Sneak Preview of Christmas Dreams

Hello and happy greetings, all!

I’m super excited this week because after a long year of much work, planning, dreaming, and, of course, writing (not to mention editing and editing and proofing and proofing), launch day for CHRISTMAS DREAMS is just one month out!  To celebrate the start of the 30 day countdown to its book birthday, I thought I’d share a sneak preview.

I hope you have a great time meeting Stevie and enjoy these first chapters, immensely,

🙂 Ev

————————————————————————

Chapter 1

Stevie glared at the most recent text message then jabbed her phone with angry thumbs. She was aware even as she responded that the fury flooding through her was merely a cover for the wave of deep, desperate sadness threatening to drown her. “Are you sure?” she typed.

A response came immediately. Three frowning faces and one word. “Absolutely.”

Then. “I’m sorry.”

Stevie’s stomach churned. Her sister Jo was the most level-headed, loyal, dependable person Stevie had ever known except for their adoptive mom, Maddie. She would never in a million years lie or stretch the truth or tease about something like . . . this. “Have to go,” she finally typed. “Will msg soon.”

No reply, but Stevie hadn’t expected one. She set her phone down on her RV’s little dinette table, and for the first time ever, its vintage laminate surface—cream with gold stars—failed to cheer her.

She pressed her clenched fists into her tightly closed eyes, hard. “Do not cry,” she muttered. “Do. Not.”

She forced some deep breaths—hard work over the choking lump in her throat—then slowly, resolutely got back to her feet.

People always asked what her glitch was. Why she was so jaded. Well, this was why. This was what hoping got you. This was what trusting did.

Jed was supposed to be one of the good guys. He’d gotten past her defenses. Gotten past all their defenses.

She pivoted and took one step to reach the custom-built chest freezer with its lid that did double duty as counter space when she needed to roll out dough. Opening the freezer, which held very little except for one precious thing taking up almost all the room, Stevie’s eyes swam despite her iron resolve.

Looking down, it was like the fondant creation of doves and ribbons mocked her. She lifted the cake out and moved to the RV’s door. It was slightly ajar because she’d been airing the RV after simmering three different sauces all morning. Kicking the door open with one foot, she lifted the cake high above her head, then heaved it forward.

It dropped heavily and smashed open on the frozen snow-packed earth. Destroyed layers of decadent chocolate and soft vanilla cream revealed a sweet, delicate fruit and custard center. A murder of crows—what an appropriate name, Stevie thought, darkly amused—scattered in shock from their perch in the barren arms of a nearby tree, then settled on the ground close by and hopped over to feast.

Nowhere near finished, Stevie went back to her tiny design marvel of a kitchen and opened a cupboard to pull out the “surprise.” Easing the box top off, she stared down at Jed and, more importantly, Alissa—in perfect miniature detail. Taking in her little sister’s beaming heart-shaped face, with her wide brown eyes and pretty bobbed hair—so open, so trusting, so deserving of so much better than . . . Jed, Stevie’s breathing was once more threatened by burning outrage and tears she wouldn’t let escape.

A tiny bride and groom smiled up, hands clasped, and arms lifted in joy and victory. They were an exact replica of Alissa and Jed, created by a genius cake topper designer from photos Stevie had taken when they’d announced their engagement.

Stevie reached forward, about to grab Jed by the neck—but suddenly couldn’t follow through. What if she accidentally damaged mini Alissa somehow? Even if Alissa didn’t know this item existed, Stevie couldn’t bear hurting her even by accident, effigy or not. She resealed the box, slid it back into the cupboard, then did the next best thing.

She rummaged for the generic cake topper—Plan B, purchased in case the special order didn’t turn out or arrive in time. Grabbing her sharpest paring knife and a cutting board, she plunged the blade through Jed’s plastic core. How apt. He’d fooled everyone into thinking his heart—and affections—were real.

She snapped pictures of the impaled groom, withdrew her knife, and strode to the doorway. Throwing Jed onto the wrecked cake, she took a few more photos. The majority of the crows flapped off in a tizzy of black wings, cawing and shrieking in annoyance. Two crows weren’t scared off by the falling groom, however, and continued to greedily devour the cake around him. They were a particularly good, if macabre, addition to the photos.

She would never show these pics to poor Alissa, of course. But Jed? She’d send them to him, all right—with the wish she could land a hard punch to somewhere tender at the same time.

“How could you?” she typed. “Alissa is worth a billion of you. You . . .” Stevie had no more words, but that didn’t matter. Actions spoke more honestly and clearly than any of the most eloquent speeches. Jed would get her point. She hit send. Then went to each picture and hit send and send again.

Finally, still buzzing with stress, she replied to Jo again, as promised. First, with the pictures.

To which she received a flurry of texts, including one that said, “Do not, under any circumstances, send those to Alissa, or Hailey, or Mom.”

“Of course not. Unlike Jed, I’m not a callous idiot or worse.”

Before Jo could agree or disagree with that statement, Stevie got to the real guts of the matter. “What are we going to do? What does Alissa need?”

Chapter 2

 Waiting for Jo to reply with a concrete plan, Stevie spent some time beating herself up and second-guessing her recent choices. If only she was parked and living in their hometown Granite Ridge right now, the way she so often was. Instead, she was just returning from an extended season cooking at a fishing lodge in British Columbia. When the wedding was on, meeting up with everyone at the venue instead of going to Granite Ridge first made sense and saved her some travel hours. Now she wished she’d done everything differently. If she was in town, she would’ve shown up at her mom’s house to help out.

She could, of course, call her mom or Hailey to get instructions about what to do next herself, instead of depending on Jo for guidance, but she didn’t want to distract them from helping Alissa in whatever ways they could.

Pacing her RV’s narrow space, Stevie perused the photos she’d taken of the demolished wedding cake. Her response to the news that Jed had broken up with Alissa and called off their Christmas Eve wedding was justified. Yet reviewing the destruction of that iconic symbol of love and hope for the future didn’t give her any satisfaction. If anything, it made her feel worse. She prayed awful Jed wouldn’t message Alissa about the cake and his murdered mini-him. It would only make kind, tender-hearted Alissa even sadder.

Dang it! Why hadn’t Jo messaged back already? What was keeping her? Not being able to do something, anything, was maddening. Unconsciously, Stevie glanced toward Ed’s bed, which she hadn’t been able to bring herself to part with yet. If he was still around, at least she’d have him to talk to or take for a walk or something to get her mind off . . . everything.

