Throwback Thursday | Once in a Forest

Easter is approaching and I thought we’d prepare by having a look at Once in a Forest (Nortown #2).

The Nortown series was never supposed to be. I wrote Once in a Snowstorm (Nortown #1) as a one-off. I was doing NaNoWriMo and had finished the story I’d been working on but still had a couple of ks left until I hit the 50k you’re supposed to during one month, so I started writing Once in a Snowstorm….mostly as a joke – read about it here.

After I’d written Once in a Snowstorm I thought to myself ‘hey, that was fun. Perhaps I should do one story for each holiday’ and I starting writing about Easter.

Nortown didn’t turn into a series revolving around holidays, but the first two stories and The Empty Egg (Nortown #2.5) are holiday related. And Honey Baked (Nortown #5.5) too for that matter.

Writing stories about holiday can be really hard. At first, when you start, it’s easy because you know your holidays, right? You know that Easter is eating eggs and pickled herring and drinking påskmust, you know that it’s the Easter Rooster who lays the Easter eggs, you know that you light a bonfire on the Maundy Thursday (that’s today, people! Light up!) to scare off the witches so they’ll fly on their broomsticks to Blåkulla…or wait a minute, doesn’t other cultures have the Easter Bunny? And don’t some of you have Easter ham? And I’ve been in the UK during Easter, I’ve had Hot Cross Buns.

When I write a Nortown story, I mostly write it from a Swedish perspective. I take my inspiration from the nature around me, and since I’m living in a village (that’s not even allowed to be called a village) with less than 200 inhabitants in the ‘town centre’ and about 500 people in the entire parish it’s not hard. But, I don’t want it to be too alien to the reader, so I try to not make it too Swedish, and with holiday food and traditions that’s hard.

What’s your favourite thing about Easter?

In Once in a Forest Tom and Jason are going on an egg hunt. In Nortown the entire town gets together and search for Easter eggs hidden in the forest around them, it’s a tradition.

Jason had butterflies in his belly—not pleasant ones. He didn’t know how to celebrate Easter. What if the people of Nortown thought he was an idiot? What if he did something he wasn’t supposed to do? He didn’t even know how to tap eggs, though the word gave him a pretty good idea.

Biscuit was bouncing around in Jason’s lap, oblivious to the strained silence in the car. Tom had an almost desperate hold on the steering wheel, and Jason wondered what had made the happiness he’d seen during breakfast go away. He didn’t know why. He shouldn’t care, but he wanted Tom to smile again.

“You okay?”

Tom didn’t look at him, simply grunted, and turned off the main road towards the forest. “About last night…”

Jason’s gut tightened. Now what? “Yeah?”

“You can’t tell anyone.”

Oh… “You’re not out.” He didn’t make it a question; he already knew Tom wasn’t.

“Nortown isn’t like the city.” The defensive edge in his voice made Jason think before he opened his mouth.

“I won’t say anything, but—”

“No. I know you’re gonna say something about being true to myself, or for Tristan and Aiden’s sake, or something along those lines, but I was here when Tris came out, and I never want to go through that.”

Jason nodded. Why he was disappointed, he didn’t know. It was not his place to judge or even have an opinion. He didn’t know the people of Nortown, but he had a hard time thinking Jen or Marge and Monica would give a damn. “I won’t say anything.”

Tom’s shoulders slumped, and he eased his hold on the steering wheel. “Thanks.”

“So what should I expect at this egg hunt?”

Tom gave him a quick glance. “You know how egg hunts work, right? We’re here to help Jen prepare, hide eggs for people to find, and then in a couple of hours, everyone will show up. Kids, pets, adults—most of Nortown’s population will stroll into the woods and search for eggs.” Tom laughed. “Afterwards, everyone heads to Jen’s. There’ll be coffee, prizes, and lots and lots of gossip.”

Jason didn’t really know how an egg hunt worked, because he’d never been to one. He’d never celebrated holidays in any other way than to make sure he had a hot fuck at the end of the night. There wouldn’t be any sex happening tonight, unless… He pushed away the idea even as it sent a tingle of excitement down his spine. He was not going there, no matter how hot Tom was, or how considerate he appeared to be. Jason would not put himself in a situation where he could be used like that.


Once in the ForestJason has one rule when it comes to holidays – work his shift behind the bar and then find a willing body to distract himself with. One night is long enough to satisfy his needs and still walk away with his heart intact. It has worked out fine for most of his adult life, but this Easter, he’s trying something new. He’s leaving the city to visit his friend, Aiden, who recently moved in with his boyfriend in the middle of nowhere, but one unfortunate incident leaves Jason without a place to sleep.

