Don’t miss the Writing Of and Reading Sample below!
Eager for a fresh start, Levi accepts a teaching position in the human-shifter community of Bear Creek. Focused on his students and the upcoming Christmas celebration, romance is the last thing on his gift list. However, when a local shifter shows interest, Levi’s recent breakup leaves him reluctant to get involved.
Just outside of town, Knox lives the simple, quiet life of an unmated shifter. When his bear picks up an intriguing and unforgettable scent, he’s determined to win over the cautious new music teacher. After a rough start, he patiently breaks down the walls around Levi’s heart, hoping for a future neither man thought possible.
Aided by the magic of Christmas, a cozy cabin, and a lot of snow, Knox and Levi discover love is the greatest gift of all. Follow the twinkle lights to Bear Creek for a warm and furry holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending! (Contains steamy M/M content.)
See what readers are saying!
“Elliott creates such a joyful world of characters that one is filled with appreciation for the blessings life has to offer. Tuck this one under your Christmas tree for a sweet read. Enjoy!” Lee, Hall of Fame Reviewer (Amazon)
“Elliott has written an exciting, imaginative, and delightful fantasy world full of possibilities. This story has endearing characters, who become engaged in the true meaning of Christmas. A great read to start the holiday season.” BB, ARC reader
“Bear Creek Christmas was a super love story and the highlight of my pre-Christmas Season. It is well written and made me feel warm and nostalgic. This is a must-read at Christmas time!” Charles, Amazon reviewer
“In the holiday tradition, Elliott gifts us with a new romance. It includes a bit of drama, danger, and steamy scenes to keep the reader engaged. This is a HEA tale all wrapped up in Yuletide Cheer!” DC, Amazon reviewer
The writing of BEAR CREEK CHRISTMAS
I’ve had a hankering to write a bear shifter story but never seemed to have the time. In addition, the lack of any holiday stories among my published books has been a splinter in the brain. After releasing Forbidden Moon, I realized I had a short time window to combine these two problems and have it ready for the Christmas season. On July 4th (another holiday!), I started writing. Almost four months and 60,000+ words later, Bear Creek Christmas was published on October 24, 2021.
In the beginning, I planned for this book to be a stand-alone romance. That idea flew out the window after only a few chapters, because if you know me, why write one book when it could be turned into a series? It makes sense, really. Readers prefer them, authors make more money, and there’s no sense wasting world-building on a single title. As a result, I decided to create a series of holiday books, all taking place in Bear Creek and featuring a new couple each time. I named it Holiday Mates.
Since I’ve been writing about wolf shifters for several years now, I wanted to spread my wings a bit and change things up. My bear shifters would be openly known and accepted among humans, and the stories would focus more on the growing relationship than drama and intrigue. I also decided that each romance would feature a shifter and his human mate, giving me more to play with, and each book guarantees a happy ever after!
Before I began the project, I didn’t realize how fascinating bears were—habits, physiology, reproduction, and their interaction with humans. Not only that, but there are crucial differences between types of bears. Need aggression and vicious claws? Get yourself some Grizzlies. On the other hand, Black Bears are perfect for romance—gentle, inquisitive, intelligent, and darn cute to boot!
The location for the book (and series) came from the real-life places black bears inhabit. While doing my research, I stumbled upon a tiny burg in eastern Pennsylvania called Bear Creek Village. Claiming artistic license, I shortened the name and used much of the real place to build my fictitious town of Bear Creek. The area is heavily forested, thick with black bears, and part of the Pocono Mountains—creating a perfect setting for the stories.
Along the way, I fell in love with the main characters, Knox and Levi. Read the book, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about! To prevent the series romances from being the same, I chose to give bear shifters a wide range of habits, temperaments, and attitudes—depending on how much they favored their ursine DNA. Some will think and act more like their bear half and others their human half, yet all will share similarities. Combine that with a striking array of human personalities, and you have the potential for some interesting relationships!
For this particular story, I drew from my own childhood memories to create some of the Christmas scenes in the book. Like every other family, we had traditions that may seem odd to others—from gift-giving to stockings, decorating to the holiday feast. Hopefully, my readers will identify with some of the things Knox and Levi experienced in their first Christmas season.
