Happy Holidays, Hon: Three Fun Things To Do In Baltimore Over Winter Break

I’m not originally from Maryland. Years ago, I moved to Baltimore to go to law school and never left. I didn’t plan to. I chose my school because I wanted to stay. So, even though I didn’t grow up in Baltimore — or even Maryland — I love it. I’ve talked a lot about my love of Maryland (“America in Miniature” – there’s something for everyone: the Appalachian Trail in western Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, Ocean City and the Eastern Shore, urban areas like Annapolis and D.C., and the beautiful rolling countryside, farms, and rail trails of Baltimore County, where I live now) but I haven’t talked as much about Baltimore.

When I was younger, I went through a phase when every New Year’s resolution was “be a tourist in my own town.” It was kind of a cheat; it’s a fun, easy resolution. But it’s one I’d recommend no matter how long you’ve lived in your own home town, city, county, parish (whatever). For those of you that live in Maryland, below are three things that are A MUST if you haven’t already done them. All of these events will be over by mid-January 2015. For those of you that live elsewhere, come visit! And if you can’t, find some fun things to do in your own backyard and report back. 🙂


Enoch Pratt Free Library


An exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are by the late, great Maurice Sendak. The exhibit contains original artwork by the author/illustrator (including some first sketches) and a life-sized replica of Max’s bedroom.


Until December 31, 2014


Central Library
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, Maryland


Enoch Pratt Free Library
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition — 50 Years, Works, Reasons
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
Max’s Bed from




Named after the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street” is a block of rowhouses that go all out with lights and decorations for the holidays. A Baltimore tradition, rowhouses in this part of the city have been a beacon of brightness for 67 years now. Lots of people and places put up spectacular lights. What makes Miracle on 34th Street special is how uniquely Baltimore it feels. It’s a riot of color, personality, Christmas creches, interesting art, peace displays, Santa, and Mr. Boh (a local beer icon).


Until January 2, 2015


34th Street, between Chestnut and Keswick
Baltimore, Maryland


Miracle on 34th Street, Hampden, Maryland
Miracle on 34th Street


The Shops at Kennilworth


Huge model train display built over the fountain in the middle of the mall. It has local stuff: Ravens Stadium, Fort McHenry, Clipper ships, row houses, and Camden Yards. AND tons of fun characters: R2-D2, Santa, and Yukon Cornelius; Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf. Kids (and adults!) can push a dozen buttons or more to make things move and light up.


Until January 9, 2015


The Shops at Kenilworth
800 Kenilworth Drive
Towson, Maryland


model trains, holidays, Christmas
Holiday Train Garden at Kennilworth Mall

Honorable Mention: Papermoon Diner



Quirky café in a local Baltimore neighborhood about twenty minutes north of the Inner Harbor. It’s also been called whimsical, eclectic, eccentric, and bohemian. Serves comfort food Baltimore style (i.e. lots of diverse stuff — they have bacon milkshakes for crying out loud 😀 ). The décor is funky. My photos don’t do it justice. Google “Papermoon” and take a look at the images. Not recommended for anyone with a manikin, doll, or PEZ phobia. Definitely recommended for anyone seeking a late afternoon brunch. We went at 3:00 p.m. I had three cups of coffee and a stack of vanilla custard French toast. I’d love to go back Christmas morning but, alas, we have other plans. 🙂


Closed on Tuesdays, but will be open well beyond mid-January 2015.


Paper Moon Diner
227 West 29th Street
Baltimore, Maryland


Paper Moon Diner
Paper Moon Diner
Paper Moon Diner
A Giant 3D I SPY Book

Whatever your plans are for the next week plus, whether you celebrate Christmas, another holiday, or none, I hope you have a very joyous end to 2014. Best wishes to each and every one of you!


