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19 January 2019

Saturday Spotlight | Jinx Schwartz, Author Of The Hetta Coffey Mysteries

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday and Wednesday about our travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.




Today, I'm featuring an interview with Jinx Schwartz, USA Today bestselling author of the Hetta Coffey Mysteries. I first discovered Jinx and her books through the Women Who Sail Facebook group and quickly fell in love with her main character, Hetta, a sassy woman with a snazzy yacht who isn't afraid to use it.

Jinx has a great sense of humor and her books have me laughing out loud from start to finish. The fact that they have a boating focus is the icing on the cake (and we all know how much I like cake). When I set out to write my own sailing mystery series, Jinx was one of my inspirations and she was incredibly encouraging to me when I was first starting out.

So, without further ado, let's hear what Jinx has to say about writing, cookies, and penguins.


1 - What inspired you to write your books?

Freedom. After dropping out of the rat race to cruise, I suddenly had time to jot down things I wanted to say, et voila, books!


2 - Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. If I get stuck, I go back to the beginning and start editing and it usually jump starts me again.


3 - What's more important - character or plot?

In my series, I already have Hetta. She's a character, as we say in Texas, and the plot just follows.


4 - What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?

I love the creative part, and editing. Just kidding, I hate editing! Oh, and marketing! Love book signings, though.


5 - What's your favorite cookie? If you don't like cookies, what's wrong with you? Oops, sorry scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be more polite - "Why don't you like cookies?"

I never met a cookie I didn't like!


6 - A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Donde esta el pez? (Where's the fish?)


7 - What else would you like us to know about you?

I've never been in jail. And I once got drunk with Judy Garland.


Thanks for the interview, Jinx! Anyone who says that they never met a cookie they didn't like is a gal after my own heart. :-)


AUTHOR BIO


USA Today Bestselling author, Jinx Schwartz, has written fourteen books, including ten in the Hetta Coffey series. Hetta is a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she's not afraid to use it! A ninth-generation Texan, Jinx has lived and worked all over the globe, and much like the protagonist in her Hetta Coffey mystery series, she's a woman with a yacht and not afraid to use it!

Connect with Jinx on Bookbub, Facebook and Twitter and sign up for her newsletter on her website.

You can find Jinx's books on Amazon, including her latest release, book #10 in the Hetta Coffey series - Just for the Birds.


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

The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback & large print available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

16 January 2019

Wordless Wednesday | Found Objects


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 - We've been trying to go for walks each morning. I keep an eye out for traffic while Scott keeps his eye on the ground in search of treasure.

2 - One morning, he spotted this sad little plastic bighorn sheep. We placed it on the pedestal of the barrier at the railway crossing. Every morning, we wave hello to it.

3 - I wonder if its owner misses it?

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!


The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

14 January 2019

Cost Of Living Aboard A Sailboat & Not Going Anywhere | 2018 Recap


Although I post regularly on our cost of cruising and living aboard Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat {see our How Much It Costs page} I thought it would be useful to do a recap of how much we spent during all of 2018. That way you can see the total picture including yearly spend and average monthly spend by category.

So let's cut to the chase - we spent $20,567 during 2018, which comes out to a monthly average of $1,714. That's around $4,000 less than what we spent the previous year.


If you want to see the breakdown behind those numbers, have a read below. Be warned, it's a long post so I'll throw some random pictures in to jazz things up.

By the way, you'll notice that I titled this post, "Cost of Living Aboard a Sailboat and NOT Going Anywhere." That's because our boat didn't move out of her slip in 2018. Well, actually she did, but it was just to go to the other side of the marina to be hauled out. We had hoped to be in the Bahamas in early 2019, but we've discovered an issue with our boat which means we're in the boatyard and need to do some repairs.

But before we get started, here are a few thoughts about expense tracking vs. budgeting, income, and categorizing expenses.

Expense Tracking vs. Budgeting

We track our expenses on a monthly basis. We do not track our expenses against a budget. In fact, we don't have a budget. For some people budgeting (i.e., setting limits on how much you're going to spend in certain categories) is a very useful tool to control expenditure and prioritize spending decisions. For example, they might allocate $200 a month for eating out. Once they've reached that cap, they don't go out to eat again until the following month. Or they might only spend $150 that month, which means they've got an extra $50 in next month's budget.

We've found that by tightly monitoring and managing how much we spend, we don't need to budget. We know that in some months and some years we're going to spend more than in others. We're naturally frugal (some might call it cheap) and tend to consider what we spend our money on quite carefully. Keep in mind that this approach works for us, but it might not work for you.