Readers may notice that I included very few religious references, and this was intentional. I did not want visceral differences of opinion to interfere with the overall story. Honestly, Christmas has been overrun by commercialism, greed, and the chance to take time off of work—eclipsing any spiritual significance it may have had. Sad, but true, so I steered clear of those issues and focused mostly on the romance. Besides, there’s no way to fit bear shifters into a realistic appreciation of Christ’s birth!
All in all, this was a fun book to write. As I gradually add to the series, my readers may see Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, or other holidays featured. I look forward to exploring the lives and loves of the residents of Bear Creek. Until then, go find yourself a warm, furry shifter!
Late July, Bear Creek, PA
Knox McCoy ambled along a well-worn path to his favorite mulberry grove and stood to begin feasting. He’d been waiting for the plentiful fruit to ripen, and his long, flexible tongue enabled him to gobble down the plump, sweet berries with alacrity. While he’d clearly scent-marked the area, the lure of fresh mulberries proved too difficult for interlopers to resist. He’d been forced to drive off more than one opportunist this season already.
Well before filling his cavernous belly, Knox picked up the scent of a female in heat. This one was persistent—in and out of his territory for weeks now, presumably waiting to catch him at the height of her cycle. Irritated, he wished he could ignore the mating season or at least lie low in a den somewhere until things were less crazy. He wasn’t interested in breeding a female, though at least this one wasn’t a shifter. Like the others, he’d intercept her well beyond his territory and chase her off.
Every year from June to August, the mating drive imposed a hyper-promiscuity on bears and their shifter cousins. Knox handled it by hooking up with a select group of male friends in the area. These annual encounters—a few moments of bury-the-bone and see ya later—served their purpose by temporarily calming the insistent urge to mate. Neither he nor his friends expected more.
As planned, Knox met the eager female with aggression until she finally gave up—chasing her a bit longer than necessary just to get the point across. He waited to make sure she wasn’t circling back for another attempt and then returned the way he came. There were, after all, more berries to enjoy before heading home to his cozy cabin north of town. The place was perfect for his bear: peaceful, isolated from neighbors, and surrounded by forest. Knox had everything he needed with a large conservation area nearby and an extension of Bear Creek Lake outside his front door. Well, nearly everything.
While his bear was content to be alone, his human side longed for a mate. Knox hadn’t met anyone interested in settling down, certainly not any fellow shifters, which left human males. None caught his eye in the small community of Bear Creek, and it wasn’t due to being overly picky. His kind was known for selecting mates based on a person’s inner qualities, but there weren’t enough available men to choose from. Now in his thirties, Knox feared ending up a lonely, grizzled old man with no one to love.
Meanwhile, Beechwood, OH
Not usually given over to dramatics, unless on stage, Levi Green heaved a deep sigh and grabbed the roll of tape to seal up another box. Statistics claimed that the average American moved almost a dozen times in their lifetime. As this would only be his second, he concluded the average American needed their head examined. The torturous process was little more than a monumental pain in the ass and should only be contemplated under extreme circumstances.
Laughing at himself, Levi hauled the box out to the living room and added it to the stack against the wall. There wasn’t much to see after selling all the furniture, and the apartment looked much like it did when he moved in five years ago. Never really “home” in his mind, it simply served as a convenient place to live—close to the school and not too far from his folks. He considered a house in the country much more appealing, assuming he could ever afford one.
Looking back, Levi appreciated cutting his professional teeth in the greater Cleveland school system—gaining valuable teaching experience while learning to navigate life on his own. He would definitely miss his parents and three younger siblings but realized a change was necessary if he were to be happy. The job offer from a school in northeast Pennsylvania allowed him to grow, both personally and professionally.
Bear Creek also happened to be a mixed human-shifter community, something new to Levi. Apparently, the town’s reputation included a bear-themed Christmas celebration every year involving the local schools. Levi adored the holidays, and being a vocal music teacher meant indulging his love of Christmas music through his students’ performances. Unfortunately, he knew nothing about shifters and wondered how the town combined the holiday with bears. He’d find out soon enough.
