Guest Post | Taking Flight by A.L. Lester

A Free Queer Celtic Myth. Resurrection Cauldron Not Included.

Taking Flight is one of my Celtic Myth collection of short stories/novellas and is free from 7th to 9th March. Thanks so much for letting me pop in and tell your readers all about it!

Taking flight

Taking Flight is drawn over a story from the Mabinogion, a book of Welsh folk tales. It’s about Brânwen, sister of King Brân of Wales. Her brother marries her off to Matholwch, King of Ireland, but the marriage goes bad, because Bran and Branwen’s half-brother Efnysien is angry that he wasn’t consulted about the wedding and cuts off all King Matholwch’s horses’ eyelids during the wedding feast as revenge. Just your average nightmare party guest.

The marriage goes ahead despite this; but once they are back in Ireland the disapproval of his people becomes too much and Matholwch banishes Brânwen to the kitchens where she is beaten daily by the butcher. She tames a starling and sends it with a message to her brother for help. He comes to rescue her with an army and there are various battles and unsuccessful negotiations and Efnysien turns up again making trouble by throwing Brânwen’s son into a fire but then bravely destroying a resurrection cauldron and killing some warriors hiding in flour bags to redeem himself. It’s one of those stories where everybody dies… Brânwen kills herself and Brân is killed in battle but his head keeps giving his seven remaining warriors good advice until they bury it at the Tower of London.

It’s all a bit gruesome, but I knew I wanted to write about the starling part of the story and make the bird in to a person. To begin with I was trying to hitch him up with Brân, but then I realised that it would be a better story if it centered around the Brânwen character, who is very much an object to be moved around in the original legend and is very much not so in my own version.

I’ve also cut out the child-murder, the horse-disfigurement, the battles and the resurrection cauldron. Sorry.

Branwyn’s grave is supposed to be at Llanddeusant on the Isle of Anglesey and the discovery of a high-status Bronze Age mound there is a possible root of the legend. Welsh folk stories were passed down orally for centuries before being written in the Mabinogion in the thirteenth century.

Taking Flight

Gwyn is trying to balance his business aims with his desire to leave the Kings of Ireland hotel. He honestly thought Mal knew he was trans before they hooked up. It takes a blow to the face in front of all the kitchen staff before he reaches his own personal line in the sand and leaves with the help of Darren. Could the delicate pull of attraction between them grow into something stronger?

Book bingo

If you’d like another free Celtic Myth short story, AWing and a Prayer (3.500 words) is free when you join my newsletter. The other stories are all just over ten thousand words, which makes them long for a short story and short for a novella. ‘Novellette’ sounds like they should be about Victorian maidens though, and they’re not! They are all based on at least a seed of some sort of myth from the wild edges of Europe; Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man, our Celtic west. There are a lot of saint’s stories to pick from and tales that were probably passed down orally before writing was common. There are currently five stories that are all in KU and usually priced at $1.99.

Short Queer romances

About A. L. Lester

AllyWriter of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. 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 : Mastodon : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else

Guest Post | Finding Home by Ofelia Gränd

Ticking sound

Hiya! I’m here as Ofelia today for a change 😊 I have a box set called Finding Home out 🥳 It’s a collection of three contemporary stories – Around SevenBanger Challenge, and Once in May.

They’re all small-town romances. Around Seven and Once in May are set in Nortown, which is a little place where many of my stories take place. It doesn’t exist in reality, but I’ve borrowed a lot from a village I used to live in.

Banger Challenge starts and ends in Nortown, but most of the story plays out on the road. It’s a road trip story. 

What binds these stories together, apart from Jen serving all the characters coffee in her cafe, is that they each have a restless soul as one of the main characters. Oswald in Around Seven has lived in his car for the last nine months. Zach in Once in May has spent most of his adult life moving around taking a job here and there and then moving along again. Zen in Banger Challenge lost everything when he lost his dad, and his only goal is to drive the junk car he’s living in at the moment over the finishing line before the time of the charity race runs out. After that, he’ll pick up the pieces of his life.