With that thought, the tears Stevie had been fighting since Jo’s first text earlier that afternoon won. She cried silently, her body rigid and still. It was something she’d learned how to do too many years ago to count: let her emotions escape without a telltale sound or movement. No one who happened to walk past her home on wheels and glance in the window would know she was sobbing.

Some of her tears were for herself. She had to be honest and admit that even if it showed what a selfish jerk she was. She couldn’t help it. Alissa and Jed had been a couple who’d given her hope that good guys existed, and love could be real. Proof that no matter how crappy your background was, you could rise above it.

Most of her tears were genuinely for Alissa though, triggered by deep sorrow for what her sister must be feeling, frustration at being powerless to fix anything for her, and worry. Stevie knew Alissa had all the grit she needed and then some to get through this. She just hoped Alissa could see past her pain and know it as well.

It wasn’t fair. Little Alissa had already gone through enough loss for a lifetime. Little Alissa. Stevie almost smiled, seeing the eye roll Alissa would give if she’d heard that thought. But she couldn’t help thinking of her that way. Even though her sister was twenty-five-years-old now and a certified teacher to boot, she was somehow still the innocent, no-idea-how-great-she-was kid Stevie had first met all those years ago, when Alissa was ten and Stevie, thirteen. Just like how Hailey was perpetually eight in Stevie’s mind, and Jo would always be a super cool fifteen to her awkward, lame thirteen. It was weird with siblings how that happened, you all grew up—or mostly did, Stevie thought, making a face at herself. Yet, you all stayed kids around each other too in that way siblings do, for better or worse.

Alissa struggled with abandonment and self-worth issues like they all did in various ways. No matter how much you grow as a person or strive to work through them, some things are so deeply formative that even when you no longer let them define you, they’re forever a shadow side of you, shaping your view of the world and your place in it. With her deep fear of loss, letting herself love Jed had been a big deal. That he knew Alissa lost her parents and bounced around from home to home before she arrived at Maddie’s, yet still took all her trust and selfless, generous care, and promised her forever, only to reject her and throw it back in Alissa’s face? Well, as the cake and plastic groom incident might’ve hinted, it made Stevie want to—

Her phone buzzed, and she snatched it up with relief. Too much time in her head was never good. She read Jo’s text and replied. “You got it. I’ll be there.”

Another message popped back almost immediately. “I’m so sad about the change in circumstances surrounding our visit, but at least our whole family’s going to be together again. I can’t wait to see you!”

Stevie didn’t waste time wondering if going up to Cedar Mountain Lodge as originally planned was a good idea or a terrible one. If that’s what Alissa wanted and needed, to make what was supposed to be a celebratory getaway into a journey of mourning and saying goodbye—and hopefully a cathartic, healing time with her sisters—she and the rest of her sisters, her family, would make it so.

She closed her eyes briefly. Even though this Christmas marked the fifteenth anniversary of Maddie bringing them together, the miracle of it never lost its shine. No matter what else happened in her life, no matter how she’d probably never scrounge up the courage to take a romantic risk herself—regardless of how she sometimes dreamed of a husband and children to love and take care of—she had this. Had them: Jo, Hailey, Alissa, Maddie, and Maddie’s mom, Nan Claire. It was the kind of thing Stevie always imagined as a lonely kid, nose constantly in a library book, waiting on her mom who so seldom—then never—came home. Imagined, but never dreamed actually possible. She was blessed in so many ways, and she knew all too well that the nuclear family she sometimes fantasized about and yearned for was often just that: a fantasy. That the reality of family was, if you could forgive the pun, all too often nuclear. What you loved could blow up and be lost forever, damaging you irreparably. It was exactly why she didn’t want to take chances or rock the boat she’d found herself in.

She shook her arms, then stretched, eyes wide open again. All this lollygagging wouldn’t do. There was a plan now! She had to get her butt in gear. Lists of all that needed to be done before she hit the road in the morning filled her head, but most importantly—

“Exactly how I feel, Jo!” she typed and sent.

Then, wracking her brain for something, anything, she could say to Alissa that might be of comfort or cheer—and feeling extra terrible when she came up empty because Alissa, like Hailey, was a words girl—she settled with sending a string of heart emoticons, the promise she’d see her the next day as originally scheduled, and the suggestion, “We can spend the week planning his slow and painful death.” She nodded with satisfaction once the last bit was sent. Maddie would be level-headed and eternally supportive. Jo would be logical and comforting. Alissa would be all heart. Stevie would rein in her rage the best she could, but someone, she thought, should let Alissa know revenge was an option. She was only half-joking.

But now, Stevie had food to make. She’d lived through puberty, first crushes, date disasters, and tons of other silly, serious, and sublime moments with Alissa. “Crazy comforting cheesy mac”—so named by Alissa when she was sixteen or so and doing remedial work one summer so she wouldn’t be held back in school—was definitely on the menu.

# # #

The mountains and trees hugging the highway were blanketed in white, and while the roads were in decent shape, fresh snow was falling. Stevie hoped it would let up before Maddie and Nan started their drive up.

Turning into Cedar Mountain Lodge’s huge parking area and following the signs toward a designated area for overnight parking, Stevie couldn’t help gawking. Even though the next weeks would no doubt be excruciating in a lot of ways, the surrounding scenery was magical. So pretty it almost hurt. Towering cedars draped in white robes stretched into a gorgeous purple-blue sky. The ancient mountain ranges formed a protective bowl around the magnificent lodge and surrounding ski village, which were lit up with a dazzling array of Christmas lights and twinkled like Santa’s workshop. And the snow! The snow! It sparkled in the bright winter sun like a blanket of diamonds as far as the eye could see, a white so clean and pristine it was almost startling.

Stevie pulled to a stop at a gate and lowered her window to show the attendant her ID and the reservation number on her phone.

The guy, big and bearded, looked about her age and had a friendly smile. “I haven’t seen your rig before. Work or play?”

Stevie grinned. She’d expected some variation of a similar question. No doubt, many of the folks camped up here were seasonal workers who moved around the country, working at this lodge or another, as she often did.

