Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Frugal Writer Needs Coffee and Chocolate

This week I believe I have cooked more at home than I have in the last ten years. New work schedules have allowed me to make more use of the kitchen, and it's fun to see how much a dinner costs at home as opposed to eating out. We do like the convenience of going out, but our bank account doesn't. Tonight I'm trying a recipe I found on Pinterest - quinoa and broccoli casserole. I had to do some shopping first, and luckily today was double $1 coupon day at Farm Fresh.

Overall I saved 44% on the bill. One day I'm going to crest 50% but I did score some decent deals:

  • Campbell's Skillet Sauce - originally $2.99, $.99 after coupons
  • Two jars of Newman's Own Spaghetti Sauce - on sale for 2/$5, 2 for $3 after coupons, so $1.50 a jar
  • Tyson mini chicken sandwiches - originally $5.99, $3.99 after coupons
  • Two bags of shredded Kraft cheese - on sale for $1.99 each ($3.98), $2.80 after coupons, so $1.40 each
  • Bailey's Irish Creamer for coffee - on sale for $1.50, $.50 after coupons
On the way home I stopped at CVS to use a Milky Way buy 2/get 1 that was about to expire. Bars were on sale for 2/$2, so I saved on that as well. I'm sure I could have gotten them cheaper elsewhere, but few stores carry the dark chocolate flavor, which I prefer. Even here, I got the last three bars.

So I have creamer for my coffee and chocolate for my writing. Time to get productive!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book News: F/F Sensual Adventure Coming

I may have mentioned I recently received the rights back to a story called Under Covers. That story has an unusual history. It had been published originally with Venus Press as part of their zodiac line, though the actual zodiac never really figured into the story. When Venus went belly up, I moved it to Phaze Books after a revision and lengthening and it would become a finalist in the CAPA Awards, specifically for the Psyche Award. Despite the acclaim, something about the story nagged at me. It might have been because Under Covers was like nothing I had written before in terms of genre and point of view, and sensuality.

Fast forward a few years, and the contract expired, so I decided to give the story a makeover. While the main story is somewhat intact, I've given characters and dialogue a thorough makeover. I've added scenes and lengthened the word count. I believe I have improved upon the story and that it reads well, and I hope you enjoy it. If you never had the chance to pick up Under Covers, this story is new to you! Look for a blog announcement on the release date.

In other book news, I hope to have Bittersweet polished and ready to go somewhere. I know some readers have waited for that story, and I want to do right by it and those who wish to read it. Look for news soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The (Ailing) Frugal Writer

Usually when I go to a con, I bring home something commonly known as "con crud." When you spend 2-3 days in close quarters with people from around the region, particularly in an area suffering a cold snap, you tend to get sick afterward unless you have taken precautions. This year, I went to MarsCon pre-sick, and it's a miracle I made it through the late-night panels. I almost begged off this year, but as I had committed I didn't want to let anybody down. So I popped cough drops like they were Jolly Ranchers, stayed hydrated, and tried not to shake hands. If I absolutely didn't have to be in a con room, I stayed to myself in order to keep everybody germ free.

Today, I'm still shaking off the remnants of my cold, but I was well enough to hit a small BOGO sale at Harris Teeter for much needed provisions. Some are actually relevant to this post.

  • Halls coughs drops were BOGO at $2.19, putting these at $1.09 each. Add a $1.00 off coupon, and I basically got two bags for $.55 each.
  • Frank's Hot Sauce was 3 for $5.00, so about $1.67 each. I had two different $.75 coupons, which doubled. So, two bottles at sixteen cents each! I got regular buffalo and sweet chili, which will make great marinades.
  • Planter's peanut butter was two for $5, so $2.50 each. I had a $1 off coupon, so got a jar of creamy for $1.50. Not bad, and we can never have enough PB.
  • 9 oz. bottles of Ken's salad dressing were a buck each, and I had a $1 off 2 coupon. Basically got a free bottle, or fifty cents per.
Good thing about catching things like PB and sauces cheap is that they will keep. I have a lot of marinating in my future, it appears.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Readers Love

I thought this was cool. All Romance eBooks recently put out this infographic charting their top selling genres for 2012. I had known for a while that M/M was a big seller there, and clearly it's official. I can only guess that the interest in 50 Shades stuff spiked the BDSM sales, but I find it interesting that menage is on the rise. I'm seeing more menage books coming out, and even had a reader ask me about menage in the future.

I'm looking at this list and find I probably have at least one book in every top category. Historical romance is the only one where I don't, unless you count Silver Wings, which I edited, and perhaps Boone. I was never really sure where to put that story - it definitely isn't contemporary.

As for whether or not I'll use this as a guide in the future, I can't say. 2013's chart could vastly differ, especially with the rise in New Adult and other stories. My goal for 2013 is to tie up loose ends and write sequels I have promised. Bittersweet is being polished now, and I have to look at my catalog to see what's next. Going to be busy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Marscon Wrap-Up, Book News, and a Strange Freebie.

