Up North | Dates That Never Happened

X-mas-readI was talking with my office buddies (Nell Iris and A.L. Lester) about 24 Dates and said it’s a miracle I manage to come up with twenty-four dates for the story since I’m the least romantic person in the world.

I had a list with date-suggestion I’d written and crossed them off as I went. I even had dates that never happened left. I said I couldn’t remember what they were since the list now was gone.  Nell told me I should’ve saved it, and I thought to myself yeah, I should have.

Then Christmas came and the pile of papers on my desk needed to if not get thrown away, then at least put in a nicer pile LOL. I ruffled through the papers, most of the sheets with something printed on one side, and me having scrawled down dates on the backside for when to post, pin, and schedule things.

And there it was! Wrinkly and with a folded corner and with hubby having written on it too and then crossed it out. It has name suggestions of characters for other stories, numbers added together than I can’t remember what they were for, and at the bottom it says:

The most fish
The biggest

Which, I guess, it’s for the date on the 12th of December.

So, Jian and Victor had twenty-four dates from December 1st to December 24th. What they didn’t have was:

  • A museum date – When I wrote it down, I figured Jian would take Victor to a museum where they would see some cool things. Hubby and I went to Naturhistoriska in Gothenburg a few times when we lived on the west coast. There’s a whale hall that always has me in awe. That awe is mixed though, part of me think it’s so cool to get to see how big a blue whale really is, another part is outraged we’re making exhibitions out of dead animals.
  • Concert – Jian and Victor go to Whiteport to watch a musical, so I skipped going to a concert because it felt like too much of a repeat. But I had it on the list of suggestions.
  • Beach Walk – I figured they could go to the coast and stroll on the wintery beach. I miss beach walks. The sea in the wintertime is amazing. It’s amazing any time of the year, but that dark grey, raging sea crashing towards the deserted beach – it fills my soul with freedom. The wind tearing at your hair, the scent of salt in the air… *sigh* I want to go home.
  • Coffee Date – They have a dessert-tasting date, so I figured going to a coffee house was a bit of a repeat. They don’t do much people watching, though, so maybe I should have included some date where they go out in public just the two of them.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Let’s be honest. I was too lazy to include this one. A scavenger hunt could be a lot of fun, but I’d have to come up with the rules. Still, I could see Jian doing it for Victor LOL.
  • Fake Tour Guide – I figured Jian could pretend to be a guide and show Victor around either a museum or if they went to a city where he could guide him up and down the streets talking about interesting historical facts that had happened.
  • Sunset and Eggnog – Here I pictured them sitting out in the cold and watch the sun set while having eggnog, but since they have a rooftop stargazing date it felt a bit like a repeat.
  • Drive-in Movie – The idea was that Jian should take help from his friends and set up a drive-in movie for Victor and him, but they’re up north, and winters are cold LOL
  • Amusement Park – Normally, we go to Liseberg with the kids on Christmas. This year it’s closed, but it’s beautiful. There are lights everywhere, they have an ice skating show, Santa is there, and some years there’s been real reindeers.
  • Poetry Night – The last thing on the list is poetry night. I painted a picture of a cosy pub where they held poetry readings, but I chickened out. Poetry isn’t my strong suit, I think it’s amazing, but to write a poetry night date I figured I’d have to write some poetry, and that won’t happen.

See, 24 Dates could’ve been 34 Dates…maybe LOL.

Of all the dates I wrote, my favourite (to write) was December 5th. I laughed. And it just so happens that Angel Martinez did a Friday Reading of that date over at her site, so hop on over there and listen to it!


24datesWhen Victor Hill bought a house with his boyfriend, Jian Kouri it was a dream come true. But now, two years later, instead of living their happily ever after, they hardly see the other awake.

With Jian out the door before Victor gets up in the morning, and asleep on the couch nearly as soon as he walks in the door, the life Victor imagined couldn’t be further from reality. They don’t talk; they don’t touch, and Victor fears he and Jian have already drifted too far apart.