“No, it’s my little sister’s wedding—” The words died on her tongue. What an idiot she was! What if she made an insensitive slip like that in front of Alissa? “I’m here to, I mean as, a guest,” she finished haltingly after an awkward beat.

The man looked curious at her weird delivery but shrugged. “Well . . . enjoy yourself, all right?”

Stevie nodded, then eased toward the spot where she’d been directed. The sites had full service. Bonus. Her vintage motorhome—1986 Toyota Sunraders for the win, baby!—was set up for off-grid living and had a generator. Considering the nightmare the next twelve days were likely to be, it was a relief that she could just plug in and be set.

Before she got out of her vehicle, she leaned forward and rested her forehead on the steering wheel. Seeing Alissa heartbroken and not being able to do a darn thing about it was going to do her in. She wasn’t like her sisters. She had none of Jo’s deep, calming competence. None of Alissa’s sweetness or gentle, naturally soothing demeanor. Not a drop of Hailey’s uncanny ability to read people in a glance and know intuitively exactly what they needed.

As always, no matter how she tried to fight it, when thinking about all her inadequacies, especially in light of her talented, brilliant, warm, and sensitive sisters, icy fingers of fear and self-loathing poked tender inner bruises. One day they’d realize that all the strengths they insisted she had were merely projections from their overly kind hearts—qualities they wished for her, not any that she actually possessed. And then they wouldn’t love her anymore. Maddie still would—because she was a softie for a lost cause, obviously.

For a moment, the temptation to restart the motorhome’s engine and retreat the way she’d come almost overpowered her.

The worst part of her desire to bail was that her stupid, lovable sisters would be so understanding if she did. Alissa would muster a smile, despite her grief, and say she totally “got it.” Jo would sigh resignedly—but with sympathy—and say Stevie should do whatever she needed for her own mental health. And it wouldn’t just be passive-aggressive bullshit. She’d actually mean it. Hailey, ever the peacemaker, would nod at whatever Jo and Alissa said, then step up her game and help Alissa in every possible way, always trying to make up for other people’s failings.

Maddie would encourage her to reconsider—but would ultimately affirm Stevie’s choice and tell her she’d love and support her no matter what.

Stevie banged her forehead lightly against the steering wheel. Running the minute something was hard—or heck, just not fun—was something her mother would do. She was not her mother’s daughter! Or she was, but she was also Maddie’s. She was Maddie’s daughter too. She was.

And if Maddie had taught Stevie anything, it was that the only real way forward in hard times was to help others and focus on trying to be the good in the world. It was hard to imagine someone as inconsequential as herself having any real power, but still . . . she would persevere, do what she could, and hope it was enough.

Not necessarily feeling better, but definitely feeling resolved again, Stevie climbed out of her home, plugged it in, and turned the stove, heater, and pump on inside. Then filling a bag to bursting with goodies for Alissa—but keeping the Christmas presents she had for everyone else stashed where they were, so they’d be secrets until the big day, or quiet day, maybe—she set off to find her sisters. They should all be there by now.

Chapter 3

Even though it was a relief for Stevie to be with her sisters again, to see that they were fine and that no one had disappeared or become unalterably changed in her absence, dinner was a sad affair. So sad, in fact, that she felt bad for the wait staff.

The handsome guy serving them had, understandably, thought four young women dining at a place like Cedar Mountain Lodge would mean a festive mood, friendly flirting, quite-possibly tipsy laughter from their end. He realized his mistake with shame-faced speed and quickly matched their somber tone. While his service remained impeccable, he assumed an almost embarrassed air around them.

If only Maddie was there. Her soothing presence would’ve made things much better straightaway. As it was, the way everyone picked at their meals, herself being the only exception—she practically inhaled the seafood pie she’d ordered—they probably should’ve stayed in Alissa’s suite and just shared the cheesy mac Stevie had brought for her. However, none of them had wanted to gobble up Alissa’s “treat.” Although Alissa had been her gracious self when she accepted the abundance of comfort food Stevie had made for her (the pasta being only the start) and put it into her room’s mini-fridge, Stevie was kicking herself. She’d brought a ton of food. Food! Yes, it was a great solace in hard times and maybe the best way of bringing people together in good times . . . but in light of what Alissa was suffering, it was meaningless. She wished she could do . . . more. Just always. More.

It was still early when they finished eating, and Hailey asked if anyone was interested in going for drinks at Granite Bar. Jo and Alissa begged off, but Stevie, who would’ve been happiest if they all gathered in her RV or in someone’s room to chat into the wee hours, quickly agreed. She’d take sister time, whatever it looked like.

As she and Hailey got their coats on, Jo apologized one more time for being too tired to visit longer. Stevie just laughed. “We’re getting old, hey?”

“Oh, yeah, ancient.”

“Wait, one more thing,” Stevie said before Jo made her getaway.

Jo smiled and raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“Still work for me to use your bathroom every so often?” Stevie had asked to take advantage of Jo’s full-size shower and tub at the lodge before—but prior to the whole Jed dumping Alissa debacle. It would be totally understandable if it was the last thing on Jo’s mind, but Stevie hoped it would still be a go. It was the only part of RV living that occasionally got old. Her shower “stall” was incredibly narrow even for a dwarf like her, and the “tub” it sprayed into was really a small basin, only suitable for standing in.

“Absolutely. Any time.”

Stevie watched her stylish older sister depart, looking every inch the sophisticated lawyer she was, even in her casual outfit of well-cut jeans, a fitted sweater, and gorgeous boots. She glanced down at her own “signature” winter outfit—a gray hoodie and yoga pants. The only way it varied from her spring, summer, and fall look is that she sometimes sported a long-sleeve T-shirt instead of a tank top or wore jeans if she was feeling really dressy. What could she say? She liked to be comfortable and favored clothes you could work in for hours. Plus, there was the added bonus that clothes like this made you virtually invisible. With her hair scraped back in a messy topknot or tight ponytail and in her always clean but nondescript garb, no one gave her a second glance. Precisely what she preferred.

Granite Bar was crowded and loud, with a great band and delicious scents wafting from the kitchen. She was tempted to check out their menu, despite having just eaten. It was the kind of place Stevie would’ve usually enjoyed to the hilt. Now, however, though she’d been ecstatic that Hailey wanted to hang out, she realized she wasn’t in the mood for a party atmosphere. They chatted over a drink and caught up, both more than a little blue about Alissa’s situation.

