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Holiday Crafting by Linda Reilly

Need a spare? Here’s one to share!

Most of my days are spent hunkered over my computer, pounding away at my current work-in-progress. But once a month, I get together with the crafts group at my apartment community for laughs and crafts and general camaraderie.

Since some of us (ahem…) don’t sew, we look for projects that are fun, economical, and not terribly hard to make. If possible, we like to make them in one sitting, which is why this particular project was absolutely perfect for our October meeting! One of my crafty gals, as I like to call us, found some instructions online (thank you!) for making toilet paper pumpkins:


  • Roll of toilet paper (any size, but I like plumper ones)
  • 1 fat quarter (for the pumpkin I used tie-dyed orange)
  • Cinnamon sticks (or branches cut from a tree)
  • Fake or silk leaves

I confess that until a few months ago, I had no idea what a fat quarter was. It wasn’t until I went to a friend’s quilting show that I stumbled on them: a fat quarter is a piece of fabric that measures 18” by 22” and is used widely in quilting. If you were to purchase a yard of material from a bolt of fabric and divide it into equal quarters, one would be a fat quarter. But anyway, here’s how to put together your TP pumpkin:

  • Place the toilet paper roll in the center of the fat quarter
  • Starting with one corner, tuck the fabric into the center of the roll (if you fold it slightly as you go along, it makes the lines in the pumpkin)
  • After the fabric is firmly tucked into the center, simply add some fake leaves and a cinnamon stick (or tree branches) — there’s no need to use glue unless you feel you want to secure it a bit. On my first try, I’d cut a slender branch from a tree, but then thought it was too skinny. Luckily, I had a scrap of brown felt, so I wrapped it around the branch and glued it together to form the stem.

A tip: If you’re not crazy about the way it came out the first time around–no biggie! Just unwrap the whole thing and start over until it looks right to you.

I think these darling TP creations make whimsical hostess gifts, don’t you? Plus…when you need an emergency spare, it’s right there! (I placed ours on the back of our bathroom tank) J

With some extra doodads I had, I made a TP kitty and a snowman. I think they’ll make ideal holiday gifts for Lara and Aunt Fran at the High Cliff Shelter for Cats. I wonder which of the cats will tear them apart first! Continue reading “Holiday Crafting by Linda Reilly”


Books, Books and More Books!

Slay in Character (Cat Latimer Mystery, #4)

A Cat Latimer Mystery #4

Staying in character can be murder when Cat Latimer and the members of her writers’ retreat head for a ghost town . . . 

This is the fourth book in the Cat Latimer series. Cat and her band of characters are getting better with each book.

This was my favorite so far. There were so many interesting twists and turns and shady people that at one point I wasn’t sure they weren’t all guilty. Even though I had my suspicions early on, the interaction with the writers at the retreat and the underlying stories of Shauna and Seth were so good.

I always wind up learning something from Lynn’s books and that is a big plus for me. Whether it’s a writing tip, a baking or cooking tip or some good historical knowledge about Colorado, it’s just that she goes that little bit of extra…

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My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford

Because our holiday get-togethers can be a little too big for anyone’s dinner table – there are often 40-45 people – we tend to go for a very non-traditional everyone-bring-something holiday meal. Last year we had around forty family members, plus some foreign exchange students whose host families were traveling out of town. They were slightly confused by the informal atmosphere. We’re guessing it was nothing like they’d seen in American movies. But the nice thing about the only-slightly-planned collection of dishes is that a few more last-minute guests present no problem.