You can read the first chapter of Banger Challenge below!

Finding Home


Can a restless soul find a home? 

Three contemporary gay romance novellas. Three characters looking for a place to belong. Follow them as they put down roots in the small towns of the north. Oswald has never had a place to call home, but he can’t live in his car forever. Zen is lost after the death of his father and spends his time on the road. Zach returns to his hometown after several years away and finds something he never believed he would. 

Contains the stories: 

Around Seven: Oswald Sattle has been sleeping in his Toyota Camry for the last nine months. Out of money and out of options, he’s on his way to Nortown for a job opportunity he can’t turn down. Joshua Roth has everything he needs, but he wants to make Oswald smile. He keeps suggesting things that will make Oswald stay, but Oswald doesn’t want to overstay his welcome. Maybe it’s time to move on again? 

Banger Challenge: A month after losing his father, the only thing holding Zen Zeppelin Cave together is focusing on a charity junk car race to raise money for cancer research. He had planned on completing the race on his own, but a spur-of-the-moment decision changes that when he invites the adorable, blushing police officer whose driveway he’s blocking to tag along. 

Once in May: To hide from his past, John Welsh has spent the last few years building walls around himself. He knows the best way to stay safe is to keep people at arm’s length. He should’ve known the peace he’s found wouldn’t last. One day everything is fine, the next Zachary Fane shows up wherever he goes. All Zachary wants is to be close to John, and if following him around is the only way, then so be it. 

Buy Links 

Contemporary Gay Romance: 102,893 words 

JMS Books :: Amazon :: 

Banger Challenge – Ch 1

Fred Munson’s heart was thundering in his ears, and he breathed in deeply in an attempt to center himself. Be kind to yourself—Natasha’s voice was as clear in his head as the chatter of the two graying women sitting in the corner was.

“Are you going to move?” Raymond, his partner, gave him a light shove in the direction of the counter. Fred took a stumbling step, a blush warming his cheeks, but he reminded himself he was here as a police officer, albeit on a coffee break, but still an officer, and straightened his back.

He liked Nortown. It was small and quiet, the people were friendly, and best of all was the café. Here no one looked at him funny unless he counted Raymond, and it made him braver than he was anywhere else.

The café was small and in dire need of a facelift, but it still had a certain charm. The black and white checked floor would come into fashion again soon, and the turquoise countertop was almost scarred enough to be shabby chic.

Jen, the red-haired woman—who, if Fred had understood it correctly, owned the café—smiled at him.

“Good afternoon, Officer.” She winked at Fred, which brought the blush back on. Fred hated it, but he tried to do what Natasha, his therapist, had told him to do and separate it from his shyness. Blushing was one thing, being shy, another. He took another deep breath, smelling the coffee and some other sweet, fruity scent.

He’d stopped seeing Natasha. She’d helped him a lot, but in the end he’d kept rescheduling their appointments. He still considered her his therapist though.

“Are there many tourists on the roads?” Jen reached for two cups as she waited for them to answer.

Fred cleared his throat to speak, but Raymond took a small step forward and leaned against the counter. “It’s been steadily increasing during the week.”

Jen nodded and sought Fred’s gaze. “One coffee with milk?”

He nodded, swallowed, and forced himself to speak. “Yes, please.”

Her smile brightened. “May I tempt you with something else?” She gestured at the display of baked goods and sandwiches.

“I’ll have a coffee, black, and a bear claw,” Raymond interjected.

Fred might have imagined it, but was the quick flattening of Jen’s lips a sign of annoyance?

“A bear claw for you too, Officer Munson?” She leaned over the counter and lowered her voice. “The cheesecake is to die for.”

He smiled. “I’ll have one of those then.”

“Good choice.” She made quick work of fixing their orders. “Any vacation time coming up for you or will it have to wait until there are fewer people on the roads?”

