Amy M. Reade is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries. A former practicing attorney, Amy discovered a passion for fiction writing and has never looked back. She has so far penned fourteen novels, including three standalone Gothic mysteries. In addition to writing, she loves to read, cook, and travel. Learn more about Amy and her books at her website.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. When I was little, it was the excitement of Santa Claus and presents and school vacation. Now that I’m, erm, of a certain age, the reasons are different. My kids are grown and the fun of looking for Santa’s reindeer in the sky on Christmas Eve before bed just isn’t the same (that doesn’t stop us, though). For a long time now, it’s been a combination of lots of things that makes Christmas a magical time for me.
First, it’s the music. From lofty hymns to secular ditties, I start listening to Christmas music once the Thanksgiving dishes are done and I don’t listen to anything else until the new year begins. In case you’re wondering, I can’t choose a favorite.
Second, it’s the décor. I love understated, but it’s hard not to use a heavy hand with Christmas stuff. I love it all: fairy lights, garland, Christmas trees, ornaments, wreaths, nativity scenes, snowmen, and tomtes (Nordic gnomes). Did I forget anything? Add it to the list.
Third, it’s the food. There’s a whole list of foods that I only make at Christmastime, and Party Mix tops that list. My recipe is made with 2 pounds of butter and comes from my grandmother. Christmas Crack is another one, as well as Russian Teacakes, Linzer Tarts, and Millionaire Shortbread, to name a few.
Fourth, it’s the movies. My favorite movies are The Bishop’s Wife, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas. With the exceptions of Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey and The Little Drummer Boy, I will watch literally anything animated or in claymation.
And finally, it’s the gifts—giving them, not getting them. I love to make things for loved ones, whether it’s bourbon-soaked cherries or a counted cross-stitch piece or something I’ve quilled.
My love of Christmas spawned my mystery series, too. The Juniper Junction Holiday Cozy Mystery Series started with The Worst Noel, a Christmas mystery, which I dedicated to my late grandmother because of her deep love for all things Christmas.
So by now you’re probably wondering where the crafts come in. Several years ago I made a decision to be more price- and eco-conscious about the gift wrap and tags I use on gifts. As a result, I started wrapping most of my gifts in recyclable kraft paper and decorating packages with sprigs of holly, ribbons, cedar twigs, artificial snow, and my own (pitiful) drawings. I started making my own tags, too, with kraft paper stock, inkpads, my own fingerprints, pens, buttons, and little bits of bling, as seen in the photo at the top of this post.
What about you? Do you make gifts? Do you make tags or have a unique and earth-friendly way of wrapping gifts? What kinds of crafty things do you do around holiday time?
One final note: I am keenly aware that the holidays are a hard time for a lot of people. Loneliness is one of the big reasons, and I try to reach out to people who might be struggling with loneliness during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s. It’s easy to call someone, text them, meet them somewhere for coffee, or invite them for a meal. I take goodies to friends who have lost loved ones and/or who are just not looking forward to the holidays. It’s really nice to just meet a friend to go for a walk and chat, too.
So remember your friends and loved ones who might not be looking forward to the holidays this year, and give them grace as well as an ear to listen.
All my best to you and your family this holiday season.
The Worst Noel
A Juniper Junction Holiday Cozy Mystery, Book 1
The holiday season should be a time for peace and joy, but for Lilly Carlsen, this Christmas is murder.
On the busiest shopping day of the year, Lilly opens her jewelry shop only to discover that it's been burglarized. And then … she trips over the body. Talk about a Black Friday.
When a second victim turns up, Lilly finds herself squarely in the crosshairs of suspicion. The clock is ticking as Lilly tries to unwrap the mystery of the real killer’s identity.
Can she figure out who killed the victims before she’s arrested—or becomes a victim herself?
And as if dealing with all this isn't hard enough, Lilly’s deadbeat ex-husband resurfaces, her mother’s mental health is declining, and her two teenagers are acting just like … teenagers.
Find out whether her family's Christmas will be merry or scary in this cozy, small-town mystery perfect for fans of Kathi Daley and Jacqueline Frost.