Hobby Reads

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A Hobby for People Who Are Terrible at Hobbies by Tamara Berry

I’ve always wanted to have a hobby. One of my favorite things in the whole world is when people find something that brings them joy, and then they commit to doing it with their whole hearts. I’m often a spectator at things like Renaissance Fairs, quilt shows, bicycle rallies, ghost hunting tours, and the like because I adore seeing people unapologetically doing their thing.

…which is what makes it so difficult that I’ve never been able to find a “thing” of my own. I could cheat and say that reading is my hobby (hey, it counts!), but it’s hardly the stuff that makes for a good cozy mystery backdrop.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to find the right hobby. Last winter, I took up knitting. The winter before, it was cross stitching. There’s a sewing machine somewhere in the deep recesses of my storage closet, languishing alongside a miniature Victorian dollhouse I tried to build from one of those kits. I’ve baked (not very well). I’ve played sports (see above). I even took up jogging for a while (that one was a mistake). In the end, it turns out there’s only one thing I return to time and time again: extreme dot-to-dots.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Dot-to-dots don’t count as a hobby, even if you put the word EXTREME in front of it. (Not even if you write it in all capital letters.) But these books have been my tried-and-true way to relax and unwind for years. Like the adult coloring book craze (which, yes, I’ve also tried), you can detach your brain and create something from nothing without any sort of skill or training. And because my mind isn’t fully engaged on the task, I can often work out tricky mystery plotting problems while I do it.

Someday, I’d like to find a more traditional—and productive—way to spend my downtime, but while there are kids in the house and books to be written, I find that this fills in the gaps just fine. Plus, I’m now amazing at drawing straight lines between two points.


“Don’t miss out on this first in a promising series!” —Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author

When something goes bump in the night . . . it’s most likely a plumbing problem, or something equally mundane. But fake medium Eleanor Wilde is happy to investigate and cleanse your home of spectral presences—for a fee. Hey, it’s a living . . .

Ellie has an ailing sister to care for, and working as a ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts helps cover the bills for both of them. When she’s lucky, it also pays for the occasional tropical vacation. Her brother doesn’t exactly approve, but Ellie figures she’s providing a service. On her latest job, though, she may be in for some genuine scares.

The skeptical, reserved, and very rich Nicholas Hartford III has flown her all the way to his family’s ancestral estate in England—supposedly haunted by a phantom named Xavier. Nicholas thinks it’s all just as much a crock as Ellie’s business is, but the fact remains that something is causing the flashes of light, mysterious accidents, and other apparent pranks in the chilly, eerie castle. His mother is sure that Xavier is real, and he’s willing to employ Ellie if she can get to the bottom of it and put a stop to the nonsense.

While the food and accommodations are somewhat disappointing (dorm-room furniture? Really?), Ellie is finding it an adventure to get to know this eccentric family and their houseguests, and to poke around in the nearby village for clues. But when an actual dead body appears—and subsequently disappears—at Castle Hartford, she’ll have to apply her talent for trickery and psychological insight to solve a flesh-and-blood murder.

“When a saucy pseudo-psychic is hired to rid an ancestral estate of its alleged resident ghost, things are bound to get interesting. Add to that a charming English village, an eccentric family, and a killer on the loose, and Séances are for Suckers delivers a winning blend of mystery and the paranormal, with a little humor and romance thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss out on this first in a promising series!” —Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series

“A mystery with a haunted castle? What’s not to love? Tamara Berry weaves a fun story with likable characters and a plot that kept me guessing until the end.” —Rose Pressey, USA Today bestselling author of the Haunted Vintage Mystery series

Why I Write About Animals by Kristin Von Kreisler

As I’ve been promoting A Healing Justice, people have asked why I write about animals.  My answer is simple:  There’s no way I could not write about them.

I was born on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, and I have always been supremely sensitive to creatures.  My father took me as a child to western movies; and when cowboys dug their spurs into horses’ sides, I cried so hard that he had to take me to the lobby.  During a drought in Texas, where I grew up, I worried the whole summer after third grade about the thirsty deer, raccoons, and squirrels.  All my life I rescued dogs and kitties.