Last night I returned home from another great Marscon, an annual SFF event held in Williamsburg. This is, I think, my fifth visit to the con as a guest, and I had a great time hanging with authors and editors like JM Snyder of JMS Books, Elizabeth Brooks, Nobilis Reed, and Helen "Cynical Woman" Madden. This year I appeared on various panels on erotic fiction and writing for a living, and I participated in the Marscon preliminary round of Erotic Iron Chef.

No, it didn't involve nude cooking. :-) This is a fun competition where erotica authors are giving a theme and must write a short in about 20 minutes using the theme. The audience decides the winner. Not to brag, because I had formidable competition, but I won! I now will go to Balticon and compete in the finals for the prestigious Golden Artichoke Award and the Crocheted Penis of Doom award.

Yeah, I suppose you have to come to Marscon to understand all of this. It's a fun time. I wish I had spent more time enjoying the con, but I have been sick all week and elected to take free time to myself to recover and nap. I also went to the Williamsburg Outlets to buy new Vans. Vans are my signature shoe. If you see a woman in Vans at RT, Authors After Dark, Book Expo, or any major book event, it might be me.

I took this photo to compare my old and busted black Vans from the new awesome chili red pair currently on my feet. I usually wear shoes until they dissolve, and my husband hates that. "We're not homeless yet," he said, and sprang for the shoes.

While I recover from my sniffles, I will work on polishing Bittersweet, the long-asked for follow up to Taste This. Finally, it is done and I am trying to decide what to do with it - rather, add more to get it to 50K or keep it around the 38K number where it is now. I've spent enough time away from it, so we will see. I only hope it's well received regardless of the final length.

While you wait, I'm happy to offer the spur of the moment story that won me the first round of Erotic Iron Chef. Bear in mind, this was a spontaneous story and in no way representative of my published works. Bear in mind, too, that Cynical Woman did the last two Iron Chefs at Balticon, and she's a dangerous influence. If you've read her stuff, you'll understand.

Not sure if I'll revisit and lengthen this one. Where could I take it?


Untitled - Leigh Ellwood

“I am sorry to inform you that 50 Shades of Mayberry wouldn’t make for a good erotic parody,” he told me.

I felt my heart deflate like the flaccid penis of an old man disappointed by a nudie magazine that promised more than it delivered on its cover. “Why not?” I demanded.

“I’ve spent the better part of the week describing Barney’s Red Room of Pain, located just over Gomer’s garage. I have already mapped three sequels to include however many other cousins have appeared on that show over the years.”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, darling. Have you any idea how many 50 Shades parodies have been pitched to our sketch show? I’ve got 50 Shades of Gilligan, 50 Shades of Monkees, 50 Shades of Green Acres.” My director ticked off examples from 1963 CBS TV schedule with his thick, tobacco-stained fingers. “The market is saturated. You give me something else, and I’ll definitely consider it.”

I left his office dejected, too brokenhearted to attempt the Dick Van Dyke collision over the ottoman on the way out. The studio seemed quiet, as though everybody had acknowledged my failure. All I ever wanted was to be a comedy writer, and include a bit of raunch if possible. After this disappointment, I didn’t know when I’d get another appointment with the director and creator of the most popular sketch show on TV again.

I decided to cut through Studio 12, where they were filming an outdoor scene for a new soap pilot. I plodded past a farmyard backdrop until I came upon a small bridge that didn’t really lead anywhere. It looked out of place on the set, and I figured maybe somebody had moved it until the lunch hour arrived. Why would Teamsters work when they didn’t have to?

I stepped on the bridge and leaned on the railing, contemplating the future. If this bridge had been over water, I’d have thought about jumping. I couldn’t even contemplate suicide correctly, I thought, and stamped my foot in frustration.


I looked down, to discover somebody napping under the wooden structure.

“What was that?” I muttered, and stepped down to investigate. A lanky, handsome key grip, wincing as though awakened stared up at me. “Are they filming yet?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’m just passing through,” I said. “Should I pay a toll?”

He leered at me. “That depends. Do you have an EZ Pass?”

“I’m sure I could provide the easy part, easily.” What the hell, I thought. I’d heard quite a bit about the key grips and best boys who worked at the studio, how their job titles definitely fit their skills. I glanced around the studio to confirmed we were alone, and slipped under the bridge and hope no billy goats trod over us to get to wherever the hell it was they go in fairy tales.

My key grip sported an impressive bulge in his Calvin Kleins, offering me something to grip. “How long have you down here?” I asked.

“Question is,” he said, his voice low and growling, “is how soon do I get to go down?”

Oh, why wait? Off came my skirt, the short-cuffed socks, the Mary Janes – anything I had on obstructing the key grip from his goal. Settling myself on his smiling face, I rocked against his probing tongue while grasping the underside of the bridge.

Unbidden, soon, came that blasted songs tearing through my head. “London Bridge is coming down, I’m coming down. My fair lady!”