Fred opened his mouth to answer since she was looking at him, but Raymond was quicker.

“I won’t take any vacation time this summer. I’m retiring in November, so I figured I’d help the force out by working through the busy season.” He nodded at Fred. “But Fred here only has a couple of hours left before he ditches us for three whole weeks.”

Fred looked down at the floor. He wasn’t ditching them. The Captain had told him to take three weeks off. He’d only taken one week last year and the Captain wasn’t pleased about it.

“That’s great. Good for you, Fred.” Jen did sound a little annoyed. Fred chanced a glance at her and there was a crease between her brows he’d never seen before. “So, you’ll get a new partner come November?”

The air got stuck in his throat. Raymond might be an ass, but at least Fred knew what to expect. Getting a new partner wasn’t something he looked forward to. He’d have to…talk… and try to get to know him or her. His pulse sped up. “Erm…”

“He’ll get someone; some newbie who doesn’t know shit.” Raymond slapped Fred’s shoulder, grabbed his tray, and headed for a table by the windows.

Fred sighed. The sun was streaming in through the windows, he wished they could’ve sat somewhere he wouldn’t be sweating buckets.

“It’ll be great, Fred. Can’t get worse than it is, right?” Jen gave him a soft smile when he gave her a wide-eyed look. “Will you come up here during your time off?”

Come to Nortown? He lived in Waterside Cross, a fifteen-minute drive north of Whiteport, but it would still take him more than an hour to get here. It was a long trip to get a cup of coffee. Had the police station not been in Whiteport, he wouldn’t have minded moving here, but he liked his job, and being a cop was all he knew how to do. “I don’t know.”

Jen handed his tray to him. “It’s a bit of a drive, isn’t it?”

He nodded.

“Well, I’ll miss you, but you enjoy your time off, Officer.” She winked before grabbing the coffee pot and heading to the table where the gray-haired women were knitting.

She’d miss him? Fred didn’t think anyone would notice if he disappeared off the face of the earth. On bad nights, he convinced himself he’d be one of those people who died in their homes and weren’t found until months later. He had no friends and no contact with his family, and while Raymond might notice if he wasn’t in the patrol car, he doubted he’d waste any energy checking on him.

With a sigh, he went to sit across from Raymond.

“Are you flirting with her?”

What? Fred blinked at him.

“Because I have to tell you, women like men who are a bit brasher.”

Fred nodded. He was sure Raymond was correct, but he wasn’t brash, and he didn’t flirt with women. Jen was lovely, but he liked his partners a whole lot manlier—not that he’d ever tell Raymond. He’d made the mistake of coming out once—hence no contact with his family. It wasn’t something he’d do again.

“What the fuck?” Raymond dropped his bear claw right as a rusty, red Opel Ascona shot through town like a scalded cat.

Fred got to his feet, ready to run to the police car.

“We’re on a break.” Raymond grabbed the bear claw and bit into it.


“You have one hour and fifty-three minutes until you’re on vacation, do you want to chase after some idiot in a junk car and spend hours doing paperwork?”

Writing a speeding ticket didn’t take hours. Fred straightened his back. “That car is a danger to everyone else who’s out in traffic around here. The roads are narrow and a lot of logging trucks drive here. If there’s a collision, there would most likely be a fatal outcome, and he drove fast in town. People are walking here.”

“Easy now, no need to go into hysterics. He’s long gone by now anyway. It would’ve been different if we were in the car.” He sipped on his coffee and moaned.

Fred sat again but his hands stayed curled into fists for a few seconds longer.

The driver of that car was a danger to everyone here.

* * * *

 Zeppelin ‘Zen’ Cave pushed the old Opel Ascona to the max. Calling it a beauty would be a lie, but the engine purred, and it took the curves smooth as…something. If only he could find the right fucking road.

He had a little more than twenty-five hours to get to Minwall. It should be a piece of cake if he could only get out of these woods.

With one eye on the road, he tried reaching for the map on the passenger seat.

