Love, Lust & Laughs with Melanie James

Hi everyone,

I’m Melanie. I’m a New York Times & USA Today Bestseller. I write steamy paranormal romance, paranormal romantic comedy (more like snarky, vulgar witches), and sexy contemporary romance. I live in Wisconsin (where we are still buried in snow and freezing) with my husband, son, two doggos, three cats, and thirtyish chickens. In addition to the zoo at home, my husband and I have four grown kiddos, and one grandbaby.

I’m originally from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, but moved to Chicago for work in early 2000. Don’t tell anyone, but I used to be a total IT Geek. Certificates and all! I met my husband when he was finishing up his 21 year tour in the US Navy. Somehow, he talked me in to moving to Wisconsin when he retired. I think it had something to do with the proposal, and the promise of loving me forever. It was my own HEA!

Anyway, I’m supposed to share one of my crafty type things with you guys, so here goes. Try not to be too brutal. I’m not into a whole lotta crafts, but I do love to paint!

One of my favorite crafts is painting. Our family camps a lot in the summer, and I’m always on the look out for relaxing activities after full days of swimming and hiking. We have a permanent camp site on the serene Door County Peninsula in Wisconsin. When we go camping, I like to take all of my painting supplies and paint for hours on end. This beautiful dark fairy is one of my creations from last summer.


Tell me in the comments what kind of crafts you all like to do? What are some of your hobbies?
My other hobbies include: cooking, baking, spending lots of time with my family, traveling, and of course, reading.
Right now I’m reading (for the second time around) the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I’m not sure that I can say I have a favorite book or series. I love to read, just about any genre, though I usually go paranormal by default. There’s something about hotties of the fanged variety!

Feel free to check out my newest release: Her Twisted Heart, Part of Milly Taiden’s Paranormal Dating Agency Kindle World!

PDA 10



To check out my snarky, sassy witches:

Leigh KU.jpg


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Halfway There

April is halfway through already and so is the Rough Trade challenge. I’m still not entirely sure how it’s going since I seem to be struggling quite a bit with getting the words out. At least, it feels like I’m struggling. That said, I posted a chapter today and in doing so am officially two-thirds of the way through the 30k goal. Not too shabby, I think.

I haven’t really done much beyond writing and reading. Aside from feeling tired and blergh and it having been that time of the month for part of this last week, it’s just…eh. I’m definitely feeling the fact that I’ve not balanced things out, so I think I’m going to take a break for the rest of the day and put on something to watch. Not sure what yet, I just know I need to do something else for a while.

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We do the Weird Stuff

Hello again!  Karin was kind enough to ask me to guest on her blog again.

My name is Susi but I answer to Rowan, a musical character name with a long story or ‘Your Majesty” which is another long story but suffice it to say that I have acted at, costumed for, played music at, portrayed most of the female Tudors in, directed, produced and married guys I met while performing at Renaissance festivals … for almost 40 years.  It’s more than a (really expensive) hobby at this point; it’s a lifestyle. I am who I am today for my involvement with Renfaires. Hi, I am a Rennie, aka, a person involved deeply in Renfaires. There is a whole genre of humor starting with, “you are a rennie if” to which I can answer affirmatively to many of them (…if you have costumes worth more than your car, for instance.)  This picture is from a small faire I helped start in central Missouri and the gorgeous bird on my arm is Lady Val, the most photographed Harris Hawk in the world (probably.) She’s a character; she will fly rings in for wedding ceremonies and purposely tightens the knot so it’s harder to untie; such a goofball. I adore playing QE and miss it lots.

I have to admit that I really don’t remember what my topic was the last time since I am many things; a DIYer, a professional seamstress, a designer, a jewelry maker, an animal lover, a pagan, a non-denominational minister, a durned fine cook and baker and I make the best apple butter this side of the Mississippi.  But it’s a pretty safe bet that costuming was my topic. I’ve been doing this so long that I’m way past burn-out but at 63 and thrice divorced (I know, it boggles my mind, too) and can’t get hired for any sort of job anywhere so I’ll keep right on doing it…sorta addicted to continuing to eat and pay rent. Sometimes it’s enjoyable and sometimes not.  I’ll cover both in this post if there’s space.