Income

The questions everyone really wants to know are How much money do you have? and How can you afford this? If you're hoping that we'll answer those questions, then you're going to be disappointed. Suffice it to say that we have a little bit of income and some savings.  By taking a minimalist approach, living frugally, and stretching our dollars, we've been able to enjoy this lifestyle for now. It may not last forever, but we're going to keep at it while it's still fun and we still have our health. {FYI, for what it's worth, we're in our 50s, so we're not collecting retirement income, social security etc.}

Categorization

Everyone categorizes their expenses differently, which can make it tricky to compare different people's reports of their cost of cruising.

For example, some people categorize everything they buy in a grocery store as groceries even if it includes things you can't eat. And I can see why - it probably makes for easier tracking. You just enter the total on the grocery store receipt under the groceries category. I like to make things hard for myself, so I go through each grocery store receipt line item by line item and assign things to separate categories. That way I know exactly how much we spend on food versus things like shampoo.

There's no right or wrong way to categorize things. Whatever works best for you is the right way.


* * *

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

4 - We have two people living on board full-time - my husband and me (although Scott was gone for much of the year overseas working). No pets and no kids.

5 - Because Scott was away for an extended period, our expenses for things like groceries and entertainment are less than they normally would be.

6 -  I haven't included any expenses related to my writing (e.g., editor, book cover design, publishing expenses, author website).


A gloomy day at the marina.

 >>Marina Costs<<

Yearly Total = $8,428
Monthly Average = $702

We include all costs for marina slips and mooring balls in this category. Basically a place to park our boat when we're not anchored out. You can think of it like rent. We spent all of 2018 at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida. We were in a slip until mid-December (around $672 a month for a boat our size) when  we moved into the boatyard ($30 a day). I've also included out costs for pump-outs in this category.

Tickety Boo on the hard in the boatyard.

>>Boat Stuff<<

Yearly Total = $4,029
Monthly Average = $335

This includes everything we buy for the boat, items related to repairs and maintenance, insurance, and other miscellaneous costs.

One of the big ticket items was boat insurance ($937 a year through Geico). We also have Tow Boat US insurance ($124) which offers peace of mind should we need need a tow or assistance (you can think of it like AAA or CAA insurance for your car).

In terms of boat equipment, we bought new house and starter batteries ($484), a new-to-us Walker Bay sailing dinghy ($250) and a new-to-us windlass ($160). We also bought some components to build a composting toilet including a urine diverter, coconut coir, and a 3-gallon jerry can, however this project has been put on hold (along with other boat projects) while we work through the insurance process for the repairs to the crack in our hull.

The other big cost captured in here is related to hauling out boat out of the water and moving her to the boatyard ($288).

Other expenses in this category include $27 for a Customs & Border Protection decal (which allows you to clear back into the States over the phone as part of the Small Vessel Registration System) and $26 for our annual Coast Guard documentation renewal.

Experimenting with meal kits.

>>Groceries<<

Yearly Total = $2,726
Monthly Average = $227

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.

Our monthly average probably looks quite low, but that's due in large part to the fact that Scott wasn't here during much of the year. When it's the two of us, our spending usually comes in around $400 a month.


Chloe the Coconut Husking Lab, one of the adorable boat dogs at the marina.

>>Personal & Hygiene<<

Yearly Total = $200
Monthly Average = $17

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.

Ethiopian food with friends in West Palm Beach.

>>Entertainment<<

Yearly Total = $1,107
Monthly Average = $92

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.

Tracking pizza, fast food, coffees etc. in the entertainment category helps to remind ourselves that, in an ideal world, we would only drink and eat out as a form of entertainment - enjoying the company of friends (Taco Tuesday comes to mind), as part of our travels, or indulging in Ethiopian food (one of our favorite cuisines). However, we don't live in an ideal world and fall prey to the lures of take-away food from time to time.

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.

This is one of the categories where we can really try to control costs and look for ways to cut back on spending as part of our yearly review.

One of the marina's resident alligators.

>>Communications<<

Yearly Total = $660
Monthly Average = $55

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $55 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. We continued with that plan while we were out cruising so that we can keep our US cell phone number.

Our vehicle broken down on the side of the road.


>>Vehicle<<

Yearly Total = $652
Monthly Average = $54

This includes registration, gas, repairs, and maintenance for our 1995 Nissan Pathfinder.We spent about $300 on gas, mostly going into the "big city" of Stuart to run errands. Our vehicle also broke down twice during the span of a week. We ended up getting a new battery and a belt replaced. Our Pathfinder is holding up pretty well considering how old she is.

