’t seen in years (read more about it on Ofelia Gränd’s blog if you’re interested) so I already had the idea written down when the submission call landed in my inbox. So I picked up my favorite fountain pen and started to write, definitely thinking that Instagram should be my platform.

But Ofelia telling me she was making up a new SM platform for her story made me pause. Should I, too, come up with my own platform? There are some obvious advantages to it, the prime one being it won’t be so dated. If Instagram was to be taken down tomorrow, that can make the story feel old and less relevant, as though you today, in 2021, were to pick up a book about MySpace. On the other hand, current readers know Instagram. It’s a well-known phenomenon so it’s easy for people to visualize when reading.

After going a bit back and forth, I decided to stick with my original idea of having Eddy and Moss reconnect on Instagram since it was the thing that gave me the idea in the first place.

Or maybe I just wasn’t creative enough to come up with a completely new social media platform like Ofelia… whose PictaBook I’d sign up for in a heartbeat if it were real.

PictaBook Image

#PictaBook by Ofelia Gränd

The idea of #PictaBook came as soon as the call for #Love appeared in the inbox. I don’t know what it was, but the characters came to life in my mind. From the start, I knew my platform would be book-related, but Booklikes and LibraryThing never caught my interest, and I wanted my platform to be simpler than Goodreads. So that’s how PictaBook was born. 

PictaBook is a hashtag and picture-based platform. Much like Goodreads’ shelves you can organize your books, but you’re using hashtags to do it. In the book, one of the characters describe it as Instagram but for books only. That’s what I was going for – no reviews, just a picture, and hashtags.

Part of the reason I didn’t want there to be long written reviews is that Phoenix, one of the main characters, is dyslexic, and I wanted him to discover books without facing more text than necessary. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to list the books you’ve read by using a few hashtags and a picture? I’d like a platform like that LOL.

So was I more creative than Nell by coming up with a platform of my own? Nah, it was pure and simple laziness. I wanted a platform that fit my story, and PictaBook does. Though, now I wish someone would build it 😀

#SlidingIntoMyDMs, Nell Iris
Cover, Sliding into my DM's by Nell Iris

“Hi. I heard you’ve been sick.”

Eddy Pennington is recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia when an old acquaintance, Moss, sends him a message on social media. They haven’t spoken in years, but Eddy is pleasantly surprised. He always liked Moss even if they were never close friends.

Moss Fanning has no ulterior motive with his message: all he wants is to wish Eddy a speedy recovery. He got over the crush he used to have on Eddy a long time ago.

They reconnect easily and have even more in common now. And when they meet in person, the attraction is instant. Will an innocent, well-meaning message on social media lead to something more? Something deeper? Something…everlasting?

M/M Contemporary / 21998 words

Buy #SlidingIntoMyDMs: JMS Books :: Universal Buy Link

#PictaBook, Ofelia Grand
Cover, PictaBook by Ofelia Grand

Jules Rose leads a quiet life working as a librarian. He’s happy to spend his spare time reading books and talking to his homicidal cat. What more could he wish for? But when his cozy Friday night is shattered by a friend request on his book community app, politeness gives him little choice but to accept. Jules doesn’t want to talk to anyone, but he can’t be rude. Besides, if he had to talk about something, books is the topic he’d pick.

Phoenix Ford is dyslexic and avoids everything that has to do with the written word, but when the colleague he’s trying to impress calls him stupid, he decides to convince the other man, he’s mistaken. All he needs is the right book to make him look smart, a perfect balance between intelligent and short. And who better to ask for help than a guy who loves books so much, he labeled one boner-worthy on a book app?

When Jules finds out Phoenix never has read a book from start to finish, he’s on a mission. He will find the right book, the book that will make Phoenix fall in love—with reading. Phoenix’s plan might have been to listen to the book Jules picked for him to impress his colleague, but that was before he got to know him. Talking about books is a sure way to Jules’ heart, but is it enough for him to agree to go on a date?

M/M Contemporary / 36559 words

Buy #PictaBook: JMS Books

About Nell

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.

Find Nell on social media:

Webpage/blog :: Twitter :: Instagram :: Facebook Page :: Facebook Profile :: Goodreads :: Bookbub :: Pinterest

About Ofelia

Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.

Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.

When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.

Find Ofelia on social media:

Blog :: Newsletter :: Instagram :: Facebook Page :: Facebook Profile :: Goodreads :: Bookbub :: Pinterest

Interview: Holly Day, Be Still My Heart

My writing-buddy Holly Day is visiting today, to talk about her new release and tell us all about ‘Vinegar Valentines’! Plus she has a giveaway!