A guy from the band named Nick, who Stevie knew from high school, wandered over to say hi. He expressed obvious interest in Hailey, who equally obviously returned it. Stevie had to smile at Hailey’s slightly starstruck expression—even while she felt more than a little shocked. How could Hailey think of romance when how badly relationships always went was so crystal clear at the moment?

Increasingly twitchy and desperately in need of a walk to burn off energy, after Hailey and Nick had danced a few times, Stevie asked if Hailey was ready to head out.

Hailey darted a glance toward Nick, and Stevie caught the look.

Normally, Stevie would never leave one of her sisters alone at a bar. Still, Nick was a known quantity—and a genuinely good guy—so when Hailey insisted Stevie go ahead without her, she did.

The rush of cold air, silence, and bright stars overhead that greeted Stevie as she emerged from the bar were a relief, but she knew without a sprinkle of doubt that sleep was hours and hours away. Usually, that wouldn’t bother her in the slightest, but these days all the solitude she enjoyed wasn’t as satisfying somehow. She shook her head. No doubt, the annoying itch of weird longing for something she couldn’t quite articulate (or didn’t want to, more like it!) was just a side effect of her sadness over losing Ed. Without him to curl up beside and read with, the call of her snug little home on wheels was less appealing than usual. She nodded to herself. Yes, that was it—and that was all it was.

She’d hoped that being clear of the bar’s hyper energy would mellow her out, but nope. She was still antsy and decided that the walk she’d mentioned to Hailey was still on the menu. Definitely. She’d explore the lodge grounds and surrounding ski village and hopefully burn off some of her anxious energy.

As she started out, she was shocked by the temperature difference from when she’d arrived that afternoon and now. The sun hadn’t felt warm, but now that it was dark, it was obvious it had been giving off some heat, after all. She loosened her hair and let it fall around her shoulders to keep the back of her neck warmer. Then she buttoned up the wool pea coat she’d thrown on over her sweatshirt before leaving the RV for dinner. The pretty moss green jacket was too light a weight for this weather—or so she now knew, anyway—but it had been a gift from Maddie. She wanted her family to see her wearing it, so they’d know she appreciated it.

Kitty-corner from the lodge’s main entrance, soft music tinkled from a bar with an old-fashioned sign that announced, “Jackson’s Public House.” Warm yellow light shone onto the snow from its slightly steamy mullioned windows. Drawn by the cozy image, Stevie crossed the street and meandered toward it, sticking to the well-shoveled sidewalk that fronted a little row of specialty shops. Each was closed up and dark inside, but their exteriors were aglow with Christmas bulbs. Her breath formed huge feathery plumes of white in the night air, and—whew, it was brisk.

She decided that despite how pretty the night was, she wouldn’t venture about for much longer—would only go as far as Jackson’s front entrance to see if there was a menu posted by the door. She was curious about whether the quaint looking establishment actually offered good old school pub fare. She’d barely reached the rear corner of the building, however, when a sudden commotion stopped her in her tracks.

A big metal door—invisible until it slammed open and bright white kitchen light spilled across the dark courtyard—crashed against the pub’s brick exterior. A woman blasted out. Throwing off an apron and swearing a blue streak, she stormed past Stevie like she wasn’t even there.

An equally irate man in a black chef’s coat appeared in the doorway. Backlit by the fluorescent light pouring from behind him, his features were invisible in the darkness. He was like a furious shadow as he yelled, “Don’t bother to come back when you’re ‘sorry.’ You’re done!”

He took a few angry strides after the woman as if despite his big words, he already regretted her departure. The woman was long gone, though—and since she hadn’t been wearing a coat, Stevie understood her speed.

The man, evidently as oblivious to Stevie’s presence as the woman had been, raged into the night, “Are you freaking kidding me?”

Stevie smiled to herself. It was hard not to sympathize with a guy who, at the height of anger, used “freaking” as his curse word of choice.

The man locked his hands against the back of his head and stared out into the empty night, his bent elbows like rigid wings on either side of his face. Weirdly, there was something familiar about this position and his body language in general.

After a long minute, he dropped his clenched hands abruptly, and his shoulders sagged. “What am I going to do now?” he muttered.

Come to think about it, even the guy’s voice rang a bell.

What?” he snapped, turning toward her like she’d said something—which she hadn’t. So maybe he’d seen her all along, had just been too preoccupied to acknowledge her. “Unless you’re trained kitchen help, bugger off.”

Knowing from personal experience that most cooks are at least partially mad, Stevie wasn’t put off by the rudeness. Had she worked with him somewhere before? If yes, it had to have been a good while back.

“That’s exactly what I am, actually.” She stepped out of the shadows and stuck her hand out, about to introduce herself—because, hey, connections in the culinary world were always good—just as he moved back into the full light streaming from the kitchen. And then they both went rigid with surprise.

What the— Now she wanted to be the one who swore! Was this some terrible cosmic joke?

He looked as face-punched as she felt—which made no sense.  She, after all, was the injured party all those years ago.

“Stevie . . . Fox?” The voice that had seemed so familiar was now a dry, shocked croak.

She didn’t see how she could believably deny it. “Jackson Basset,” she replied. “What are the chances?”

——————————————————————————-

Want (need?! LOL) to know what happens next? Not long to wait now. Pre-order Christmas Dreams today!

Available wherever eBooks are sold:

Amazon US:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BX73L24

Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BX73L24

Amazon CA:  https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08BX73L24

Amazon AU:  https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08BX73L24

Nook:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-dreams-ev-bishop/1137415292

KOBO all regions:  https://www.kobo.com/en/ebook/christmas-dreams-3

iBooks US: https://books.apple.com/us/book/christmas-dreams/id1525830154

iBooks CA: https://books.apple.com/ca/book/christmas-dreams/id1525830154

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ev_Bishop_Christmas_Dreams?id=Ogr5DwAAQBAJ

Want to learn more about SOUL SISTERS AT CEDAR MOUNTAIN LODGE, the series Christmas Dreams belongs to? Excellent decision because I think you’ll find it’s like a box of your favorite chocolates. Why enjoy just one when you could devour the whole bunch?? 🙂  Check it out here.

A brand new small town contemporary Christmas romance series! My favorite!

