Category Archives: Travel

Romancing the Capital 2018

A couple weeks ago, a family emergency meant I had to cancel my trip to Ottawa and Romancing the Capital earlier this month. I was very sorry to miss it and, thankfully, my dad is doing fine now.

BUT

The most amazing author and organizer Eve Langlais invited me back for RTC 2018!  I am going to Romancing the Capital in 2018! Check out these attending authors:

Eve Langlais
MillyTaiden
Laurann Dohner
Evangeline Anderson
Julia Mills
Cathryn Fox
Deborah Cooke / Claire Delacroix
Eve Vaughn
Shannon Mayer
Viola Grace / Zenina Masters
Sarah Castille
Sharon Page
Krystal Shannan
Camryn Rhys
Elianne Adams
Desiree Holt
Heather Long
Coreene Callahan
Sara Hubbard
Molly O’Keefe
Freya Barker
C.M. Seabrook
Olivia Rigal
Hildie McQueen
Susan Hayes
Mandy Rosko
Angela S. Stone
Kristine Cayne
Nathan Burgoine
Anne Lange
A.M. Griffin
Elizabeth Lister
Lucy Farago
Elle Boon
Becca Jameson
Gracen Miller
Shannyn Leah
Carey Decevito
Jennifer Carole Lewis
Marianne Morea
Amy Ruttan
Sheri Lyn
Tianna Xander
Michelle Howard

Meal tickets sold out in the first 48 hours, but there are some non-meal tickets left if you want to meet any of your favourite romance authors!

I can’t believe I’m going to be in such great company. It’ll be August 2nd to 4th in Ottawa. See you there!

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!

Release day for Dominican Stars

It’s here!

If you need a break from digging out after the latest snowfall, or want to escape to someplace warm and margarita-filled while your little darling has you sitting in the arena for practice, may I suggest taking a quick $0.99 trip to the Dominican Republic.

***

All Julie Beresford wanted was a vacation fling, something to distract her from the most important decision of her teaching career. What she gets is a man who not only captures her heart but pushes her to face her fears.

Contractor Dennis Wilson is supposed to be on a father-son bonding trip, but after that turns into a solo vacation at the last minute, Julie is an intoxicating distraction from the disappointment.

When his son arrives unexpectedly, Julie’s presence throws a spanner into an already tense situation. Can Dennis salvage both relationships, or is one doomed to break?

Find the e-book at AmazoniTunesKoboBarnes & Noble

Our Nation’s Capital

I had a great time at Romancing The Capital earlier this month. (It’s on again for August 3-5, 2017, so mark your calendars.)  This year I went two days early to give myself some time to explore my old stomping grounds. I lived in Ottawa for eight years, and WOW! Have things ever changed. Ottawa is getting a light train/subway. It’s also expanded a lot.

When I lived there as a kid, we had to go to the Parliament Buildings every time family came to visit. BOR-ING.  Now, as an adult, I had to go. Sadly, they were sold out of tours but I did get to go up the Peace Tower.

I have to admit it’s much more interesting as an adult.

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Parliament Hill

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Parliament

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The locks leading into the Rideau Canal from the Ottawa River. This photo does nothing to show how pretty they actually are.

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The Rideau Canal running through Ottawa.

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I thought it was International Yoga Day or something, but there is Yoga on the Hill every Wednesday at noon during the summer.

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The East Block. (The West Block was under repair, so no pictures of it.)

 

One week from today…

I will be helping register people for ROMANCING THE CAPITAL, in Ottawa, Ontario with the ever-awesome Sadie Haller.

The event has sold out, but there is a FREE BOOK FAIR OPEN TO THE PUBLIC ON SATURDAY, MAY 7th FROM 2 to 4 PM. If you are in the area, please come by and say hello! I’ll have paperbacks to sell, AND a free giveaway!  Plus, there are 50 other amazing authors who would love to meet you. Seriously, bring a friend. You’ll both score big!

Romancing the Capital 2015

Romancing The Capital

Last weekend I went to my very first reader convention. I’ve been to writer conventions before, where the emphasis was on craft workshops and editor pitches, but I wasn’t sure what to expect at a reader con.

The answer is EXPECT AWESOMENESS!

I was a romance reader before I was a romance author. I have favourite authors and auto-buys and I’m always on the lookout for more to add to my never-ending list. This convention was both good and bad to that.

I’m not always good at approaching strangers but I had a built in topic to talk about. We were all romance fans – it was the reason we were there. So whenever I met somebody, I asked who their favourite authors were and which book they’d recommend to a new reader.

It was a bad idea.

Not that anyone refused to talk to me. In fact, I met a lot of people and even made some new friends out of the deal. Hello, new friends!

