Category Archives: Life

Happy birthday, Canada!

Happy 150th birthday, Canada. You look wonderful!

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver (1), I love your wildness, and your cities, your summers and your winters (except for that 3 week stretch in January where you are -40 for days on end), and all the land between the two coasts.

I love your maple sugar candies and your poutine, your broom ball and your hockey, and all your talented artists.

So get out there and celebrate the official birthday of Canada. Watch those fireworks, weather permitting. And kill those Canadian mosquitoes – it’s okay, it’s a national pastime.

If you really want to get into the Canadian spirit, check out Romance, Eh – Canadian Style, a blog of Canadian writers, and show your hometown pride.

(1) Land of the Silver Birch, by Pauline Johnson

 

Writing anniversary

Five years ago today, my first romance was released. PRIVATE ENCORE was not the first book I wrote, but it was the first one that was published by a digital publisher. I’m still thrilled with Rick and Eloise’s story.

I’ve always written. My first bestseller was “Sammy and Sandy the Skunks” in the fifth grade, also illustrated by yours truly. It was in the Manordale Elementary School library and some of the other students signed it out. *puffs out chest proudly.* I wasn’t an athlete in high school, but my school jacket had “Writer” on the sleeve. It took me a while to get here, but I made it.

Since that first romance, I’ve written five Hollywood to Olympus books, three short romances set in resorts, a sci-fi shifter short (which I have back and may do something with someday), two (and a half) romantic suspense novels, two Christmas romances (one to be re-released this year), and a partridge in a pear tree.  I was, and still am, tremendously excited ever time a new book comes out.

It’s a process. Each of my books is a step forward in my career. Five years later I am finally getting some momentum, so when you read a book that says it takes two to five years to establish yourself, they aren’t kidding (and I’ve been doing this full-time for 3 years!).

So here is to you, wherever you are on your journey. Five years is a drop in the bucket. I love writing and hope to be doing this for another fifty.

 

The Ultimate Relationship Test

There are milestones in any relationship. First dates, first overnight visits, first time travelling together. They are all big events in their own ways, but the big test, the true test, on whether you and your partner will make it through the tough times comes…

when you try to assemble Ikea furniture together.

I’m pleased to tell you all that I am in a stable relationship that is going to last. In the past two months, we have assembled a bed frame, two night tables, and a dresser. We have one dresser to go.

We are still talking to each other.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure, all the instructions are in pictures, but if you get the pieces to fit in a way they aren’t supposed to, there is no way to undo some of the steps! If it were just screws or dowels, that’s one thing. But now they have these plastic nails with screw ridges on them that you hammer in. Those suckers aren’t ever coming out once they go in. Thank goodness we had a drill downstairs because I inserted a couple pieces backwards, and all of a sudden the holes we needed for step 8 were on the inside of the drawer instead of the outside. Thankfully, that was on the first drawer of my dresser. The rest of the drawers were fine, and I learned my lesson.

Partnership is working together, and knowing the difference between small problems and big problems and dealing with them accordingly. Accidents happen, apologizing and moving on is important on both sides.

It’s important to remember that you should not attempt this relationship step until you are sure you are both ready. If all goes well, the experience could teach you things about your partner you never knew…like how many curse words they know. Happy construction!

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(This post originally appeared on the Romance Eh? Canadian Style blog. Over a dozen Canadian romance writers post about love and life every month, so feel free to check it out.)

Getting Dirty

I’m not going to lie. Starting a date with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates, moving on to a fancy dinner with wine and a decadent dessert, and ending the night with rose-petal strewn sheets is romantic as hell.

Other things rating highly on the romance scale? A significant other who throws in a load or three of laundry without being asked, or does the dishes if you cook, or thinks it’s sexy to get dirty–outside.

It’s spring, when a young man’s fancy gently turns to thoughts of love…of tomatoes and green beans. Technically we have another month to go before we plant, but the snow is gone so it’s time to prep the garden beds. I need to  pull the weeds that have sprung up since the spring melt, loosen the snow-packed dirt, and dig out all the little critters who made their winter burrows in my topsoil. Then I can get to the gardening portion of gardening.

