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18 July 2018

Blogging Break | Cat Picture #2

I'm on a blogging break until Wednesday, August 1st. To keep you amused in the meantime, here's a cat picture.



16 July 2018

Blogging Break | Cat Picture #1

I'm on a blogging break until Wednesday, August 1st. To keep you amused in the meantime, here's a cat picture.


13 July 2018

Happy Birthday Mr. Blog! Our 5 Year Blogging Anniversary & A Wee Break


Image via The Graphics Fairy

Mr. Blog turned five years old today. He's getting to be such a big boy. Can you believe that this is his 844th post? And that he has 1.6k Facebook followers? They sure do grow up fast, don't they.

Every year on Mr. Blog's birthday, I do a little reflection on blogging. On his first birthday, I had a look at how Mr. Blog stacked up against the criteria for a good blog. On his second birthday, I shared some random thoughts on blogging including wondering what type of blog The Cynical Sailor really was. On his third birthday, I talked about monetizing (or not) one's blog with Adsense and Amazon. I completely forgot about his birthday last year. Oops.

{If you want to see other posts on blogging tips and tricks from myself and others, check out this page.}

* * *

This year, I thought I'd talk about something a wee bit crazy that I did - starting a second blog over on my author site. Yes, it's a bit insane to manage not one, but two blogs, but I live on a sailboat which is the very definition of insanity.

I've talked before about how I wished we hadn't named this blog The Cynical Sailor because it really evolved over time from a pure "sailing blog" into, well, a blog full of a lot of random nonsense, some related to sailing and liveaboard life and some related to things like travel, cats, polar bears, and possible alien invasions.

So, when I decided I was going to become an author and publish books*, I thought it made sense to establish an author brand** and set up a website distinct from that of The Cynical Sailor. And here's why:

1 - Not everyone who follows this blog is interested in the writing side of my life. Although, I do post monthly on writing as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) blog hop, feature books and authors on my Saturday Spotlight series, and mention my writing activity from time to time in other posts, I think I'd lose followers if that was all that I talked about. In fact, I think I'd stop writing this blog if that's all I talked about.

2 - Although my current book series is sailing-related, I've got lots of other ideas floating around in my head that have nothing to do with boats whatsoever. I'd like to be able to reach a broader audience in the future (not necessarily bigger) and a more "flexible" website seemed like the way to go.

3 - I wanted a static landing page and never could figure out if that was possible using the Blogger platform. It seemed a lot easier to use WordPress to set up my new site and not to try to monkey around and retrofit this one to work like I wanted.

4 - There was a certain appeal in starting off "fresh" and creating a website that wasn't as cluttered as this one has become. It's kind of nice to have simple, clean site that has a pure focus on books and my author activities.

5 - If we ever do decide to call it a day on The Cynical Sailor, I'll have another presence on the web already established.

Now that I've set it up, my new site is pretty easy to manage. I only blog there twice a month (the first and third Mondays) talking about the writing process (I'm currently doing a series of posts on the different aspects of publishing a cozy mystery from a newbie's perspective) and sharing tidbits about our life aboard a boat that might be of interest to readers.

While blogging twice a month might sound like a lot (especially given the fact that I blog here three times a week), it's actually quite manageable. I've re-purposed some content from this blog and my posts on the cozy mystery publishing process are basically write-ups of research I've already done. Plus, I >>love<< blogging. If you don't love blogging, you shouldn't be doing it. Otherwise, it's just a chore you resent.

If you're interested, you can check out my other site - ellenjacobsonauthor.com - and see what I'm up to over there.

NOTES:
*Saying that out loud still freaks me out - me an author? You've got to be kidding.
**I feel so pretentious talking about my "author brand." I think I've been listening to too many writing podcasts.

* * *

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's summertime. For many people, summertime is about chilling out. I've noticed many bloggers are taking a bit of a break and I thought I'd do the the same thing. I've got a lot of work to get done on my next book during the rest of the month, so I'm going to take a blogging break until Wednesday, August 1st.

But don't worry, I'll probably schedule a blog post with a cat picture from time to time over the next couple of weeks so that you don't miss me and Mr. Blog too much.

