Holiday Gifts: Give an Experience (or a Book) for the Holidays

We're gearing up for the holidays with the annual great gifts post from author T.K. (Tracey Kathryn) Sheffield. And I love, love, love that's she's suggesting a lot of 'experiences' vs. gifts. But I'd be remiss if I didn't congratulate Tracey on the release of her debut novel this past week. It's a fantastic cozy mystery, she gives a description of it below, but I enjoyed this book so much, I want to share my review here before we get into her post!


"Better than Janet Evanovich! It’s rare that a book makes me laugh out loud this much . . . usually it is the antics of Stephanie Plum that have me chuckling (sometimes loud enough to wake my husband.) But now we have Mel Tower! And I’m so glad we do. She’s a smart and wickedly witty former NY fashion model back home in small-town Wisconsin where all that Midwest nice is harboring a murderer. Fun and fast-paced, twisty and smartly-plotted—I couldn’t put it down until the killer was revealed. Great read and excellent kick off to a series you won’t want to miss! Can’t wait for the next one."



Now on to Tracey's holiday gift ideas ....

Happy Holidays, Writers!

The holidays are here—and so is my holiday mystery, Model Suspect. I call it a comic cozy, The Devil Wears Prada meets a Wisconsin supper club. It's an escapist read if you’re looking to laugh and relax during the hectic holiday season.

In addition to books, I’m suggesting experiences this year. They range from low-cost strolls through pretty downtowns to high-end steakhouses. It’s up to you and your budget. But, the older I get, the more I appreciate an experience over anything else. In southeast Wisconsin, three towns offer plenty to do for the shopper, foodie, and book lover in your life. Shop for local treasures for those on your list or take your loved one or friend out for a wonderful day.

Please add your ideas in the comments. We love to crowdsource gift suggestions!

Oconomowoc, Delafield, and Genesee Depot, Wisconsin

Consider an experience as a gift. Three towns in southeast Wisconsin offer fabulous experiences: Oconomowoc, Delafield, and tiny Genesee Depot.

Oconomowoc offers a wonderful excursion for book lovers, coffee lovers, clothes shoppers, and antique hunters. It’s a full day of entertainment for the person who has everything. In December, the library is holding a craft event and an acoustic concert, and there’s also a Christmas tree lighting and a cookie walk fundraiser. The Holiday Train arrives Dec. 4, according to the schedule.

At the Arts Center, Once Upon a Mattress musical comedy plays Nov. 10-18. In December, the center hosts music and movies to celebrate the holidays. Consider attending a show to enjoy the season.

Books & Company community bookstore is a fantastic book stop offering local reads, bestsellers, and staff recommendations. They hold author events, book clubs, and the store supports writing conferences. There’s a bagel shop next door, too, so coffee and snacks are mere steps away.

Fox Antique Mall: This place is a favorite stop; I adore browsing on a cold afternoon on my Writer’s Day Off. Give yourself and your companion plenty of time to tour this place. It’s a treasure hunt of glassware, pictures, books, cookie jars, clothes, and rustic decor—truly worth a visit. One of my favorite booths is Farm Girl Proper. Shop for hours, and then stop by Roots Coffee and Cafe for lunch.

A favorite restaurant in Oconomowoc is Coco’s Seafood & Steakhouse; they’ve expanded and offer great food and an outstanding wine list, reservations suggested.

Delafield offers shopping for cute clothes, olive oil, and fabulous bread and cookies at Great Harvest. Also, Lumber Inn is an amazing place for breakfast or lunch. For the meat lover on your Christmas list, stop at the only high-end butcher shop I’ve ever found located in a gas station. Billy-the-Butcher is a local legend! Truly, the steak-burgers, brats, and roasts are fantastic. Select something, put a bow on the package, and store it in the freezer or fridge until the holiday arrives.

Genesee Depot is the little town that could. I’m not kidding. The tiny village offers high-end dining, a bakery, an antique and vintage shop, a rare books store, a Harley-Davidson saloon, and a fantastic casual restaurant. Plus, Ten Chimneys, the famous summer home of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, is within a few blocks! Shop, take a tour, and then choose from three very different restaurants for supper. (Reservations highly suggested at The Union House.)

Just beyond those villages is The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago. The country store is famous for its apple-pie-in-a-bag, and they ship, too!


Of course, I will suggest books for the holidays. I’ll offer several, including my new release.  Add your book ideas in the comments. We welcome book recommendations, especially books written by Wisconsin and Midwest authors.

Comic cozy mystery: Model Suspect by T.K. Sheffield. A retired fashion model turns amateur sleuth when a woman is killed in an arts-and-crafts mall in a touristy small town. It’s the Devil Wears Prada meets a Wisconsin supper club. A mystery served with a brandy old-fashioned and a side of cheese curds. (If you have other mystery suggestions, please add them!)

Middle grade books: Ghost Horse, by Kerri Lukasavitz. A young horsewoman rides hunter-jumpers, and navigates friendships, boys, and horse shows. The fourth book in an award-winning middle grade series. Set in the ‘70s.

Wisconsin stories: The Wisconsin Writers Association offers two amazing books about Wisconsin and growing up in our beautiful state. Grave Digger’s Daughter and Red Road Redemption are excellent reads written by Wisconsin authors.

Poetry: Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets offer a 2024 calendar that combines weeks of the month with poetry. I purchased this calendar at Books & Company and reviewed it on my Instagram page. It’s a fantastic calendar to organize your life, plus read more poetry.

Valerie's award-winning young adult fantasy series is great for teens and adults who love a little magic mixed with the mysticism of Ireland's stone circles. Learn more here

If you're looking for mystery, thriller, suspense for all ages, check out the Blackbird Writers website. This group, founded in Wisconsin, features many authors from the Midwest and beyond. Blackbird Writers Bookstore

Upcoming Conferences: Plan for Next Year

Writers can’t exist in a vacuum. Like actors, we need feedback and guidance for our creative endeavors. NOW is the time to plan for 2024 events.

2024 (Subject to change as events approach)

May 3-4: Lakefly Writer’s Conference, Oshkosh

July 2024: Midwest Writer’s Workshop, Muncie, Indiana, and online

Sept. 5-8, 2024: American Christian Fiction Writers Association Conference, TBA

September 2024: Central Wisconsin Book Festival, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point

October 2024 Chippewa Valley Writers Festival, Eau Claire area

October 2024: Door County Writer and Book Fair, Fish Creek

October 2024: Fox Cities Book Festival, Fox Cities area

October 2024: Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison

November 2024: Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, Waukesha

November 2024: Great Lakes Writers Festival, Sheboygan


My next blog post will be in January. Happy shopping, happy reading, and happy holidays, all!

~ Tracey

T.K. Sheffield, MA

Model Suspect, an award-winning cozy mystery. A retired fashion model uses her skill at spotting posers to solve murders in her touristy Wisconsin town.

Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest for writing tips, author news, and to share my Wisconsin backyard.

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