Bewitching Book Tours Holiday Giveaways (Chance to win a Kindle Fire, Amazon GCs, ebooks, and more)

Bewitching Book Tours is doing two holiday giveaways this season. Information is below. The winner of the copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance that I was giving away is Jen Schaper. Jen, please contact me with your address or DM me on Twitter. Everyone else who entered that giveaway — thank you!! – you will each be automatically entered into the second print giveaway I’ll be doing in January with the U.S. cover. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway

Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, books, fiction

Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway 2014, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, books, fiction

BBT and participating authors are giving away a Kindle Fire, Amazon gift cards and lots of e-books (see the virtual shelves above and list below). Click here for the Rafflecopter form to enter to win. Click here for my official giveaway rules. The giveaway is open until December 15.

    • Kindle Fire HD 7 Tablet
    • $25 Amazon Gift Card from Sky Purington
    • $10 Amazon Gift Card from Nancy Gideon
    • $5 Amazon Gift Card from Emma Weylin
    • ebook copy of Private Internship by Kitsy Clare
    • ebook copy of Angel Kin by Tricia Skinner
    • ebook copy of Destiny by Celia Breslin
    • ebook copy of Plight of the Highlander by Sky Purington
    • ebook copy of The Contract by ER Pierce
    • ebook copy of Bundle of Joy by Barbara Bretton
    • ebook copy of Going Under by Emma Weylin
    • ebook copy of The Necromancer’s Betrayal by Mimi Sebastian
    • ebook bundle The Kasadya Hellhound Series by Karen Swart
    • ebook copy of Scent of Valor by Annie Nicholas
    • ebook copy of Words That Bind by Ash Krafton
    • ebook copy of Weather Child by Philippa Ballantine
    • ebook copy of River Road by Suzanne Johnson
    • ebook copy of Santa Exposed by Kay Dee Royal
    • ebook copy of Sisters of Prophecy – Ursula by Jude Pittman-Gail Roughton
    • ebook copy of Deadly Secrets by Jude Pittman
    • ebook copy of The Color of Seven by Gail Roughton
    • ebook copy of The Professor by Olivia Devon
    • ebook copy of Unknown Protector by Maggie Mundy
    • ebook copy of Fading Light by Angela Dennis
    • ebook copy of The Only Sorceress by Anya Breton
    • ebook copy of Realm Walker by Kathleen Collins
    • ebook copy of Soulfire by Juliette Cross
    • ebook copy of Candy Cane Thrills by Roxanne Rhoads
    • ebook copy of The Huntress by J Risk

Bewitching Brews Holiday Giveaway

Bewitching Brews Holiday Giveaway, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, books, fiction

BBT and participating authors are giving away a print copy of Bewitching Brews and Devilish Desserts, a cute vintage style ruffled apron and assorted Bewitching Swag. Click here for the Rafflecopter form to enter to win. Click here for my official giveaway rules. The giveaway is open until December 15 (U.S. only).

Bewitching Brews and Devilish Desserts 

A Collection of Cocktail and Dessert Recipes 

By Bewitching Book Tours’ Authors: Roxanne Rhoads, Sharon Bayliss, Ami Blackwelder, Cassandra Lawson, Susannah Sandlin, Cherrie Mack, Maggie Mundy, Suzanne Johnson, Katalina Leon, Kay Dee Royal, Sophie Avett, Elizabeth Loraine, G.L. Ross, T.W. Kirchner 

Stir up a little magic from our cauldron full of cocktails and desserts.

The authors of Bewitching Book Tours conjured a collection of delicious potions inspired by their books and characters.

Grab your wand (or spoon) and cast one of these spellbinding recipes today.

