Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of having my own cabin (by a lake). Even very young, I loved the idea of “getting away from it all,” perhaps taking close friends or family with me, perhaps not . . . always having a ton of books to keep me company. When asked the age-old what-are-you-up-to-this-weekend question, I longed to be able to smile casually and say, “Oh, you know . . . heading to The Cabin.”
That dream (still not a reality, LOL), combined with e-mails from some of you earlier this year, wanting a way to connect and share life and bookish news and fun in a more frequent manner, with more back and forth interaction than newsletters allow – but who DON’T use Facebook – got me thinking. My literal cabin getaway might be a ways away . . . but nothing was stopping me from creating my own ONLINE CABIN and inviting you to all use it and enjoy it whenever you like.
So . . . let me present to you: The Cabin.A community for you, my treasured, so-appreciated readers, that’s ad-free and doesn’t infringe on your privacy or take liberties with your data and personal private information. For those of you who love other forms of Social Media, don’t worry, I’ll still have a presence on the big ones (especially Soul Sisters Book Chat). The Cabin is something for all of us, however, including those uncomfortable with (or tired of) Social Media – a safe and cheery online place for every book lover to hang out! Bookworms unite!
What can you expect at The Cabin?
An awesome time, always! Visit The Cabin to:
Get exclusive content and conversations you can’t find anywhere else.
Meet people who share your interests who live near you, who do the same things, or who care about the same topics.
Swap stories, experiences, and ideas (not necessarily advice) around our shared love of books for the most part, but also about the good things in life, in general. (For example, I intuit lots of animal and pet posts, tons of odes to hot beverages, and nature-themed pictures . . . just saying! 😄)
Discover new-to-you authors and books to read.
Find a little inspiration, thought-provoking conversation, and encouragement each and every day.
Just one of the super fun things that’s happening at The Cabin right now – an easy April reading challenge. All participants will get entered in a draw at the end of the month and one lucky participant, chosen at random will win a signed paperback of one of my books – winner’s choice of which title! Fun, right? Pop over and join in the conversation and fun today!
**Do go into your account/settings right away and set up your notifications. (I don’t know about you, but I hate getting a hundred e-mails . . . not that I think The Cabin will be that busy, LOL, but just . . . it’s way nicer and more chill and cabin-like to get a daily e-mail with any new posts, then to be notified, for example, every time someone ❤️’s something you’ve said.) Put a few details in your profile, add a picture of yourself (or something you love). Have fun with it! (And remember, The Cabin is a privately owned place, LOL – no adware, no bots taking your info, no data mining).
I can’t live at The Cabin, unfortunately (books to write, dogs to walk, and all that 😁 ) – but I will be there a lot. And don’t worry, even when I’m not around, The Cabin will have lots to keep you busy (and help you relax) with.
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,
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?”
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.
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!
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.
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.
Hooray and happy new book birthday to me! REELING, Book 6 in my River’s Sigh B & B series actually launched yesterday, but celebratory shenanigans kept me from announcing it here. You don’t mind too much anyway, do you? Your Friday night was already full and now your Saturday can be BOOKED. (Ahahahhahaa! 😛)
If you’re new to the series, welcome—and don’t worry, while it’s always fun to read a series in order, all my River’s Sigh B & B books are great standalone stories. So what are you waiting for? Start REELING today.
If you’re a long time River’s Sigh B & B reader, what can I say except welcome back! Your cabin is ready for you, and I think you’re going to love Mia and Gray’s story very much. (Or I hope so anyway.)
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your new romantic adventure!
Thanks for reading and being so supportive. I appreciate you very much,
REELING, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 6
Mia bears psychological scars from a stalker who terrorized her for years. Gray was forever changed by the murder of his family. As they get to know each other, conflicting emotions leave them reeling. Can love heal old wounds, or does some damage just run too deep?
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to take part in some super fun events over the next few weeks: An author reading at the Prince Rupert Library, Spring Stirrings – a Poetry Workshop (that I’m co-facilitating with Joan Conway), and an Authors for Indie Bookstores event at Misty River Books. I’ll post full details for each in the days to come, so keep a kind eye out if you’re interested.