The holiday season is a time for hope, but when Victor comes home to find Jian with a plan to woo him for Christmas, is it too little, too late? The dates are great, and there are filled with Christmas fun to get Victor in the right spirit for the holiday, but are they enough for the two of them to fall in love again? Or is there just too much in their relationship that needs fixing?

books2read.com/24Dates

In the JMS shop

X-mas Read | Turning Wood by Ofelia Gränd

X-mas-read

Today, I’m stealing a spot for myself. Turning Wood was published last year. It’s a short Christmas story about Otho Newcomer and Mason Dager and it was the story that started the whole Up North series.

I hadn’t planned on it being part of a series, but for some reason, I feel right at home in the woods around Nortown and Northfield. When I needed a doctor, doctor Ash, who’s crushing on Andre in the Nortown books, popped up. It wasn’t my intentions to put him there, but I did. Then I figured, since I’d already started, I might as well continue.

All Up North stories are standalone, more so than the Nortown stories. The only thing linking the books is the location.

Coolest of all is that Turning Woods is part of the 2020 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology from JMS Books that will be released on December 30th. 

Turning-Ice-breaking

Excerpt:

Looking up from his work, he saw something move—a man walking out on the ice on the river. Was he insane? The currents were too strong there; the ice wasn’t thick enough to walk on. It had closed over yesterday when the temperature had dropped, but it broke open now and then, a constant struggle between the current and the ice.

Before Otho’s brain caught up with what he was doing, he’d dropped the gouge on the ground and ran out from under the carport.

“Hey!” He waved his arms, but the man didn’t look in his direction. “Hey! You, hello!” He ran, his heavy boots sinking into the snow. He jumped over the snowdrift on the other side of the narrow gravel road passing by his cabin. The reeds buried underneath the snow tangled around his ankles, but he kept going.

“Hey, you!” He waved more, but the man didn’t so much as glance in his direction. Shit. When Otho stepped onto the ice, he slowed down. This close to the land it shouldn’t be any danger, but Otho feared he weighed more than the man. It was a grown man, though, not some teen who didn’t know better.

“Come on, man! Come back here!” Otho took one slow step after the other, and in that moment, the man turned around to face him. Otho blew out a breath and waved.

The sound of the ice breaking shouldn’t have been so loud, but it was. It was as if it was moaning a protest before opening its jaws to swallow the man. Otho’s heart stopped. “No!”

For half a second, he stood immobilized, then he dug into his pocket for his phone and called the emergency service center. He slid down on his stomach and crawled over the ice while waiting for the call to connect.

A sharp intake of air was all he heard from the man as he hurried the best he could. A woman talking in a clear, calm voice answered.

“A man has gone through the ice of the river.” Otho almost hung up before adding, “By River Cove on Lakeside Lane in Snowmelt.” He disconnected. He probably should have said more, but the man was freezing to death or drowning. With the pulse drumming in his ears, he pictured the man sliding in under the ice. His breath froze, and he pushed himself forward.

The edge of the hole came closer. The black water looked alive, angry, and threatening as it tried to pull the man under. Only his head and part of his shoulders remained above the surface. His skin was white, not pale, white. His lips blue, his eyes wide, and his body stiff. Otho dragged himself forward, spreading his weight over as large an area as possible.

“Easy.” He was talking to himself as much as to the man. “Can you grab the edge?”

He still had about four feet to go to where the water lapped at the ice, but he didn’t know how much closer he dared move. The man’s wide eyes latched on to his, and Otho forced a calm expression to his face. “Good.”

The man had done nothing, but Otho figured he couldn’t go wrong with praise. “Now can you try to swim?”

He didn’t move, did nothing but stare at Otho.

“Come closer and try to put your elbows on the ice.”

The man continued to stare and his dark lashes were turning whiter by the second. Damn, he needed out of the cold. Otho crawled closer, listening to the ice as he did. His heart was hammering in his throat. If he went through the ice, he would curse himself his entire afterlife—if there was one.


