Nell is back, yay! Welcome, Nell
Hello again, it’s me. Nell. I’m back here at the lovely Ofelia’s place to talk to you about my latest release, Secrets on a Train. It’s a short, sugary (as in literal sugar, not overly sweet) story about two strangers meeting on a train, flirting and sharing secrets. But before I dive into that, let me just blow a cyber-kiss Ofelia’s way to thank her for being so generous and inviting me over. ❤️
When a story is ready for submission, we authors have to fill out a cover and a blurb form. In the cover form, we let our publisher know our wants and wishes for the cover. The blurb form is for the blurb (of course), but also for an excerpt, and for categorizing the story. And in the blurb form, we also must add keywords that describe the story.
Sometimes coming up with keywords is as difficult as writing the blurb (which every author knows is the most difficult thing of the whole writing process), especially when the story is really short. And even though I never have trouble making up new keywords (“fountain pens and flirting on a train” crossed my mind) they have to be searchable by readers trying to find something they’re in the mood for, so they have to be known. Common. Like hurt/comfort or friends-to-lovers. That kind of thing.
I was grumbling about the keywords one morning in the writing office, and I asked my lovely hostess “Can I call it an epistolary story if there’s no letter writing, only written, in-person conversations taking place in a notebook or the notes app on the phone?”
“Sure,” Ofelia said. (she’s very supportive and understanding!) “It’s a modern epistolary tale. You can write a blog post about it.”
I love epistolary novels. The first one I remember reading was Dracula; I fell so hard for that story, and I’ve read and re-read it many, many times. After Dracula, I’ve been devouring them wherever I’ve found them, and one of my most used search tags on AO3 is “epistolary.” And while I love the idea of letter-writing, I love the modern take on them, too. Texts, DMs, or emails, any kind of modern communication methods we have at our disposal.
So if you like me love epistolary stories and don’t mind an alternative take on it—and if you like Valentin have a fountain pen fetish—I definitely recommend Secrets on a Train.
It’s the fountain pens that capture Valentin’s attention on the morning commute, not the perfectly imperfect man who spends his train rides using them. Not his pinstriped suits, his chin-length hair, or his perpetually raised eyebrow. But one morning when the man strikes up a written conversation, Valentin gives up all pretense. It’s not just the pens. It’s the man. Runar.
The conversations continue, and the men get to know each other better, sharing secrets they’ve never told another soul. The connection is powerful, growing stronger with every encounter, every scribbled conversation, every scorching look. But can secrets shared on a train be enough to build a forever?
M/M Contemporary / 9889 words
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.
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After settling in, I reach into the pocket of my coat and grab the sugar packets I stashed there at the café; I was late and didn’t have time to doctor my coffee properly when I bought it. I take off the lid, dump in two packets of sugar, and when I tear the third one open, the man stares at me with eyebrows disappearing into his hairline.
He opens his mouth as if to speak, but I shake my head with a grin, mimic zipping my mouth shut, then point to the sign informing the passengers we’re in a silent car. He dips his chin once and turns his attention to his notebook, so I stir my sugared coffee with the wooden spoon and take a sip, hissing when the too-hot liquid scorches its way down my throat.
As I put the lid back onto the cup, a tap on the table catches my attention. The man touches his pen to the paper, on something he’s written. He turns the notebook around, making it easier for me to read.
THREE PACKETS OF SUGAR?!?!
He’s underlined his question three times, and it makes me snort. I nod and wiggle my fingers in a “gimme” motion. He hands over the pen, and I scribble my reply underneath his words.
Coffee is disgusting and undrinkable without the right amount of sugar.
The lines between his eyebrows deepen as he reads what I’ve written, and when I put down the pen, he snatches it up. I ease the lid open—I don’t like drinking through the little hole, because I can’t control when the liquid hits my mouth—and blow on the steaming coffee and read his reply as he writes it.
Why drink it if you don’t like it?
When he’s done, he hands me the pen so I can reply.
Not a morning person. Can’t function without caffeine.
He nods and points to himself as if to say “yeah, me too, man,” and I add another line.
I bet you take it black. Black and bitter. In tiny cups.
I add a winky face to let him know I’m joking—mostly—and give him back his pen.
Ofc. The only real way to drink coffee.
When I look up at him, the curl of his lip is more pronounced and his eyes sparkle, making him even more irresistible. I take a sip of coffee to cover up the sudden dryness of my mouth. His gaze follows my movements, and when I can’t suppress a shudder caused by the bitterness cutting through all the sugar, his eyes crinkle and he presses his lips together as though he’s trying his hardest not to laugh at me.
I pluck the pen from his grip, tempted to brush my fingertips against his hand, to feel his skin underneath my touch.
Laugh all you want, but I stand by my choices.
A small huff escapes him as he reads my words, as though he couldn’t contain his laughter.
On an impulse, I add a question. What’s your name?
Runar, he replies. You?
His gaze flicks from my name in his notebook to his watch—I assume to check the date since today is February thirteen—and then back again. Do you have special plans for tomorrow then?