Available at Createspace and Amazon

Urban Fantasy Author Suzanne Johnson on Holidays for Paranormals

Suzanne Johnson is an urban fantasy author who writes for Tor. She also has a terrific urban fantasy blog, Preternatura, where she discusses speculative fiction books, writing, and (in her latest Shop Talk series) publishing. She’s here today to talk about holidays in paranormal stories and to share a bit about her books Royal Street and River Road. She poses some fun questions about the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Anita Blake, and Cat and Bones. And she’s giving away some cool prizes. Details at the end of the post! Welcome, Suzanne!

urban fantasy, Suzanne Johnson, Royal Streeturban fantasy, Suzanne Johnson, River RoadIn my Sentinels of New Orleans series, I decided to embrace the holidays

We’ve been going through a lot of holidays the last few months—Thanksgiving, Christmas, MLK Day, St. Patrick’s, Easter….

As an author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as well as an avid paranormal-fiction reader, I’m always interested in how (or if) holidays are treated in our favorite books.

Do the Black Dagger guys paint Easter eggs for baby Nalla? (I totally want to read that!) Does Anita Blake sit down with her 2,375 men for Thanksgiving dinner and, uh, “dessert”? Do Cat and Bones hang up Christmas stockings and fill them with silver bullets and knives?

Usually, we ignore the holidays in our books, or brush past them. But in my Sentinels of New Orleans series, I decided to embrace the holidays. Because nobody does a holiday like my favorite city. (I mean, have you heard of Naked Bike Ride Day? And did you know there was a PARADE for that? I’m still having nightmares.)

In River Road, everyone’s hunkiest shapeshifter Alex Warin decides to throw a combination Halloween party/housewarming, complete with costumes. Against her better judgment, DJ lets her loup-garou friend Jake talk her into going as Red Riding Hood to his Big Bad Wolf. The undead pirate Jean Lafitte was ready to go as himself, until he learned it was Alex’s party and he wasn’t invited. (Bah to “le petit chien.”) DJ’s friend Eugenie and her creepy, mysterious boyfriend Quince Randolph went as hippies, complete with tie-dyed clothes and Grateful Dead tunes.

In Elysian Fields (coming in August), the story picks up a couple of weeks after the end of River Road, so we get to contend with Thanksgiving. Normally, DJ might be dragged to Picayune, Mississippi, to eat turkey with Alex and Jake’s families, but things are kind of strained on that front by the time Thanksgiving arrives. DJ can’t cook, unless you count reheating pizza. So she’s made plans to spend the holiday hanging out alone in Jean Lafitte’s hotel room at the Monteleone, eating doberge cake and charging movies to his room account (he’s out of town, too). Of course plans have a way of changing…

Now I’m turning my mind toward Christmas, and what kind of chaos and shenanigans my characters could get into. I mean, the Elves are now a major species in the series, so perhaps they could help Santa…unless Santa himself is an Elf. And then there’s Twelfth Night, and Mardi Gras, Lundi Gras, and Mardi Gras…And somewhere in there, I think I need to work in Naked Bike Ride Day…

Have you found a “paranormal” holiday that you enjoyed? Leave a comment to win a copy of either Royal Street or River Road (your choice), or an “I (heart) Jean Lafitte” T-shirt!

More About Royal Street

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and the killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.

Where to buy

More About River Road

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Where to buy

More About Suzanne

Suzanne Johnson
Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities.  She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

Where to find Suzanne online

River Road and Royal Street Button April May 300 x 225

So, everyone, let us know what holidays you’ve enjoyed reading about. Prizes are your choice of either Royal Street or River Road or an “I (heart) Jean Lafitte” t-shirt — love it! 😀 Suzanne, thank you for guest blogging today!

