I’ve got some news I hope you’ll find interesting. As you can see, I’m revealing the cover and details for a Christmas novella set in Signal Bend. Christmas in Signal Bend is available for preorder now at Amazon and elsewhere and will go live on Friday, 24 November (Black Friday).
Some background on this book and a peek into my upcoming plans:
For most of the past decade, since I completed the Signal Bend Series (my first), I’ve heard from readers asking if I had any plans to tell more stories about the Night Horde mother charter and the people of Signal Bend, Missouri. The leads of that first series popped out quite a brood of children, after all, so the series seemed ripe for a next-gen sequel.
My answer has always been that I really wanted to do exactly that (I love writing fan fiction of my own work haha), but I was dissuaded by the timeline issue, so it would be several years before I’d feel like I could take on a next-gen series in Signal Bend.
“Timeline issue?” you ask. It’s this: the Signal Bend Series starts in 2012 (which is relevant to the plot in various ways) and thus is timebound, so when I wrote eight books in that series by May 2014, each one advancing the story by about a year, I was significantly ahead of our actual calendar (the series epilogue covers several years and ends in 2026)—and then I wrote another series (The Night Horde SoCal) set in the same world, and two standalone sequels, which took the story all the way to 2030. In books that completed in 2015.
For me, fifteen years was a very far look into the future, and I felt like I’d be writing science fiction if I tried to imagine a world any farther ahead. As it turned out, the world has indeed changed significantly since I wrote Nolan. I’m glad I held off and let the real world, the story world, the characters, and my writing self mature a little before I headed up the off-ramp and drove past the Welcome to Signal Bend! sign again.
More than eight years have passed since I last wrote a story set in Signal Bend; more than a decade since I typed the first word in that world. I’m a savvier writer with vastly more experience. (For one thing, I’ve learned not to bind a contemporary romance so freaking tightly to the real-world calendar!) Perhaps more importantly, I’ve missed this world terribly—it is and will probably always be my very favorite place I’ve created—and I’m hungry to write new stories in it.
It’s finally time to return to Signal Bend.
Because I don’t write Young Adult romance and thus need my leads to at least be in their twenties, we’re still ahead of our calendar, but I have learned to vague such things up. Details like electric vehicles, stuff we all can predict the near future for pretty well, will be included in these stories, but nothing that you can hang a specific year on (I suppose if you were really motivated, you could do some character-age math and figure it out, but meh, why bother).
Christmas in Signal Bend is a standalone novella featuring Isaac, Lilli, and Gia, their daughter, as they navigate a stormy Christmas Eve and all the demands of a holiday. In this story, Gia is a college senior eager to be completely independent, while Isaac and Lilli remain committed to keeping her safe and on track. You know, the timeless story of parents and newly-grown children.
You don’t need to have read any of my books to enjoy this one, but if you have read the Night Horde books, then Christmas in Signal Bend also serves as a bridge from the stories I’ve written to the stories I’m planning and currently writing.
My current WIP is going sufficiently well that I feel confident enough in finishing it to announce the series: the first book of the Night Horde next-generation series readers have been asking for since 2014 is on deck, and it features Gia as the female lead. (I also introduce the male lead of this first book in Christmas, but it’s subtle and Gia and he don’t interact.)
Book One of the Signal Bend Heritage series is (barring catastrophe) coming in 2024. Keep an eye out for more info in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Christmas in Signal Bend reacquaints you with the town, the club, and the characters and gives you a glimpse of who they are now, several years older than you’ve known them before.
I hope you enjoy the trip!
Here’s the description:
A massive storm hits the Midwest on Christmas Eve. TV meteorologists are calling it “Snowmageddon” and predicting up to two feet of accumulation by dawn on Christmas morning. They warn everyone to be inside and off the roads by noon.
In Signal Bend, Missouri, the townspeople scramble to relocate their traditional Christmas Eve festivities indoors, to the compound of the Night Horde MC, and figure out how to retain some of the magic of their shared traditions. Lilli Lunden, a town leader and the old lady of former Horde president, Isaac, is in charge of that effort.
Lilli and Isaac have greater worries than trying to save the town Christmas. Their daughter, Gia, is still in Columbia, where she’s a senior at the University of Missouri. She’s making the 100-mile drive home on this day, over country roads, and she is not taking the weather forecast seriously. Isaac and Lilli try to get her home before the storm, but she thinks they’re being controlling and overprotective. She ignores their warnings, of course.
