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

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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:

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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

😍 26 all new Christmas romances for .99 cents! Don’t miss out! 😍

In case you missed my last happy blurt, I want to blurt again! I have super fun news. My new Christmas novella, A SHARLA BROWN CHRISTMAS, is debuting in Love, Christmas 2 along with 26 other brand-new holiday romances!


It’s up for pre-order now for just .99 cents. Talk about crazily merry, hey?! 😍 😍

The contributing authors and I are celebrating our festive set in a variety of ways and hope you’ll get in on the fun.

Festivity 1: A super fun (and easy) Rafflecopter contest with tons of prizes, including a $50.00 Amazon gift card. Play today!


A bit about the set . . . Each title is exclusive to this set and was inspired by a favorite holiday movie, then spun into a fantastic love story by award-winning bestselling authors. The result? A must-have romance collection full of good cheer for the upcoming holiday season. 

 

Here’s the tiniest peek into what each story you’re going to devour is about!

 

Christmas shouldn’t be the loneliest time of the year… 

 

Finding herself in a run-down apartment in a seedy section of a new-to-her town, single mom Sharla Brown is down in the dumps and thoroughly discouraged. Hoping to cheer herself and others, she decides to throw a community Christmas Eve party—and receives a heartbreakingly negative initial response.

 

Mimi Barbour – A Wonderful Life – Though Rylee works with troubled teens, can she and an angel help a man living a nightmare?

 

Leanne Banks – A Royal White Christmas – Can a secret prince be a Christmas wish-come-true for a small-town girl?

Joan Reeves – Brianna’s Season For Miracles – Her seductive persona hides what she’s ashamed of… What will happen if the man she’s fallen for discovers her secret?

Mona Risk – Jingle With My Princess – The doc and the princess… He saves lives, but she may save his heart.

Rebecca York – Can She Get Home for Christmas? – Will a killer stop her from getting home for Christmas?

Jacquie Biggar – Mistletoe Inn – A grieving man finds the greatest gift is love.

Alicia Street – Miracle on Christmas Tree Street – A single mom discovers her business partner is more than he seems.

Nancy Radke – The Holiday (Christmas) – Jodi’s house-swap to Maui came with a small dog and a shipwrecked sailor.

Katy Walters –Letters from the Snowman – The snow revealed a precious love.

Stephanie Queen – Holiday Affair – Melissa goes from riches to rags but will she find gold in a holiday affair?

Aileen Fish – Christmas in Connecticut – Can a wounded warrior learn to trust her celebrity chef crush after discovering his secret?

Rachelle Ayala – A Christmas Creek Carol – A reclusive writer is given a one-star review on her life by characters from her past, present, and future.

Dani Haviland – The Polar Xpress – She prefers dogs to men…until she rescues the doctor.

Traci Hall – Love, Actually (By the Sea) – Two strangers. One intimate night. Reunited a year later, can it actually be love?

Taylor Lee – The Ref-er-ee – With a family this discombobulated, it will take a referee to save their Christmas.

Donna Fasano – Her Mr. Miracle – It’s Christmas Eve and Veronica is stuck in a nearly deserted seaside town… She needs a miracle.

Cynthia Cooke – A Christmas to Remember – A Christmas storm. Wedding plans in peril. Has a lost love been found?

Susan Jean Ricci – A Joyous Holiday Inn – Can Twigg restore the joy of Christmas to Chloe’s indifferent heart?

Tamara Ferguson – Two Hearts Home for Christmas – Can a long ago promise of love bring two lonely wounded warriors home for Christmas?

Suzanne Jenkins – Christmas with the Clouds – Tracy isn’t interested in love until an unexpected Christmas visitor changes her heart.

Natalie Ann – How Gavin Stole Christmas – Can Jolene help Gavin find the Christmas spirit when he’s the epitome of Mr. Bah Humbug?

Alyssa Bailey – In the Spirit of Christmas – Chase can protect Tara from danger, but can he protect his heart?

Stacy Eaton – Finding Love on Christmas Vacation – Christmas isn’t the same for Lucy without her father…until she meets his friend Maverick.

Jen Talty – The Christmas Getaway – A mix-up in reservations leaves a mother and her son to share a cabin with a broken-hearted stranger.

Melinda De Ross – Boyfriend Wanted for Christmas – A thirty-something singleton’s desperate yet humorous quest to find a boyfriend in the seven days before Christmas.

Pre-Order Love, Christmas 2: Movies You Love at these great stores! 

Amazon US  
Amazon UK 
B&N (Nook) 
iBooks 
Kobo 

 

 

 

 

Festivity 2! Want to sneak some sweet first chapters to further entice and delight you?! Your wish is granted. Grab Love, Christmas 2 Book Bites FREE and enjoy the first chapters of each 26 stories. (Yes, you will be left wanting more, LOL. Enjoy!)