 

Exciting news alert! After a long year of happy work and much back and forth, I’m ecstatic to announce the launch of a very exciting project I’m honored to be a part of: a 5-author Christmas holiday romance series with Tammy L. Grace, Violet Howe, Judith Keim, and Tess Thompson.

While the stories are complete fiction, the premise that kicks off the series—how four unconnected girls and an amazing woman and her mom find each other and become family—is very near and dear to my heart and to my personal experience.

Let me present to you (with much happy noise and fanfare!), SOUL SISTERS AT CEDAR MOUNTAIN LODGE.

I’m also thrilled to let you know you can read Book 1, Christmas Sisters, FREE. It’s available wherever eBooks are sold. Please spread the word!

Books 2 – 6 will be release a week apart in October, 2020, starting October 1 with Christmas Kisses. If you, like me, are bad at waiting, LOL, you can preorder them all now!

 

Random circumstances brought them together. Love made them family.

When a terrible accident takes Madeline Kirby’s husband and only child, the school guidance counselor is sure she can’t go on. Left behind with nothing but her work and an empty heart, she vows to survive Christmas by reaching out to comfort someone else who knows similar pain.
Fostering four motherless children for the holidays is supposed to be temporary, but as Maddie tends to defensive Stevie, distrustful Jo, delicate Alissa, and frightened little Hailey, the ache in her own heart slowly becomes bearable. And before the season of giving comes to an end, it becomes clear that life intended for them to find each other.

Enjoy these soul sisters’ first Christmas together in Christmas Sisters, a free prologue novella – then catch up with each of them individually, fifteen years later.

💕 Get yours free today 💕 on:

AMAZONKOBOiBOOKSNOOKGOOGLE PLAY   

Preorder the rest of your feel good reads now:

Christmas Kisses by Judith Keim.  (You’ll get it October 1.)

Can Hailey learn to trust?

Preorder HERE.

Christmas Wishes by Tammy L. Grace.  (You’ll get it  October 8.)

Can Jo find the courage to take a chance?

Preorder HERE.

Christmas Hope by Violet Howe. (You’ll get it October 15.)

Are you ever too old for new love?

Preorder HERE.

Christmas Dreams by ME! 💕 (You’ll get it October 22.)

Will all Stevie’s dreams go up in smoke?

Preorder on:  AMAZONKOBOiBOOKSNOOKGOOGLE PLAY 

Christmas Rings by Tess Thompson. (You’ll get it October 29.)

Sometimes you have to cut your losses, even if it breaks your heart.

Preorder HERE.

Early reviews for this series are making me happy dance and I do hope you’ll join in on the fun. It’s been a hard and surreal year in a lot of ways, for a lot of people, and a regular theme in readers’ comments is what a welcome respite and much needed happy break these heartwarming stories are—a comment that touches me immensely, no matter how often I hear it.

In other Soul Sisters at Cedar Mountain Lodge related news, I’m thrilled to invite you to Soul Sisters Book Chat, a cozy little spot to meet with kindred spirits and talk *everything books* (my favorite thing, as you all know 😊) and other cheering stuff. If you’re looking for a safe, fun place to relax and decompress (and find new books to read and potential friends), Soul Sisters Book Chat  is for you. I hope you’ll join! 💕

Last but not least . . . what would an exciting new series release be without a big party to celebrate?! Join me, Tammy, Violet, Judy and Tess for a fun chat and prizes to kick off Soul Sisters at Cedar Mountain Lodge! The event is an online event in our private Facebook group and will start at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern. Please join the group and then check out the event page.

All right, that’s enough out of me for today!

Have a wonderful week and very happy reading,

Ev

Longing for the lake

I’m writing a scene in my current novel and basing it on my favorite lake, a spot I’ve been missing desperately this cold, wet summer. (I’ve only been out there three times this year! Unheard of for me!) Anyway, revisiting it in fiction reminded me of a column that I loved from my old Terrace Standard writing days and I thought I’d re-share it here. If you, like me, are missing your favorite summer haunt this year, perhaps this will help ease your longing. 💕

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Canim Lake July 2020 2

Not “my” lake, but another very beautiful one. 

I haven’t gone to the lake much this summer and my impatience for heat and cloudless skies is consuming me. Lakelse Lake Picnic Site has always been a big part of my summer. It’s true that it’s beautiful and worthy of visiting in any season, any weather, but I long for the heat that makes going to the lake seem the only sensible thing to do.

 
I moved to Terrace in 1979. Driving into town that first time, I was horrified. Had we moved back to Kamloops? The lawns had the same parched, burnt to beige color. Every strip of dirt was hard baked clay. My legs stuck to the ivory vinyl seats of the station wagon and my hair was wet on my neck and glued by sweat to my forehead. It was HOT.
 
My brother and I unpacked our rooms and tried to explore, but it was too warm. For days we lived in our sprinkler and wading pool. Then water restrictions ruled; no sprinkler all day. We could fill the pool once daily, but a whole day of three kids playing in one small pool quickly creates a grass and dead bug infested mess. It lost its appeal. One day, our mother, driven to desperation by the heat and our constant whining, announced we were going to the lake.
 
A lake? Finally something that sounded interesting. We packed up chips, green grapes, and sand toys and off we went. Our legs still stuck to the vinyl seats but now it didn’t seem as complaint worthy. Plus, though they stung if you lifted them too quickly, they made farting noises if you lifted them slowly. Endlessly amusing.
 
“We’ll never get there,” we moaned eventually. Then suddenly we were at the top of a hill, and what could we see shimmering blue between the trees and mountains in the distance? Could it be?
 
“Look guys, there’s the lake,” my mom confirmed.
 
“HOORAY,” we yelled. (It would become our tradition to repeat those exact words, with feverish glee, every time we spotted the lake in the future.)
 
Walking the paved path to the graveled picnic area and coming upon the incredible, huge fairy story trees and the glimmering expanse of water that looked golden in the afternoon sun made me, for the first time, think that maybe, just maybe, this living in Terrace idea could be okay.
 
We visited the lake almost every day for the rest of the summer. We’d work all morning (my mom could bribe us to do almost anything with promise of a lake trip), and by afternoon it would be so hot that even she wouldn’t feel like working. Thus started a habit I’ve kept for over thirty years: hit the lake as soon and as often as possible.
 