Cover of Be Still My Heart by Holly Day

Thank you, Ally, for letting me drop by again. I’m here today to talk about my latest release Be Still, My Heart.

Be Still, My Heart is a Valentine’s story, which is crazy because if there is one holiday I don’t think we need it’s Valentine. I can eat chocolate any day of the year. I much prefer when my husband gives me flowers or other gifts on a random day rather on a day someone else has decided we should declare our love for each other – preposterous! LOL

Have you heard of vinegar valentines? I googled facts about Valentine and came across vinegar valentines. Had I lived in the Victorian era, I might have sent one.

Lovers exchanged valentine cards, declaring their undying love for each other, but not everyone loved their suitors. Those who had an unwanted suitor could send a vinegar valentine.

One card that was salvaged read:

“To My Valentine  ‘Tis a lemon that I hand you and bid you now ‘skidoo,’ Because I love another—there is no chance for you.”

Sending cards on Valentine got to be so popular, postal carriers received an extra meal to have the energy to deliver all the cards. In 1871, the London post office handled 1.2 million valentine cards. The number might be higher since some postmasters didn’t deliver vinegar valentines they considered being too vulgar.

To make things worse – or I guess it depends on how you see it. Personally, I think it’s brilliant – many of the vinegar valentines were sent cash on delivery. So not only did the women tell their unwanted suitors to stop calling on them, but they also made them pay to read the card LOL.

Sadly, few of the vinegar valentine cards are still around.

But, I didn’t come here to talk vinegar valentines, I came to talk about Be Still, My Heart. It’s about Elian and Dimitri, none of them wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but Dimitri is working at a dating agency so it’s impossible for him not to notice the frenzy. And Elian happened to write an article about love through times and got invited to speak at a Valentine’s dinner.

Four years ago, Dimitri Petrov had his leg blown off by a landmine while in military service. Suffering from PTSD, he doesn’t do crowds, people, dates, or dinners. But when Elian Hubert enters the dating agency where Dimitri works in a whirlwind of pink shirts, flapping hands, and outrageous flirting, looking for a Valentine date, Dimitri thinks maybe he can do him a favor.

Excerpt

The clatter of heels filled the lobby, but this time Dimitri was aware of it being heels, which was good. He didn’t need a meltdown in front of Elian. The meltdowns weren’t as frequent anymore, for which he was grateful. Perhaps his brain was slowly learning he wasn’t on a battlefield anymore.

“Dimitri, I need… Oh, hi.” Irina stopped by Dimitri’s side, smiling at Elian. “Who are you?”

“Irina!” Dimitri glared at her.

“Sorry.” She grinned at Elian. “Who are you?”

Elian huffed a laugh. “Elian Hubert.” He stood and bowed dramatically, the lovely sparkles back in his eyes. “At your service, ma’am.”

“Don’t ma’am me.” Irina frowned, but Dimitri could tell she wasn’t being serious. “What are you doing here, and what are your intentions with my brother?”

Elian widened his eyes, his gaze jumping between the two of them. “To sweep him off his feet, of course.”

Irina nodded. “Proceed.”

Elian barked a laugh and offered her his hand. “It’s lovely meeting you, Irina.”

She softened her expression and shook his hand. “Likewise. So can you get me into the Valentine ball?”

Dimitri cursed. “Irina!”

“You’d want to go?” Elian stared. “Had I known, I wouldn’t have had to flirt with your brother. I could’ve asked you.”

It was a joke, Dimitri knew it was a joke, but the words stung anyway.

“I don’t make a good date, Mr. Hubert.”

“Me either.” He shrugged. “Dimitri is a great date, though.”

Irina looked at Dimitri. “You’ve been on a date with him?”

“Yes, yesterday.” Elian grinned at him.

“Keeping secrets, are we?”

Dimitri shook his head. “It’s not a secret. We went to The Crown.”

“Oh…” Her eyes widened. “And it went…” She lowered her voice, “…well?”

Dimitri shrugged. “I didn’t tackle anyone to the ground.”

Elian frowned at them until Irina waved a hand at him. “PTSD.”

She glared at Dimitri. “You have to tell him shit like that, Dimitri. What if you’d… done something? He wouldn’t have known why.” She turned back to Elian. “He gets these—” She waved a hand again. “Sometimes in a crowd, he’s convinced someone has a gun or a bomb or something. Usually, he has it under control, but… it’s flashbacks, I guess.”

Elian’s blue eyes filled with sadness, and Dimitri wanted to kill Irina for telling him.

“So…” Irina sat on the edge of the desk. Her black high-heel reflected the light above as she gently dangled it back and forth. “Is it possible for you to get me into that dinner?”

