Guest Post | Playing Chicken


Today we have the lovely A.L. Lester here to talk about her surprise release, Playing Chicken. Make sure to read to the end so you don’t miss the giveaway!

Thank you so much for having me here to day to talk about my new short story, Playing Chicken! It’s a meet-cute bit of fluff that I accidentally wrote as a distraction from Real Life ™ over the last couple of weeks. I have recently joined the UK Romance Novelist’s Association’s Welsh chapter (Cariad Chaptercariad means love in Welsh) and we are doing a Thing next week around St Dwynwen’s Day, the 25th January. Dwynwen is sometimes talked about as ‘The Welsh St Valentine’ and I have written all about her on my own blog, so I won’t repeat that here!

Playing Chicken is not my usual style at all. I usually write longer, historical-paranormal romances and recently non-binary characters have been making more of an appearance in my stories. At the moment as my main project, I’m writing a trilogy set in my Lost in Time paranormal universe, which is going to have a fair amount of angst and baddies.

It was pure relief to write something cosy and sweet and just…kind.

The setting for the story is actually a friend’s house. They have an old gamekeeper’s cottage isolated in the middle of a Welsh forest, and you have to drive half a mile down a muddy track to get to it. It’s wonderful. I’d love to live there! So impractical in my current situation, but for Marc and Mal and Anghared the deerhound, it’s perfect.


My life is much less full of animals now than it was a decade ago. I used to run a market stall selling eggs at the farmer’s market locally, and I bred hens. At one point I had two hundred chickens. We still have a dozen to lay eggs for ourselves, but that’s it, these days. It was lovely to revisit my poultry-keeping past and write about not-Marc’s chickens. I envisage them as Buff Orpingtons, huge and fluffy. Poor Marc doesn’t quite know what to do about them, but they are very gentle-natured and I’m sure he’ll be fine!


His first aid kit was rudimentary but covered the basics. Antiseptics, dressings, butterfly strips. It should do the job. He hauled it out from under the driver’s seat, eyeing the squeezed-in boxes disfavourably. That was going to be today’s job, he supposed.

He was so taken up with his mission that he forgot there should have been a chicken in the porch until he turned back toward the house. He blinked in disbelief. She had a friend. Two friends. They were sat in a row on the back of the garden bench underneath the parlour window. As he watched, they jumped down, one by one and stood in a line, as if waiting for him. The two new ones were very clearly the same breed as Chicken Number One. Big, fluffy, orange. One had more exciting headgear than the other two and was a bit bigger, so he guessed that was a boy-chicken. Cockerel. Cock. He sniggered quietly and then stopped himself as the first chicken…he could tell it was the original one because it had a bit of black in its tail and the others didn’t…looked at him disapprovingly.

Obviously cock jokes were out. The telepathic chicken didn’t like it.

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just getting the first aid kit for Mal. I’ll stop.”

He performed a shuffling dance around them to get back indoors. “You’re like the Midwich Cuckoos,” he told them. “You are not coming into my house. Stay outside. It’s bad enough having a porch full of chicken shit.”

Mal was on his feet looking at him in alarm when he stepped through the parlour door, and the dog was standing beside him, hackles up.

“Who were you talking to?” he asked in a panicked voice. “Is someone out there?”

Marc shook his head. “Chickens,” he said. “I seem to have chickens living in the porch. It’s fine. He narrowed his eyes. “What makes you think there might be someone out there? Who hurt you?”

Mal sat down on the edge of the chair and ran his hands over his cheeks, pulling a face. The dog sat beside him and put her chin on his knee, staring up at him, and he absently began to pet her ears. Marc knelt beside him and opened the first-aid box.

“My ex’s dad,” he said, quietly, after a moment or two. We’d split up anyway. Ages ago. But he saw me in Welshpool a couple of days ago and wanted to drive the point home.’ He shivered. “I’d only gone down into town to pick up some food and bits.” He winced as Marc turned his face toward the light and began to wipe the cut against his hairline with antiseptic. “I’d left Anghared up here, else he wouldn’t have got near me.”

The dog gave a small woof as she heard her name.

“Would he, girl? Stupid man.”

“So how did you end up in my barn?” Marc said, gently fixing butterfly strips over the cut. It had come open again and was bleeding a bit, but it looked like it would be fine. “Come on, let’s look at your ribs too, while I’m at it.”