Turning-WoodFor Otho Newcomer, the small village of Snowmelt is a haven from his old life. If he’s not exactly a changed man, he at least hopes to keep his distance from all those easy romances, and the inevitable heartache and disappointment that have always followed.

Mason Dager is an idiot. His ex has cleared out his bank account, sold his car and gotten him thrown out of his apartment. And he has no one to blame but himself. But what better way to celebrate a new chapter in his life—one that includes homelessness and the humiliation of telling his family they were right all along—than to spend Christmas at a swanky winter resort like River Cove? It’s already paid for after all.

When a very drunk Mason makes yet another dumb decision, Otho comes to the rescue, throwing the two men together during the most magical time of the year.

What should be the wrong choice for both of them, might be exactly what they need. They’ll just have to survive a nosy best friend, an asshole of an ex, and the scars of their pasts.

books2read.com/TurningWood

Release Day | 24 Dates by Ofelia Gränd

Release Day

It’s release day!!!

24 Dates was supposed to be a short Christmas story. I don’t know what I was thinking. The idea always was to write twenty-four dates, so I should’ve understood it wasn’t gonna turn out to be a 10k story. I should have, and yet I was surprised when it got be 38k.

Ah, well… 38k isn’t too long, and I had a great time writing it. I’m probably the least romantic person you’ve come across, so coming up with twenty-four dates wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t super hard either. I’m a bit sad that I’ve cleaned away the note where I scribbled down my ideas – I had ideas I didn’t use! LOL

In this story, we have Victor and Jian who’ve been a couple for years. Everything should be great. They’ve bought a house, moved to a new town, and should be in their happily ever after, but they’re not.

Jian is working all the time, and Victor hardly sees him awake anymore. They don’t talk, they don’t touch, and Victor fears they won’t last. Jian isn’t willing to give up, though. He has a plan – 24 Dates to woo his man.

24 Dates is an Up North story which means it’s standalone, contemporary, and takes place somewhere up north.

Excerpt:

“Are you ready?”

Victor jumped. He’d been too occupied with his date planning to notice Jian coming out through the front door. “For?”

“Our date, of course.” A quick grin appeared on Jian’s lips before disappearing again, and Victor’s heart sped up. Damn, he’s hot.

“Erm… I guess it depends on what we’re doing. Do I need to change?” He gestured at himself. “Pee?”

“Pee might be good if you need to. There are no restrooms where we’re going. And put on shoes that don’t get wet…and maybe a beanie so you don’t freeze.”

Victor studied his expression for a second. “We’re going to be outdoors?”

Jian nodded, and Victor nodded in return before hurrying inside, rushing to the bathroom, changing shoes, putting on a beanie, and pushing some gloves into his pocket.

When he came back out again, Jian hadn’t rolled out the car. “Aren’t we going?”

“We are. We’re walking.” He offered Victor his arm.

Walking? Were they going to the cafe? “On Tuesday, do you have anything planned?”

Jian narrowed his eyes. “Why?”

“Sara and Jonas, at work, usually go out to grab a pizza and a beer at some point each month or every couple of weeks or so, and they asked if I wanted to come.”

Jian’s dark eyes sparkled. “You should go. I know you haven’t found anyone to hang out with here, and I’ve been worried about it. You’re a social guy.”

Victor stared and allowed Jian to guide him down the sidewalk and back toward the school again. Jian had worried? Victor hadn’t known. But Jian was right, he normally had a lot of friends, but he’d… he didn’t know why, but he hadn’t had the energy. He’d only wanted to spend time with Jian, but Jian hadn’t been available. Perhaps Victor had been blind; perhaps it was how their relationship had always been, only he hadn’t noticed before because he’d been too busy having a life of his own.