His new position required a long journey to another state but promised a simpler life and distance from his persistent ex-boyfriend. A glance at his phone showed several of Daniel’s calls already this morning, no doubt hoping Levi would suddenly change his mind about leaving. Not happening.
He cringed at the thought of wasting three years of his life with someone who never actually loved him. It took an overheard phone conversation to realize Daniel only wanted him as arm candy to impress his parents and social contacts. While nice to look at, Daniel considered Levi nothing but a mere teacher, socially and economically inferior. Their painful break-up left Levi angry, distrustful of love, and determined to keep men at arm’s length.
His parents were unhappy when he told them about the new job, concerned that he was running away from his problems instead of facing them head-on. Privately, Levi wondered if they might be right. Even if they were, he knew his heart better than anyone else and needed a fresh start on his own terms. In a couple of days, the reinvention of Levi Green would commence, and he couldn’t wait.
High school athletic wing, mid-August
Knox swept up the mess he’d made and began putting his tools away. The new trophy cases were finally finished, and they looked even better than promised. The job wasn’t difficult, only time-sensitive, given that school started in another week. The building additions and remodels slated for the summer took longer than anticipated, and a frantic call from the school board resulted in Knox taking on a last-minute rush project. Even better, the financial bonus for finishing on time would help replenish his bank account.
Before he could load up the last of his gear, Principal Langtree rounded the corner and stopped to admire his work.
“These look great! Your reputation is well-deserved, my friend. I told the board you’d come through for us.”
Knox pulled the final invoice from his pocket and handed it over.
“Thanks, Matt. I was about to stop by your office and let you know I’d finished. All you need to do is to shine up the glass, and they’re ready to go. If you can encourage the powers-that-be to cut me a check soonest, I would appreciate it.”
“No problem. I know you had to rearrange your schedule to fit us in, so give me a call if you don’t have it by the end of the week. It’s a relief to put all the construction behind us and focus on the upcoming term.”
Knox quirked an eyebrow.
“Any new staff this year? I’ve been out of the loop the last couple of months.”
Langtree grinned at the big man, knowing full well there were few secrets in a small town.
“Three, actually. We hired a head Librarian, added another custodian, and welcomed a new vocal music teacher to replace Mrs. Kramer.”
Knox’s irritated growl echoed in the empty corridor.
“It’s about time Kramer retired! Whoever you brought in is going to have their work cut out for them. That woman should have left a decade ago.”
Langtree winced. Like all bear shifters, Knox wasn’t shy about honestly speaking his mind, no matter who might be listening. In this case, he wholeheartedly agreed with him.
“Yes, well, we were fortunate to enlist a very talented fellow from out of state. He’s been busy setting up his classroom in the new addition and has some wonderful ideas. I can’t wait for the holiday concert this year.”
The town always went loopy at Christmastime, though Knox ignored most of it. He took part when asked, usually in bear form, but didn’t bother decorating his home or giving gifts. The season only served to remind him that he had no one to share it with anyway.
Knox gathered up the last of his tools and headed out to the truck. He lurched to a halt in the middle of the parking lot, nose twitching madly with a whiff of the most intriguing scent. Definitely a stranger, male, human, and irresistible. It seemed to be coming from the new Arts addition at the far end, and he drove slowly past with his windows rolled down.
The enticing odor increased until Knox reached a bright red Jeep with an Ohio license plate. The vehicle was drenched in that marvelous aroma, and he resolved right then to meet the owner up close and personal. He and his bear would see to it.
Levi looked up at a soft knock on the open office door to find a grinning Eden Shaw holding an enormous bag of take-out. His stomach obediently rumbled, and they both started laughing.
“I forgot again, didn’t I?”
Eden nodded vigorously.
“You did. I’ll let it pass this time, but if it happens again, you’re going to end up sitting in Principal Langtree’s office during recess!”