“They’re fine, honestly. Only bruised.” Mal pulled away and Marc just looked at him. Mal sighed. “All right, all right.” He began to unzip the big hoodie he was swamped in and winced again. Marc raised an eyebrow, silently asking for permission and then reached out to help when Mal nodded. There were a lot of layers to get through and it took a while to gently extract him. The cold was still coming off him in waves and he was shivering badly as he said, “I’ve been staying up in the woods. But I felt too bad to get home. Anghared found me, didn’t you girl? And we needed somewhere out of the cold. I’m freezing, still.”

He was shuddering, which was probably a good thing in retrospect, Marc thought. He hadn’t been shivering at all when he’d first come inside. Incipient hypothermia. He had a quick look and a gentle feel of the ribs. They were badly bruised but he couldn’t feel anything shifting around, so he’d call that good. Mal’s skin was icy cold under Marc’s fingers.

“Bath?” he said. “Or body-heat?”

“Ugh,” he screwed his face up. “Do I have to?”

“Yes,” said Marc firmly. “I don’t want you to die on my first day home for two and a half years. If that’s all right.”

Playing Chicken

Marc returns home from London to his isolated Welsh cottage for good, having found his ex boyfriend shagging someone else in their bed. Who’s the thin, freezing cold man with the bruised face he finds in his barn? Will the tenuous connection between them grow, or fade away?

A 9,000 word short story to mark the Welsh St Valentine’s Day, St Dwynwen’s Day, the 25th of January. With chickens.

  • Tag line: A short contemporary gay romance to mark St Dwynwen’s Day – the Welsh St Valentine. With Chickens.
  • Genre: Gay, romance, contemporary, meet-cute, short story
  • Length: 9,000 words
  • Release Date: 18 Jan 2020
  • Buy:


To celebrate the release of Playing Chicken, Ally is giving away a copy of her New York Times Book Review featured story, Taking Stock. Click here to join!

About A.L. Lester

Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat and some hens. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.


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#PictaBook | The Empty Egg

A picture says more than a thousand words. Recommend books using pictures and hashtags to tell us what you liked and didn’t like about it

Pictabook logo On February 20th, #PictaBook will be released. In #PictaBook we have Jules, my favourite librarian of all times, and Phoenix, and adorable carpenter who you sometimes want to hit with the books from the library LOL

No, Nix is very dear to me too.

In short, Nix thinks he’s in love with his colleague, but Kyle, the colleague, says that he is too stupid to date. To prove him wrong, Nix decides to read some books. The only problem is that he’s dyslexic and has never really read anything.

He discovers that Kyle is on an app called PictaBook, and creates an account.

That’s how he first makes contact with Jules.

I thought I’d share a few snippets of how it’s going for Nix on his quest to impress Kyle through books the coming weeks. The first book that catches his attention is The Empty Egg.

The Empty Egg


Jules Rose took a sip of his red wine and scrolled through his PictaBook feed. There were several new books, and he made a note of checking if they’d be available to order for the library where he worked. Not all books were, especially not in niche genres.

The speech bubble in the right hand corner showed someone had commented or liked one of his reviews. It had turned to green. Jules’ heart sped up.

He liked PictaBook because it was simple, and it was about books, so what was not to like? But the main reason he liked it was because no one tried to interact with him. He had approved no one for personal messages, and he’d searched a long time for a way to remove people’s ability to comment on his reviews, but apparently there was no such option.

Staring at the green speech bubble, he blew out a breath and tapped on it. SexyDoornail69 has liked your review of The Empty Egg. Jules frowned. He couldn’t remember that book, and wanted to get back to the one he was reading.

Closing PictaBook, he opened his reading app, took another sip of wine, and popped a piece of chocolate into his mouth. He loved Friday nightswine, chocolate, and a book were all he needed in life.

As he was about to open the book, another notification from PictaBook showed at the top. SexyDoornail69 commented on your review. It stayed there for a few seconds before it disappeared, leaving the screen free of interruptions. Damn.

For too long, Jules held his breath. He didn’t want anyone to comment on his reviews, but it would be rude not to reply, wouldn’t it?

He opened PictaBook again and clicked on the speech bubble. SexyDoornail69 had commented on The Empty Egg. Jules went to check. The picture he’d uploaded was of a lumberjack, and the hashtags he’d used were: #MMRomance #Contemporary #Lumbersexual #OppositesAttract #EstablishedCouple #Fetish #DualPOV #ShortAndSweet #BonerWorthy.