Kicking off the three, I’m calling for all Prince Rupert, B.C. readers and writers. The Prince Rupert Library has invited me to do a reading and question and answer session, Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be focusing on BIGGER THINGS, but will also have copies of WEDDING BANDS on hand. It should be a fun, thought-provoking evening (and there are great door prizes, lol). I hope to meet you there!
P.S. Please like and/or share this post if you have friends or family in the Prince Rupert area–and if you have any questions, ask away. 🙂
Whew, that was a busy, fun morning! (Oh, wait . . . it’s 1:35 p.m. I guess “morning” is shot! :D)
Anyway, no new words yet (they’re pending, hopefully), but I do have new business cards ordered, the chickens fed and watered, dinner in the oven, and plans-in-motion to launch a newsletter. Yay!
The first issue of the oh-so-cleverly titled Ev’s News will hit your inbox (should you desire it, of course, heh heh), mid-November.
I wish I could just add all you kind folk who have agreed you don’t mind hearing from me now and then via my blog, but it’s kind of bad form. So in good form: Please sign up to receive my newsletter. I promise it will be a fun and worthwhile read (bimonthly at most, quarterly at least), sharing details about my forthcoming works, upcoming events (my own and other writers’ and readers’ too), a recipe or two for dishes whatever current character I’m writing about is enjoying, plus book recommendations and other fun tidbits.
And if you know anyone who might want to hear from me, please spread the word!
I’ve had a few people ask me about the writing and birthing of BIGGER THINGS, so for your reading pleasure (or not, lol) I’m sharing a blip that I originally posted on the Compuserve Readers and Writers forum. 🙂 E.
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The beginning: Once upon a time, quite a few years ago, I was walking my dog along a quiet, totally deserted street. Suddenly a woman spoke so clearly that I actually paused and looked around. “Everyone gets a happily ever after, yeah right,” she said. There was, of course, no one there, but I had this person, fully-formed in my head, blathering away at me like we were good friends and I knew I needed to write her story–and then the story of her two lifelong friends as well.
The Middle: BIGGER THINGS wasn’t my first novel, but it was an early one. It took a while to finish it because I was learning as I went (which is still true for every book), and I struggled with how to organize it. Once I realized it was written in seasons that worked as a metaphor for the changes in the friends’ lives over one pivotal year, and that it was interspersed with letters to a columnist called “Fat Girl,” everything took off and came together.
The Climax (which was, like so many early publishing attempts, actually an anti-climax): I had a finished, polished, “long enough” novel, the first I’d written that I wanted to publish. I believed in the story and was super excited about it. I had worked it over a lot–and had it worked over by other people (which was sometimes super helpful and other times . . . the opposite of that). I wanted an agent. I sent it out and sent it out. And sent it out. I had quite a few requests for full manuscripts from “big” agents. It was horrible. Almost without exception they all said really, really, really positive things–then went on to say they didn’t know where it would go on the shelf, how it would be marketed, or who it would sell to. I probably quit too soon but I was a bit disheartened–and more and more involved with/excited about other writing projects.
The end (which is actually another beginning): I shelved BIGGER THINGS and tried to move on, but it stayed lodged in my heart (corny as that is!) and frequently muttered that it wanted to be shared. . . .
In the years that passed I sold two short novels under a pen name, a variety of short stories in addition to my non-fiction, and wrote five other novels, two that start a mystery series I’ll be pitching to traditional publishers; one that’s Book 1 in a romance series for Winding Path Books. Yet BIGGER THINGS kept whispering. And the publishing world kept changing.
I love romance and women’s fiction–and my romance and women’s fiction author friends and clients were doing marvelous, exciting, FUN things with indie publishing, but I hung back. . . . What writer doesn’t dream of New York, right?
Then one day I was walking on my property, contemplating an old cabin and what it could become, and a woman that I recognized spoke in my ear. “Oh, for crying out loud. Just publish me yourself.” I’m obedient. I dug BIGGER THINGS back out, did yet another rewrite and a polish and another polish. I met some amazing, talented people as I hired a designer, a formatting guru, and yet another editor. . . . and I have loved every bit of the process.
