Merry Christmas everyone! I thought I’d give you a little present: a sneak peek excerpt from Shadows Have Gone, the third book in the End of All Things series.
Despite the changes the world has gone through after a terrible pandemic virus swept the globe, Carly and Justin have tried to keep some holiday traditions going. I thought I’d give you a glimpse at how they celebrate the holidays in the upcoming book.
I wish the happiest of holidays to you and yours, and hope that the coming new year brings everyone joy and peace.
He had it almost fully assembled when Kaden shuffled out of his room on the way to get a glass of water from the kitchen. He stopped and blinked at Justin. “Hey. What’s that?”
“This,” Justin said, “is a Christmas tree.”
“Well, yeah, I know that. Is it really Christmas?”
“As far as we can tell.” But who could blame him for forgetting? Without the month-long blare of holiday music, lights, and Santas ringing bells on every corner, the holiday had seemed to fade into the backs of most people’s minds. The only person Justin had heard mention it lately was the Reverend last Sunday.
“Are we doing Christmas celebrations now?” Kaden asked.
“We did Christmas last year,” Justin said. “Remember, Carly baked that ham?”
Kaden’s face split into a huge grin. “No one could ever forget that ham. What did she do to it?”
“Who knows? Maybe it went bad in the can.” He remembered her crestfallen expression when no one could stomach it, not even Sam.
“We didn’t put up a tree or anything last year.”
Justin shrugged. “Well, now we are. We can always use a bit of tradition, right? It will make Carly smile. Come on. Help me with this stuff.”
“What is it?” Kaden opened the package and held up the wispy, sparkling silver strands.
“That’s icicles,” Justin said. “That’s what we used to call it anyway. It was all the rage for tree decoration when I was a kid. I found it in the back of the store.”
Kaden turned the package of icicles in his hands. “What do you do with it?”
“You just drape it, like this.” Justin showed him, dropping a handful of the stuff on a branch. It fell in a fat, tangled, silvery glob.
“Wait, that can’t be right. Try using less and just, you know, draping it gracefully.” He pinched a few from the package and cascaded a few strands down a couple of branches. “There. Like that.”
They worked in silence for a few moments. “I used to decorate with my mom,” Kaden said.
Justin just nodded. He took it as a healthy sign that Kaden was talking more about his parents now.
“Every year, she picked a color theme, and we had to go out and buy new ornaments. Drove my dad crazy because we had huge stacks of boxes in the garage, but she always wanted something fresh and different, and he never said anything because he knew it made her happy. But man . . . everything had to match, and you had to space out the two colors just right on the tree so they would balance.” Kaden laughed. “I got so frustrated one year, I threw a bulb at my brother, and she made me sit on the couch in time-out while they finished. But looking back, I really enjoyed it, you know. It’s weird, but it’s silly little stuff like that you miss.”
“That silly little stuff is what stands out because that’s the best part of life. That’s why I want to do this for Carly and Dagny.”
“Do you have presents for her?”
“Dagny? Yeah. They’re in the gun closet.”
“Did you wrap them?”
“No. Should I have?”
“Oh God, yes. Tearing off the paper is the most fun part.”
Kaden thought. “It’s okay. I know what we can do. Be right back.”
Justin stepped back and eyed the tree. It was absolutely coated in that silver tinsel. Maybe they should have used it more sparingly. It looked more like a melted robot than a Christmas tree.
Kaden returned with a roll of wallpaper. “Remembered this was in the garage,” he said.
“Good save,” Justin said. “I’ll go check the chickens and get breakfast started while you wrap.” He took the toys from the closet. Dagny seemed to like building things, so he had gotten her a set of oversized LEGO bricks and interlocking wood puzzle blocks. There wasn’t much selection in the local store for a kid her age, but he had done his best.
“Why do I have to wrap?” Kaden looked a little sullen.
“I’m pulling rank on this one,” Justin said with a grin. “Like in your books, you’re gonna have to wait until I’m old and weak so you can overthrow me. Then you can order others to do the wrapping for you.”
He whistled as he strolled into the chicken coop. Five eggs this morning. He felt like celebrating. He went down the street to Mindy and Stan’s house and put two eggs wrapped in one of the mittens Mrs. Davis had made him inside the screen door. They would find it as soon as they woke and Stan went out to get the firewood for the morning.
He headed home and found Kaden swearing as he fumbled with the tape and thick paper. Justin held down a corner for him. “Carly would have a fit if she heard you using those words, you know.”
“I’ll just tell her I heard you say it,” Kaden muttered, giving him a dark look.
Justin grinned and patted the boy on the back and went to the closet again.
“You want me to wrap yours?” he asked.
“Wrap my what?”
“I got a gift?” Kaden gaped at him.
“You must have been a good boy this year,” Justin said.
“No joking, please.” Kaden blinked hard. “You really got me something?”
Justin felt like an ass for teasing him when it apparently meant a lot more to Kaden than he’d realized. Or intended, actually. “Yeah, I got you something.”
“Thanks.” Kaden’s voice was soft. “You . . . you don’t have to wrap it. Just put it under the tree for me when Dagny opens hers, okay?”
“Okay.” Justin took the gift over and tucked it below Dagny’s gifts to conceal it. Really, it was no big deal, and he hoped Kaden wasn’t disappointed when he saw what it was.
“Do you have something for Carly?”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to wrap it. I’ll give it to her later.”
Carly came upstairs just as he was finishing up breakfast, Dagny on her hip. Dagny saw the tree first and let out a soft, “Ooh!”