Ah, he remembered it now, but it had been years since he’d read it. A blush crawled up his cheeks as he read the comment, and he quickly took a sip of wine to calm down.

SexyDoornail69: Hi, ReadingInACorner! Love the hashtags. How boner worthy are we talking?

Jules took a long, deep breath, and hit the reply arrow.

ReadingInACorner: Read it and find out, though read the first book in the series first.

He closed the app and put away the phone as if it had burned his fingers. Standing, he righted his glasses and took more deep breaths to calm his racing heart. Booksy, his beloved, super lazy and slightly murderous cat, was resting in his usual spot on the windowsill in the bedroom, and Jules went to pick him up.

Pre-order in the JMS shop (20% off)

pictabook (small)Jules Rose leads a quiet life working as a librarian. He’s happy to spend his spare time reading books and talking to his homicidal cat. What more could he wish for? But when his cozy Friday night is shattered by a friend request on his book community app, politeness gives him little choice but to accept. Jules doesn’t want to talk to anyone, but he can’t be rude. Besides, if he had to talk about something, books is the topic he’d pick.

Phoenix Ford is dyslexic and avoids everything that has to do with the written word, but when the colleague he’s trying to impress calls him stupid, he decides to convince the other man, he’s mistaken. All he needs is the right book to make him look smart, a perfect balance between intelligent and short. And who better to ask for help than a guy who loves books so much, he labeled one boner-worthy on a book app?

When Jules finds out Phoenix never has read a book from start to finish, he’s on a mission. He will find the right book, the book that will make Phoenix fall in love — with reading. Phoenix’s plan might have been to listen to the book Jules picked for him to impress his colleague, but that was before he got to know him. Talking about books is a sure way to Jules’ heart, but is it enough for him to agree to go on a date?

Fridays at Ofelia’s | Dragon in Training


Today, we have Emily Carrington guesting us, and I just leant that Emily is celebrating ten years as a writer this year. Woohoo, way to go!

I’m so excited to be here! Thank you for inviting me, Ofelia.

I’ve been writing for ten years and I thought I’d start out my tenth anniversary year by talking about my very first trilogy, Dragon in Training. It wasn’t published as one book but as three separate novels: Dragon Food, Dragon Fire, and Dragon’s Bane. Here’s a brief look into each of them:

DragonintrainingDragon Food: Something is hunting along the Gulf coast of Florida, and Mark Tavery is tasked with finding it. His expertise in dragons is his pride, but he can’t say the same about his romantic relationships. When he picks up a lamp during his investigation, he’s shocked at his instant attraction to, and all-consuming need for, the genie inside. Mark’s greatest desire is to have Luke in his life and in his bed, but giving in to the promise in Luke’s touch means Mark runs the risk of killing the genie he loves.

Dragon Fire: Luke is a genie with almost limitless power, but it does him no good when his lover, Mark, won’t let him have the two things he really wants: for Mark to rely on him as an equal partner during magical conflicts, and to be dominated in bed. Will Luke ever get the chance to prove that he can be both strong in the field and the perfect submissive in the sack?

Dragon’s Bane: Atlas, a genie-god with nearly limitless power, has one task. He must find the modern equivalent of Cerberus and kill it. He discovers the three-headed dog’s incarnation are three figures that surround his current master — Dan’s current lover, Reese, Mark, a water dragon and Reese’s obsession, and Luke, Mark’s genie. Mark and Luke find their memories are altered and untrustworthy. One thing is clear: Only their love for each other can save them — and everyone at SearchLight — from Atlas completing his terrible final task.

Writing these books initiated me into the fantasy world. I don’t write EPIC fantasy, at least not yet, but I do incorporate fantasy elements into most of my romance novels and novellas. Dragons, genies, werewolves (of courseLOL) other shapeshifters, like kelpies and basilisks, grand and common fae,and an organization called SearchLight that polices all of these magical creatures to make sure they don’t reveal themselves to humans.

IF you would like to follow me on social media, please follow the links below. I’ve also included the links for Dragon in Training and its sequel, Dragon Flux.

Emily Carrington’s Confessions Link 



Shapeshifter Books Central 

Author Emily Carrington 

Dragon in Training 





Dragon Flux (Dragon in Training 3)