Elian shrugged. “I can check. It’s terribly boring, though.”

Irina laughed. “The things we do for our reputation. I need to go to some classier events, many think we’re a call girl company.”

Elian glanced at Dimitri, widening his eyes. “And going to this event will make them see you as something else?”

“Look at this.” She swept a hand over the classy lobby—glass walls facing the street, high ceiling, and beautiful art and flower arrangements. “This is classy, and yet some birdbrains walk in here thinking we have girls stored in the closets ready to dust off for a night’s date.” She shook her head, making her long, dark hair sway over her shoulders. “I need to get out more and present myself as a matchmaker.” She frowned. “Perhaps it’s the word dating. We say we’re a dating agency, so they think we’re a bordello.” She looked at Dimitri. “Matchmaking sounds so tacky, though.”

He nodded.

“I should get going.” Elian attempted to stand.

“Wait!” Dimitri hurried to the closet and grabbed his coat. It would be too big for Elian, but he couldn’t have him walking around without proper clothes in the winter cold.

When he got back, Elian and Irina were talking in muted voices, and Elian nodded at something she said. Dimitri scanned the street outside the windows as he approached—nothing out of the ordinary.

Flamboyant character, Valentine, hurt-comfort, age-gap, disability, gay romance, ptsd, gay romance, military men, contemporary

Buy Be Still My Heart

Giveaway

I have put together a rafflecopter giveaway. I’m giving away an ebook copy of Be Still, My Heart + an ebook copy of Hop Hop, Carrot Top that was published last month. Click the link above and you’ll be taken to the giveaway. If you’re up for a game, you can increase your chances of winning by counting hearts. How many hearts do you see in this post? Answer in the giveaway, and to increase your chances more visit Nell Iris, Ofelia Gränd, and my blog and count the hearts there too <3

About Holly Day

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 or visit her website

Valentine’s Stories!

I usually loath tales based around holidays, but I’m trying to be a kinder, fluffier, all together more celebratory person for 2021, so I have put aside my cynicism and generalised rage and put together a few stories that feature Valentine’s Day for you! Thank you so much to the authors who joined in!

K. L.  Noone: Frost and Raine ($3.99)
Cover, Frost and Raine by K. L. Noone

A Frost spirit who runs a coffee shop. A Cupid who works as a divorce lawyer. And magic in the air …

Raine’s never been a conventional Cupid. He likes his job as a lawyer, and he’s not planning to fall in love — and he wouldn’t trust it if someone fell in love with him. But the owner of his favorite coffee shop might challenge Raine’s resolutions about love.

Even though Don’s a Frost spirit, he finds comfort in giving people warmth, good coffee, and overall cheer. But one gorgeous sarcastic Cupid seems immune to Don’s cheerfulness — and he keeps coming back, day after day. Fortunately, Don’s always liked a challenge…

Holly Day: Be Still My Heart ($3.99)

Four years ago, Dimitri Petrov had his leg blown off by a landmine while in military service. Suffering from PTSD, he doesn’t do crowds, people, dates, or dinners. But when Elian Hubert enters the dating agency where Dimitri works in a whirlwind of pink shirts, flapping hands, and outrageous flirting, looking for a Valentine date, Dimitri thinks maybe he can do him a favor.

The Morning After by Jae (Free!)
Cover, The Morning After by Jae

After a friend sets her up on a blind date from hell, Amanda has enough of dating. A spur-of-the-moment decision to attend an Anti-Valentine’s Day party leads to an unexpected encounter. She wakes up to a hangover and a surprising complication… “The Morning After” started out as a Valentine’s Day short story. I later expanded it to a full novel titled “Departure from the Script” and made this short story available for free.

Valentine’s Love by Helena Stone (99c until 16th Feb!)
Cover, Valentine's Love by Helena Stone

Ty isn’t looking for love, but what if it finds him anyway? Ever since his partner left him on St. Valentine’s Day, Ty O’Malley has done his best to avoid the love-themed holiday. When Ben Cronin enters Ty’s giftshop looking for presents to surprise a man he’s been admiring from afar, Ty can’t deny the attraction. But Ty has given up on love and Ben has obviously set his sights on somebody else. After February 14th, Ty will probably never see Ben again… Or will he?

Playing Chicken by A. L. Lester ($1.99)
Cover, Playing Chicken by A. L. Lester

Marc returns home from London to his isolated Welsh cottage for good, having found his ex boyfriend shagging someone else in their bed. Who’s the thin, freezing cold man with the bruised face he finds in his barn? Will the tenuous connection between them grow, or fade away?

A short story to mark the Welsh St Valentine’s Day, St Dwynwen’s day. With chickens.