Now when I sit on the rough bark of a natural tree bench that I’ve visited for years, squishing sand through my toes, my mind and my body remember my childhood.
 
In the water I am forever eight. My feet delight in the soft-as-silk rippled sand under the water. I still alligator walk and do dolphin dives and continuous back rolls; I can’t help myself. I still know the disgusting but hilarious feeling of a handful of lake bottom on my back or head. A weed grabbing my ankle still makes me shriek, and the underwater whine of boat engines still creeps me out. I daydream about mermaids.
 
Staring up at the sky, I realize that visiting this spot is the most consistent thing in my life. The water has seen every bathing suit I’ve owned. Every person I’ve tried to be or thought I was has walked the beach. I was a child here and a dream-filled teen. This site has known my friends, boyfriends, and husband. I’ve been pregnant on its sands and nursed my newborns in its huge trees’ shade. My children played here—and now I come to its shores and splash in the waves with my adult son and my daughter and her husband.
 
The drive is shorter to me now that I’m an adult, my car has cloth seats that I don’t stick to, and often I’m alone. But when I get to that certain place on the hill, I still announce, “There’s the lake!” and my whole body feels it: HOORAY. Yeah, this living in Terrace idea is a pretty good one after all.
 
– – – – – – – – – –
“Lake Days” originally ran in the Terrace Standard in July 2001, but in light of the beautiful weather we’ve enjoyed this year I thought it was a lovely one to share once more, edited slightly to adjust for the passage of even more years–and my editors agreed. Thus it was reprinted in the Standard August 25th, 2015. I hope it triggers fond memories of your own childhood. Enjoy these last long days of summer, everyone—and get thee to the lake! ~ Ev

August 8, 2020 update: As you know, I just shared this piece again on my blog today. What can I say? It is still my favorite of favorite places, only made more special by how little it changes over time, while everything else morphs at a crazy pace. Case in point, and beyond special, I now share my timeless beach with two little grandsons who seem well on their way to adoring it as much as I do.  

The Monster—er, ART—of Marketing and Promotion from a Small Town

Calling all writers: join me for an online marketing workshop!

When: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. PST Sunday, May 24, 2020

Where: Online, via Zoom. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a rural writer in possession of good ideas just wants to write*—and that’s a completely legitimate way to live your creative life. If you also have dreams (needs?) of eating regularly, heating your home above freezing, or buying shoes occasionally and you don’t have a kind benefactor, however, at some point you need to find people who want to read (aka buy) your work.

The very words marketing and promotion tend to sicken the gut of even the most  introverted stalwart author. They don’t need to. There are ways to find your unique readers, build your brand (Gag! Doesn’t that sound horrific and money grubbing?! Don’t worry, I’ll try to de-horrify it. 😉), and help you bring in at least enough dough to enable you to write even more—without making you feel like you’ve sold your soul.

Together we’ll:

  • Define some key terms
  • Discuss the importance of having a marketing plan that fits you
  • Explore three strategies I feel are critical for every author
  • Talk about some do’s and don’ts
  • Brainstorm other tactics that might be helpful.

Appropriate for writers of every form and genre, this workshop will be most valuable to those who are new to publishing or who have a few published books but haven’t done a lot (if any) formal marketing and feel intimidated by the process.

Please bring any questions you have!

This exclusive online event is brought to you by the wonderful Federation of BC Writers and is available to FBCW members for the promotional rate of $20 ($45 non-members).

Find out more or register now.

See you Sunday! (I hope!)

P.S. If you’re a BC or Yukon writer and you haven’t joined The Fed yet, you should. They offer a wealth of resources, connections and support!

P.P.S. My apologies to Jane Austen for how I mangled her famous line in the opening of this post—though I think she’d get a chuckle out of it and would nod in sage agreement, don’t you? 😉

Marketing workshop for FBCW May 24 2020

I’m “booking” regular getaways. How about you?

Like a lot of you, my husband and I are self-isolating these days and feeling pretty housebound. It’s harder on him than on me because he’s more social than I am, plus he’s not a reader. (I know. The HORROR. I feel so badly for him. Not joking!)

I’ve always read a lot (at least two novels a week, usually more), so reading a lot these days is . . . not a change. The consistency of my “schedule” is very comforting, not to mention entertaining, happy sigh giving, educational, etc., etc. etc. I may not be leaving my house much, but I’m traveling all over the place via books and enjoying every type of getaway and fun (or thrilling!) escape you can imagine. 🥰

One thing that is new to me (or that I am new to) is that I decided to try out Kindle Unlimited — as a reader and author.

Amazon is offering great deals on Kindle Unlimited subscriptions right now (1 or 2 months free, depending on your region) and the monthly price is a fantastic deal (just 9.99 a month, or less, depending on where you live). I’m sure I’ll continue to purchase other books because I’m an addict and I want what I want when I want it, LOL — but like I said above, I read voraciously, so I thought it was worth checking out. So far I am wowed by the selection available (especially in the genres I love most: romance, women’s fiction and thrillers).

And then I thought, since I’m enjoying KU so much right now, why not share that book binging joy with my readers—and I arranged to have my whole River’s Sigh & B series put up in Kindle Unlimited. They’ve never been in KU before. April 1st was their exciting debut—no fooling! 😉

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber (or you decide to sign up to see if you like it), I hope you “book” a getaway to River’s Sigh B & B, “an incredible place where heartbreak can heal and love can blossom,” according to Amazon reader, LCR. (No suitcase packing or crowded airports necessary.)

You can check out my books here. Enjoy!

Wishing you and yours peace of mind and good health. 💕

Ev

P.S. I wanted to blog about digging in the dirt and my excitement about this year’s gardening season, but, siiiiiigh, it is still sooo cold here that all I’ve gotten done so far is a whole lot of dreaming. Still hard frost every night. That said . . . at least the snow is mostly gone, LOL. I should be able to plant some early chill-hardy things soon! In the meantime, thank goodness for books, right?!  😃

Happy International Women’s Day!

Hello and happy March 8th, AKA International Women’s Day 2020!

I have to admit that I recently searched “How long has there been an International Women’s Day?” online because while it’s a day that gains greater significance for me with every year that passes, I don’t recall ever hearing about it as a younger woman or as a kid. Apparently that’s just the circles I lived and grew up in, however (something . . . interesting to me for a lot of reasons, in and of itself). It’s been around for over 100 years.