Tom doesn’t do relationships, he rarely does hook-ups and never too close to home. Living on his own without attachments is far easier than having the whole town knowing about him. As the holiday approaches, his lonely house grows even quieter than normal – at least until his friend, Tristan, dumps an arrogant bartender in his lap.

As soon as Jason lays eyes on the gruff lumberjack whose home he’ll be sharing, he knows who’ll warm his bed for the weekend and help chase away any pending holiday gloom. Too bad Tom doesn’t want to get with the programme. As much as he wants to let Jason close, he won’t risk outing himself for a weekend fling. Will Jason trust Tom not to break his heart if he stays longer than a couple of days, and will Tom value their relationship higher than the town gossip?

books2read.com/Forest


 

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Throwback Thursday | Once Around Seven

I was walking the dog along the river just a stone’s throw from our house and thought of Once Around Seven. It was published in July 2018, so not very old, but I thought I’d give it a post now anyway.

About the only thing you can do around here is to go down the river by canoe – I live in the middle of nowhere – so when I was trying to come up with something anyone who was visiting Nortown for the first time could do, canoeing seemed like a good idea.

When Oz is taking a dip, it’s autumn and not early March as the pictures below, but you get the idea. I also included a photo of my companion on the walk, our dog, who’s the inspiration behind Tristan’s dog Og.

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As Joshua looked out over the river again he thought something moved on a rock just a little bit above where the currents really sped up.

“Hey!”

The form moved again, and a moan travelled in the wind. Fuck. He’d hoped he’d imagined it. “Are you all right?” Stupid question.

“Splendid. Thanks for asking.”

Josh smiled. A man judging from the voice and probably not in danger of dying on him. “Well, then, are you planning on sleeping out there tonight or could I perhaps persuade you to join me up here where it’s a little dryer?”

The silence lasted too long for Joshua’s liking. “You still with me?” The man groaned, and Josh’s stomach knotted. Perhaps he was more hurt than he’d assumed. “Wait there. I’m coming to get you.”

He ran back to the branch he’d tripped over and grabbed it. It was long enough for him to test the ground before stepping into the stream. He hoped it wouldn’t be deeper than his waders. “You still with me?”

Poking with the stick, he tested the uneven ground and slipped first one then the other foot into the water. He held on to the grass on the riverbank for a few seconds while trying to determine if it was safe to let go. The current was strong, not enough to pull him down, but if he slipped…

Moving one foot, then the stick, then the other foot, and all the while the tug of the current intensified… The man on the rock was crawling towards him, still out of the water but seemingly prepared to take another dip.

“Wait for me, okay?” Joshua looked at him, blond hair clinging to his forehead and the closer he came the clearer he could hear his teeth chattering. “Oswald?”

The man narrowed his eyes, but the chatter of his teeth didn’t stop. “Great, of course, it’s someone who knows who I am.”

Joshua chuckled. “Sorry, man. May I ask, though, why the late-night swim?”

Oswald groaned, one foot slipping in the black river. “Late night? What time is it?”

“I’m guessing around seven.”

books2read.com/OnceAroundSeven *


Once Around SevenOswald Sattle has been sleeping in his Toyota Camry for the last two hundred and seventy-three days, the exact number of days since he discovered his fiancé cheating on him. Now, out of money and out of options, he’s on his way to Nortown. Aiden, an acquaintance from his past, has offered him a job opportunity he can’t turn down, no matter how much he’d like to.

Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago and he has everything he needs—a job, friends, peace and quiet. He’s not looking for a boyfriend; no one even knows he’s gay, and he’d like it to stay that way. But a stranger in town has Joshua rethinking his decision.

Oswald looks like he wants to hide from the world, and Josh finds himself wanting to get him to smile, to feed him, and make everything better.

In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, reaching for what you want can feel like a risk. But some risks are worth taking.

Part of Seasons of Love Anthology


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Throwback Thursday | He Melted Us

Okay, I have to write about He Melted Us today. It’s Thursday, and I said I’d do one Throwback Thursday post a month during 2019, and it’s three years ago today that it was published.

heart shaped pad lockYou might think that since it’s Valentine, I should write a post about some cute romance – He Melted Us is not cute, but I don’t know if I have any cute romances. You might be better judges than I when it comes to that, but I don’t see my stories as overly romantic.