I was thrilled recently, in a discussion about what everyone brings, to find my Corny Corn Casserole is a favorite of several family members. It’s a family recipe from a co-worker who always made it for her own family and so in my recipe box it’s listed as “Mary’s Corny Corn Casserole.” It’s also one of my favorite types of recipes – easy ones! So, here you have it:

Mary Lee’s Corny Corn Casserole


  • 1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained.
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Instructions: Continue reading “My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford”

Leanna’s Suggestions for Dressing like your favorite Books and Book covers by Leanna Renee Hieber

If you know me, you know I’m always dressed in some sort of vaguely antiquated regalia. It’s not a costume, it’s my life. My closet is a time-slip between 1980’s Goth and 1880s Gothic. If you don’t know me, now you know a very important thing about me that you can spot easily in a crowd. Yes, I’m the girl who looks like she’s ready for an intense Victorian funeral 24/7. Hello! (Don’t worry, don’t let any somber finery fool you, I’m friendly.) Does this relate to books and book covers? Of course! My favorite line to say at any event is: “If you like my clothes, you’ll like my books, I dress like I write.” My books are very “me” and there isn’t any pretense there. So, my style advice? Celebrate the authentic you as paired with your favorite things. Make anything you present be something from the heart. Merge your favorite art and your style as entwined.

In dressing like your favorite books, characters and book covers, think not only about the style of the cover but the spirit of the book itself and honoring the characters within. Not all my characters dress in the classic Gothic black, but many do, as does the heroine of The Spectral City, out of respect for her ghost colleagues, and she learned that trick from a few of my other characters who are Gothic performers. What I present in a visual, fashion representation is still all related to my world-building. I’m very familiar with the cosplay world and I relish the chance to live in other worlds by dressing in their honor.   Continue reading “Leanna’s Suggestions for Dressing like your favorite Books and Book covers by Leanna Renee Hieber”

Holiday Food Traditions by Lynn Cahoon

For me, the holidays are defined by the food. Easter is ham day. (And my mom’s bunny cake.) Memorial Day starts the run of summer barbeques.  Halloween is about the candy, and maybe a caramel apple. And Thanksgiving is about the turkey.

So what about Christmas, what food memories do I bring to the December holiday? All of them. My family was a ham and turkey family.  Along with mashed potatoes, frozen corn, pumpkin pies, and tons of cookies and candy.  Friends would drop off large boxes of candies, tins of cookies, and more.

Memories around food surround me. My mom used to buy what’s now called truffles, but we just called them chocolates, in bulk. I loved the cherry ones. But you didn’t know what flavor you would get. So I scratched the bottom of each candy to see the color until I found a red one. It used to drive my mom crazy.

My sister brought sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin pie one year. I thought she was crazy. Why, oh, why would you change something that was so yummy? I don’t remember even tasting it. I didn’t, and still l don’t, like change. But I’m getting better. I took our pie and turned it into a pumpkin marble cheesecake. I married someone who was just as unhappy with change as I used to be. But my mother in law, loved it. Continue reading “Holiday Food Traditions by Lynn Cahoon”

Pierogi Bring Poland to the Christmas Table by Bethany Blake

Although my father was of Hungarian descent, Eastern European traditions, including foods, were not part of our holiday celebrations. We ate ham and turkey and green bean casserole in December. The stuff on tables in Norman Rockwell paintings.

My husband’s family, meanwhile, basically dragged Poland with them when they moved to the U.S. To walk into his parents’ house is to giant-step across the ocean—especially on Christmas Eve, when the whole clan gathers for something called wigilia.

It’s a feast of symbolic foods, and, I’m going to be honest, I dislike nearly all of them, from the multiple manipulations of cabbage and beets to the mushrooms with something called “groats.”

My saving grace at this meal?


Dumplings filled with potatoes, drenched in butter and caramelized onions and slathered in sour cream… My mouth is watering right now.

Better yet? There is a quiet pierogi war among the women of the family, who bring the same dish, yet their own distinctly different variations, to the table each year.

A holiday dough-and-’tater grudge match with jealousies simmering like dumplings in water?

Count this murder mystery writer in!

In fact, one year, I couldn’t stand just sitting ringside anymore. Ignoring my children’s warnings, and my husband’s desperate pleas, I brought my own pierogi to wigilia, springing the lumpy little pockets onto an unsuspecting crowd. Several dumplings were politely eaten. Many were sent home. Much laughter probably ensued after we drove away.

