Throwback Thursday | Once in May

It’s May so I figured I should talk about Once in May (Nortown #3). This is a hurt-comfort story, with a little social anxiety and a little age-gap and of course a few lumberjacks. It’s my favourite of all the Nortown stories.

I’ve enjoyed writing all of them, of course, and they’ve all given me different things. But Once in a Snowstorm was a story I wrote for the fun of it. Once in a Forest, because I saw a reader asking for ‘bottom for you’ books. Once in May, I wrote for me – simple as that.

I’m not as bad as John, but I wish I could find a cottage somewhere and put a zillion locks on the door and never open it to anyone (except my husband). I’m not even kidding LOL. Crowds have me breaking out in sweats, and when I’ve been around people, I feel like I could sleep for a week. I wish I could write ‘recluse’ on my business card, but the world doesn’t work like that.

So John, like the rest of us, has no choice but to be around people, and he’s working on becoming a new person. It takes seven years for our bodies to replace all the cells, so that’s what’s he’s waiting for. He’s four years into his transformation when he meets Zachary. Or it’s more a case Zachary meeting him.

In Nortown people often get together to celebrate holidays, and in Once in May we get to follow John and Zach to the Walpurgis Night celebrations. Are you celebrating Walpurgis where you live?

In Sweden we do and in many other European countries as well. We light big bonfires, and this is mostly to ward off witches. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Once in a Forest and how we celebrate Easter here and if you read that you realise how this is about the same.

I should probably mention that this is a local thing for the area where I grew up (on the Swedish west coast). In Falkenberg, my hometown, we had bonfires on Easter, and it was to scare off the witches that fly to Blåkulla (no idea where that really is) on Easter. The rest of Sweden have the Easter witches as well, but they save the bonfires for Walpurgis Night.

And since I created Nortown I get to decide what they do there – bonfires at Walpurgis it is! LOL

The knock on the door startled him. A moment later, someone tried the door handle. John bolted up and started scramble away from Zachary.

“Easy. You were resting, remember?”

The front door opened, and John shot him a frightened look. Hadn’t John locked it? Hadn’t he locked all the million locks he normally locked?

“Hey, Johnny!”

A lithe man with artfully styled hair walked in. Zachary prepared to throw him out. He wouldn’t let some fucker scare John.

The man dumped a bag on the floor and spread his arms as if he expected John to run over and hug him. Fat chance.

“Timothy!”

And just like that, John practically climbed over him and ran into the stranger’s arms. Zach watched, trying not to hate the man. How come John would let this Timothy hug the ever-loving shit out of him when a quick peck from Zachary sent him crashing into a panic attack?

He should get out of there. He watched the two men hug for a few more seconds. They were of a similar build—Timothy a bit taller—and they could’ve been brothers. With a sigh and a sense of failure, Zachary got to his feet.

As he took a step closer, Timothy let go of John and looked him up and down. “And you must be Zachary.”

Zachary stared. How the hell does he know that? “I am,” he said and glanced at John. A flush spread over his cheeks as he quickly looked at the floor. Zachary had to bite his lip not to laugh.

“Sorry for intruding, but I can’t let you sweep my boy off his feet without vetting you first. That’s simply the way it is.”

“Timothy!”

“Your boy?” Zach asked at the same time as John groaned.

“Not like that.” Timothy grinned and continued, “We work together.”

“Yes, so I’ve heard.” Zachary smiled a little at Timothy, amused by the way his hands were in constant motion. He had a youthful appearance, but Zachary thought he was older than John. Not as old as Zach, perhaps, but a few years older than John. His warm brown eyes went soft when he looked at John, but it was more like brotherly love than something Zachary needed to worry about—not that he should be worrying about anything. He had no business here, unless… He breathed in deep. “I should get going.”

“Oh, no. Don’t let me scare you away.” Timothy grinned again, and Zachary noticed a thin ring in his lip he’d missed before.

“I should. I have nettles to deliver to Jen.”

“Nettles?” Timothy frowned, clearly thinking Zachary was out of his mind.

“Yeah. You should come. Saturday is Walpurgis Night. There’ll be a bonfire, nettle soup and choir singing.”

“At your place?” Timothy still watched him as if he was crazy.

“No.” He chuckled. “It’s a town tradition. John knows where it is.” He waved and went towards the door, not noticing John following until he reached for the handle.

“See you Saturday?”

John slowed down but ended up closer to Zachary than ever before, and of his own accord. “I…erm, where?”

“Same place as every year, up by the clearing in the woods.”

“Same as at Easter?”

“Yup, that’s the place.” John looked as if he was working up to something, so Zachary waited.

“I… Sorry for freaking out earlier.”

Zachary shook his head. “It was my fault, nothing for you to be sorry about.”

John put a hand on Zachary’s arm. It was the briefest touch, but it was enough for Zach to hold his breath. It was the first time John had initiated a touch.


Once in MayIn an attempt to run from his past, John 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 or preferably out of sight. During weak moments, he might wish he had someone, but he’s not ready. After all, it takes seven years for the body to replace all its cells. He has four years to go before he even can think about being around people.

Zachary is always on the move, always on his way to somewhere. He’s going from job to job, from country to country. Contrary to what people might think, he wants nothing more than to find a place to call home, and he knows just where. This time, he is ready. This time, he will stay in Nortown. But when he arrives to buy the log cabin he thought would be his, he finds it inhabited. When he goes to talk to the new owner, he is met by the most beautiful green eyes followed by a door slammed in his face.

John should’ve known the peace he had found in Nortown wouldn’t last. One day everything was fine, the next a mountain of a man starts showing up wherever he goes. All Zachary wants is to be close to the quiet man who has moved into his cabin. If following him around is the only way, then so be it. Sooner or later, John will get used to having him there…at least, if Zachary hangs around long enough.

books2read.com/May *


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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


* 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.