As an adult, I became a freelancer for magazines but never thought of writing about animals.  Then I had an accident and injured four disks in my spine.  Unable to work for months, I lay on my office sofa with Beatrice, my beloved beagle, loyally cuddled up beside me, and I didn’t know if I’d ever be pain-free enough to write again.

When your career is hanging in the balance like that, you do some serious thinking.  And I slowly realized that I’d been frittering away my life, writing about subjects that had meant nothing to me – and I’d left my heart behind in the dust.  I wondered, what’s the meaning of my life?  Beatrice reminded me that, no matter our species, meaning comes by loving and helping others.  One day it occurred to me that I had always loved animals more than anything — so I should write about them and try to improve their lives. Continue reading “Why I Write About Animals by Kristin Von Kreisler”

Playing Dress-Up with the Oliveras Familia

When you have little girls who love playing dress-up and performing, it’s only natural that you have one (or more) dress up boxes. And while many little girls outgrow the dress-up stage, in our house, most of us never did.

That’s why, if you venture into our attic at home, you’ll find not one, but two boxes filled with costumes my girls and I have worn throughout the years. I’ve been known to window shop in a second-hand store only hold up and item and exclaim, “This would be great for a costume!” Then promptly add it to our growing collection.

When it’s Halloween, I’m slipping into a costume to hand out Trick or Treat candy, head to a costume party, or brighten the atmosphere at the day job.

When it’s Oscars night, our house is typically teaming with friends and familia who’ve joined us in costume—with extra points for those who come dressed as a character from a film nominated that year. From animated films to comedies to dramas…we’ve represented the gamut. With the pics to commemorate the good times. Continue reading “Playing Dress-Up with the Oliveras Familia”

Paper Mache Crafting by Leslie Meier

Papier-mache, who knew?

Recently, I found myself caring for four grandchildren (ages 3-13) on the hottest day of the summer. It was close to one hundred degrees and so hot and muggy that even going to the pool, as we usually did every afternoon, seemed impossible, especially considering the fact that the house has central air.

That said, I had to find something to amuse the kids during the long afternoon. The three-year-old went down for a nap, the thirteen year old headed for his room with his cell phone, and that left me with the six-year-old and the ten-year-old. What to do? Continue reading “Paper Mache Crafting by Leslie Meier”

Carving Out Some Family Time by Isabel Ashdown


Like many writers, I’m a workaholic, forever struggling with the concept of ‘downtime’ because my office and home are one and the same.  When you’re self-employed, there’s always something you could be doing at your desk – editing that last chapter, plotting out the next book, researching crimes, updating the website or Twitter or Instagram or Facebook … It’s fair to say, my working week is a long one, and the end of the To-Do list never really comes.



But as well as being a writer and workaholic, I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, and as a result, I’m occasionally dragged away from my desk and instructed to relax.  To have fun.  I come from an artistic family, so for me, true relaxation means making and creating, and this is where the pumpkin carving began – a few years ago, one fateful Halloween, when I was up to my eyes in deskwork and my husband Colin was away from home.  For the first time ever, the task of carving the Halloween Jack O’Lantern fell to me.  ‘You have to do it,’ my two (then) small children demanded.  ‘But I have a deadline,’ I complained.  ‘What’s a deadline?’ they asked, straight-faced.  And with that, I realised my deadline could wait.  I shut the office door and headed for the kitchen, where we set about the pumpkin, trying to work out which knife would serve best without taking off the top of my thumb. Continue reading “Carving Out Some Family Time by Isabel Ashdown”

Magic Bath Bombs By Tara Sheets

Messy, crafty, colorful art projects are my catnip!  Many years ago, when bath bombs first became a thing, I visited a store in Downtown Disney called Basin, and it was overflowing with barrels of bath bombs in every color of the rainbow.  I was like a kid in a candy store, except the candy was kind of expensive and I couldn’t eat it. Instead, I could buy it and wash it down the drain. Genuis!  So that one trip to the bath bomb store was all it took.  I fell in love so hard.  After that, I became obsessed with learning how to make my own.