Anyway, the best site I came across is called (very cleverly, LOL!) InternationalWomensDay.com.  I heartily recommend checking it out and (especially!) sharing any of the tidbits that interest you with kids in your life. Recognizing International Women’s Day, honoring it, talking about it, celebrating it, is not a slight to men or an attempt to denigrate them in anyway; it is about starting to address how much (and for how long) history failed to acknowledge women’s personhood and our contributions to the world (and, sadly, often still does). We’ve all heard and learned lots about male inventors, male pioneers-in-various-fields, male explorers, male artists, male authors (and so on and so on), and that’s wonderful because the things people have done are inspiring and great to learn from, regardless of their gender. But it’s really important to see opportunities for your own unique self, as fuel, fodder and motivation for your personal dreams, inclinations, talents and strengths. If you’ve never seen or heard about someone like you doing a particular thing, it’s difficult (maybe even impossible) to even understand it’s an option for you.

And on a personal note, if you’re a woman reading this, I  encourage you to do something special, even if it’s very small, to celebrate YOU and the hard work that you do, the dreams (secret or “out there”) that you nurture, and the things you’ve overcome. 🙂

I also use the day to think about the women in my life (too many of whom are gone now) who guided, shaped and encouraged who I’ve become. (For better or worse, LOL.)

I come from a long line of incredibly tough, resilient, hilarious, deeply intelligent women—something I appreciate (and recognize!) more and more as I age. I try not to waste time beating myself up for not expressing my gratitude to some of them when I still had the opportunity (like my mom, for example), and instead strive to be someone they would say similar things about. Do I succeed? . . . Sometimes, maybe. Sometimes, not even close . . . but I think that’s one of the most important things they collectively taught me about how to live: to persevere in my goals, to keep trying.

🙂 Ev

Thoughts on completing my first book series and life

I spent much of January brainstorming and planning, tasks I always find slightly amusing because I “map” my new year every year, but then, pretty much without fail my well-laid plans run amuck because, well . . . squirrel! That said, even knowing much of what I dream or schedule may change, the time spent looking back—and imagining what might lie ahead—felt extra special this year because for the first time in a long time, I’m looking at the start of a brand new series, and that’s not only exciting. It feels symbolic.

The last “official”* River’s Sigh B & B novel (The Catch, Book 8) launched on January 9, and as I think back on the process of writing this series—what I went through and experienced book by book, chapter by chapter, heck, sometimes paragraph by paragraph—I am struck by how it’s a little like looking back at life.

Knowing what I know now, are there things I would’ve done differently? Oh yes.

Was there heartbreak and indecision and self-doubt a plenty? Absolutely. So much at times that I didn’t always know for sure that I wouldn’t just . . . give up.

Did I screw some things up and make some embarrassing mistakes? Uh huh, for sure—though thankfully, with help from people close to me—I rectified the most serious problems. (Or so I hope, LOL!)

During the writing of pretty much every book, I hit a place before it was finished where I felt I’d totally lost my way and that it was hopeless, that I’d never be able to muddle my way out. When that happened, I went for long walks and had big talks (whine fests!) with a few trusted souls—but I persevered. Eventually, as I tiptoed along in the dark, a light would suddenly go on. The way through would be perfectly clear—so clear that I wondered why on earth I hadn’t seen it before.

But the biggest takeaway from completing River’s Sigh B & B (which also echoes life) is that even if it was excruciatingly difficult at times or brought up painful things or my nerve threatened to fail me, there was simultaneously so much joy and laughter and growth (for me, not just my characters!) in the process, so many moments I’d never change for anything. So much fun.

I can’t share a lot of details about my new series yet (because they’re still coming together in my own head)—but even that feels fitting. After all, whoever truly knows how the future will unfold? But eeeei! I’m excited to see what the next chapters of life and writing hold.

New (old?) thoughts on another new year!

I’m often delightfully optimistic at the start of a brand-new shiny year. What will it hold? What will I do? What plans will I make—and which ones will I fail, change, or wildly succeed in? And in so many ways, this year (2020, wow!) is no different.

I’m excited about, and beyond grateful for, all that has occurred in my work life over the past seven years, especially that one little decision, so long ago now, to write a romance novel as an “exercise.” I did (do!) writing exercises all the time. Who knew that specific one would spark the type of writing destined to become my one great love? Book 8 in my River’s Sigh B & B series is just about to launch (eeeeeeiiiii!!!!), which means I will soon have 12 published novels out in the world (still can’t really believe it!!!), and my brain is bursting with ideas for my next series.

In my personal life, my adult children are healthy and self-sufficient, things I don’t take for granted and feel exceedingly relieved and happy for. I have two little grandsons (a fact that still blows me away: my baby is old enough to have babies—and really, they’re not even babies anymore. They’re small children!), who bring me so much joy and laughter that I can’t even put it into words.

I’ve been moving more, getting outside lots, and have taken a few trips (all things that were goals for 2019). We have three feet of snow right now, but as I look across my yard, I’m imagining this upcoming year’s garden (including a green bean fort!) and daydreaming about kayaking jaunts.

There’s always a flip side to my grateful looking back and sunny looking ahead, however: shadows from past months. What year, after all, doesn’t hold hard times or carry some bad news? And 2019 was no exception.

In my personal life, there were (are) tough things to face and hard facts to reconcile with, none of which were fully resolved (because some things can’t really be, or at least not quickly), so no doubt they’ll rear their ugly heads again.

In the world at large, it’s a terrifying, tumultuous time in a lot of ways. I can find it excruciatingly difficult to not get overwhelmed by the news and/or social media, to not just feel . . . afraid.

On January 3rd, contemplating my work in light of current world happenings, I was blasted by insecurity. Is writing stories about healing from personal hurts and wounds and finding love, creating your own family (whatever that looks like), seeking home—such “small scale” ideas, as a renowned author at a conference once said to me about “most” women authors as criticism—meaningless at best, or worse, utterly shallow, in light of “large” concerns?

Even a few years ago, I don’t know if I would’ve had a concrete answer. (But I’m getting better at kicking my inner critic and neuroses to the side.) Today, for now at least, I feel I do.

I’ve always believed that the small things in life are actually the big things—the things with the power to change us, to sustain us, to help us grow and to be a comfort in hard times. Remembering that encouraged me.