Why “we do the weird stuff,” you ask?  Because I do. People want unusual stuff and they come to me.  It’s really great when they understand that this level of creativity and expertise means being paid commensurate with that level of skill and experience.  Along the way I have costumed a chicken, made a pretty girl into a Renaissance gentleman, constructed 4’ high angel wings out of feathers, a twisted-wire crown for a Dwarf, a Flying Monkey costume, made miniature costumes for a client’s “Bridezilla and Groomera” for their wedding cake topper.  It was a replica of the bride’s dress made from her fabric. And that’s just a sampling of weird stuff I’ve made off the top of my head.

In the “enjoyable”  category, last month I finished what we called “the Admiral’s Boat Coat” for an old friend from faire.  He works a factory job and so has the income to hire me to make a very warm, very detailed Pirate overcoat that he will wear for the rest of his life, very likely.  He knew exactly what he wanted and fortunately, has the sort of brain to work out all the tiny design details….correctly! As expensive as it was, he still saved a lot of money by not having to go down rabbit-holes of “how on earth will I do this part” because he had it all worked out. I found the fabrics, linings and fur online.  He ordered them and had them shipped to my house. From there, I cut out a pattern and fitted it to him before ever cutting into the wool or fur; this way we could work out all the design details ahead of time. And there were a *lot* of details; he wanted the capelet and hood to be detachable and reversible with fur on one side and  wool on the other. He wanted to hood to be large enough to fit over his tricorn hat. He wanted it to be double breasted and for the front lapels (which extend the whole length of the coat) to be able to button back. He wanted it vented (open) down the back skirting, with buttonholes along both edges so that the front of the coat lapels could go between his legs and button to the back edges so he can wear this on his motorcycle.  This necessitated making a diagonal slit in the front lapels about at crotch level so they can fold back without big puckers. Yeah…detailed. I made something like 56 buttonholes for this coat. Probably the most detailed garment I’ve made since my QE costumes. But he paid for the R & D and he paid every hour of the labor on this so he basically paid for a whole month’s rent and catching up on my utilities….gladly and willingly. He’s utterly delighted with it.

This is my friend Carl, modeling the whole thing the day I delivered it.  That’s the wool side of the capelet and hood with the hood down over his shoulders.  He looks stern and mean but he is one of the kindest, most gentle men I know.











The second pic is of the whole thing with the fur side of the capelet and hood out; it buttons to the neckband of the cape (soooo many buttonholes!)  And the third pic is of the back view of the coat.


It’s really, really warm!  

And that’s the “enjoyable” side of the business.  I’ve probably gone on too long as it is so I’ll cover the “cool but less enjoyable” project next time…the gorgeous King Louis IX coronation costume for the Burlesque performer who is a darling young man who just doesn’t quite understand what it really costs to make incredibly elaborate costumes. Oh well, I still have it so we’ll reach an understanding of cost….soon.

What am I reading?  I recently got hooked on Patricia Cornwell’s “Scarpetta” series and am trying to acquire the rest of the 27 book series without paying an arm and a leg.  Pets? I have the darling Tesla who is alternately a whirling dervish and a sweet cuddly boy.  He loves to “help” me up in the shop.

If Karin invites me back, I’ll try to behave and not be so very wordy.

You can find me on Facebook,

via email

or on Etsy.



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Spoons? What Spoons?

This week has not been kind and it looks to continue on into the next. Fun times, man, fun times. I’ve done a little bit of writing for Rough Trade. I’m happy with how the story is going, though I would have liked to have been further along in it. Braining just hasn’t happened thanks to body being dumb. Ah well. I’ll get there in the end, after all I have the whole month of April, right?

Today I’m in bed, reading others’ contributions to the challenge. I’m enjoying it a lot. If you’re looking for something to read and you’re into Harry Potter, I highly recommend taking a gander.