The problem is now that I have a bunch of new authors and books to try and I don’t have the budget to get them all at once. I’m talking over two pages of recommendations spanning at least four different genres. How amd I supposed to ration my reading when the list is sitting beside my computer taunting me?

Okay, it’s not a truly terrible problem to have. Especially since I won an Amazon gift card and got a veritable bagful of free books and other swag from the super generous authors who attended.

If you are a romance fan, I cannot say enough good things about this conference. You should definitely put this into your calendar; the most amazing Eve Langlais is already planning a sequel in 2016. (Give her a few days to get the website updated.) It is so much fun. And it’s in the nation’s capital. Next year I’m going to take a couple of extra days and play tourist.

I wish I had a photo of all the swag and gifts I won, but frankly I came home and slept for two days. Maybe soon.

Not family friendly

I recently went to Disneyworld, which indeed is the happiest place on earth. It’s also supposed to be family friendly, but when you are a romance writer, it skews your perspective. For example, any one of these is fine in its own, but together in the same place, these gave me the giggles.

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And I don’t think I need to say any more.

You really can’t take me anywhere.

And proud of it

I recently returned from two writing conferences (posts to follow). One was the Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle, Washington put on by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America, and the other was the Surrey International Writers Conference in Surrey (Vancouver), BC. ECWC is all romance, all the time. It’s why attendees show up. When somebody asks you “What do you write?”, and you answer “Historical” or “Contemporary” the “Romance” is assumed. We were loud and proud, and often raunchy since romance often involves sex.

At SIWC, when asked what I wrote, I said, “Contemporary romance.”  One woman’s jaw literally dropped at my answer. “You are the first person I’ve met here who admits to writing romance. Everybody else says “Women’s fiction with an element of romance” or “historical with a secondary love story”. Nobody says they’re a romance writer.” Because, you see, romance isn’t literary and isn’t spoken of in polite writing society.

I AM A ROMANCE WRITER AND I’M PROUD OF IT, BABY!  I like my sweet stories and my super-sexy reads and everything in between. I like reading them, writing them, and talking about them. If you are a fellow romance reader, writer or fan, stand up with me. Be loud and proud. I love romance and I’m not going to let anyone try to shame me about it!

Quick, give me a recommendation – who’s your fave romance author and which book should I start with?

Last chance for a free copy of CUBAN MOON

Cuban MoonThis is it, folks, your last chance to get a free copy of CUBAN MOON from Amazon.  Lisa and Hank’s tropical romance is FREE on October 18th and 19th. If you use another e-reader, don’t forget you can download the free Kindle app and get a copy that way. I love these guys… and only partially because they are in hot, sunny Cuba right as we are starting to dig in to survive another winter. **** If you’re obliged to attend a family event, there are worse options than a tropical destination wedding in February. Lisa Kleyson, representing the bride, didn’t intend to hook up with anybody while on her first Caribbean vacation ever, but when she lays eyes on the groom’s brother, her best laid plans go out the window. She knows she’s not doctor’s wife material … but he’s not on duty. Dr. Hank Anderson, representing the groom, will do his duty to his brother but he’d much rather be spending time with the music teacher who’s caught his eye. It’s nice to be the one doing the chasing instead of fending off women who want to take advantage of his position. Hank’s pursuit is booby-trapped with a stalking maid-of-honor, a Gilligan-worthy boat tour and bad crab cakes but he is determined to catch Lisa and convince her to start a romance under the Cuban Moon. PS – If you like this story, check out PUERTO VALLARTA SUNSETS to find out what Dena and Curtis did on their winter vacation. PPS – Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for chances to get free copies of my books!

Where in the world

We are down to single digit temperatures in Winnipeg and you know what that means? It means it’s time to start making escape plans for February.  I’ve been to Varadero, Cuba and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and loved both experiences so much I set books there. Since I’m running out of places to set my resort romances, I think I have to book a new destination – for research purposes only. I promise not to enjoy myself at all.

Option one is Hawaii. Where in Hawaii? I really don’t care.  Any trip that starts of with you getting lei’d when you get off the airplane can’t be bad (yep, I went there 🙂 )  Seriously, there is some incredible history there and tons of gorgeous beaches for inspiration. And there’s a volcano. I’ve always wanted to visit a volcano!

Option two is Jamaica. I’m more of a vodka girl but there is an entire subset of rum named after this Caribbean island. That must mean they know how to party. Again, there are amazing beaches from what I hear.

Option three is a cruise. The Caribbean is broken into three segments so I could go to any islands I wanted. Unfortunately, the island stops are only for the day. I left this one for last because although I hear the food and shows are decadent, I’ve never been at sea before.

I don’t actually get to book any of these trips. It’s all a nice daydream. In the real world, I’ll curl up under a blanket and keep a sharp look-out for falling white stuff.