She shouldn’t have.
A Christmas in Signal Bend is the story of a Christmas in crisis and the efforts a family makes to come together and save the holiday. Among other things.
And a preview scene for a taste:
Lilli slammed her phone down on the table as Isaac walked into the kitchen. “Gah, that girl!”
Holding back a chuckle that could provoke a little domestic violence in his woman, Isaac went to her and kissed the top of her head—still the same deep, silky brown it had always been, though that color was chemically assisted these days; her natural peppercorn hair was about half salt.
She liked her hair dark, but Isaac couldn’t have cared less. Brunette, grey, white, or hell, even if she went bald, she was absolutely gorgeous to him and always would be. This woman had been in his life near a quarter-century, and she still took his breath away like the first day she’d filled his eyeballs.
“Mornin’, Sport. What’s our girl done now?”
Gia, the oldest of their two kids, was a senior at Mizzou, but even a hundred miles apart, she and her mom could still blow shit up between them. They’d been airtight when G was little, and they still loved each other hard and out loud, but sweet fuck, his girls could fight.
The beauty of them, and the problem, was that they were so much alike, in looks and temperament both, as to be practically identical. But whenever Isaac had said that aloud, to either of them, he’d needed to duck. Life hack: when your wife is raging about your willful, smart-mouthed daughter, or your daughter is bitching about her driven, demanding mother, avoid pointing out who she shares those traits with.
Those were some of Isaac’s favorite features of his girls, but neither liked him to point that out, either. So he watched their fireworks from the sidelines and went to each of them afterward and cleaned shit up.
“She hasn’t left Columbia yet!” Lilli growled and pushed her phone even farther away. “The storm’s supposed to hit around noon, and she’s hasn’t even packed up yet! She says she’s going to brunch with her friends first!”
For almost a week, weather reports had suggested that the Midwest could plan on a white Christmas, and for the past few days it had looked like Mid-Missouri, a region which included both Columbia to the north and Signal Bend to the south, would end up right in the middle of that frosty swath. Until last night, forecasts had indicated a likely fall of about six to eight inches, followed by a drop in temperatures that would leave the snow in place for days. Last night, with the storm barreling toward them, the forecast had upped to more than a foot. One of the weather folks had even used the term ‘Snowmageddon.’
In good driving conditions, the hundred country miles between Mizzou and their house took ninety minutes to two hours, depending on the weight of the driver’s right foot. Gia’s foot, like Lilli’s (and his own), was normally on the heavy side, but she was smart about driving to the weather conditions. Isaac checked his watch. “It’s eight-thirty. She’s got to get on the road by, say, ten at the latest. This storm’s gonna come in hard right away. She needs to be here before it starts.”
Lilli looked up at him with narrowed eyes. “Yes, love. I am aware. I told her every one of those things. She told me I was being hysterical—that is the word she actually used—so now I have to go burn all her presents.”
Isaac could not hold back that chuckle—and then it became a full-blown laugh and he sent his hands up quick in the you love me, so please don’t hurt me gesture he suspected all married people knew. “Sorry, sorry.”
“It is infuriating that you think all this is cute, Isaac.” Her tone was dire, but Isaac saw the way the corners of her lovely mouth quivered. She was fighting a smile.
He cupped her face in his hands. “I can’t help it. You’re both fuckin’ delightful.” She continued fighting off a smile, but she accepted his kiss. “How’d you leave it?” he asked as he pulled back before things got friskier than they had time for. With them, every kiss was foreplay. Their mutual lust hadn’t cooled even one degree over the years.
“She called me hysterical, Isaac,” Lilli answered, her face still nestled in his palms. “How do you think I left it?”
She’d hung up on their daughter. He wasn’t surprised; that was the go-to move for them both. If phones could actually be hung up in anger anymore, the two of them would have broken about a hundred handsets between them by now. “Right. You want me to call her?”
A long, deep, profoundly rhetorical sigh lifted Lilli’s chest, and she lifted her head from his hold. “That’s also infuriating, you know. But yes. Please talk some sense into our eldest child, since you are the only one she will hear sense from. I would prefer she not die from stubbornness and arrogance.”
She turned back to the scatter of papers on the table; she was going over the town Christmas Eve plans again—plans that would have to change dramatically if they were in for Snowmaggedon.
