Sneak Peek – The Widow’s Watcher

Y’all are gonna get tired of me popping up, waving this book at you. I apologize in advance. Writers are a funny breed. Most of the ones I’ve met are modest by nature, but due to the state of things (bills, yo) also need to be out hawking their wares. I can say with certainty however, there’s not a writer anywhere who isn’t forever grateful for every single reader who’s taken a chance on them. See, we know it’s not just the cost of a cup of coffee. It’s your precious time. It’s your company on a journey. Most of all—if we’ve done our jobs well—it’s your heart.

So without further ado, I’ll leave this here. The first chapter of my latest book, due to be released by Lake Union Publishing on May 29, 2018. If you’re so inclined, there’s a link to pre-order included at the end of the excerpt, with many thanks and an appreciative salute from Texas. I see you there, and I love you all the best.

As always, happy reading.
~ E


The Widow’s Watcher


“You didn’t have to leave the dog behind.”

Jenna kept her eyes on the road, wheels between the lines.

“I did, Cassie. You know I did.” An undertow of weariness dragged at her limbs.

“The first rule of writing: make your protagonist relatable. Likable, even. Abandoning the dog with strangers? Not so much.”

Jenna sighed.

“I’m not a protagonist, Cass. This isn’t a novel, and the Davises aren’t strangers.”

“They’re strange all right. Especially their creeper son.”

Each word dripped with teenage derision. It wore on Jenna like sand against stone. It was always there, rubbing. Given enough time, it could take down mountains.

“He’s not a creeper.”

“Beckett doesn’t like him,” Cassie said, as if that were the final judgment of the universe. “Beck likes everybody.”

“I don’t want to talk about this. Beckett’s fine. You know I couldn’t bring him.”

In the span of silence that followed, Jenna hoped her eldest daughter had let it go. The relief was short-lived. Cassie merely changed her tactic.

“Opening a book with the main character driving a car is a cliché, by the way.”

Jenna clenched her jaw and bit back a retort. Breathe, she thought. Just like the nurses told you during childbirth. Breathe.

Who knew that was intended as a life lesson?

When the nurse had laid Cassie in her arms, Jenna had laughed, wide and openmouthed. Warriors in battle the two of them were, she and her brave, howling daughter. They’d fought valiantly, shedding blood and coming up victorious on the other side. Her laughter blended with Cassie’s cries, their voices rising together.

“I know, love,” she’d whispered to the little life in her arms. “This is new for me too. We’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out together.”

Such confidence. Such naivety.

“Where are we going anyway? Do you have the faintest idea?”

“Cassie, lay off. Please.”

“A scene should have a point, Mom. Cause and effect, a drive toward a goal. Wandering aimlessly with no apparent destination isn’t going to cut it.”

“Enough!” Jenna said. Her breath quickened, her anxiety cranking up at the badgering. “Enough now, Cass.”

I have a goal, Jenna thought. Just not one I intend to discuss with you, thank you very much.

As Cassie had grown, Jenna had slowly but inevitably discovered that this child, her child, wasn’t an extension of herself.

“They spend their whole lives walking away from you,” the kindergarten teacher had said on her little girl’s first day. “Your job now is to be there when they look back.”

Jenna’s eyes had searched her daughter out as she introduced herself to a little boy, the two of them launching into an animated discussion about whatever pressing matters five-year-olds discuss.

But Cassie never looks back, Jenna thought as she stood in the doorway waiting to wave goodbye to a child who’d forgotten she was there.

Oh, but the stories. The stories were the flickering light of a lone star in an inky-blue sky. The fantastical, sweeping stories that had begun before Cassie could even write them.

This, Jenna had thought. This is it. Tangible evidence my DNA runs somewhere through this kid.

There’d been times she’d wondered. Was it possible the child had been switched in the hospital? Had some sly nurse slid into her room while she dozed and slipped a changeling into her arms, then snuck away into the night with her real daughter?

What had become of the daughter Jenna always thought she’d have? The shy, studious girl who would hide when visitors came? The child who would pull the bottom drawer out of her dresser, dump out the contents, and snuggle into her self-made nest with a pillow and a picture book?

That daughter came later. They named her Sarah, their second born.

But Cassie wasn’t her sister, or her mother, and never would be.

Accepting that made it easier for Jenna to appreciate and celebrate the daughter she did have. The wild, willful, wonderful daughter.

“Unless your goal is to end up stranded on the interstate in the middle of nowhere—which is fine if you’re going for horror, but not really your style—you need to put gas in the car, Mom.”

“Thank you, Cassie, for that astute observation. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Neither do I.”

If the stories were a star in the sky, Jenna had been tracking that star her entire life. From a practical distance. She’d majored in journalism. Journalism was a marketable skill.

A springboard, she’d told herself. I’ll write that novel one day. When the time is right.

When Matt had encouraged Jenna to take a hiatus from her job and write the book she’d always planned, she’d hesitated.

“If not now, then when?” His optimism confounded her.

Cassie had other plans.

“I’ve decided to self-publish my book,” her daughter had declared at dinner a few months later.