There you go! Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, and may you all find the relationship of your dreams, within social-distancing parameters!

Interview : Lillian Francis

Please welcome Lillian Francis for today’s interview! Lillian has come along to chat about writing, reading and her WW2 Submariner Romance, Under the Radar.

What started you writing?

I used to write back in my teens and early Twenties but got out of the habit as life took over. Then reading fanfiction took a hold and I only intended to write the one story. But I had trouble sticking to canon and soon my characters took on a life of their own and I found it harder and harder to stay within fandom. Time to branch out on my own.

What do you like to read?

Just about anything. Historicals. Gay romance, obviously. Non-fiction – history books mostly. And graphic novels. When everything really gets too much it’s the world of superheroes and the like that call to me.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Pokemon hunting is a great form of exercise for us exercise adverse people. I’m really missing conventions atm, I normally go to comic con at least twice a year.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

RL has played havoc with my writing, so my most recent release actually from 2019, but it’s the one I want to talk about. It’s Under the Radar, a WWII submarine story with forced intimacy, spies, and derring-do.

I original got the idea for the story about ten years ago on a visit to Gosport submarine museum, but it took several rewrites, stacks of research, and some of the best beta work on any of my books for it to make it to release.

Under the Radar
Cover: Under the Radar by Lillian Francis
Cover: Tiferet Design

It’s 1942 and after a sexual indiscretion, US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is sent to serve in the Royal Navy’s submarine service—a shockingly harsh punishment for a man who loves to fly. The submarine is oppressive and frustrating for him, and he’s marked out from his peers, publicly by being American, and privately by his attraction to men.

The only bright spot is the company of his steward, sonar operator Gethin Llewelyn. Despite the differences of rank and background, they’re drawn to each other. Gethin’s integrity complements Zach’s casual joie de vivre, and soon the friendship develops into something much more.

As the threats of war increase, the submarine is plagued by potentially hostile vessels, and circumstances lead them to suspect there’s a spy amongst their own crew. Being forced even closer together as they work for the greater good reveals a new awareness, and Zach doesn’t know what is in more danger, the vessel under his charge or his heart.

Word count: ~138,500

Buy Under the Radar : Add it to Goodreads

Meet Lillian

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.

Blog : Twitter : Facebook : Facebook Author Page : Lillian’s Lovefest – FB group : BookBub : Goodreads : Sign up for my newsletter

Am Reading

A bit of a catch up this week, with books by Isabelle Adler, Iona Datt Sharma, Jordan L. Hawk and Gregory Ashe.

In the Winter Woods by Isabelle Adler
Cover, In the Winter Woods, Isabelle Adler

This was such a lovely story. I read it in the gap between Christmas and New Year and it captures the spirit of the season perfectly. Crisp snow, cosy fires and very unpleasant murder. It’s an engaging story with a nice, complicated plot and a slow-burn love affair that’s really believable. It’s Adler’s first mystery and she’s pulled it off perfectly. If you like Josh Lanyon, try this.

Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma
Cover of Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma

I read this in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. It’s rich in both description and emotion and the characters, even the minor ones, leap off the page. It’s a contemporary romance set in the UK House of Lords, between a special advisor and civil servant. They get off on the wrong foot and over the cold winter and a really stressful period at work they get to know each other a great deal better and fall in love in the process. I can’t think why I missed this when it first came out and it’s definitely on my re-read list now.

Unhallowed by Jordan L. Hawk
Cover, Unhallowed by Jordan L. Hawk

Wonderful starter to a what I hope is a long new series, set in the world of Widdershins. In the library! You don’t need to have read the Wybourne and Griffin series to thoroughly enjoy this…if fact I confess I’d only read the first three and then went back and read the rest before re-reading Unhallowed. There’s magic, books and mystery. The protaganists are lovely and I particularly liked Sebastian’s confusion at Vesper’s tales of working as a librarian in Boston and his conclusion that it’s a very strange place, lacking all the things he takes for granted. I look forward to finding out more about the mysterious Mr Quinn. Five stars!

The Clockwork Heart by Gregory Ashe
Cover, The Clockwork Heart by Gregory Ashe

This is a weird little novella that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s set in the First World War — my jam, obviously — and the MC is a young French nun. And there are men with clockwork hearts. She has a crush on one. That’s it. That’s the story. I can’t say too much more than that without spoiling the whole thing, but…it’s not a romance. Lots happens and not much happens and it’s perfectly satisfying. It’s not quite steampunk and not quite romance and not quite historical and not quite horror. I’m not sure what it is…but I’ll definitely read it again. It’s also only 99c!

That’s it for this time, thanks for reading!