What kind of blogs do you like to read? Are you a blogger? If so, how long have you been blogging for? Do you manage more than one site?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 


Murder at the Marina - the first in a new lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery series.  "A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary - not very romantic. A dead body on board - even worse."

Buy Links

Ebook available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback version available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find Out More

Check out my author blog, sign up for my newsletter, and follow along on Twitter and my author Facebook page.

11 July 2018

Wordless Wednesday | Best Mail Forwarding Service Ever!


Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Lots of people who live a nomadic life on sailboats or in RVs use a mail forwarding service which receives your mail and forwards to your current location as required.

2 - We could have signed up with an outfit like St. Brendan's Isle, which has a really great reputation, but we went with an even better option - Mom's Mail Forwarding Inc.

3 - Yep, my mom gets our mail and forwards it to us on a regular basis.

4 - She's got a real edge over regular mail forwarding services because she goes above and beyond the call of duty. We got a letter from the IRS, so she included some Oreos to eat while we opened it. {Oreos make everything better, even tax notices.} My sister and I got my mom some wine for Mother's Day and she sent me the cork from one of the bottles because it was cute. {Who doesn't love seahorses?} She even sends interesting articles, like one about a fascinating West African guy who works at her building.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

09 July 2018

Validation & Smiles

I've been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am. People have been so lovely to me during my book release, sending me messages of encouragement, giving me positive feedback, leaving nice reviews etc. It's brought many a smile to my face.

But it's also made me think about all of those people out there who are disheartened, who don't feel like they can do anything right, who are feeling blue, suffering from depression etc. You know, the people who can't think of anything to smile about.

It brought to mind this wonderful short film starring T.J. Thyne (you may know him from the TV series Bones) called Validation. It's about a parking garage attendant who tells people how wonderful and amazing they are - he "validates" them and brings smiles to their faces.

I know we can't necessarily fix other people's problems or make all of their worries go away, but we can all help bring a smile to people's faces by offering a few words of encouragement or noticing something awesome about them. After all, there's something positive we can say about pretty much everyone, isn't there?

Anyway, that's today's random thought. If you've got some time, you might want to check out Validation. Who knows, it might bring a smile to your face.



When's the last time you paid someone a compliment? What was the last compliment someone paid you? How did it make you feel?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!


Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

06 July 2018

Cost Of Cruising & Living Aboard A Sailboat | May & June 2018

We track and report every penny we spend living aboard and cruising on Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat for a couple of reasons.

1 - It helps us see where our money is going, helps us make informed choices about where to spend our money, which in turn helps us stretch our money further so that we can keep adventuring longer.

2 - We found it really useful to check out other people's cost of cruising when we were starting out, so we figure we can return favor by sharing ours.

We're currently at Indiantown Marina in Florida. Scott is working overseas so the costs are lower than if he was here. He'll be back in the next month of two and then costs are going to skyrocket as we start work on the very long list of boat projects that we have to do.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves (on Tickety Boo, camping across the States, and our previous boat in New Zealand) and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist.

* * *

Cost of Cruising & Living Aboard | May & June 2018

Overall, we spent >>$2,339<< during May and June.

When you look at the nitty-gritty details of what we spent below, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising costs.
(b) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford, whether you get subsidies etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have a high deductible/high out-of-pocket expenses insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka the Affordable Care Act), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition.
(c) I haven't included any expenses related to my writing projects (e.g., editor, book cover design, publishing expenses, author website).
(d) Scott was in Scotland during the past two months, so our expenses are a lot less than they would be if he was here.

3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report - Florida has a 6% sales tax.

* * *

GROCERIES | Total = $372

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

Although we don't budget (you can read more about that here), I'm happiest when we keep our monthly grocery spend per person under $200. So that means a spend of $X for the past couple of months for just me made me very happy.

PERSONAL & HOUSEHOLD | Total = $11

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $177

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.

My entertainment over the past couple of months has involved quite a few meals out while I was in Atlanta and back here in Indiantown (can you say Taco Tuesday?). I also saw Solo and splurged on overpriced pop and popcorn. I don't know why Solo didn't do better in the box office. I really liked it.

COMMUNICATIONS | Total = $110

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a monthly prepaid plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts.

BOAT FUEL | Total = Nil

Tickety Boo has been sitting in her slip so we haven't needed to get any fuel.