Shovelling wheelbarrows of topsoil and weeding isn’t innately romantic, but spending time with the object of your affections is, no matter what you’re doing. Fortunately for me, we both enjoy gardening. (I almost said being outside, but that might lead to camping, and I’m too old for a no-electricity, no-running-water, mosquito-filled campsite.) A yard – even a small one – is a big job, and it’s much easier to keep it in line with two people. When it comes to gardens, one person can keep them running, but two is more efficient. Plus, puttering around in silence has its own charms.

Even better, puttering in a vegetable garden leads to vegetables in the second half of summer. Also romantic? Cuddling on the sofa planning out where to put a new garden and what to plant in it. Cooking said vegetables together is another great couples activity (unless your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp and you are constantly in each other’s way.)

I’m going to get lots of gardening in this summer. I’m redoing my front flower beds; the perennials currently there are out of control, so I’m pulling them all. I’m also putting in a new vegetable garden in the back yard. My list includes: tomatoes, raspberries, zucchini, carrots, green onions, green and yellow beans, and peas. And maybe something green and leafy.  Oh, yeah, my garden brings all the rabbits to the yard 🙂

So, gardening. All kinds of romantic. Sadly, it’s not a common setting for books. Ranchers, yes. Farmers, less so. I don’t write either. I do have a florist and a landscaper coming up (in separate books), but that’s as close as I’ve come in Romancelandia.  If you have any that you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments.

(This post originally appeared on the Romance Eh? Canadian Style blog. Over a dozen Canadian romance writers post about love and life every month, so feel free to check it out.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patricks Day doilies on green background.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  With any luck (and today would be the day to get it), Ireland is on my 2018 agenda.  Have a great day. I’ll wear green, but I’ll be staying far away from the green beer.

Shop smarter, not harder

plane at sunset

You may not know this about me, but I am a hard-core points collector. Not all the points—nobody’s got time for that ( I’m looking at you Shoppers Drug Mart.)  I pick my battles and then I fight to win.

My primary points system is AirMiles. I’ve made a dozen trips on my AirMiles points over the last five years. They’ve all been within North America, and most during non-peak times, but that’s six round-trip tickets I didn’t pay for. Considering how much I enjoy travelling, that’s a significant savings.

How did I do it?

I worked the system.

The first thing you need to do is get a list of sponsors and see which ones will work for you. I like Safeway and Sobey’s. Some people consider those grocery stores overpriced, which is fair. However, even if you do your primary grocery shopping elsewhere, by keeping an eye on their flyers and shopping the AirMiles sales and specials, you can still get them to add up. I also use Shell as one of my primary gas stations*. In Manitoba, LiquorMart is your only option, so if you drink at all, put it on the list. I’m a writer, so I hit Staples a few times a year for ink and paper and sundry items (like Post-its. I adore Post-its.) I’ll also check out Rexall once or twice a year and flash my card there. I used to have an AirMiles American Express card (which counted as my fifth sponsor), but it had an annual fee, so I cancelled it. Now there are fee-free Bank of Montreal AirMiles MasterCards out there. If you charge your purchases, you double up on miles.

That’s five different sponsors. Five is a significant number – visiting five sponsors and getting 1000 points in one year gets you Gold status. Gold gets you even more benefits, like free stuff, chances to earn more points, and discounts on flights.

“But I’ll never get to 1000 points!” you cry.

Here’s where working the system comes in. It takes planning, but it’s doable.

I want to fly from Winnipeg to Ottawa to attend Romancing the Capital this August. I have 1777 AirMiles. Because it’s peak season, I’ll need 2000 for the ticket. At the moment, this leaves me 223 miles short. So I got to work.

AirMiles coupons come out about four times I year. I went through my recent batch, and found some for Safeway, LiquorMart, and Staples, so I pulled them. I also had some others, but as my dad taught me, it’s not a sale unless you were going to buy it anyway.

I don’t drink much. I received 3 bottles of wine in December for hosting Christmas dinner. Before that, it had been several months before I’d purchased a bottle. However, the one wine I like is Moscato, and there was a Moscato coupon. So, since it never hurts to have a bottle of wine in the cupboard, I hit the LiquorMart and got the bottle and my 16 AirMiles.

