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!

Screen Idol is free!

Chris and Sydney are coming your way for free!

Have you downloaded the first book in my Hollywood to Olympus series? If not, now it is the time. SCREEN IDOL is free on all e-vendors!

AmazonKOBOiBooksB&N

Sydney Richardson should have trusted her instincts and locked the door when a Greek god appeared on her doorstep at sunrise. After months of work, she needs every second of the day to wrap up a two-part fundraiser for burn victims like herself and she can’t afford to waste time with a TV hunk, no matter how good he looks in a toga.

Chris Peck, worshipped by millions as Zeus on the hit drama Olympus, desperately wants to prove to the producers of a soon-to-be-cast romantic comedy that he doesn’t need fight scenes or special effects to make the jump to the big screen. Acting as the slave-for-a-day in the show’s fan appreciation contest was supposed to cement his everyman credibility but the winner wants nothing to do with him.

Chris is captivated by the woman who refuses to fawn over his looks and fame, and he promises to put her fundraising efforts over the top if she’ll spend the day with him. However, just when he convinces Sydney they could have a chance together, the movie’s producers offer him an audition that would mean breaking his promise and leaving Sydney in the lurch. The king of the gods has until sunset to prove to his new off-screen love interest that Hollywood magic and reality can co-exist.

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!

The Write Cast – season 2 episode 3

© Angellodeco | Dreamstime.com – Microphone on live

It’s hard being a writer. Your job is basically sitting in front of a screen all day long. While that can lead to productivity, it can also lead to health problems. Inactivity isn’t good for anybody.

This month, J.H. Moncrieff, Drew Kozub and I talk about Fitness for Writers.  I am fortunate enough to have a treadmill, and I take two or three 10-minute breaks in the afternoon. (I walk at 3 miles per hour, so I get 1.0 or 1.5 miles a day in.)  And, when the warmer weather comes, I’ll do my story plotting while mowing the lawn or weeding the garden. These may not work of you, but between the three of us, I hope you find a fitness regime that helps you.

(By the way, J.H. has a new book out. Monsters in our Wake should have you running away from your e-reader in terror. That counts!)

Win PURSUIT and 40 other books

Hey, my romantic suspense readers! Have you heard about Booksweeps? You have the chance to win over 40 romantic suspense books. Check out this link for details. One of these books is PURSUIT, and the third and final book of the Calendar Killer trilogy will be out later this year.

Part of this contest is newsletter sign-ups. The good news is that a lot of these authors will likely be offering a free book in their emails, so check them out.

(If you sign up for a newsletter and decide you don’t want to receive it anymore, please UNSUBSCRIBE instead of marking it as spam. Thank you, from someone who has to deal with the back-end of a newsletter subscriptions service.)

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

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!

Win some free books

In the interest of getting you hooked on as many new authors as possible, I’m happy to spread the news about BookSweeps.  You can enter to win all kinds of free e-books, you can check out a bunch of authors at the same time.

It’s sorted by genre, so you can get tailor-made choices delivered right to your inbox. Romantic suspense? They’ve got that. Sports romances? Sci-fi? Pick any and all you want.

I’m going to be upfront with you. It is a promo site. You do have the chance to win free books, and get free books from authors, but you’ll be signed up to authors’ newsletters. They tell you this when you sign up, so it won’t be a surprise. I still recommend you go for it. Open the first newsletter, see if you like it. If you don’t, unsubscribe. Please don’t mark it as spam because that causes problems for the author (and you did agree to get the newsletter.)

Hey, buddy, can you spare a dollar for a good book?

Red heart isolated on white background

Not even a whole dollar. Just $0.99. A ton of $0.99 stories – including Cuban Moon – are on sale for the next two days (Feb 12 and 13). Get yourself a Valentine’s present! Check out this site for a complete list of books and vendors that you can get for a dollar, a buck, a loonie.

(Speaking of Cuban Moon, I have news for you. Dominican Stars, the third book in the Resort Romance series, will be out later this month, also for $0.99. Why don’t you check them all out?)