Sunrise at the marina.

>>Medical Expenses<<

Yearly Total = $333
Monthly Average = $28

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.

The only real boat ride of the year - being towed out of the St. Lucie lock on a friend's boat.

 >>Other<<

Yearly Total = $2,432
Monthly Average = $203

In this category, we include 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 ($3.25 a load)..

Some of the larger expenses were for plane tickets ($772) - one for Scott from the UK back to Florida and one for me to visit my family in Portland.

We spent $212 on clothes, $156 on Amazon Prime, $1 on library fines (oops!), and lots of other money on random things like a frying pan, eyeglasses case, bike lock, hand mirror, solar shower, sheet music, tiny toy dinosaurs, storage boxes, and food for the marina cats.

Did we spend more or less than you would have expected? Do you track your expenses? Any frugal tips and tricks to share?

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

The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback & Large Print available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

09 January 2019

Wordless Wesnesday | Rubber Duckies





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 - I love my mom's sense of humor. When I was visiting her last month, we set out these adorable rubber duckies around the spa pool at her building.

2 - I suspect that the rubber duckies are meant for when grandkids come visit their grandparents, but we're both young at heart.

3 - Which one is your favorite? I think the pirate ducks is pretty cute.


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!


The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 


07 January 2019

December 2018 In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left: (1) Bob the Pirate Dog; (2) I read 100 books in 2018 as part of the Goodreads challenge!; (3) Having German food and beer in Portland; (4) The annual good luck New Year's pig gifts from my mom; (5) the line-up at the Christmas Eve potluck at the marina; and (6) Tickety Boo being moved into the workyard.

What can I say about December. It was a month of highs and lows. I got to visit my family in Portland for a week - that was a high. We hauled our boat out of the water to assess the crack in our hull - that was a real low. It's bad. We had some cool weather in Florida - a high. I had freezing weather in Portland - a low. My sister has adorable cats that I got to play with - a high. .  .well, let's just leave it there with a crazy cat lady high, shall we?

Okay, so onto the recap of last month in numbers. Basically, the really random numbers that pop into my head as I write these monthly posts.

  • 4 - How many quarts my slow cooker holds. I made baked bean in it for the Christmas Eve potluck at the marina. The pot was empty at the end of the night, so I guess they tasted okay.

  • $4 - How much it costs per foot to haul your boat out of the water and move it into the workyard at Indiantown Marina. Plus it's $4 a foot to block your boat. The workyard is costing us $30 a day and there's a special one-time fee on top of that. It all adds up. Cha-ching.

  • 4 - Number of inches the razor blades are in our paint scraping tool. Scott has been a trooper working away at getting the many layers of old paint off of our hull.

  • 4 - How many times I repeated the number "four" above. Maybe four is my new lucky number?

  • 10 - Number of books I read last month including 4 sci-fi/fantasy, 1 thriller, 3 mysteries, 1 romance, and 1 general fiction. My pick for the month is Jinx Schwartz's Just for the Birds. Such a fun read and it's a boating mystery so it was right up my alley.



  • 5 - Number of flights I took to and from Portland. There was a bit of a fiasco getting out of Charlotte when that big snow storm was on its way, but I made it out and just in the nick of time.

  • 435 - How many chocolate chip cookies I ate at my sister's. She makes the best cookies, hands down. I think it was probably less than 435, but my pants beg to differ. Do you know what the true, unsung hero of the holidays is? Elastic waistbands. Yoga pants for the win!

  • 16 - How old my nieces are. How did they get to be so old? How did I get to be so old? 

  • 6 - How many cans of green chilies I have onboard our boat. I need to use them up. Any good recipe ideas you want to share involving green chilies?

  • 4 - How many dark chocolate pigs my mom sent us this year. Pigs are a good luck New Year's tradition in our family. I think they're extra lucky when they're made out of chocolate.

  • 9:30 PM - How late I stayed up on New Year's Eve. Pathetic, huh?

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month on this blog and my author blog:

Life Lately from Coast to Coast
Life in a Tree House
Publishing Large Print Cozy Mystery Books

How did last month go for you? What are you looking forward to this month?

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



The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback & Large Print available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

02 January 2019

Stop Being So Nosy! | IWSG


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.

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 favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about writing?"

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. You can see how I answered the question below.


* * *


"I'd like to ask you some questions if you don't mind," Simon said with a smile on his face. "But first, let me get you a cup of coffee."