No, before they’d moved here, they’d done things together. They’d had sex regularly, and a kiss hadn’t been something Victor had to analyze. Kisses had been part of everyday life, not like now, when a kiss was so rare, it made Victor nervous to initiate one.

“Don’t you want to go with them?”

“What?” Victor’s eyes flew to Jian’s. “I do, why?”

“You were frowning.”

“Ah…” He grinned. “I was thinking.”

“About?”

Victor took a deep breath. Did he want to ruin the date? No, but… “How we got here.”

“We walked.” Jian winked but seriousness wiped away the sparkles from his eyes. “I’ve been working too much, and you’ve been acclimating to our new home and your new job.”

“We’ve lived here for two years, Jian. How much acclimating does a person need?”

“I read a study claiming it takes about five years before you’ve built up a new social circle after you’ve moved somewhere. I didn’t break up from my old life. Or I did—I don’t hang out with our friends back in Cortland like we used to, but I still have the guys at work. You started over.”

“Yes, but we have each other, or we should have had each other.”

Jian nodded. “I’m sorry, babe.”

Victor nodded, his throat grew tight. He wanted to blame it all on Jian, but they were two in this relationship, and maybe he hadn’t done what he could to make it work.

Jian tugged at his arm and had them turn off the road going through the town center. First, one tiny snowflake slowly descended toward the ground, then more and more followed. Jian steered them toward the graveyard. They walked along the thick stone wall, and Victor held his breath as he took in the sea of lit candles. “Wow. Is it a special holiday?”

“I don’t think so.” Jian opened a wrought-iron gate and held it open for him. The graveyard was deserted apart from one old woman standing by a grave farther in.

“What are we doing here?” Victor whispered, not wanting to disturb the peace.

“We’re on a date.”

“In a graveyard?”

Jian wiggled his eyebrows, amusement shining in his eyes. “Do you know of a more beautiful place in Northfield?”

Victor breathed in deep, tasting the winter night. The candles looked like a starry sky had fallen to the ground, and the snow slowly came down in big flakes. “No.”

They walked up one of the trails and Victor squinted to read the large gravestones. This was an old part of the graveyard—the bigger the stone, the more important the person. “Look at this.” He tugged at Jian’s arm. “This man was the mayor. I didn’t know Northfield had a mayor.”

“We don’t anymore, I don’t think.”

“So cool.”

They walked past one grave after the other and all stress melted away from Victor. The winter wonderland stretched before him, all the beautiful wreaths and poinsettias people had left for their loved ones, the soft glow of the candles. “This is amazing.”

“Come.” Jian sat on a bench and held out his arm for Victor to sit next to him. Once he did, Jian pulled out a thermos cup from his inner pocket.

“We’re not getting drunk in a graveyard, are we?” Victor made wide eyes.

“No. I’ll save it for Halloween.” Jian chuckled. “It’s hot chocolate. I was looking at recipes for some cool Christmassy drinks, but there aren’t many hot ones, and we didn’t have the ingredients needed, so hot chocolate it is.”

“It’s perfect.”

Jian handed him the cup and pulled out another one from another pocket. Victor laughed. “Do you have anything else in there?”

“Why don’t you check?”

Victor chuckled and sipped on the chocolate. “This is beautiful.”

24 Dates in the JMS shop (20% off)

books2read.com/24Dates


24datesWhen Victor Hill bought a house with his boyfriend, Jian Kouri it was a dream come true. But now, two years later, instead of living their happily ever after, they hardly see the other awake.

With Jian out the door before Victor gets up in the morning, and asleep on the couch nearly as soon as he walks in the door, the life Victor imagined couldn’t be further from reality. They don’t talk; they don’t touch, and Victor fears he and Jian have already drifted too far apart.

The holiday season is a time for hope, but when Victor comes home to find Jian with a plan to woo him for Christmas, is it too little, too late? The dates are great, and there are filled with Christmas fun to get Victor in the right spirit for the holiday, but are they enough for the two of them to fall in love again? Or is there just too much in their relationship that needs fixing?