He changed position and his foot pushed down on the gas pedal a little harder as he stretched his back. His black Master of Puppets T-shirt was clinging to his sweat-damp skin. This was a no-frills car; back in 1988, cars didn’t come with a proper AC, and July was extra hot this year.

The map almost slid off the seat as he took a turn a little too fast. Straightening it, he tried to find Whiteport. He’d been sure he was in Northfield, but the town he’d driven through a little while ago was too small to be Northfield, and now he had no idea where he was.

A sudden blare made him jump. When he looked up, a logging truck took up most of his visual field. His heart jumped to his throat as he slammed the breaks. The car skidded a little on the road, but Zen managed to get control of it. The truck drove past, all but licking the side of his tiny Opel.

Getting the car rolling again, Zen steered off to the side of the road to park. Fuck.

For a few seconds, he sat there staring out through the windshield. This was why most people participating in the race had a buddy with them. If he’d had a companion, he could’ve watched where he was driving while his buddy checked the map. Or, he could’ve done what most sane people would have done and stopped the car before consulting the map.

The blare of that truck still rang in his ears as he drank the last of his water, cursing that he hadn’t brought more bottles. Being in the middle of nowhere, it could be hours until he came across a store, or a place where he could grab something to eat.

Staring at the map, he traced the road he believed he’d been driving on. Could he have missed Northfield and the town back there was Snowmelt? He hadn’t seen any ski-slopes, though. Snowmelt was big on skiing.

With shaking hands, he signaled a turn despite there being no traffic, and drove back the way he’d come. The nature was amazing—huge old trees with moss-covered trunks hugging the roadsides. Had he been a rich man, he would’ve bought a vacation home in the area. Riding his motorcycle on these roads would be great.

Twenty minutes later, since he was driving slower on the way back, he turned in on a sad-looking parking lot, across from a small grocery store. He’d go in there soon, but first he’d grab something in the café—sugar always helped a stressful situation.

As he parked, two cops walked out of the café. Zen sighed and got out of the car, pretending he’d never broken a speeding limit in his entire life.

The younger of the two stumbled to a stop. The glare he gave Zen would’ve been amusing if he hadn’t been dressed in a uniform.

“Afternoon, Officer.” Zen walked past them, wiping his palm against his worn black jeans as he went. The bunch of keys jingled in his hand despite there only being the car key and a spare one to Justin’s house. He’d handed over all his other keys before he left, and he needed to give back Justin’s key too, since Justin didn’t live in the house anymore.

“Excuse me.” The older cop took a step forward. The uniform strained to contain his pot belly, and Zen noticed there were crumbs on it as if he’d had a big Danish pastry while leaning back in his chair.


The officer adjusted his pants by hefting up his belt. “We saw you come pretty fast through the town a little while ago.”

Fuck. “Nah, couldn’t have been me. I’ve never been here before.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “We saw you.”

The younger man cleared his throat. “It was your car. Driving like that is a danger to everyone living around here.”

Zen crossed his arms over his chest and stared into his eyes. There was a flicker of uncertainty, and Zen grinned. “I agree with you, but it wasn’t me.”

A blush spread on the man’s cheeks. The dark stubble hid some of it, but far from all. “We know what we saw.”

“Do you have proof?” Zen continued to look the man straight in the eye, his face a blank mask, and his voice in an even tone. The sun was glaring at him and he wished he could remove his T-shirt, but he didn’t let any of it show on his face.

“It’s your word against ours.”

Zen nodded. “True. But do you want to take it that far?”

The cop opened his mouth to respond, but the older one took a step forward, blocking him from Zen’s view. “We’ll let you off with a warning this time, should we catch you again, there will be consequences.”

Fucking cops.

Guest Post | After Marcus by Nell Iris

Nell Iris is back on the blog! She’s here to tell us a little about her latest release, After Marcus. Welcome, Nell!