“Wait . . . what?” Jenna’s fork stalled midair.

“Have you considered how to do it?” Matt asked. Cassie launched into a surprisingly well-researched discussion about platform and distribution, marketing and cover design.

The glob of pasta on Jenna’s fork lost its balance and plopped onto her plate. Her insides felt similarly flattened.

“It’s crazy,” she whispered to Matt that night while she massaged lotion onto her face. Her skin had started to show wear and tear approximately the day Cassie was born.

“I don’t know if crazy is the word I’d use.”

“What would you call it, then?”

Matt shrugged, his back turned as he pulled off his T-shirt. “Proactive? Enterprising?” He walked toward her and put his hands on her shoulders. He pulled her into a hug. “I’d call it brave.”

His chin rested on the top of her head. She listened to his strong, steady heartbeat.

“You don’t understand. You’re supposed to toil and shed blood and paper your walls with rejections. You learn from that, and they’re hard lessons. That’s how you become a writer.”

Matt again. “I guess Cass decided to do it her own way, Jen.”

“But what if the book’s not ready? What if she’s not ready? What if it’s not good enough and she’s buried under the failure?”

Jenna backed up to look her husband in the eyes as she shared her real fear.

“She’s so talented, Matt. And so young. What if she gives up?”

Matt managed to hide the smile lurking beneath the surface, but Jenna knew it was there.

“Then she’ll deal with that. And we’ll be there to help her. But, honey . . . our daughter? She’s not the kind of girl that gives up. She’s not that fragile.”

He didn’t say it, didn’t mean it, didn’t even consider what Jenna would hear in those words. Despite his intentions, not like her mother rang clearly in her head.

Jenna’s fears were unfounded. They often were. Cassie’s book was good. Could she see her daughter’s youth in places? Sure. But there were also glimpses of the woman Cassie would become—strong, decisive, and confident in herself and her words.

Cassie was destined to become the woman Jenna aspired to be.

And every vestige of that was gone now.

Jenna’s eyes were drawn to the passenger seat of the van, to the old wooden box that had been her grandmother’s.

It was all gone.

Jenna jerked the wheel and drove the minivan she no longer had any use for onto an exit ramp.

Everything was gone.

She was left with nothing. Nothing but her eldest daughter’s voice in her head and a carved wooden box that cradled the ashes of the family she used to have.


The Widow’s Watcher, available for pre-order now.


Blessed Silence


At some unknown point last year, the stereo in my car gave up and died.

In the midst of the chaos my children inherently trail in their wake, it nearly went unnoticed. Like many parents, I spend my days navigating a fluid list of things that need attention. They range from, “Buy groceries or it’ll be broken tortilla chips from the bottom of the bag and gum for dinner again,” to the really important things like, “Purge kids’ rooms of junk while they’re not home and can’t spear me on the twin javelins of betrayal and their unholy attachment to all things plastic.”

Getting the car radio fixed couldn’t compete and fell into the abyss of all things “low priority”, along with other stuff I’m never going to do and won’t admit. Things like organizing the sock drawer based on what gives me joy—each pair matched, gently rolled, and tucked into designated cubicles, serial killer style.

To my amazement, and without intention, that broken radio opened the door for something magical to happen.

At least during the hours the kids were in school, silence reigned supreme.

The noise was pushed back and in the space left behind my mind wandered wherever the hell it felt like wandering. And in the middle of that newfound peace, one scene bloomed, whole and complete.

Just one, but it was the one. The one I couldn’t let go of. The one that demanded a frantic search for the rest of the story to frame it. The one that brought me to ugly tears in the middle of traffic. The one that, after umpteen drafts and edits and proofreads, still brings me to tears.

Those tears, of joy and grief and regret and hopefulness, all mixed up and swirling together, became the touchstone of a new novel.

The Widow’s Watcher releases on May 29, 2018, and I cannot wait! I have zero hesitation admitting it’s my favorite of the books I’ve written so far.

I hope you’ll take a chance on it and add it to your Goodreads shelf or request it from your local library or, if you’re feeling generous, pre-order it here.

I’m not going to tell you which scene came first, but if you read the book, I trust you’ll have a pretty good guess.

Stay tuned for a cover reveal soon.  And if you happen to be one of those lovely people who blog about books (a.k.a. book angels) and you’re interested in an advance review copy, please let me know and I’ll happily get you a copy as soon as they’re available to me.

This one came from a deep and quiet place in my heart, and my greatest hope is that it finds a place in yours.


From Eliza Maxwell, the bestselling author of The Unremembered Girl, comes a gripping novel about the mysteries that haunt us and the twists of fate that can unravel them . . .

Living in the shadow of a decades-old crime that stole his children from him, reclusive Lars Jorgensen is an unlikely savior. But when a stranger walks onto the ice of a frozen Minnesota lake, her intentions are brutally clear and the old man isn’t about to let her follow through.