Right on the high note, I shuddered my climax and collapsed in a heap on top of him. All thoughts of Mayberry and sketch comedy had faded from my mind, and I relaxed under the bridge in my new lover’s arms. Thelma Lou should have this so good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Frugal Writer on Double Coupon Days and the Drugstore

Today is the last day of Harris Teeter's Super Double Coupon sale, and while I didn't shop there today I still managed to save a few bucks elsewhere. Over the last few days, though, I came away with what I thought were good deals. I've saved the receipts of my last four trips out to share.

As I attempt to save money on groceries and other items, I have learned a few things (many from coupon advice sites). For one, it isn't necessary to get all your shopping done in one trip. Convenient in a way, but as I drive past a number of stores on the way to school drop-off and pick-up, I can spare a few minutes here and there if I know I'll save significantly. Also, I'm trying to be more aware of acceptable coupon stacking, especially at drugstores. Today I did well with that.

Lastly, over these trips I bought items for which I had a coupon, and nothing else. It's easy to be tempted by impulse items, but I'm training myself not to get carried away anymore.

Anyway, here's a survey of my last four trips out. As a writer working from home, it's important now more than ever to watch every dollar coming and going.


  • Smucker's Raspberry Preserves - Originally $3.39, minus $.89 card savings, minus $.55 x2 coupon. I paid $1.40.
  • Uncle Ben's 2-pack rice cups - Originally $3.10, minus $1.00 x2 coupon. I paid $1.10.
  • 2 packs Starfish Tuna, herb and garlic flavor - Originally $5.18 for 2, minus $2.68 card savings, minus $.55 x2 coupon. I paid $1.40, so $.70 each
  • Nectresse Sweetener - Originally $4.29, minus $.80 card savings, minus $1.50 x2 coupon. I paid $.49
Total w/o discounts: $15.96
HT VIC Card Savings: $4.37
Coupon Savings: $6.20
The total comes out to $5.39, but I ended up paying only $4.59 for everything. Well, I'm a writer, not a mathematician. 

  • 2 boxes Hefty sandwich bags - Originally $5.98, minus $1.50 x2 coupon. I paid $2.98, or $1.49 each.
  • 1 bottle Beano digestives - Originally $5.69, minus $2 x2 coupon. I paid $1.69.
  • 1 Good and Natural granola bar. Originally $1.25, had a free coupon. HT actually doubled this and took twice the value of the bar ($1.25 x2) off the bill. 
  • 2 Protein Bars - Originally $3.38 for both, minus $.88 card savings, minus $1 x2 coupon. I paid $.50, or $.25 each.
  • 2 boxes Finish dishwater gel packs. These were BOGO. Originally $11.58 for two, minus $5.79, minus $2.15 coupon. I paid $3.64, or $1.82 each.
Total w/o discounts: $27.88
HT VIC Card Savings: $6.67
Coupon savings: $13.65

With taxes, I paid $8.24 total for everything.

Today at CVS: Ricola cough drops were 2 for $3.00. I printed a special CVS $1 coupon and used a $1 coupon from the Sunday paper. The two bags then totaled $1, so I only paid $.50 per bag.

Today at Rite-Aid: The weekly circular had a $2 off coupon on Mitchum deodorant. I bought one originally priced at $4.29 and used the $2 store coupon and an additional $1 Sunday paper coupon. Total: $1.29.

Rite-Aid also had Viactiv calcium supplements on sale for 40% off. Originally $9.96, sale price $5.81 plus a $1.50 coupon. Total: $4.31.

I don't use some of these products regularly, so we'll see if they are worth another buy in the future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Frugal Writer Goes Shopping

As part of my resolution to not pay full price for groceries if I can help it, I took advantage of Harris Teeter's Super Double Coupons sale. I did pretty well this round, saving over 50% on the bill. Some of the highlights:

  • 1 bag of Hershey's Simple Pleasures - originally $3.99.
    A writer has to have chocolate! HT was having a sale on these for 2 for $6.00, but I got one bag for $3.00. Used a $1.50 coupon that doubled and got these for FREE!
  • 2 bars of Toblerone - originally $2.59.
    Hey, chocolate keeps well. Anyway, these were discounted to $2.29 each, and I had a coupon for $1.00 off 2 bars. So that was $2.00, making each bar $1.29 each.
  • 2 stacks of Ziploc containers - originally $3.89
    These were special holiday containers - not the clear kind, but colored red and green for Christmas giving. These were discounted to $1.97 each, and I had a $1 off coupon if I bought two. So essentially these were buy one, get one free for me for $1.97, or about 98 cents each!
  • Hormel Meatloaf microwavable lunch - originally $2.57
    I like to keep these around for lunch when I'm alone. This was discounted to $1.97, and I had a $1 off coupon, making this free as well.
Later today at Target, I scored a pouch of Betty Crocker Gingerbread cookie mix on clearance. Cost was 62 cents, and a 40 cent coupon for cookie mix brought it down to 22 cents! Nothing keeps a writer happy like cheap chocolate and cookies!

Since I'll be working at home more, I'll need to be more frugal and save my money for RT and other cons I have happening this year. Clip those coupons while you can - they do work!