Hi everyone, it’s me again. Nell. Here to talk about my newest release, After Marcus. But first I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Holly for having me. Thank you 😘

After Marcus was released on Saturday; it’s a deeply emotional story about Ossian, a widowed writer, and his neighbor and friend, gentle giant Joar. Ossian’s husband passed away unexpectedly three years ago, breaking his heart and shattering his life, and he’s convinced he wouldn’t have made it without Joar. 

It’s not like he didn’t have a support system: his parents, his sister, and his best friend all were there for him, but he could never show them how deeply he was hurting. He needed to be strong for them, they were grieving the loss, too, and It was only around Joar that he could let go and not hold everything inside. And Joar stood by his side like an unmovable rock, coaxed him into eating, and made sure Ossian made it through the day when all he wanted was to curl up on the couch and fade away. He listened to what Ossian said, but even more importantly, what he didn’t say. 

Time passes and Ossian recovers, but Joar never waivers. His support is unconditional, his kindness and consideration never-ending. So is it really so weird that one day, years after his husband’s passing, Ossian starts seeing Joar in a completely new light…? 

After Marcus


Ossian’s heart shattered when his husband Marcus died unexpectantly. He shut down, put his life on hold, and would’ve wasted away had it not been for his neighbor, Joar.

Joar was there when Ossian needed him, offered a friendly shoulder to cry on, convinced him to eat, and helped coax him back to the living.

Three years after the life-altering event, Ossian starts seeing Joar in a different light, awakening feelings he thought were dead forever. But is Ossian ready to take the leap and open his heart to someone new? And does Joar feel the same?

M/M Contemporary / 11340 words


Buy links: 

JMS Books :: Amazon :: Books2Read

After Marcus cover

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:

Newsletter :: Webpage/blog :: Twitter :: Facebook Page :: Facebook Profile :: Goodreads :: Bookbub


Joar’s smile is gentle, understated, and it suits him perfectly. With his quiet personality, a wide Hollywood-esque grin with blinding white teeth followed by a loud guffaw would be wrong.

I cherish his smile more than anything. For a long time, it was the only thing that could give me a moment’s reprieve from the pain. It warms me up from the inside out, even in difficult times or on freezing days like these. 

“Thank you,” Joar says, voice rumbling in his chest. “It’s very generous of you.” 

I drink from my mug to stifle a snort. I’m generous? He’s the one who’s going out of his way to make sure I don’t fall apart; he has ever since he found me crumpled on the lawn in a sobbing heap after I received the news about my husband collapsing in the lecture hall and dying before the paramedics even got him onto the stretcher. 

After his death, I had a big support system to rely on, and my family and friends all came running when they heard what had happened. My parents moved into the house for a while, my sister Fiona offered an ear and a warm hug whenever I needed it, and my best friend Einar helped with all the practical stuff. 

But somehow, I couldn’t show them how deeply I was hurting. My family was devastated by the loss, too, and I needed to be strong for them. And Einar is down-to-earth and reliable but tends to be a bit uncomfortable when I get too emotional, so it was difficult to let my feelings show. 

Joar was different. I could let go around him. 

He was the one who saw me, saw the state I was in. He coaxed me into eating when I was content to starve to death, made sure I put on the clothes my mom had washed, he sat shoulder to shoulder with me through the nights when I couldn’t sleep. And he listened. To my tears, my incoherent words, my silences.

Whenever my mother asked how I was doing, I put on a brave face and said, “I’m managing.” My father would squeeze my arm and say, “Your mother worries,” and I’d assure him I would be fine. I told Fiona and Einar the same thing. “I’ll be fine. It’s getting easier.” 

What a fucking lie. I wasn’t fine. It didn’t get easier. 

Joar didn’t ask questions, didn’t try to assure me I’d be fine. He listened to what I didn’t say, offered his unwavering support, and a steady shoulder to cry on without asking anything in return. 

I don’t know if I would’ve survived without him. And now he’s thanking me for a simple cup of tea?