Levi abandoned the enormous stack of sheet music on his desk and joined Eden for a walk to the school cafeteria. He’d met the friendly art teacher on his first day in the building, also preparing her rooms for the beginning of the Fall term. The pretty brunette quickly brought him up to speed on who’s who and how things were run at Tri-County High. She proved to be friendly, funny, and helpful—distracting Levi from his “new school” jitters and quickly became his first friend in town.
All the lunch tables were empty, but they heard noises coming from the kitchen as the cooks put away a mountain of supplies in preparation for the first day. Eden picked a spot near the doors, and they divvied up the lunch special from China Garden. Levi noticed a lime-green bag next to her purse, emblazoned with the scripted word “DELICIOUS” and pointed at it.
“Looks interesting. What’s in there?”
Eden wasn’t ready to reveal her secret quite yet.
“That’s dessert, kiddo. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.”
Eden insisted on using the silly moniker, even though Levi could hardly be considered a kid at twenty-seven. Supposedly, a married mother of three in her forties enjoyed the right to coddle him, but he preferred to think of her as a much older, wiser sister instead.
“Fine, but you brought way more than I can eat in one sitting. Speaking of which, I need to find a local gym where I can work out. Any suggestions?”
Eden rattled off a couple possibilities, one in town and the other closer to Wilkes Barre. They chatted easily about family and other topics during the meal, and after they finished, Eden slid the fancy dessert bag in front of him.
“Prepare to be addicted! Delicious is one of our downtown shops, specializing in candy and other morsels. Mostly for humans, but some for our shifter friends. My husband, Calvin, would finish off the entire display case in one sitting if he could. The shop is run by Aiden Romero, and the man is a genius.”
Levi slid the heavy chocolate-covered candies onto a clean napkin—each one unique.
“These look good! What are they?”
“Aiden calls them nut-bombs. They’re sort of like turtles, only bigger and with more variety.”
Eden borrowed a butter knife from the kitchen, dividing each of the four into two pieces. Levi could almost feel the sugar and fat plaster itself to his butt as he nibbled and whimpered his way through all the varieties. He pointed an accusing finger at his friend.
“You are an evil and unnatural woman. Not only will I have to do an extra-heavy workout, but my brain is also insisting I go downtown for more. I don’t suppose these are the only edibles to be found at Delicious?”
The naughty look on Eden’s face spoke volumes.
“Nope! I’ve tried everything he makes, and there are maybe three things I don’t care for. I only shared this weakness with you so we can offer mutual support.”
“I need to have a serious talk with your mother.”
“Ha! No help there—she’s the one who got me hooked in the first place. Besides, you should meet Aiden. He’s a great guy, handsome, and about your age…”
Levi stiffened, eyes flashing with old hurt.
“Please don’t go there. I’m not interested in romance, so no matchmaking.”
Eden looked away, face flushed.
“Sorry, Levi. I didn’t mean to… I won’t bring it up again.”
On the walk back to the Arts wing, Levi broached the subject of the holidays, and Eden gladly filled him in.
“Christmas is a very big deal in Bear Creek, and the town goes all out to provide a unique experience for shoppers. As a result, most businesses make as much during the season as they do the rest of the year. The bear shifter population also takes part, and lots of people from the surrounding area come to see them. I already know you’ll be asked to help, though I heard the committee has something new in mind this year.
“I sure hope you like the holidays, because everyone is involved, including the music, art and drama departments and our students. Unless they have a religious objection, participation becomes part of their first-semester grade. Besides the school Christmas concert, you’ll be expected to provide roving carolers on the weekends and small groups for various functions around town. Thanks to Blanche Kramer, don’t be surprised if your juniors and seniors dread the holidays. Everyone is hoping you can whip up something fresh and exciting for a change.”
Levi was already itching to get started, with more ideas than he could possibly put to use.
“I’m hoping for a memorable year myself, and my students are going to have a lot of fun. By the way, do you know the exact dates of Bear Creek’s holiday season?”
Eden pulled out her phone to look at the calendar.
“Everything kicks off on Black Friday, which is November twenty-sixth, and it ends December twenty-fourth. By the time Christmas day arrives, you’re going to need the winter break!”