I made many mistakes along the way.  One time my hands were blue for days because I used the wrong soap dye.  Another time, I made a huge batch and accidently put too much water in the mix, which set off the “fizz” factor, which caused them to melt all over my kitchen.  And let’s not forget the time I accidentally made Hawaiian plumeria chicken noodle soup for dinner because the pot somehow got perfume oil in it.  Those were dark days.

But now I have a tried and true recipe for you.  It’s called Juliette’s Lavender Bath Bombs.  Juliette Holloway is the main character in my upcoming release, Don’t Touch My Petunia, the second book in The Holloway Girls series.  She has garden magic, and she makes magical bath products to help people feel good.  This recipe doesn’t call for a dash of magic, but if you happen to have some, go ahead and toss it in!

Continue reading “Magic Bath Bombs By Tara Sheets”

Halloween Tours by Amanda Flower


As a public librarian, I wear many hats. Today, librarians are research assistants, tech support, and so much more. For many of the cities and towns we serve, we are also local historians of sorts. One of my responsibilities for my job at the library is to lead spooky walking tours of my little town around Halloween. This is one of my favorite parts of my job because it gets me out of the library and it allows me to tell stories. As a writer, telling stories is my very favorite thing to do.

To add some charm to my talks, I usually carry and old fashioned lantern to guide our way. The tour starts at the library at dusk, and we walk a mile and half around the town stopping at all the places that might be haunted or have creepy stories. Some of the houses, we talk about are private homes, and I always wonder what the residents think when they see a bunch of library patrons standing outside of their house think. As of yet, no one has come outside and asked what we were up to. Continue reading “Halloween Tours by Amanda Flower”

Halloween Memories with Pets by V.M. Burns

Stories of razor blades in apples and tampered candy were prevalent when I was a kid and before individually sealed candy. My mom only let my sister and I eat candy from the homes of two or three neighbors whom she knew and trusted. Dressing up to visit three houses was hardly worth the effort, so I have no childhood memories of Halloween costumes (and no photos). As an adult, I found pleasure and created new memories of Halloween with my pets.

My first poodles, Coco and Cash were registered therapy assist dogs. What’s a therapy assist dog? It’s a dog that has been tested and certified by Therapy Dogs International, as having the temperament to go into hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions for companionship. Therapy assist dogs aren’t the same as highly trained service animals like Leader Dogs for the Blind. A therapy assist dog is tested to insure it can follow basic commands, won’t be skittish around crutches, wheelchairs or canes, isn’t aggressive and will allow people to pet them. Most times, the dogs provided comfort, nothing more. To a sick child in a hospital, comfort may be just what the doctor ordered.

Coco and Cash along with a few other dogs from Echo Dog Club went into nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities weekly. We entertained people with a few tricks, Coco played a toy piano (well, she banged on it with her paws). My dog trainer’s dog rode a skate board. After the show, that’s when the petting, hugging and general dog love started. When those visits were near Halloween, the dogs wore costumes. A friend made Coco a pink poodle skirt. Continue reading “Halloween Memories with Pets by V.M. Burns”

Halloween? Maybe, maybe not.      By Gerry Bartlett

I loved Halloween as a kid. Couldn’t wait to dress up and trick or treat. But after teaching first graders for a decade, I got my fill of pumpkin art and Halloween hysteria. Yes, six year olds live for Halloween. It’s a favorite holiday right after Valentine’s Day. I think any time involving candy ranks right up there with a birthday for kids. And, trust me, the day after Halloween, dealing with twenty students on a sugar high? Well, no wonder I felt the need to leave teaching and write full time.

These days I enjoy dressing my rescue dog Jet in costumes for the holiday. He is my greeter when we have children come to the door to trick or treat. I admit that a whippet is not easy to make as adorable as my stepdaughter’s Maltese, Millie. That cute little bundle of fur rocks a tutu. But Jet is more into the badass vibe. He doesn’t mind wearing whatever is the costume of the year.

Whippets are warm weather dogs and Jet hates to get a chill. So he has a variety of sweaters and even a coat if we get a rare cold snap in southeast Texas. When Houston won the World Series? Jet was happy to sport an Astros jersey to the Little League ballpark to show his Houston pride. Do I have pictures? You bet I do. Continue reading “Halloween? Maybe, maybe not.      By Gerry Bartlett”

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