10 New Things To Do Or Give For Valentine’s Day

Looking for something new to do or give for Valentine’s Day this year? I’m guest blogging at Alex Hughes (author of Clean and Sharp) for her February Love and Books event. I share 10 new things for you to do or give for Valentine’s Day this year. (There’s also a picture of our short-lived backyard ice rink and one from a sunset flight I took with my husband last summer at the beach). Would love to hear how *you* plan to spend Valentine’s Day! Northeasterners, stay safe & warm this weekend. If you’re trapped inside, grab a good book… 😀

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree “Ever Green” (Tips for Buying a Live Root Ball Tree)

Live Christmas Trees, Live Root Ball Tree
Live Root Ball Tree at the Christmas Tree Farm

Several years ago, we bought a live root ball Christmas tree. (These are real trees with the root balls still attached so that you can plant them after Christmas). It was an experience that was both surprisingly taxing and awesomely wonderful. In fact, after dealing with our live leviathan evergreen that year, I swore I’d never buy a live root ball tree again. But you know what they say about saying never. And besides, what nature lover can stay away from a holiday practice that lets you enjoy the benefits of a live Christmas tree (they smell great and look charming), support local tree farmers, AND lets you save the tree? Viewed from that perspective it sounds like the real question should be: What doesn’t everyone buy a live root ball tree every year? Well, great as they are, buying them every year is unrealistic for most of us. If you’re debating a live root ball tree for this year (or want to consider something new for next year), read through my tips. Then you can decide if it’s worth it.

1. Make sure you have somewhere to plant it after. Sounds obvious, right? But you need a big yard or someone else who will let you plant the tree on their property after the holidays.

2. Measure the space in your house where you want to put the tree. Don’t just eyeball it. Get out the tape measure! Trees always look smaller at the farm than in your house. (And, if your husband and kids are like mine, they will gravitate toward the biggest, tallest tree imaginable. There are only two ways to combat this sort of holiday romanticism: cut a hole in your ceiling after you get home and realize your tree is too tall – or – while you are still at the farm, use hard numbers to convince them the “smaller” tree is the right buy). Remember to include the root ball in your measurement of the tree. Live root ball trees will not have as much tree as a regular Christmas tree because the root ball at its base will likely be a good 1 1/2 ft. tall.

3. Make sure you bring someone strong to the Christmas tree farm with you. This is not a joke. Unless you are a competitive body builder, you will need someone who can lift something that is between 100-200 lbs.

4. At home, make sure you’ve got a dolly and a huge metal tub. You’ll use your strongman to put the tree in the tub and then use the dolly to move the tree where it needs to go.

5. If it’s been super cold out, acclimate your tree in the garage first. I’ll admit, we skipped this step this year. But that’s because it’s been unseasonably warm where we live. Usually though, the best practice is to gradually introduce a tree that’s been living outside to the inside by keeping it in your garage for a few days before finally bringing it into the house.

6. Haul that monster in the house. The strongman and dolly make a reappearance here. You will need them! That sucker is heavy and hard to maneuver!

Live root ball Christmas tree
It looked tiny at the tree farm, but at home, it’s the perfect size.

7. Wrap a skirt around it and throw on some lights and ornaments. Voila! “Instant” live root ball Christmas tree!

live root ball Christmas tree
Over the years, we’ve collected tons of ornaments. Each one has a story and they all get put on the tree.

8. After the holidays, reacclimate it to the outside. This step is basically step #5 in reverse. If it’s really cold out, stick it in your garage for a few days to get it used to the new temperature. No living thing would welcome going from a nice, cozy sixty-eight degrees to a sub-zero one. This tree is no different.

9. Dig the hole. If you think your ground will freeze before this step, consider digging the hole before the holidays.

10. Plant it! Get your dolly, strongman, a shovel and a camera. This is the moment you’ve been working toward! Don’t water it, just pack soil around the root ball as tightly as possible.

This is our live root ball tree from years ago.

11. Enjoy for years to come. Our last live root ball tree is still with us, alive and well. Although we haven’t yet, you could also decorate your outdoor Christmas tree in years to come with edible garlands for the animals. Who knows? Maybe that will be our Christmas project for next year… 😀

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, do you have your tree yet? Have you ever bought a live root ball tree? Think you might next year? Let us know in the comments!

Evergreens aren't the only thing in our yard. :-)
Evergreens aren’t the only thing in our yard. 🙂