Then I took my “Spend $100 get 50 AirMiles” and “Buy 3 2L Coke products get 10 AirMiles” coupons to Safeway. I shopped from my list, and kept an eye open for sales. I didn’t need two bottles of Centrum, but one bottle was on my list. Since vitamins keep, and since they were twenty per cent off, and since they were “Buy 2 get 20 AirMiles”, I now have one bottle in reserve. The Cokes were also on sale and on my list. By the time I was done shopping, I used both my coupons, found an in-store special on something that was already on my list, and received my base miles. 85 points to me.

Then I took my 7-cents-off-per-litre coupon from Safeway and went to Shell and filled up. More points for me at sponsor #3.

I have no need to go to Staples at the moment, but I’ll keep the coupon in my wallet until it expires in case I find myself there. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

That’s over 100 points in a single trip. If I had an AirMiles credit card, I would have charged them to that and hit four sponsors in an hour.

Granted, I could do this because I had an extra $35 to spend this week ($23 on the wine and $12 for the extra bottle of vitamins.) If I didn’t, I would have waited till the next week and hit Safeway on Tuesday because they have “20X the AirMiles” events on the first Tuesday of every month, with a minimum purchase amount of $50. That works out to one AirMile per dollar spent. The wine was a nice bonus, but it was definitely a bonus. I generally only get LiquorMart points a couple times a year anyway. I likely won’t be back before summer.

But here is where I like to think I excel. As I mentioned, my previous AirMiles American Express card had an annual fee, so I cancelled it. Now I have a TD Platinum Travel Visa Card. Note – it has a $99 annual fee (which is waived with my bank plan. And my bank plan fees are waived if I maintain the minimum required balance in my chequing account. If I didn’t get this card for free, I’d definitely consider the fee-free AirMiles MasterCard.) I charge all my AirMiles shopping because I get points on all purchases. Unlike AirMiles or Aeroplan cards, these points can be used for any travel expenses. When I book a flight on AirMiles, I charge the taxes and fees to my Platinum Travel Visa Card, then I cash in my credit card points and apply the credit to the taxes and fees and I truly fly for free.

“But I don’t travel” you may say. You can still make this work for you. And you can do it without the Travel Visa. In fact, a fee-free MasterCard will work even better for you. AirMiles can be converted to Cash miles. For the cost of my ticket (2000 AirMiles) you could have $200 worth of free gas, groceries or other goods, and still have a few AirMiles left over.

Free is good. If you are willing to invest your time, you can make free pay off.

Good luck, and may the coupons be ever in your favour.

*My other preferred gas station is Red River Co-op. Membership is free, and I got a cheque this month for more than $30 as my annual member rebate. They also have Co-op grocery stores. What to guess where I go if I’m not shopping at Safeway? Of course, I use my points credit card there too. There’s always a new way to make it work for you.

Want more free? Click here for a free downloadable romance!

Happy Pi(e) Day

The mathematical number for Pi is (rounded) 3.14.

The numerical date for March fourteenth is 3.14.

Coincidence, or a scientific sign that you need to have a crusted dessert tonight?

I think you know which I believe.

Happy Pi(e) Day, my friends!

Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Red heart isolated on white background

To all the lovers and their significant others, I wish you a happy, fun, romantic St. Valentine’s Day.

To all the single ladies (and men) who are out there looking for love, feel free to use any of my heroes or heroines as you book boyfriends and girlfriends today,  and for a long as you want.

To all of you who aren’t looking for somebody at the moment, have a good day, and go for the discount chocolate tomorrow!

Happy New Year

2016 was a challenging year on many levels. But you did it – you made it through all 366 days! So burn the calendar if it will make you feel better, and get ready for 2017. I have high hopes. I know it will be the usual rollercoaster ride, but I’m hoping for more highs than lows for everybody.

Do you have any resolutions? I’m going to speak up more. (Not just chatter more, much to the relief of my friends and family, but stand up for myself and others.) That single resolution  is so big, I think it’ll just make the one this year.

Whatever you decide to do in 2017, and however you decide to ring in the new year, I wish you much joy, good luck, and success in the next 365 days.

Christmas And New Year Holiday Table Setting. Celebration