I have a lot of editing experience and have done some desktop publishing (small stuff, like chapbooks, anthologies, etc.), so Winding Path Books isn’t a brand new world to me, but it is a thrilling one. I’m wowed by the resources and tools available to any writer who goes looking.
There can be a lot of negativity and fear in author circles–or, at the very least, a lot of uneasiness–about the future of publishing and making a living off of your writing, but I’m excited. Never in history has there been more avenues to share your passions or the things that keep you up at night. I only see new bridges to cross, new lands to explore, more opportunity for adventure.
I’m solidly pro both indie publishing and traditional publishing, and I don’t see an either/or attitude as beneficial to anyone, particularly to any authors. Both worlds offer unique advantages and disadvantages, but the biggest, most exciting pro of the indie world is the door it opens for great books and stories that don’t fit easily into a perfectly-defined traditional market spot, how it helps them find their home. 🙂
The last mouthful of a glass of iced tea is sweeter than the rest because the sugar settles to the bottom. Summer is like that too. The first weeks stretch, long and leisurely, full of lingering golden light. At the beginning of the season, eons of time seem to lie ahead.
Then August hits. Then the end of August. The light is still glorious, but it fades earlier and earlier each night. The air is still warm, even hot, in the afternoons, but a crispness beneath the heat whispers rumours of fall. The days are sweeter, more poignant because they’re the last sips of summer.
And just like I tend to slow down midway through a drink, not wanting to finish it before I absolutely have to, I find myself trying to fend off September, spending as much time as I can outside, and allowing myself more breaks to soak things in, knowing—hating—that the bright months will be over soon.
This year I had the treat of houseguests to help me squeeze extra juicy goodness from the month. They stayed a few weeks and while I worked every morning because hey, we gotta eat and pay the bills and all that, I took off big chunks of time, too. We went on more than one daytrip and stopped to look at things that I’ve always meant to, but hadn’t got around to yet. (That’s why you should always invite summer guests. It forces you to stop taking the place you live for granted and to get out and play in your home terrain with new eyes.)
As ever, I marveled at the things to see here. We drove the crazy-bumpy, jungle road down into the Kitimat River where an expanse of round white stones stretches along the brilliant blue-green river as far as the eye can see. I posed by a fallen tree whose roots alone made me look miniscule.
We went to the fish hatchery and saw a mind-boggling amount of chum—so many, so close together, that the aqua river looked black where they huddled and churned, fighting to get up a pipe so they could spawn.
I finally explored an ancient looking set of moss covered stone steps out near Alcan. Apparently they once led to some now-no-more Hudson Bay Company building. I prefer to think they mark the entrance to a long forgotten castle.
We camped at Furlong Bay and if there’s a more beautiful campground anywhere, I don’t know where it is. The light playing through the dense, mossy trees was amber and magical. I saw a massive Great Horned owl. The beach was practically empty. Best of all, however, were the huge, rotted out tree stumps we discovered. They were like doorways into other worlds.
We meandered along the highway to Prince Rupert and got lost in the varying shades of blue, blue, blue—blue water, blue sky, blue mountain vistas. Then we were dizzied by all the greens. We daydreamed about the tiny islands. We oohed and ahhed over fresh halibut and salmon being cleaned on the dock and savoured the fishy-salt scent of the ocean.
And one evening, I came across this quote from Henry David Thoreau: I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, and it is commonly more than that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.
I don’t usually get four hours outdoors per day—I wish—but I so relate to his sentiments. Even as I type, the sun’s dipping lower. And as you read this, the days are growing shorter once more. Quick! Pour one more iced tea and head outside. Drink up every last sweet dreg of our gorgeous summer.
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“The Sweet Dregs of Summer” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 25, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
Just a few of the words yelling in my brain right now: Phew. Yay! Whaaaat? WOOT-WOOT! Yippee! Crazy. WOW . . .
The last months and weeks have seen huge changes in my writing life—good changes. Exciting changes. Still a bit hard to believe changes! And I’m beyond happy to share the results of one of those changes right now. BIGGER THINGS by Ev Bishop is hitting digital shelves everywhere today, with trade paperbacks to follow in August.
