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
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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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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) 





Guest Post | They Met in the Library (Meet Cute Chronicles) by Nell Iris


Today, Nell Iris is with us to celebrate the release of They Met in the Library, which is the first of three meet-cute stories that will be released during the first months this year. And make sure to read the entire post, because there is a giveaway in there. Welcome, Nell!

First of all, I’d like to say thank you to Ofelia for letting me borrow her blog today and tell you all about my new release. You’re always so kind and generous. Thank you 😘

They Met in the Library starts with a meet cute. A meet cute is, according to Wikipedia (link:; “In film and television, a meet cute is a scene in which the two people who will form a future romantic couple meet for the first time, typically under unusual, humorous, or cute circumstances.”

The first time I heard this term was when I watched the movie The Holiday for the first time. Wonderful character, old guy Arthur Abbot who used to work in Hollywood, explains to Iris (Kate Winslet’s character) what it is, and then the movie itself is full of meet cutes (I especially like the one between Graham (Iris’s brother played by Jude Law) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz)).

After the meet cute, the writer can flesh out the story into a whole novel following the classic story structure (attraction-tension-big drama climax at around 80% – HEA), or they can do what I chose to do in Meet Cute Chronicles: focus on the meeting, one or two more dates/meetings after the first one, and then add an epilogue for the HEA. I found it a great way of keeping things lighthearted in a time when cute, funny, and flirty is something many of us desperately need.

First out is Adrian and Manne in They Met in the Library. Adrian is a librarian who loves books, and Manne is dyslexic with a fraught relationship to them. They meet when Manne steps into Adrian’s library and is on the verge of panic at the sight of all the books. Luckily, Adrian comes to the rescue…

The meet cute is the common theme for all three books in my Meet Cute Chronicles; They Met in the Library (release day January 16), They Met in the Park (February 27), and They Met in the Woods (March 2021). Meet Cute Chronicles isn’t a series, they’re not connected other than through the main theme, the meet cute.


Adrian, book-lover extraordinaire, adores his job at the small community library. He gets to share his passion with other people and help them with all book-related questions and issues. When a big, hulking man walks into the library, looking terrified, Adrian’s skills are tested in a completely different way.

Manne’s relationship with books is uneasy, to say the least. He’s dyslexic and events in his past have made him fearful of books and turned libraries into his worst nightmare. But when the quirky, bowtie-wearing librarian steps in to help, the experience turns positive.

Their banter is easy and their chemistry instant. But can an accidental meeting turn into something more? Can someone who has trouble reading ever fit into the life of a man whose passion is the written word?

M/M Contemporary / 17943 words


JMS Books:
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I notice him immediately when I return to my desk. He’s hard to miss; a big hulking man with a shaved head, huge gauges in both ears, and strong arms covered in tattoos.

But his looks aren’t what draws my attention. No, it’s his pale face rivaling the freshly fallen snow outside the windows. And the way he barely moves at all, not even a slight rise and fall of his chest. Is he even breathing? The only thing not frozen is his gaze. It darts over the library, from one bookshelf to the next, and he’s looking at them like they’re wolves ready to strike.

Knitting my eyebrows together, I look closer. He’s swaying a little and he really isn’t breathing, so I round my desk and hurry across the floor, slowing my steps as I approach so I won’t scare him.

“Sir? Are you all right?” I ask.

His eyes keep flitting around as though he hasn’t heard me. He’s tense; I could cut glass on the cords of his neck.

I soften my voice. “Sir?”

He tears his gaze away from one of the many book displays—I’m looking for a book and the cover was blue— and looks at me, but I’m not sure he realizes I’m a human being. His eyes are glassy and unfocused and wild. Pleading for help. He looks terrified, reminding me a little about a visitor who had a panic attack right here in the library a couple years back.

“Sir?” I keep my voice low, soothing. “Sir, you’re worrying me. If you don’t take a breath, I’ll have to call the ambulance.” No reaction. I take a couple steps closer and gently touch his arm, as I scan his face, looking for clues. He’s perspiring and his pulse flutters frantically in his neck. He’s holding his coat in one huge hand and the grip is so tight his knuckles are whitening.

This man is scared to death, and if I don’t do something quickly, he’ll pass out.

I gently squeeze his arm. “Sir? You’re safe here with me. I won’t leave you. Would you please breathe for me?”

There’s a glint of recognition in his eyes, as though my words are getting through to him, as though he realizes I’m a fellow human and not a dangerous predator ready to attack.

His chest rises and falls, and he dips his chin once. The acknowledgment—and the breathing—makes me relax, so I smile at him.

“My name is Adrian, and I work here. Would you please come with me? My desk is just over there.” I point. “You can sit down for a second and I’ll get you a glass of water, okay?”

Another dip to his chin.

“Great. Are you all right to walk to my desk on your own, or would you like me to help you?”

Without a word, he holds out his elbow; I link my arm through his and coax him toward my desk. After just a couple steps, he speaks. “There are so many books. I don’t know what I was thinking, coming here. I can’t do this. I can’t. There are so many books.” His voice is fervent. Agitated.

I give his arm a little squeeze, reminding him that I’m here. “Yes sir. We have a lot of books here. A little too many if you ask me, at least when it’s time to put them all back.” I’m hoping my words and a little humor will divert his attention from whatever scares him about the books and bring him out of his state. The little huff he lets out tells me I’m onto something, so I continue to babble. I’m very good at babbling, after all.

“Just a few more steps and we’ll be there. I’m the boss of the information desk, but don’t tell my coworkers I said that. They’ll try to tell you I’m wrong. That we’re all equals here at the library. But you and I know that’s not the case, right? Only someone wearing a bowtie can be the boss of the information desk, that’s an old rule.” I bump my shoulder to his to show I’m kidding and get another huff as a reward.

I pull out the visitor’s chair. “Please sit, sir.” He collapses into the rickety old wooden thing that’s seen better days—every year, the city council cuts funding to our little library, so we can’t splurge on stuff like furniture— and it groans underneath him. He’s way too big for the tiny little thing; he’s spilling out of it, as though someone poured him into it and didn’t stop when he started flowing over. The man is muscle upon muscle—easily double my width—and tall, maybe even a bit taller than my own six feet four inches. I hope the chair won’t collapse underneath him.


Nell Iris author bio and social media links

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide 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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