Amazon ~ B&N (Nook) ~ Kobo

 

 

Ho ho ho – Merry August! #Excited #mgtab #holidays #ChristmasIsComing #romancebook #ChristmasCountdown #99cents

It’s been a while since I shared a newsy blurt because what I’ve been working on is top secret! (Okay, that’s a lie to make myself feel interesting, LOL. 😁 My current work-in-progress is not, has never been, top secret or even bottom secret—but it has been very fun!)

I spent our record-breaking hot summer writing and editing a cozy Christmas story. (Yes, it was surreal to fantasize about things like snow-crisp nights, hot chocolate and snuggling under fuzzy blankets in front of a blazing fireplace, while I was living in my bathing suit and sarong, with sweat beading down my back like a permanent accessory, but I digress…)

The exciting news is—drum roll, please—

My novella A SHARLA BROWN CHRISTMAS will be coming out October 16, 2018 in a super fun box set collection called LOVE, CHRISTMAS II that features 26 all-new Christmas romances, written by award-winning New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors.

Each original novel in the set was somehow inspired by its author’s favorite Christmas movie. (I suspect you’ve figured out which oldie-but-goodie, favorite-of-favorites that A SHARLA BROWN CHRISTMAS nods to. Good grief, what a smart guesser you are!)

As for how  the cartoon plays into my story or what the zany crew inspired…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out—which brings me to what might be the most exciting part for you! LOVE, CHRISTMAS II is available for pre-order for only .99 cents! Buy it now and you’ll be all set for a fall and winter full of sweet, cozy reads.

AMAZON.COM ~ AMAZON.CA ~ AMAZON.CO.UK ~ AMAZON.AU 

KOBO ~ iBOOKS ~  NOOK 

Free contest – easy to enter. Win free books, small gifts and maybe, just maybe, the $200 PayPal grand prize!

Winter Wonderland Book Giveaway!

RaffleCopter_Christmas2015_ad

Over 50 authors participating, offering fantastic prizes:
Free Books! A myriad of gifts and presents. A $200 PayPal grand prize!
Fill every entry to increase your chances of winning!
Click the picture below & Go to the giveaway now. Have fun! 🙂

Winter Wonderland Book Giveaway

Merry belated Christmas!

The following was originally published in the Terrace Standard, December 24, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought,” and though Christmas day has passed, I hope you still find my words appropriate. After all, the good parts of the holiday season–and maybe some of the hard aspects too–remain, as a brand new year looms bright and close, shiny with potential!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Christmas CatI’m supposed to be writing a Christmas column, and I have the room’s mood and atmosphere just right. The tree is aglow. Tea light candles light every dark corner and make the shadows cozy. A tiny Victorian village rests on a mantle beside me, while a lovely, ancient-looking nativity scene takes the place of honor on our buffet. I even have a festive beverage.

But words and ideas are slow to come. I just want to daydream or putter about my house—a sure sign I have a deadline looming! Practically the only time I want to do housework is when I’m supposed to be writing something.

It’s not that I’m not feeling merry; it’s just that my thoughts are a jumble this month. I’m feeling that weird Christmas mixture of mingled joy, gratitude and excitement and sorrow and longing that seems to be part and parcel of the season.

My dad’s passing feels official now, and in a lot of ways I miss him more now than when my grief was fresh. It’s like it has finally sunk in after two years. He’s really gone, not just on an extended holiday or work trip, gypsy-ing around like he loved to do.

The anniversary of his death and my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s hit bang, bang, bang this time of year. It’s a cliché that you miss people more during the holidays—a cliché, I guess, because it’s true. And in another cliché, I find myself wishing desperately that I could talk to him, to them, even one more time. I have so much I want to say, so much I want to ask. . . .

On the other hand, I’m struck by the wonderful juxtaposition and celebration of life—and all its loveliest elements—anew this time of year.

My youngest niece turned one. So fun! A nephew has learned to read fluently and loves it (so, of course, I’m over the moon, as reading well is one of the greatest joys, most valuable teachers, sweetest of comforts, and strongest creators of connection to other people, ideas, and cultures that we can possess). One of my siblings has a baby on the way!

Other young relatives are growing from childhood into young adulthood and while it’s challenging for them and their parents sometimes, I love catching glimpses of the grown-ups they’ll be.

My daughter and her husband are full of Christmas plans and festive surprises for each other. So cute to watch. I often laugh as I take in their interactions and silly banter and feel a sense of wonder. Were C and I ever so young? And, of course, we were. I mean, we are. Heh heh.

My son, always good for holiday cheer, had almost every game we own out on the table the other night. No truer sign exists that the holidays are upon us than that!