Actually, that's not what he said at all. First of all, he's a very large and very grumpy gray cat. I don't think I've ever seen what passes as the feline equivalent of a smile on his face. Scowls, sure, I've seen plenty of them. And considering his lack of opposable thumbs, getting me a cup of coffee was out of the question, even if he wanted to, which is highly doubtful.

Here's what really happened.

"Hey, wake up, lady," Simon said, standing on my chest and batting me on the nose with his paw. "You gotta answer some questions. But first, get me a saucer of full-fat milk."

After I rubbed some anti-bacterial cream into the scratches he had left on my nose and given him his dairy fix, I reluctantly sat on the couch and prepared for Simon's interrogation.

"Question #1 - why do you write such stupid books? I mean come on, books about a stupid lady who believes in alien abduction. No one wants to read that nonsense."

I ignored this question and filled up my coffee cup.

Simon growled. "Hey, lady, I'm not finished. Question #2 - how much money do you make selling books?"

"Not enough," I said.

"Then you're going to have to get a job at Walmart," Simon said. "I have needs."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. You need cat food, catnip, and milk. Maybe you should be the one getting a job."

"Cats don't work. That's why we have humans - to take care of us." Simon jumped on my lap. "Question #3 - how come nobody wants to buy your books? Oh, wait, I can answer that - cause your books are stupid."

I shoved Simon off my lap. "Hey, people buy my books."

"Your mom doesn't count," Simon said while sharpening his claws on one of my throw pillows.

"You know what I think would sell really well?" Simon stared at me blankly. "A book about a cat who never got to have full-fat milk again."

Simon narrowed his eyes and hissed. Then he hacked up a hairball on the throw pillow he had just shredded. I sighed. There wasn't going to be enough coffee to get through this day.


* * *

It's strange. For some reason, I don't like telling people how many books I've sold or how much money I've made writing. Considering I freely share how much we spend each month on our blog, you'd think that wouldn't bother me, but for some reason it does. Maybe if one day, I sell a million books or make a million dollars, that will change, but for now, I do my best to change the subject when people ask me about sales or income.

There are questions that people ask which I'm happy to answer - like how I went about publishing my cozy mysteries and what publishing route I took (you can find all sorts of posts on the subject over on my author blog), why I enjoy cozy mysteries, and if I can feature their pet in an upcoming book (three of my friends' dogs are going to make an appearance in Poisoned by the Pier). Of course, I certainly never mind when anyone asks where they can buy a copy of my book. :-)

What kinds of questions do people ask you that you wish they wouldn't? How do you answer them? What kind of questions do you love getting?


The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback & Large Print available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com 

31 December 2018

Life In A Tree House, Or Stuck In The Boatyard With A Hole In Our Boat

We used to live on a sailboat in the water. Now, we live in a tree house. Well, not exactly a tree house. We still live on our sailboat, except now it's on land and you have to clamber up a ladder to get onto it. So it feels like a tree house, except it's a lot less fun.

My mom is going to have a heart attack when she sees this picture. Yes, mom, we climb up and down this several times a day. So far, no broken limbs.


We had always planned on hauling Tickety Boo out of the water and into the boatyard to do the bottom paint and take care of a few other things. But the plan was to do that after this season in the Bahamas. Not before.

We were busy getting ready to head off. Boat projects were coming along nicely, provisioning had begun in earnest, and I dug out my swimsuits. Then we discovered a crack in our hull. No bueno.

Could it be that my latest book, Bodies in the Boatyard, is coming to life? Finding a leak on their boat is exactly what happened to Mollie and Scooter. Let's just hope that's where the similarities end. I really don't want to stumble across any dead bodies behind our boat hidden under one of our dinghies.


So while we wait for the insurance process to sort itself out, we're stuck in the boatyard, living in our little tree house.

It's kind of an interesting way to live. When we want to fill up our water tanks, we have to tie the hose onto a line to pull it up on deck.


Our gray water from washing our dishes and brushing our teeth drains into a bucket which we have to empty regularly. Don't ask about the toilet arrangements. You really don't want to know.


In the meantime, while we're waiting to see what will happen with insurance, I've been working on the next book in my cozy mystery series, Poisoned by the Pier. Since the last book has started to come true, I'm thinking this one might end up being really boring and be all about a boat that nothing ever goes wrong with. That's the kind of story I'd like to come to life.


Did you have a tree house as a kid (or as an adult)? Does climbing up and down ladders make you nervous?

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


The latest Mollie McGhie cozy sailing mystery is now available! Pick up a copy of >>Bodies in the Boatyard<< at:

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

Paperback & Large Print available at: Amazon

Find out more at ellenjacobsonauthor.com