It’s a story I care a lot about on a very personal level and one that I hope, if you’re kind enough to read it, you’ll relate to and talk about, especially to your daughters and sons or any other young people in your life.
A one-line description of BIGGER THINGS is crisis forces three friends to confront body issues, battle with hurts from the past, and strive to accept change, but I hope it becomes more than that to you. May Jen, Chelsea, and Kyra become your friends as you delve into parent/child relations, friendships, and romantic love alongside them, and may the ideas posited in the novel stay with you for a long time.
Now if I’ve made you afraid this is some deep, dark somber tome from my above description and desire for the story . . . have no such fear. I’ve been told it’s “scathing, hilarious, and tender”—which makes me very happy indeed as I think that pretty much describes life to the fullest.
If you do buy and read in digital, enjoy! If you want to wait until the paperback hits shelves, I’ll post the minute it’s ready (sometime mid August). But whichever way, if you do enjoy the read, please review it online wherever you buy it and/or on Goodreads or Library Thing. I’d really appreciate it.
Hoping your day, your week, your life is full of lovely bigger things.
BIGGER THINGS by Ev Bishop is available in digital formats at:
I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of hidden treasure, be it flecks of gold in a fast-running creek, antiques tucked away in attics or basements, notes sealed in bottles, or—even better—jewels, old coins and the like shoved under loose floorboards, holed up in caves, buried on beaches, or resting in rusting hulks of ancient shipwrecks.
You don’t want to know how many imaginary treasure maps I created as a kid, but a lot. To this day there are few words as exciting to me as “X marks the spot,” and it’s a lifelong regret that I haven’t learned to scuba dive so that I can explore crooks and crannies under the sea myself. (But my years aren’t done yet!)
Just recently, no scuba needed, I chanced upon a real-life, genuine treasure.
I was trekking along a rough, winding path. Wind screamed through the trees, and showered me with broken branches and sharp twigs. Freezing rain beat down, soaking me through and setting my bones to aching. In the gathering evening gloom, it felt as if I’d taken a wrong turn—no, no, wait, sorry, bit of exaggeration there. But I did go to my mailbox recently. And it was probably rainy. I do live near trees. And I did discover treasure.
As I turned the key, opened the metal door, and spotted the parcel’s sender’s address, my stomach flipped. I knew the gem it contained before I even opened it.
A while back, I’d bought my grandma a journal called, “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story,” by Susan Branch. I hoped, of course, she’d enjoy meandering down memory lane and ruminating on the various questions, but I was quick to admit that really the “gift” was for me. My grandma Ruby Forsyth, née Gilgan, has always been one my heroes and inspirations—on motherhood, on coping when life is hard, on delighting in the beauty and wonder of simple, perfect things. I have never met anyone as patient as her. Ever.
I’m fortunate because I still have her in my life to talk to and visit, but I wanted a written record, notes about her life growing up and as a young wife and mother, pioneering with my grandfather.
She graciously obliged—the proof of which now sat in my mailbox.
As I slit the end of the package and saw the journal’s telltale pink and white edge, I couldn’t have been more thrilled had I found an old wooden chest with a pirate’s sword sticking out of it!
To have pages and pages written in her own hand? Well, “treasure” doesn’t suffice to describe it, actually. When I read her anecdotes, I hear her voice and see the twinkle in her eye. And the fact that much of her story is also the story of me—and of my children—and how we came to be—isn’t lost on me either.
I’d share some of her great tidbits, except they’re mine, all mine! Just kidding—but I am out of space. I’ll have to be content to leave you with one line.
Under “What is your best advice about life?” my grandma writes: Living a kind and considerate life is better than being obsessed with becoming rich.
The advice is all the more meaningful because I saw how she lived and lives. She embodies kindness and consideration. But, sheesh, her words do make me wonder if she knows about my predilection for treasure and meant to warn me. In case anyone’s worried, don’t be. My obsession with treasure has never been a lust for wealth. It’s always adventure I covet. In her journal, I have both.
“Treasure!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 25, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”