“You love her with your whole chest,” he pointed out as he kissed her head again.
“Yes, I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to strangle her from time to time.”
“That’s when you tag me in, Sport. I got this. I’m gonna get my coffee, then I’ll call our girl and get her headed home, and after that I’ll head out to the shop. I guess Bo’s already out there?”
Their son was an early-to-bed-early-to-rise type, well asleep by ten most nights and up before the sun most mornings. Lilli was an epically erratic sleeper who gave up around dawn. Isaac used to be able to sleep whenever he could and stay awake as long as he needed, but age had both wrecked his sleep and put him in bed longer each night. Most nights, he was too exhausted to focus by midnight but, even with weed, his sleep stuttered and sputtered until four or so in the morning, and then he slept like the dead until seven or eight.
Gia reliably got eight hours from whenever she closed her eyes, and she slept deeply—but that meant if she stayed up late, she started the next day late. That had caused quite a few blow-ups during high school, when the bus had come for her at quarter past six every morning, no matter how late she’d stayed up the night before. Though she was an actual genius, according to tests the school had done a few times, she’d had to do summer school after tenth grade because she’d missed so many classes from oversleeping.
In college, where she could make her own schedule, she was doing a lot better with that. Dean’s List, Honors College, that kind of better.
“Yep,” Lilli answered. “He was already working when I got up around six. He’s got that last order for Nolan and Iris, and he wants to deliver it by noon.”
It was Christmas Eve, and Bo was stressed that he was still filling orders. He liked to clear his book with a few days to spare. But his woodworking business had really taken off this year, and he’d been working ten- and twelve-hour days since before Halloween filling orders for Christmas gifts. Isaac, a woodworker himself, had been at his side daily since Thanksgiving, but there was a limit to the help Bo would allow.
“Okay. Well, I got my agenda for the morning, then. You need me for anything with all this?” He gestured at the dining room table.
Lilli made a face at the papers. “I don’t know. I’m going over to the B&B, and Shannon’s calling the other organizers over, so we can figure out if our Plan B will actually work. This was all a lot smaller the last time we had to relocate for weather. We can’t do it in the church basement this time.”
What had started, years ago, as a Night Horde Christmas Eve party had evolved into a whole-town celebration, part street festival, part charity drive, and still a party at the end. There was live music and dancing, caroling, food and game booths, a big bonfire, a gift collection and delivery—picked up by Santa on a sleigh (who then brought the toys around to the alley so they could load everything into the club van and actually deliver the gifts).
All that was meant to happen out of doors, in any but the worst weather. This year it looked like the worst was headed for them.
“How about the warehouse?” he suggested. The Night Horde owned and operated Signal Bend Construction, and the SBC warehouse was attached to the clubhouse. As it was winter and they weren’t doing any excavation or exterior work, the warehouse was full of heavy equipment, but, “I’ll talk to Show—we can put the machines on the lot and free up the floor.”
Lilli tilted her head a little, considering. “That could work. It’s not pretty in there, but if we get our asses moving, we could get decorations up and add some sparkle.”
“I’ll call Badge and see if he can spare the prospect to help you out. And shoot me a text if you need me. Bo and I should be free to help in a couple hours.”
As Isaac moved away from the table, Lilli shot her hand out and grabbed his wrist. “Hey,” she said as he turned back. “I want a better good-morning kiss.”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Isaac said and pulled his woman up and into his arms.
As he covered her mouth with his own, Lilli coiled her arms around his neck and curved into his body, fitting herself with him like they’d been designed that way. Their tongues came together in a dance they’d perfected over decades. Even with that long familiarity, their physical love had never become routine, mundane. Wrapped up with his woman was still Isaac’s favorite place in the world to be.
She wound his braid around her fist and pulled, and Isaac slipped his hands down to take hold of her still-magnificent ass. When she moaned and ground her hips against his, and he seriously considered sweeping all her papers to the floor and getting busy right here in the kitchen, Isaac instead ended the kiss. They had too much to do today for that kind of detour.
With his mouth brushing hers, their elevated breaths mingling, he growled softly and murmured, “Goddamn, Sport. I’ll be a hundred and still gettin’ hard for you.”
She chuckled softly and gave his bottom lip a gentle nip. “I’m counting on it.”
©2023 Susan Fanetti