My Christmas Tree Obsession — Guest Ellen Byron

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron leave a comment below.

Here’s a little bit about the book: Maggie Crozat is home in Cajun Country during the most magical time of the year. But the Grinch has come to stay at the Crozat Plantation B&B, and he’s flooding travel websites with vicious reviews. Maggie ID’s him as rival businessman Donald Baxter –until Baxter is found stabbed to death. With her detective boyfriend sidelined as a suspect, Maggie must catch the real killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noel for her.

Welcome back, Ellen!

I’m obsessed with Christmas trees. I’m such an inveterate ornament collector and crafter  that my husband once made me pare down my collection because I had a dozen boxes taking up an entire shelving unit in the garage. I got it down to six boxes… but I couldn’t stop collecting so I’m back up to twelve. (Shhh!! Don’t tell him!!)

I can trace this obsession back to when I was twelve years old and my mother announced that we would no longer have a Christmas tree. She’d begun working to help out the family finances and didn’t have the time or energy for it.  Give up the family Christmas tree?! Oh, hell to the no. I told my parents if they bought one, I’d take over decorating and un-decorating it. They agreed to this deal, and a Christmas Tree Commander-in-Chief was born.

I was so proud of my decorating skills that I occasionally submitted photos of the final product to Christmas tree contests in women’s magazines. I never won, which I assumed was because the contests were fixed; there was simply no way my talent with tinsel could go unrewarded. I kept trees up way past their expiration date. When I was in my twenties and living in Manhattan, I left the tree up for so long that by the time my roommate and I took it down the five flights of stairs from our apartment to the street for disposal, it had shed every single needle. That’s not hyperbole. It took me hours to sweep those stairs.


Ornaments are the perfect souvenir when you travel, so I collected them on every vacation. I made them, too. My last batch was a salute to my Cajun Country Mystery series and the state that inspired it.


Sometimes I still hang the Mardi Gras beads I caught in college – I went to Tulane in New Orleans – from the tree branches.

With college tuition looming and disposable income a thing of the past, I’ve cut back on both collecting and crafting. But I do have one project I can’t give up. It was a wonderful gift from friend and fellow needlepointer, Ruth Behling, who knows me so well.


It’ll make a nice ornament, don’t you think?

Readers, do you collect holiday ornaments? Comment to be entered to win a copy of my newest Cajun Country Mystery, A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles; published plays include the award-winning Graceland; TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. Ellen lives in Studio City with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.

Readers: Do you have a holiday (any holiday) decoration that you are obsessed with?





thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3Our month of giveaways continues! Today, our guest Ellen Byron offers up a copy of her new book, Body on the Bayou the second  in the Cajun Country Mystery series and some swag!

To be entered to win, leave a comment on the post. Winners for the week will be announced in a special blog post on Sunday.


When Plantation Shudders, the first in my Cajun Country Mystery series, body-on-the-bayou-smaller-2was published, I figured promoting it meant some blog posts, a few Facebook updates, and the occasional tweet. Boy, was I wrong. There is so much more to do than that, and the last year has been one learning experience after another, tears followed by triumph… and then followed by tears again. But as I now hit the computer to promote Body on the Bayou, the second book in my series, I proudly share five of the skills I’ve managed to conquer.

  1. I always wondered what the odd button reading “Print Screen” on my keyboard was for. Who knew it actually meant, “Print Screen?” Apparently everybody but me, because when I put the question “How do I take a screenshot?” to the Sisters in Crime Guppy group, a half dozen people patiently wrote back, “Hit the print screen button and then Control-V.” Ta da! Here’s a screenshot from an early draft of this very post:


  1. Snipping tool. Ah, but how to turn a document or a PDF into a JPEG? That’s where a program called “Snipping Tool” comes in. (And the fact I even know what PDFs and JPEGs are is testament to what I’ve learned this year.) Some far more skilled person than yours truly guided me to the Windows menu where this computing miracle resides. I use it define an image and then save it as a JPEG. Which is exactly what I did with the example below.


  1. Canva. I howled to the winds when I first tried Canva. Frankly, I still barely get it. But I bumbled my way through the site enough to create this Facebook banner. So… yay, me!ellencanvacopy-of-copy-of-ava6
  2. Making folders. Oh, the heady pleasure of discovering I can create folders to store my trillions of docs, emails, and photos. This may seem like Computing 101 to a lot of you, but to me it was an eye-opener. I do this so often now that I’m not including a picture because I wouldn’t know which “Folder” option to choose from. Email? Documents? Photos? The options are endless and wonderful – at least for me. Less so for my husband who has to back up all my data.

These are just a few of the skills I’ve picked up in my publishing journey. I’ve also created newsletters and sponsored contests. With some assistance from my teenager – this is where those impossible creatures come in handy – I’ve made bookmarks, business cards, and brochures. (Vistaprint and GotPrint are my new BFFs.) But perhaps the important task I’ve conquered is number five…

  1. Learning how to use an electric wine opener.

ellenwineopenerTwo years ago, I won a basket at a school silent auction that included a fancy electric wine ellenwinebottle opener. I’m embarrassed to admit I was too intimidated to use it. But when I discovered I’d left my manual opener at my recent book launch party, I panicked. Then I decided that if I could master the above steps 1-4, I could figure out how to use an electric wine bottle opener. Success!

And thank goodness, because nothing says “Man, do I need a glass of wine” like a battle with any of those previously mentioned skills.

Readers, what computer skill – or skills – have you mastered?


ellen-byron-fnlBIO: Ellen’s debut novel, Plantation Shudders, made the USA Today Bestsellers list, and was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. The second book in her Cajun Country Mystery Series, Body on the Bayou, offers “everything a cozy reader could want,” according to Publishers Weekly, while the Library Journal says, “Diane Mott ­Davidson and Lou Jane Temple fans will line up for this series.” A TV veteran, Ellen has written for many hit sitcoms, including Wings and Just Shoot Me.