Happy Holidays from Central Texas!

Did you put up your holiday decorations a little earlier than usual this year?  I did, and I noticed that many of my neighbors did the same.  I think it’s safe to guess that this was because we all NEED a bit of holiday magic this year more than any year many of us can remember.  What adjustments are you making to your traditions this year?  Aside from large gatherings of family and friends, what are you leaving out? What are you adding?    

Central Texas and the Hill Country are among the most culturally diverse in the state, which lends the holiday season a unique and particularly festive flavor.  We have the traditional carols and decorations one might associate with German or Scottish or English immigrants, but it is all intermingled with those traditions celebrated by the folks who were here even before any of those European settlers arrived.  We have our turkey and dressing, but we also LOVE our tamales; we sing traditional European carols, but we enjoy the vitality of music with a Latin flair.  We go wild for electric lights but are equally appreciative of the gentleness of candlelit luminarias.  That’s just a sampling, of course.  I could name so many more cultures and traditions, but then this wouldn’t be a newsletter.  It would be a book!

The photo featured with this blurb (courtesy of my photographer friend Linda Nickell) was taken in front of the State Capitol Building.  Lovely as the capitol building’s display is, it can’t compete with the extravaganzas staged by courthouses all over the region.  For example, in Johnson City, the “crossroads of the Hill Country,” the annual lighting display adorning the county courthouse is a customary holiday trek for folks from all over Central and South Texas and beyond.  Here’s a link to their website for information on this year’s festivities. 

When all of this COVID mess is behind us, I do hope you’ll visit our area during the holiday season.  We don’t get much snow in Texas, but if you’re looking for romantic B&Bs, the Hill Country is a great choice.  As the George Strait song says, “There may not be snow in San Antonio, but it’s a Texas Christmas to me.”  And we do love it.  Whichever holidays you celebrate, whatever your traditions, I hope this holiday season brings a welcome bit of joy to you and yours.  Happy holidays, y’all!



Readers of The Light Catcher Murders will be aware that I dedicated the book to “The Five Muses: Anita, Beth, Christine, Denise, and Linda.”  Those five ladies are friends who were largely responsible (in a roundabout way) for my writing the novel.  With their knowledge and approval, I VERY loosely based the characters Allison, Giselle, Tessa, Meg, and Lucy on them.  (So loosely that most readers who know them are not likely to realize that is the case.)  Sadly, Parker is not based on any one person I know, though I certainly wish I had a Parker in my life because I could use such expert help!

Most of the photos on my website and in this newsletter are courtesy of the last (but not least) muse on that list, Linda Nickell.  The image featured above this blurb is one of hers.  The photo—which is absolutely gorgeous in full-screen mode, so please visit her website—forms the background on the cover of The Light Catcher Murders, and it was the inspiration for Lucy’s ill-fated mural in the novel.  That Linda’s gorgeous photo kick-started my brain into the novel’s plot is particularly appropriate because so much of what Linda does is about inspiration—whether finding it or sparking it.  Check out the Happiness Hour section on her website for one example—weekly, FREE hour-long photography workshops led by an ever-changing cast of fantastic and authoritative guests.

Linda’s blog post on this photo states that the location is about a thirty-minute drive out of Austin and into the Hill Country.  (One might say that Austin is to the Hill Country what Denver is to the Colorado Rockies.)  She describes gingerly picking her way through the wildflowers under overcast skies, only to be rewarded by a timely emergence of that jewel-like sunshine through the clouds.  It was, to use her words, “magical.” 

Magic, serendipity, luck, an observant eye and an open mind are all key ingredients to our reception of inspiration.  The muse might hit us over the head with her wand, but we need to be cognizant of the whack if we’re to translate it into a bit of art or entertainment.  I know Linda’s photos are art—I hope you consider The Light Catcher Murders and future books in the Kate Atherton Mysteries series to be good entertainment.


Photo Courtesy of The Blue Bonnet Cafe, 211 Hwy 281,  Marble Falls, TX 78654 



One of the most often asked questions about The Light Catcher Murders is whether Wheaton Creek is a real place.  The answer is, no, it is an amalgamation of several Hill Country towns and one or two non-Hill Country towns that are nearby in Central Texas.  

Many other locations dotting the story (Marble Falls, Gruene, Boerne, etc.) exist.  The café that offers Jack’s favorite coconut cream pie is real—as is the coconut cream pie.  (They list it as coconut meringue, but they’ll serve it with cream topping instead.)  The Blue Bonnet Café (inadvertently spelled Bluebonnet Café in the book), located in Marble Falls, has been serving customers since 1929.  Just as it is for folks around the state and beyond, the family-owned restaurant is a favorite destination for my husband and me when we fancy a scenic drive with delicious comfort food and PIE at the end.  The classic small Texas town diner atmosphere is as authentic as the unbelievably good homestyle cooking.  And don’t even get me started on the pies!  If you are a cookbook collector (do people still use actual cookbooks these days?), I highly recommend their cookbook, which is available online.  Though the recipe is in their cookbook, the folks at the Blue Bonnet Cafe very generously gave me permission to share the coconut meringue/cream pie recipe with you:


Where’s the next book?

That’s the #1 question I hear.  Well, my expectation was that the next book in the Kate Atherton Mysteries series would be out by early 2021.  As so often happens to most of us, life got in the way of my plans, and my new target date is autumn of 2021.  I’ll give you a couple of hints: The working title is The Pinocchio Murders, and some of the plot centers on Giselle’s workshop.  I’ll keep you updated, so stay tuned! 


December’s “Random Thought"

I want to say a word about book bloggers.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re the best thing to hit the internet since, well . . . I don’t know when.  I just know I think they’re fantastic!  Book bloggers haven’t merely edged their way into a niche once reserved only for a media-connected elite; they have remodeled and built additions onto that niche so that it now stands as a mansion.  Book bloggers have taken the realm of reviewing books and shining the spotlight on authors from a tiny, inaccessible storefront to a mega-mall, and I love it! Read more . . .


Coming Events

January: Silver Dagger Book Blog Tour.  Dates and tour stops to be announced.  This blog tour will include an Amazon gift card giveaway, so keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates!

January 14, 2021, 7:00-8:00 p.m.: The Light Catcher Murders: From Idea to Paperback/E-book.  During this Zoom event, I’ll talk about how the novel developed and why I chose to publish independently.  You’ll also meet my fantastic cover designer, Heather Foster, and be able to ask questions.  To join, click on this link and then select “Tonight’s Meeting.”  https://lindanickell.com/happinesshour 


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