Politics change. What we as nations fear might finally, permanently, wipe us off the globe changes decade by decade (and, to date, thankfully, never has fully materialized or succeeded). What society holds dear—and demonizes—morphs radically, for better and worse, back and forth. Atrocities continue, yes—but there also continues to be people who stand up against them. (And may that ever be true, the latter numbers only ever growing stronger and larger, while our collective willingness to quietly accept the horrific mistreatment of others diminishes.)

But from time immemorial, what doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, and is true the globe over, in every culture, regardless of small variances in what the following “looks like,” is that we want our children to survive and thrive. We care about our families’ wellbeing. We value our friends. We want (need, crave) meaningful relationships. We long for connection. And sometimes, when there are no easy answers (and are there ever?), no fixes possible (corruption, illness, death, loss), we need stories that remind us that despite all seeming lost, awful, hopeless, or unredeemable . . . that’s only ever part of the story. The rub of human existence is that it’s all true: the ugly, awful, heartbreaking, atrocious . . . and the beautiful, awing, joy-giving, absolute sweet glory of . . . so many things. I feel challenged to write stories that explore such things, and I’m honored to have people respond to them, be encouraged by them.

On the heels of that rumination, in the lovely way things sometimes appear just when you need them to most, I happened upon two very helpful, affirming reads. One long. One short.

The first, by Anne Lamott, was (is!) a piece I’ve long loved and derived much comfort and encouragement (and laughter!) from: 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.   

The second was a tweet by author Sam Sykes on Twitter: “Sometimes creative endeavors in times of turmoil feel a bit like playing the spoons while a city burns. You don’t feel helpful and maybe kind of stupid, but god damn if art can move the hearts of humans, then you owe it to everyone to play the spoons until the fires die.”

Reading it was like a good cup of strong coffee in the morning. “Buck up, Ev. Get back to doing what you do. It’s the only thing in this life you have any unique sway over.”

I don’t know how you’re feeling as we go into this new year, but I hope your optimism, drive, and hope are strong.

Cheers to 2020, my dears! Let’s all strive to be the change we wish to see in the world, this year and beyond. (I know that quote is used to the point of almost being a cliché nowadays, but I still believe in it so much and find it so personally challenging.)

Wishing you much joy, love and peace—and a whole bunch of fun, too! Happy New Year!

🙂 Ev

Canada Day musings and a book sale, From Canada With Love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you read this I’m happily ensconced in a little cabin by a huge lake in the middle of British Columbia. Doesn’t get more Canadian than that, eh?

I always spend some time on or around Canada Day, thinking of all this country I call home provides for me, and feeling very grateful.

Canada isn’t perfect. No country is, and we have our share of human rights atrocities and moments of deep shame as a nation—in the past and, sadly, in the present, but as a nation, I feel we genuinely want to learn, to grow, to be generous, to protect individual freedoms, and to take care of each other, regardless of color, creed, economic background, etc. We may disagree about means and methods—and about what/how much work there is to do—but collectively, regardless of political leanings, I think (hope!) we want to keep striving to do better for each other and for our world at large. And that’s pretty great. 🙂

I’m also thankful (awed might be a better word!) for how crazily blessed Canada is terms of geography and natural resources. I know how lucky we are and how we take some things for granted (for example, I recently came across this article about several cities in India that are literally running out of water, as in they have NO water or will soon have NO water—something that, as a coastal BC rainforest dweller, is almost impossible for me to fathom).

I also love our immigrant roots, our regular infusions of new implants from around the world, and our value of . I love our trees and mountains, abundant wildlife and remote, unpopulated places, our healthy oceans, and plentiful rivers and lakes. (Oh, the lakes, the lakes! You guys know how much I love a lake!)

I almost didn’t share this post because I worried, will people not from Canada think I’m being braggy? I don’t mean my gratitude to come off that way, at all. I just feel it’s easy to spend a lot of time complaining about what you think is wrong with your country, and important to occasionally focus on what is awesome. Also, while some of what I’m grateful for as a Canadian might be unique to Canada, a lot of it isn’t . . . plus I’m well aware that other countries enjoy things, have perks and advantages and bounty that we don’t. I’d love for you to share what you love about your country in the comments here.

Happy Canada to you all, Canadian or not. It’s for everyone! And wherever you call home, may you see and celebrate some of your country’s strengths today.

🙂 Ev

P.S. I’ll be sharing a few pictures of various summer adventures in upcoming months via my Ev Bishop Author Facebook page, so if you haven’t already “liked” me, LOL, please do and pop on by for a quick gander from time to time.

P.P.S. Calling all Kobo readers! On the Oh Canada note, I’m super excited to be part of a fabulous, very fitting Kobo promotion this week, From Canada With Love. 🇨🇦 💕 The 1-week sale features 13 Canadian authors and 79 titles across a variety of genres. HINT: you don’t need a Kobo eReader to get in on the fun. You can download the free app to your phone or tablet, then splurge away!

It’s Buy 1, Get 1 50% off, but there are no limits. You can mix-and-match authors, and/or buy as many titles as you want, paying regular price for one, 50% for the next, and so on. In fact, if you’re feeling extra wild, LOL, you could buy 40 books and then get the remaining 39 at 50% off each. (And hidden away on your eReader, no-one will ever know how much you treat yourself! 😁)

Grab your @KoboBooks deals here:

CA ~ US  ~ UK ~ AU ~ NZ!

Ahhhh, spring!

Happy May, all!

It’s gorgeous in my little super green niche of the world these days, and I’m busy planting flower boxes, cleaning perennial beds, and getting my garden ready to plant. (The weeding is . . . unending!)

No doubt much-needed rains will come soon (though it’s strange to say “much-needed” living where I live, where normally so much wet stuff falls), and I will post something more thoughtful or newsy then. (For now I just needed something NOT CHRISTMASSY to appear as the top post on my blog, LOL.)

In the mean time, I hope this note finds you well and that you, like me, are enjoying maximum outdoor time.

And, of course, if you fancy a little break or crave some R & R, I’d be honoured if you escape into a River’s Sigh B & B novel.

Talk soon,

😊 Ev

Amazon.US ~ Amazon.CA ~ Amazon.UK ~ Amazon.AU

Kobo.US ~ Kobo.CA ~ Google ~ iBooks ~ Nook