Carly’s smile when she saw the tree was what he’d been hoping for all along, and her kiss made him feel like one of those guys in the movies who picked the girl up and spun her around just from the sheer happiness of it.
Dagny, of course, didn’t want to eat before going to the tree, and Carly had a devil of a time coaxing her into it. Most of the egg ended up being eaten by Sam. Justin ended up having to feed her himself or she wouldn’t have eaten a bite.
As Kaden had predicted, it seemed Dagny had more fun shredding the paper than she did with playing with the toys.
Justin strolled over to where Kaden sat in the chair watching Dagny fling bits of paper in all directions. Justin handed Kaden the book he’d been holding behind his back. “For you.”
Kaden took the leather bound volume with reverence. “Oh, wow.”
“I know you like that old stuff,” Justin said. He had looked for a copy of Beowulf but couldn’t find one. He hoped Kaden might like this, but he wasn’t sure. It wasn’t mythological, after all.
“It’s all of Caesar’s books!” Kaden leafed through it. “It’s got all five of them!”
“Well, only two of them are formally attributed to him,” Justin said.
Kaden shot him a look. “You’ve read them?”
“Don’t look so shocked. Yes, I’ve read them. Well, listened to them as audio books, anyway. Lewis thought any military man ought to read Caesar.”
“Thank you, Justin. Where did you find it?”
“Library in a nearby town had a rare book section. I figured it ought to go to someone who would appreciate it and take care of it rather than sitting there on the shelf at the mercy of rodents and the weather once the building starts crumbling.”
Carly wouldn’t follow him outside to see her gift until she had picked up every one of the tiny bits of Dagny’s shredded paper. She bundled up in a jacket, scarf, and hat before following him outside.
“It’s amazing. I used to live in Alaska where forty degrees was considered pleasant, and now I’m freezing my tail feathers off.” She rubbed her hands together as she followed him around the side of the barn.
He pulled the tarp off the wagon. “Ta-da!”
“Books!” she cried in delight, though she had to know what she was getting after she’d seen Kaden’s present. But it didn’t seem to diminish her happiness one bit. “I had almost finished everything in the shop. Thank you.”
“Welcome.” He kissed her back, picking her up off the ground so their faces were level. She wrapped her arms and legs around him with a girlish giggle, and he backed up until they were leaning against the barn. Their breath mingled in small clouds on the cool air.
“I didn’t get you anything,” she murmured against his lips. “I almost forgot it was Christmas.”
“You give me a present every day,” he said. “I have something else for you. Hold up your hand.”
She did, and he transferred her weight to one arm so he could dig in his pocket. He pulled out the ring and slid it onto her finger.
“It’s an infinity symbol,” he said as she gazed down at it. “I never got you an engagement ring. I know you’re not really a jewelry person, but I thought you might like it. And it’s low enough that it won’t catch on stuff, so you won’t have to take it off when you’re working. I thought—”
She shut him up with a kiss. “I love it. Oh, Justin, I love it!”
“If you ever ask yourself how long I’ll love you, look down at it,” he said.
“An eternity and beyond,” she whispered. She tilted her head up for a kiss, but they froze at the sound of footsteps.
Justin turned and was surprised to see Bryce at the corner of the barn. He lifted a hand in a halfhearted wave before clearing his throat. “I’m sorry to . . . uh . . . but it’s important.”
“What is it?”
Bryce licked his lips. “There’s something I think you should hear.”
She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.
Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.
But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.
This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.
Tales from the End Book 1.5
L.A.’s mayor has declared quarantine to try to halt the spread of the Infection. Pearl sets off across the city to buy supplies, but already the world is changing. Something strange is in the air. The Horsemen are coming …
When Veronica’s mother doesn’t come home from work and no one answers the phone when she calls for help, a nine-year-old girl is thrown into the chaos of a world coming to an end. Veronica decides it’s up to her to find her family. “Veronica” is the story of a little girl’s courage in the face of the end of all things.
“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
They called her Shadowfax– the mare Carly and Justin found on their travels. But before she was found by Carly, the retired dressage horse was known as Cloud. An unusual tale of the end, told through the eyes of a confused and lonely horse, left in her pasture.
A previously-published bonus story. Carly knows Justin has never celebrated his birthday, and after society crumbled, no one knows what date it is, anyway. But she wants to do something special for him. Celebrating the little things helps them keep hope alive, and as a blizzard rages outside, a small gesture of love warms their home.
Tales of courage, tales of survival… Tales from the End.
The Land of The Shadow Book 2
Two years after a horrific virus swept the globe, decimating the world’s population, Carly Daniels and her husband, Justin, have made a safe home in the isolated southern town of Colby. Protected by fences and a vigilant population, the residents there had somehow managed to keep the Infection out. Until the sight of Carly and Justin’s healthy baby girl convinced them it was safe to allow Outsiders in.
Now, in the wake of fresh losses, the small band of survivors struggles to rebuild a community. With only nineteenth-century technology to aid them, they must learn skills long forgotten to provide for their basic needs. Each day brings new challenges, and every choice they make affects their long-term survival. While Carly and Justin adjust to a growing family, and to their roles as community leaders, they must rely on one another for strength and support when they face difficult questions.
Carly has to decide how to move forward in a world where equality, justice, and freedom from tyranny are no longer guaranteed. And when new threats emerge, she has to decide what she is willing to do—and how far she’s willing to go—to protect what she has worked so hard to build.
When the end has come and gone, it’s a journey down a long and broken road through The Land of the Shadow.