He Melted Us is part of the Love Unlocked anthology from Beaten Track Publishing, and I remember when Debbie McGowan posted the call. I was at my Mum’s, sitting in her conservatory talking to my sister. I was done with a draft of another story and had switched manuscripts with one of my beta readers who also had one she wanted feedback on.

That story is still sitting here on my laptop with her beta notes attached. I abandoned it for He Melted Us and I never went back. I will, though! Any day now LOL (I’ve said that for two and a half years).

Anyway, on the 1st of June 2015, the padlocks on Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archeveche in Paris were removed. For years people had left locks as a symbol of their love on the bridges, and there were so many they feared the bridges would be destroyed.

The call for the anthology was that each story should be about one of the padlocks. Every lock on those bridges held a story, and we were to write a story that might have been.

So I sat there in the conservatory with my sister, and we tossed ideas around, one crazier than the other. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes, and then when I went home, I wrote the story.

It’s not sane, Delron is not reasonable, and neither Delron nor Phillipe master the skill of communication. But, in my defence, I’ve seldom laughed as much writing a story as I did this, and it might not come across in the actual text, but I’m selfish enough to say that I don’t care.

Phillipe paced the reception area in the police station. He couldn’t believe Delron had been picked up by the police. He never did anything illegal, never even drove too fast. It has to be a mistake, it just has to be. His Del didn’t do things that had him ending up in the police station.

“You can sit down, Mr. Lebeau. They will be out with him soon.”

Phillipe wanted to glare at the woman behind the glass as she smiled at him, but she hadn’t been anything but nice to him since he’d arrived, so he had no reason to.

He sank down on one of the sofas that had been in fashion about fifteen years ago and ran his hands over his stubble-short hair. What on Earth has Delron got himself into? He hoped it wasn’t drugs. It couldn’t be drugs, could it? Delron worked at the hospital, he’d been a nurse for years. If he was an addict, Phillipe would’ve noticed, wouldn’t he? But maybe he was selling? Maybe he stole drugs from the hospital and sold them on the black market or something. Does anyone ever really know their partner? Del had been acting a bit strange lately. What if that’s what he was doing yesterday, when he came home in the middle of the night? Phillipe was more and more certain it had been the front door and not the balcony door he’d heard.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, Phillipe got to his feet. Delron stood there, looking a bit sheepish as a police officer gave him a stern look. “I hope not to see you here again.”

The man’s voice sent a shiver down Phillipe’s spine, not because he sounded mean in any way, but there was authority in that voice.

“Bye.” Delron started towards the door without even looking at Phillipe.

“Del! What the fuck?”

Delron held the door open and waited for Phillipe to pass through it.

“Is it drugs?” He had to know. The more he thought about it, the more possible it seemed.

Drugs? Are you out of your mind? I broke into Hôtel de Ville.”

“You did what?” Phillipe wasn’t proud of the way his voice screeched, but he’d never thought Delron a burglar. It had never even crossed his mind that he might be.

“I was only looking for the mayor. Apparently, he’s been getting some hate mail lately, and they thought it was me, since I…sort of broke in to find him.” Phillipe prepared to yell at him, but before he could, Delron continued. “It’s no big deal. I convinced the police I wasn’t the one sending the mail, and that I didn’t mean the mayor any harm. So they let me go.” Delron shrugged and started walking towards their car, which Phillipe had carelessly parked in the disabled parking zone.

No big deal? Phillipe’s hands were shaking. How can this not be a big deal?

books2read.com/HeMeltedUs


He Melted UsAll Delron wants is to live his life with Phillipe, but when their love lock is stolen from Pont des Art, their relationship is in jeopardy. Without the lock holding them together, Delron is convinced they’ll crash and burn. The only way he can save their relationship is to find the stolen lock, and that is just what he plans to do, no matter what.

Phillipe loves Delron, he really does, but it’s driving him insane that Delron can’t see that a padlock is simply a piece of metal. The lock has nothing to do with them, not really. Up until the night the lock was stolen, their life was great, but Del’s crazy behaviour has Phillipe wondering if he has ever really known his boyfriend.

Delron’s search leads him through art-filled Paris, but will a symbol of love ever be enough to soothe the mistrust his quest has planted in Phillipe? Phillipe always thought he’d spend the rest of his life with Del, but who can live with anyone willing to break the law just to find a padlock when they can buy a new one in just about any shop?

A story from Love Unlocked – a collection of seven short stories and novellas – unique LGBTQ romances inspired by the Love Lock Bridge.

books2read.com/LoveUnlocked *


* By clicking the Books2Read link you’ll be taken to an external page. Links to Smashwords, Kobo U.S and Amazon contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.