But you know what? Continue reading “Pierogi Bring Poland to the Christmas Table by Bethany Blake”

Gifts to Rock a Reader’s World By Ellery Adams, The Whispered Word: A Secret, Book, and Scone Society Mystery

Gift giving isn’t easy. In fact, some would say it’s a fine art. We all want the special people in our lives open our gifts and smile with genuine delight.  Not a forced smile, but the big, brilliant smile of someone who loves what they’ve been given.

It can be a challenge to buy a booklover the perfect gift. After all, we can’t always know what our favorite reader has on their TBR pile or what they’re planning to binge read next. If they have a public Amazon wish list, you might discover a few titles to buy. If not, think about their all-time favorite books and find them a beautiful version of that book. They’ll proudly display this prize front and center on the bookshelf.



You can surprise the reader in your life by buying a first edition, a signed copy, or a special illustrated volume of one of their most beloved books. For example, what Ian Fleming fan wouldn’t kill for a Classic Library version of Thunderball?  How about an amazingly artistic Pride and Prejudice with a gilt peacock on the cover for your Austen aficionado? Does your bookworm love classic children’s stories? How about presenting them with The Chronicles of Narnia as a pop-up book? These and thousands of other titles can be found on my favorite online shop for purchasing rare and unusual books:



Books aren’t the only things to buy a reader. After all, a cozy reading environment is a plus.  To help create this environment, you could wrap up a super soft blanket or book-themed candles like Bookstore, Reading at the Cafe, or Rainy Day Reads as sold by the Etsy shop, Frostbeard. You could also add a pair of book print socks or a box of Novel Teas (each teabag features a literary quote). Remember, winter’s coming. Continue reading “Gifts to Rock a Reader’s World By Ellery Adams, The Whispered Word: A Secret, Book, and Scone Society Mystery”

Cover Reveal!

“Explodes with action, spice and humor.” –Publishers Weekly on Hidden

Hunter Holt might be the most stubborn ex-soldier ever born, but when he’s called on to help find a lost foster kid, he jumps into action. Even if it means working with the woman who broke his heart five years ago—the woman who still haunts his dreams . . .

“Fans of J. D. Robb and Karen Robards will love Zanetti’s series start.” –Booklist on Hidden

Faye Smith has spent five long years trying to get her life back on track. She knows she should’ve turned toward Hunter and not away from him. But they both had too many demons to destroy. Maybe now they’ll get another chance—and save someone else’s life too . . .

“Spicy romantic interplay; Highly recommended.” —Library Journal on Vampire’s Faith

But first they’ll have to stop arguing long enough to trust the Deep Ops team. Hunter was a lost boy himself once. In fact, he ran away from the exact same man, their monster of a father. Now he and Faye will have to unite to find the brother he never knew—and maybe each other . . .


Diana Cosby’s International Food Bank Food Drive Challenge

It’s the holidays again, an emotion-filled time where it seems there are not enough hours in each day to fit everything in.  In this busy time, I ask each of you to please consider one more stop on your crazy to do list, that of making a donation to a local food bank.  Your donation can be a dollar, a can of food, whatever you can give.  With the hurricanes, fires, and flooding that have affected so many this year, anything you can offer is a gift to those working to rebuild their lives.

I volunteer for Habitat For Humanity, and something amazing happens when you allow a person a flicker of hope, that somehow, incredibly, even a stranger understands that at times life shoves us on a road we never asked for.

Several years ago, in addition to my personal donation to my local food bank, I decided to start a Food Bank Challenge.  Except, it kind of wonderfully got out of hand.  Amazingly, once I posted The Food Bank Challenge on my Facebook page and my Facebook reader page, people from across the U.S. began donating to their local food banks and sharing on my Food Bank Challenge post.  Then, I read posts of donations from Canada.  Holy cow, the Food Bank Challenge had gone international!  And you know what, this is truly a blessing.  In this venture, we all win.  Gifts from the heart do that, they fill you, remind you there is good in the world, and that you can make a positive as profound difference in others lives.

How it works:  Starting November 3rd, when you donate to a local food bank or food drive, write beneath my International Food Bank Challenge post on my Facebook page, or, Facebook Author page, that you donated. ( ) Continue reading “Diana Cosby’s International Food Bank Food Drive Challenge”

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