And I guess those details hint at how I’m feeling as Christmas 2014 approaches, fortunate and blessed that even while my thoughts are filled with people I miss, I am simultaneously surrounded by family and friends I love so much. We don’t know how long we get to keep and enjoy our loved ones, so amid the fun, games, food and noise—and inevitable moody times or stress, mine and theirs—I aim to appreciate and treasure every minute with them.

Whether this year finds you happy or sad, stressed out or excited, lonely or pressured, mourning or joyful, may good memories warm you, and may you feel God’s presence and peace in 2015.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Well, here we are with only one more sleep ’til Christmas 2010. It came extra quickly this year didn’t it?

As some of you know, I’m working on unique-for-me type of story this December—a Christmas themed romance. I thought I’d just a tiny snippet from Candice’s Christmas prep, though admittedly, if you’re hitting the stores today (as I will be after work for just a few things), you’re probably going to be in a busier place than even she finds herself. 😉

The line up at the till was twelve heaping buggies deep, but the two express lanes were worse, with twenty people or more each looking like they’d taken “fifteen items” as a minimum suggestion not a rule, so Candice stayed where she was. The last Friday just before Christmas—what a stupid time to hit a grocery store!

As she stood waiting with her small basket of milk, eggs, bread, and frozen pizza—meant to hold them over to her “real” shop later in the weekend—she perused the droves of people milling about, shopping, laughing, fretting. It was kind of nice to stand still. A waste of time, obviously, when she had so many things to do, but kind of an enforced break all the same. She sipped the Eggnog Latte she’d splurged on and felt quite decadent as she played a game she hadn’t in a long while. Who was that person, what did they do, how were they feeling?

What I like about the scene (that will no doubt change immensely as it’s first draft stuff) is that even feeling stressed and cranky, Candice finds a few seconds of calm inside herself and even daydreams a bit. And that’s my wish for you this Christmas—not that you’ll be stressed or cranky at all, but that you’ll find some time to sneak away—whether you’re in a crowded place or not—to observe and ponder and feel just a bit decadent as you do so.

Merry Christmas!

December already!

It’s December already—unbelievable, but fun. Deck the halls—falalalala!

I’m a bit afraid, however, because every month I play the “this is the month where everything will slow down and I’ll finally be able to write a little bit more” game—and every month, well, you play the game too, you know what happens: life doesn’t slow down; it only speeds up. Schedules don’t free up; they shuffle so we can fit more in.

But December? I don’t even try to fool myself. Lovely, full month that it is, I know my writing time will only shrink. But that’s okay this year—in fact, I’m looking forward to it. I managed to clear all recent “must write” goals (well, except for the ones I botched—cough, cough, Nano 2010), and with the exception of a few Ev’s Writing Services jobs, I am going to write for the pure fun of it this month.

You read that right. Pure fun. No goals other than to write at least twenty days this month (any subject, form, genre, no minimum word count), plus one tiny structured one. I’m going to enter Jen Brubacher’s very fun sounding contest.

The whole take-it-easy and play theme for December 2010 is a much-needed Christmas present to myself.

How about you? Do you write more or less during December? Do you give yourself a break or do you use the month as one last push to meet your goals before the year turns? Whatever you end up doing writing-wise, I hope you pour yourself some eggnog and really enjoy it.

p.s. It’s not that my writing isn’t fun all year—it’s just that usually it’s goal-orientated, stories I want to submit, a novel I want to pitch, etc. What will be fun about this month is that I have no prior intentions . . . . 😉

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve at last! I hope the day finds you happy and well–enjoying the day, not in shopping, wrapping hell . . . 🙂

Two days ago the kids and I made gingerbread for the first time ever and we spent yesterday building houses and decorating little people. Since this is a writing blog, let me just say: not enough good things can be said about flat characters. Except for Ed . . . Well, he’s an all right guy except that he’s loses his head in the drink at every party.

Oh, Ed. Not again.

There was also an awkward moment when some girl my daughter knows showed up topless . . . However, I think it was more embarrassing for her than it was for us. Wrong party, Gingie-girl.

The cat was inordinately pleased with the day’s events and plans to use her powers of mind control to get us to slather icing and candy on everything every year.

Ahhhhh . . .


I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is, Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

In 2010, may you eat lots of cookies, have lots of laughs, be surrounded by people you love and who love you back, and despite any hard circumstances, experience peace and joy.

These are for you!

I leave you with a quote that really moved me, and I think it’s my wish and plan for the New Year.

If Christmas means anything, it should mean that, like shepherds of old, we catch a vision of the world as it ought to be and not as it is. This is the season where we should renew our determination to do what we can, each in our own way, to build a world founded on human brotherhood and concern for the needs of others.” ~ Tommy Douglas, a Baptist preacher who went on to later become the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party in Canada

Have a lovely Christmas. God bless.

~ Ev