Jenna Shaw didn’t ask for Lars’s help, nor does she want it. After he pulls her from the brink however, Jenna finds her desire to give up challenged by their unlikely friendship. In Jenna, Lars recognizes his last chance for redemption. And in her quest to solve the mysteries of Lars’s past and bring him closure, Jenna may find the way out of her own darkness.

But the truth that waits threatens to shatter it all. When secrets are surrendered and lies laid bare, Jenna and Lars may find that accepting the past isn’t their greatest challenge. Can they afford the heartbreaking price of forgiveness?

Best and warmest wishes to you all, and, as always, happy reading!
~ Eliza


A letter to me at ten

I see you there.  Yep.  You.  With your nose buried in a book, hanging out on the backyard on the swing Dad made from two ropes and a board.  You don’t think anyone’s watching, but memory is a tricky thing, and I remember the feel of the springtime wind through your tangled ponytail and the gentle sway as you push off the ground absentmindedly with bare toes.

Your brother is probably down by the creek, fishing.  I’ll tell you a secret—today, three decades later, your brother is probably still fishing somewhere.  I can smell the chicken and dumplings wafting outward from the kitchen, too.  And another secret—no matter how many times you try, you’ll never be able to make that recipe as well as Mom can.


There are so many things I wish I could say to you. I’d give you a list of guys to avoid, for your teenage self to reference, but you wouldn’t listen anyway.  And besides, without the frogs you probably wouldn’t recognize a prince when you find one.

I’d tell you to choose a small college, not a major state university.  You don’t understand it yet, and won’t for a long time, but you’re an introvert, love, and you always will be.

I’d tell you not to worry when your parents divorce.  A decade will pass, but eventually they’ll circle back and find one another again.

I’d tell you that all those times Mom says she hopes you have a daughter just like you, well that happens, and it’s not such a bad deal after all.


I so wish I could tell you to hug your grandmothers tightly, both so tightly.  There will come a time when you’ll miss them more than your ten-year-old heart can imagine.

I’d like to tell you about today.  Your forty-year-old self.  Less than two weeks to go until the launch of your first novel with a major publisher.  Mom, wife, daughter, sister—writer.  You’re a writer, love.  You did it.

That dream you have the seeds of, even now, buried deep under your ever so practical side.  It will be a while, but every step you take—every mistake, every heartbreak, every joy—will help you down the bumpy road to becoming the writer you’re destined to be.  For better or worse.

So you go ahead and soak in those stories, so many stories, even the ones the prissy librarian believes inappropriate for your age.  Go ahead and nurture that dream, quietly, and with patient persistence.  One day, that dream will bloom.  Trust me.  I know.

But I can’t tell you any of that.  You wouldn’t hear me even if I could.  You’re immersed in A Wrinkle in Time, so I’ll leave you to it.

Now We’re Cooking!

So stupendously excited to share some news on the book front!  I’ve been sitting on it for weeks now, but the ink is dry, and I can officially announce that Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon’s traditional publishing arm, has picked up THE GRAVE TENDER for re-publication in 2017.  And the good news doesn’t end there!

Around the same time that a fairy godmother, in the form of one lovely Miriam Juskowicz, sprinkled a little Amazon fairy dust into my inbox, I can confirm that good things do, in fact, come in threes.  In no particular order, that includes an offer of representation by the equally lovely literary agent Katie Shea Boutillier of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

And you remember, I said threes, right?  Right.  As if that weren’t excitement enough to send me into a full-on meltdown, Lake Union has contracted a brand spanking new book!


Okay.  Freak out has commenced.

Pinterest and Writing

I have a confession.  I’m addicted to Pinterest.  It’s a drug, no doubt.  Aside from giving me “crafty” ideas– which I can never quite pull off, but that’s neither here nor there– Pinterest has taught me I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra for the majority of my life, and how to make creme brûlée.  Well, how to make creme brûlée at some unspecified future date, since let’s be real here, who has time for that?  I am, however, the proud new owner of a super-awesome butane chef’s torch.  It’s still in the package of course, but hey, one day.

So when an idea for a new novel starts rattling around in my head, I turn to my drug of choice.   Character inspiration, locations, beautiful potential cover art, the possibilities are endlessly arrayed right there in front of me.

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I’ll leave a link here.  If you read the book, I’d love to hear how the images stack up against the ones you have in your head.

Novel Storyboards on Pinterest

All the best,


For the record


My mom hates this picture.  I posted it on a social media site not long ago and she just about flipped her lid.  That’s me, on the left, and my brother on the right.  And yes, he is, as a matter of fact, drinking a beer.  A Natural Light, to be exact.

She didn’t believe me, so I pulled up a pic of an old school Natty Light can, and it’s pretty hard to deny.  For the record, this wasn’t a regular occurrence, hence the scandalized hands-upon-the-head, and the need to document the moment with a polaroid for posterity.  I have no doubt my mom wasn’t around that day, because she wasn’t in the habit of feeding her toddlers alcohol.

Nevertheless, I love this pic.  I can almost feel the heat that would have been beating down on our heads, and the sticky humidity that came along with it like a big bully of an older brother.  Nostalgia comes in all shapes and forms, sometimes even in an old photo that irritates your mother.