Now, if I could only find my spoons so I can do what needs doing…

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Inspired by Hunger

When Karin asked me to write a guest blog for Another Piece of Me, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about doing so. I didn’t know that there was anything interesting enough about my life that I’d be able to share, and that certainly hasn’t changed in these last several weeks, but here I am to give it a try anyway. But, let me start with a little introduction first –

My name is Tania-Marie and I’m a Veteran, a mama, a member of the resistance and a Pacific Islander. I live in Hawai’i (no, definitely not as glamorous as it sounds), and I love poke bowls, boots, the First Amendment, Target, reading and Matthew Daddario. I don’t like mismatched drum beats, messes, writing introductions about myself, chicken, racists and hospitals. I’m a strong, fiercely independent woman who prides herself on being the best mom possible and loving my family as hard as possible.

I’m also very glad this is over, because now I can move on to what this guest post is really about.

For as far back as I can remember, cooking and/or baking has always served as an activity that has calmed me down. (Along with cleaning, but let’s not get into that today.) I can’t say for certain why that is, but I like to theorize that the reason it calms me down is because it gives me something else to focus on – and both, but especially baking, are things that need a person’s undivided attention. The more complicated a recipe, the calmer I am by the time I’m done. And I know that, to some, it may seem counterproductive. I’ve had my own family and friends say as much more times than I could ever begin to count – because why would anyone do something complicated as a stress reliever? To each his or her own, though, and just because this works for me, that doesn’t mean it works for everyone.

Then, there’s the other side of the proverbial coin. The side that has, for most of my life, meant a very complicated relationship with food for me. There’s never been an eating disorder, for which I am grateful, but struggling with the effects of a traumatic childhood combined with health issues has definitely made eating much more of a luxury than most people. I love food, and I love to eat, but sometimes that’s not always possible with so many illnesses. And sometimes it’s just too much work to find something that I can eat without getting sick, which means that there are often foods and/or dishes that I need to avoid altogether. Not always, and there are definitely pockets of opportunity that I tend to take advantage of, but in general – I try to avoid anything too greasy, too spicy or too heavy. All of that said, though, eating is just about as happy as I can ever get and, today, I wanted to share with you all one of my personal favorite recipes of a dish that I don’t get too eat as often as I’d like: Tonkatsu.

Before I jump into that, though, I want to circle back to the fact that I’m from Hawai’i because that has always meant having a veritable melting pot of cultures and cuisines in one place, and that is perhaps one of my favorite things about living here. I can find dishes rooted in at least two to three different cultures in almost any restaurant that I go to, and when I first started trying to recreate dishes without having a recipe to look at, that was how and when and where I found my inspiration. This is a random fun fact that certainly applies to the following recipe. (And, one last thing here: I haven’t made this in a long time because I haven’t been able to eat it for a long time. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any accompanying photos to go with this, which I apologize for.)


  • Tray of pork tenderloin (at least 6 pieces)
  • Panko flakes (1-2 bags)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Garlic salt (optional, to taste)
  • All-purpose flour (2-3 cups)
  • Large eggs (4-6)
  • Vegetable oil (enough to cover pork in skillet or frying pan)


  • Pork should be as thin as possible, so if necessary, use a food mallet to thin the pieces out a little more.
  • Mix salt, pepper, and garlic salt (optional) with the flour.
  • Place the flour mixture, the eggs (beaten) and the panko flakes into three (3) separate containers, in that order, and set aside.
  • Season pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and garlic salt (optional), and set aside.
  • Turn stove on to medium-high, heating the oil in the skillet or frying pan.
  • While the oil heats up, take each piece of pork tenderloin and roll it around in the flour mixture, the egg wash and, lastly, the panko flakes. Make sure that it’s covered completely at each step before moving on to the next one. Do this for each piece. (You may dump whatever is left of the flour mixture, egg wash and panko flakes when done.)
  • Lower the heat on the stove to medium or medium-low (whatever works best for your stove/skillet) and, no more than two pieces at a time, set the cuts into the oil. Cook each side until golden brown and set aside to drain oil.
  • Cut into long, thin(ish) pieces and transfer to another dish.