PROPANE  | Total = Nil

We have a propane/LPG cooker on our boat, which we need to replace as the stove no longer works and replacement parts aren't available. While we're at Indiantown Marina, we use an electric hotplate and a crockpot for cooking, so we haven't had to spend any money on filling our propane tanks.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,355

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses, and the rates went up in January. The new monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34' boat is $657. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $10 for each visit.

BOAT STUFF | Total = $68


This category is for all the stuff we buy for the boat, as well as  repair and maintenance costs. I had to buy a new tarp to cover the boat and a few other bits and bobs. I also bought some stuff off of friends who are selling their boat - courtesy flags and water jerry cans.

TRANSPORT | Total = $28

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands.

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $2

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance. I have not idea what the $2.22 was for - maybe allergy pills?

OTHER | Total = $233

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry, Amazon Prime, presents, computer parts, postage etc.

I spent some money on clothes - most on leggings (so comfortable) and flip-flops, which is kind of may daily uniform. I also found a great deal on a solar shower at Aldi and we can always use a spare one of those. Perhaps my fave purchases was one of those lap desks so that you can work on your computer while you're lounging in bed.


Any money saving tips to share? What do you spend the most on each month? Are there any areas you're trying to cut back on?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!


Murder at the Marina - a lighthearted & humorous cozy sailing mystery - available in ebook and paperback format at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

03 July 2018

Simon The Time Traveling Cat Freaks Out | IWSG



NOTE: Normally, we post on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, but this post is coming to you a day early due to the 4th of July celebrations in the States.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day. The fabulous co-hosts this month are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question is:

"What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below.
* * *

Image via The Graphics Fairy

"Simon, what's wrong?" I asked, looking at the ball of gray fur curled up underneath the chart table on our sailboat. "Why are you hiding?"

Simon glared at me and growled. "I'm not hiding, lady. I'm napping."

As he inched further back into the corner, there was a loud noise outside. I peered up through the hatch. "Oh, look, fireworks!" I sat on the settee next to the chart table and looked up at the bright lights exploding overhead.

I watched as the colorful display continued, then I heard Simon making a strange yowling sound. "Simon, it's okay. It's just 4th of July celebrations," I said in a soothing voice. "Why don't you come sit next to me?"

He slunk toward me and climbed on my lap, shivering while I stroked his soft fur. Part of me was kind of enjoying the effect of the fireworks on Simon. He wasn't being snarky and demanding. Maybe this was a new Simon. Maybe I would finally have an affectionate lap cat who purred with shear happiness at being in my company.

I watched the finale of red, white, and blue lights streaking across the sky while I scratched behind Simon's ears. After a few minutes had passed, Simon stood, stretched, then jumped onto the floor. He stared at me and gave a loud meow. "Alright, lady. Show's over. Go get me a saucer of full-fat milk."

So much for the new and improved Simon, I thought to myself as I opened the fridge. But I guess there's always Independence Day next year.

* * *

I know how Simon feels. Sometimes, things are scary and cause you to freak out a little. Like launching my first book. There were times when I felt like hiding underneath the chart table. Probably the only reason I didn't is because I'm way too big to fit comfortably there.

But scary can be good. Scary means you're stretching yourself. Scary means you're trying to achieve your goals. And I did - I scared the heck out of myself and achieved my writing goal of publishing a book.

Publishing a book wasn't always my writing goal. In fact, I didn't have any writing-related goals for a long time, other than to blog here about the adventures and misadventures of our life on a sailboat. But over time, and in large part due to the support and encouragement of the IWSG, I set a goal to publish a cozy mystery.

Now that I've ticked that item off of the list, my writing goal is to publish the next book in the series, Bodies in the Boatyard, later this year and the third book, Poisoned by the Pier, in 2019. If all continues to go well, I'll aim for three more books in the series over the next few years.

 * * *


A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary - not very romantic. 
A dead body on board - even worse.

>>Murder at the Marina<< is the first in a new lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery series about Mollie McGhie, a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth.

eBook available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback version available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Find out more on Goodreads and add to your To-Read list. Check out my author website, follow along on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to my newsletter.

Do you like fireworks? What are your writing goals? Have they changed over time?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!