Ingredients (Sauce)

  • Ketchup
  • Worcestshire
  • Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Sugar
  • Mustard
  • Garlic powder

All of the above, to taste. I eyeball it and taste frequently while making it, so I don’t have specific measurements for each component.


  • Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl, tasting frequently. Sauce should be at about the consistency of ketchup, or close to it.

I usually serve the above with plain white rice (medium grain, prepared in a rice cooker), but it’s just as good served with potatoes (baked or scalloped).

There is so much to love about this dish – the simple nature of the pork paired with the tangy, robust flavor from the sauce is just magical. The garlicky, crispy crust on the pork does a great job of locking the juices inside the meat, so it comes out perfectly tender. And the sauce is kind of the star of the whole dish, and it goes so perfectly with the crispy, garlicky pork. I hope your family loves it as much as mine does! And, believe you me, my family definitely loves it.

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Let the Magic Begin!

Happy Easter, everyone. I don’t do April Fool’s jokes. In fact, I absolutely hate it when people pull them – at least for the most part I do. Silly ones like George Takei’s “Gaysha” announcement, or the BBC’s “The Earth Exploded” news flash from a few years ago, those I don’t mind. But most other ones? Yeah, just don’t. Especially not when they involved pregnancy announcements. For the record, pulling that kind of prank hurts those of us who can’t have children, so please, don’t do it.

Anywho, now that that’s off my chest… Rough Trade has started! As you know, I’ve been looking forward to this event for a while. I haven’t been writing much for various reasons but I really wanted to join in on this one. So this morning I started. And of course, I hated every single word that came out. Typical, right? Things just didn’t want to flow and the image in my head would not come out in the right words.

Thankfully, Jennifer read what I had and talked me off the ledge and made some suggestions. I still haven’t posted because not long after I ended up passing out for an unwanted nap (haven’t slept well and have been in pain, so it wasn’t unexpected) and my brain’s been fuzzy since. We’ll see if I manage to rally and do more later today but I’m glad to have the first 800 words. Fingers crossed the rest of the month goes better.

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Crafter’s Block

Hello friends! Sarah, here, returning to Nae’s blog to chat about the fact that I haven’t knit or crocheted or spun anything for about a year, now. Yep. I’m stuck. I don’t even want to. I’m not even tempted. I love petting pretty yarns and occasionally still buy yarn, and then I set it next to my crafting chair and admire it and then put it away—unwound, unstitched. I’ve got Crafter’s Block.

It reminds me a lot of writer’s block, minus the soul-crushing feeling. I miss it, but I don’t feel like I’m not ME anymore. I also don’t feel like I’ll never craft again, though I have started to wonder what on earth I’ll do with all this yarn if that should happen.

The thought of crafting still pleases me, and when I’m doing chores, I might fondly think, “I’d rather be knitting”—but then when the chores are done, and I settle in for the night… I don’t knit.

I do feel a bit guilty about it. It does feel like the WIPs are whispering accusations from their basket. Especially the long-ago promised gifts. I’ve tried forcing myself to pick up some work, and I’ll do a few stitches and then drop it, chasing the first available distraction. I’ve tried casting on the most beautiful thing in the most delightful yarn, hoping it will hold my interest, but no.

Part of it, I think, is burnout. It was my JOB for so long—and when I went freelance, I was stitching like a madwoman to the almighty deadline, and crafting felt an awful lot like desperation. Another part of it, I’m sure, is depression. My brain has been giving me a rough ride this past year, and the old “fun things aren’t fun anymore” game is afoot.

Maybe I’m just saving up my creative energy for a burst of yarny production the likes of which the world has never seen. I like to think that, when this fog lifts, I will cozy the world.

What I’m reading: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Also about 600 short stories submitted to the most recent call for my magazine. Meep.

What I’m writing: Finishing up the manuscript for my second novel, The Atropine Tree, and starting to dig in to the next book, which does not yet have a title. There will be big news, soon…

Sarah Read writes spooky things. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a librarian. You can visit her site at or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @inkwellmonster.

Posted in crafts, Crochet, Guest post, Knitting, Needlework | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments