Tag: list

Why I get political on social media

protest picOne of the strongest suggestions for authors is to avoid politics on social media so you don’t offend your readers. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll notice that I do not follow this advice. Here’s why, in no particular order (as well as why I won’t stop):

  1. Professional obligations. I’m currently in a social work PhD program. Although I’m not currently a licensed social worker (hopefully I’ll have time to take the test and get my LMSW this summer), I still follow the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, which calls on us to advocate on the behalf of our clients. When crappy things happen that adversely affect my clients, I’ll speak out about it.
  2. Personal impact. This goes along with #1. A lot of politics affects me personally – like when the Iowa House did away with collective bargaining for state employees (including graduate students), which means that there’s a good chance I’ll lose my tuition scholarship and healthcare for next year. Politicians listen to their constituents, at least at a local/state level. Speak out for me and I’ll speak out for you.
  3. Client, friends, and family impact. Here’s another anecdote – a Sudanese woman in my grad program went back to Sudan to visit her dying mom over Christmas break. She made it back to the States two days before the travel ban went into effect. Had she not been allowed into the country where she’d lived for the past ten years, she would’ve been separated from her husband and three kids. I share issues that effect the people in my life, because chances are they’re affecting the people in your life too.
  4. Setting an example. My son loves politics and history. By speaking out, I’m showing him that it’s possible to change the course of history through your actions.
  5. Lack of awareness. Lots of people aren’t aware of what policies are being enacted and repealed, as well as how those policies are being followed. By letting people know what the issues are, hopefully they can help find a solution.
  6. My book content. I write about a lot of social issues. The Futility of Loving a Soldier is about veterans’ issues. Yours to Keep or Throw Aside deals with domestic violence. “A Place to Die” focuses on end-of-life care. “Us, Together” touches on the impact of poverty on children. If you’re offended by my posts, chances are you wouldn’t like my books either.

These are just a few brief reasons I’m political. And until the bad hombres in charge get their acts together and stop taking away needed programs and infringing upon our rights, I’m going to keep posting. And writing about it too.

* * * * * * *

What are your thoughts on authors getting political?

Resolutions: 2016 review and 2017 goals

new years mandela

Kolam near my hotel in Puducherry, India

Every year I set goals and then periodically update the world on how I’m not meeting them. Here’s the latest year in review.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

Did not happen – at least not on fiction stuff. This year was crazy busy with school stuff that I wrote on instead.

2. Finish something every month.

Nope. But I did at least start something every month. Now, if only I had time to write every day, maybe I’d finish them.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

I published “A Place to Die” in January. It’s available for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list. And I had a short story, “Three Casseroles, Two More Cookies, and a Pile of Uncles on the Floor,” published in a local holiday anthology. I’m close on some other stuff, but school stuff popped up – comps, research projects, classes, etc.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

Overall this year, I focused a lot on marketing: ads, promos, giveaways, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t say that it’s worked very well. True, I lakh-tupled my newsletter subscribers, but that’s not converting to reviews or sales. I’ll be reevaluating this for 2017 because I can’t afford to keep throwing away money on approaches that don’t work.

5. Read 100 books.

I read 73 – by which I mean I finished them completely; I didn’t count books I started but gave up on. This also doesn’t include books I read for classes.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I joined a gym in November – and have made it twice, due to a very busy end of the semester (I think I pulled more all-nighters this semester than I have in the rest of my life combined). My diet also wasn’t the best towards the end – again, no time to cook so I ate a lot of meals out that weren’t the healthiest.

Overall in 2016

Overall, I failed at my goals. Every one of them. BUT I’m doing awesome academically and am on pace to get my PhD in 3 years instead of 4. I’m focusing a lot on building my career-focused CV, which doesn’t leave much time for much else. However, I seem to be more productive the busier I am, so I should have better time management in 2017 and thus actually meet some of my goals!

Speaking of which…

2017 goals

  1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.
  2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.
  3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.
  4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.
  5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.
  6. Read 100 books.

What are your goals for 2017?

Why I had dinner with a homeless guy

I had a late class tonight and didn’t feel like cooking, so we had a late dinner at one of the only pizza places that was still open after 9 (yeah, living in a mid-size metropolitan area sucks sometimes). We were just biting into our pizza when Alonzo came by our table, asking for dollar bills in exchange for quarters.

During his spiel, he mentioned he was homeless, and as we didn’t really have cash on us, I asked him to join us and have a piece of pizza.

Alonzo was clearly taken aback, but he agreed. We gave him a slice of pizza, bought him a beer, and then had a very frank conversation about what leads to homelessness, how to overcome a problematic past, and how to react when your girlfriend just wants to have sex when you’re high.

There are several takeaways from tonight’s discussion.

1. Homeless people are still people.

They have pasts and futures and a desire for human contact, just like anyone else. So treat them like people. And if you don’t learn anything else from this post, let this be it.

2. You can always learn from the people around you.

Whether they’re homeless or housed, rich or poor, black or white or any shade in between – no matter who it is, they can teach you something. Tonight it was that for even a brief moment, you can overcome your past and still succeed in the future.

3. Most people wouldn’t agree with my actions.

Oh, the looks we got from the waiter! I could tell the staff wanted to kick Alonzo out of the building, so I ordered him a beer. On my tab. As he put it, “I ain’t trying to cause no trouble.” He wasn’t. He was a person who needed a meal. And even if he didn’t need a meal, was it really even that much of an inconvenience to share a pizza with him?

4. Everyone has a story.

Alonzo had a past and it was fascinating to hear him reflect on his mistakes and his hopes for his future. As a writer, and as a social worker (that’s what my master’s is in and my PhD will be in), all I could see were his “what-if’s.” There’s a good chance that I’ll write a story based on him in the near future, so I can give this man a voice.

I’m sharing this not so you’ll congratulate me for doing a public service, but so maybe you’ll consider doing something similar. Homeless people, and everyone else, have a story to tell. Are you willing to listen?

So you want to write a book…

My first novel, Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (previously released as The Lone Wolf), came out a couple years ago. After hearing about it, I’ve had several people tell me, “I’m not a big reader, but I’ve been thinking about writing a book too. I have a really great idea.” Which is great, but….

Before I go any further, watch this video.

It’s been said that for every overnight success, no one saw all their late nights and early mornings. Writing is no exception. It’s hard work, and it take a lot of time.

Here are the things I think are necessary to write a publishable book:

1. READ!!!!

I’ve been an avid reader since I was five (25+ years), and I read everything – fiction and nonfiction, children and adult, Nobel laureates and NY Times bestsellers, US and international, classics and modern, literary and fluff, genre – you name a category, and I’ve read something in it. I’ve taught high school literature and analyzed it in college lit classes. So, I think it’s fair to say I have a good idea of what’s out there, what works and what doesn’t, and why. But that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to write a book.

2. Develop your writing skills.

I’m currently a PhD student and I’ve worked as a professional researcher in several fields, meaning I’ve written a lot of analysis/explanatory papers, some of which I’ve won awards for. And I’ve taught writing at the high school level, so I think it’s fair to say I have well-developed writing skills. But that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to write a book.

I wrote one anyways, for NaNoWriMo ’09. And, it sucked. It sucked bad. I’d like to revisit it someday, but as for now it’ll stay locked away.

3. Get feedback from people you don’t know, who know what they’re talking about.

I kept writing, though. In October 2010, after eight months of writing, I finished the first draft of Yours to Keep or Throw Aside. Yay me! It was good, but I knew it wasn’t good enough. So I joined FOUR online writing groups (and I’ve since joined a local in-person writing group and a local writing association). Two were worthless and provided absolutely no feedback. One was filled with people who said it was great, and would I please tell them how great theirs were too so they could win a popularity contest? The fourth, Scribophile, ripped the novel apart. Not only were there story and character issues, but the writing was subpar – POV mistakes, filter words, telling instead of showing, too many tags and adverbs. And you know what? They were right.

4. Learn more about the craft of writing.

So I set out to learn about what I was doing wrong. I read books on writing. I follow a couple dozen blogs about writing. I read about what to do, and what not to do, and billions of examples and explanations of each. I talked to other writers. I’ve attended writing workshops.

I also wrote (and continue to write) short stories. While the depth is minuscule compared to a whole novel, it’s a great way to try out techniques, hone your voice, and finesse your understanding of the language.

5. REVISE, then Revise, then revise again. When you’re done with that, revise.

Armed with all that knowledge, I rewrote my novel. I got more feedback. I rewrote it again. I got more feedback. I nitpicked with edits for two years until finally I was ready to send it out into the big scary world.

6. Learn about the publishing industry.

While I’d been editing, I’d also been reading up on the publishing industry. I’d tested the waters with short stories, both with publishers and self-publishing. So when it came time to send queries, I knew who to send them to, what to say in them, and what to expect in reply.


When people tell me they want to write a book, but they don’t like reading, and they’ve never written anything other than stories in elementary school and short papers in high school, and they don’t know anything about their audience or the publishing industry, and can I put in a good word with my publisher for them? – the answer is NO.

It’s not that I’m trying to be mean. I think everyone has great (and not so great) ideas for books, and these people are no exception. But they need to put in the work, because writing a book involves much more than an idea.

Writers – what’s your experience with publishing? Any points you’d add to my list?

Resolutions: 2015 review and 2016 goals

Every year I set goals for myself and periodically evaluate them. Here are 2015’s:

1. Write and submit at least one new short story every month, with the goal being at least 10 publications this year.

Did not happen. At all. I didn’t complete a single short story all year, let alone submit one.

2. Write the rough drafts for a seven-part novella series, and maybe even publish one or two of them.

Book one is half done. The rest are in various stages of plotting – but the overall series is progressing.

3. Have at least one novel published, with another one polished enough to publish in 2016.

Didn’t happen. My next one, A Handful of Wishes, needs serious revisions.

4. Publish at least two long short stories (10k+) or short story collections.

Almost. I have one more pass of edits before I hit publish on “A Place to Die.”

5. Improve my marketing strategy in order to increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.

Partly. I doubled my newsletter subscriptions. I also did a lot more promos this year (Facebook and book list ads, author events), but it didn’t have much of an effect on sales. And social media interactions didn’t really increase either. But I did get a bunch of reviews.

6. Read 100 books.

I read 62.

7. Get healthier: cut out my daily breakfast Pepsi (not sure how the lack of caffeine will work when I generally only get 4-5 hours of sleep) and eventually almost all soda; go out to eat once a week or less; eat more fruits and veggies and less processed, sodium-drenched foods; use the gym membership I’m paying for; ride my bike to work when it warms up; etc.

I did this for awhile, but then backslid when I started my internship this fall. However, I lost 15 lbs this year and haven’t gained it back yet, so that’s something.

Overall, I sucked when it came to writing new stuff in 2015.

Part of the problem is that I have horrible time management skills. I tend to procrastinate then cram at the last minute (studying, writing papers, reading journal articles, etc). But the thing is, it works. For the past couple years of grad school, focusing on the immediate next project, rather than planning ahead, resulted in A’s. I have very little incentive to not procrastinate.

Also, I had a lot of free time this fall. Yeah, I was taking 3 classes and doing an internship and teaching a class, but compare that to 5 classes while working full time. I’ve found that I work better under pressure; when I have free time, I tend to waste it on activities that help me unwind (for example, funny cat videos) but don’t do anything for meeting my goals.

So for 2015, knowing that, I’m going to focus on using my time more wisely. Here are my goals:

  1. Write at least 30 minutes a day, which I’ll track through 750words.com.
  2. Finish something every month, whether it’s a short story, series novella, novel, or whatever.
  3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things – ideally, something every 3 months.
  4. Continue the focus on increased marketing, same as last year: increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.
  5. Read 100 books.
  6. Continue the focus on being healthy – riding my bike more, cutting back on the meals out, eating a more balanced diet, etc.

What are your goals for 2016?

5 lessons learned from a summer of traveling


Kayaking Lake Huron

A cousin recently told me, “Dang, girl, it’s like you’re always on road trips or vacation.” And it’s true; if I don’t go somewhere at least every month or two I get very cranky. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to get out of town a lot this spring and summer: Omaha for Easter; Door County, Wisconsin, in mid-May; camping in Wisconsin Memorial Day weekend, followed by a long weekend in Montreal; 4th of July in Saginaw, Michigan; and finally a week wandering around the Southeast.

There are several things I’ve learned while traveling, that apply to just about every trip I’ve taken.

  1. Take that picture now. You might tell yourself you’ll come back later and get that shot, but let’s be honest: it’s not going to happen. If you want to get a picture, or eat that street food, or buy yourself 4 new gnomes at that souvenir store, do it now because something will come up that keeps you from doing it later.
  2. Take the road less traveled.

    Early morning fog on the Ohio River

    If life is a journey, not a destination, why not apply this to trips as well? There’s a spot in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair that explains this: “Secondary roads are preferred. Paved country roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on ‘good’ rather than ‘time’ and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes.”I don’t like interstates because the scenery is the same: Applebee’s and Walmart in a strip mall, distant fields, everything the same. Sure, it gets you there more quickly, but you’re not actually seeing anything. I tried to take pictures as we drove through the Appalachians, but you can’t get anything from an interstate. On a highway, however, you can stop and savor the details. You can find random stores and people and a deeper understanding of what shapes people’s lives, from empty storefronts to neighboring farms to dozens of Baptist churches near a community.

    Same goes with tourist attractions. My son and I joke that we’ve gone to an overrated water attraction ever year: Niagara Falls in 2013, Old Faithful last year, and Chattanooga’s Ruby Falls this year. Ruby Falls was nice, but the next day we hit up Raccoon Mountain Caverns and they turned out to be the best cave system we’ve been to – plus there were a ton less people AND it was cheaper.

  3. Take more time.

    NC’s Outer Banks – beautiful AND no one’s there!

    When I travel, I have goals for the day: on the road by 8. Destination by midmorning, lunch at a particular restaurant, at the campsite by 5. I don’t think we met my timeframes a single day on our last trip. And that was okay. We left late because we were chatting with neighbors. We arrived late because we stopped along the road to take pictures. We spent more time at the destination than we anticipated. Maybe we didn’t do everything I’d wanted, but we still had a great time.

  4. Don’t take

    My son “surfing” at Virginia Beach this summer

    control. Midsummer, my son asked why we always had to do what I wanted on trips, so I let him plan our big end-of-summer trip. We ended up at some places and restaurants I wouldn’t necessarily have picked, but all ended up having fun.

  5. Take chances. Is there somewhere you want to go, or something you want to do, but you’ve never gone or never done it? Do it. Maybe it’ll turn out sucky, but at least you’ll get some good road warrior stories to share. Like #1 above, don’t go through life forever regretting not taking that trip or doing that activity while there.

If you’re a traveler, what do you think of this list? Anything you would add or change? And if you’re not a traveler – what are you waiting for??

Resolutions: 2014 review and 2015 goals

Every year I set goals for myself and periodically evaluate them. Here are 2014’s:

1. Finish my third novel, tentatively titled On the Other Side, which will be a steampunk political thriller because, well, why not.

Did not happen because the combination of working full time while attending grad school full time kicked my butt this year.

2. Write and submit at least one new short story every month.

Did not happen because the combination of working full time while attending grad school full time kicked my butt this year. I have several ready to send out, but I haven’t submitted anything since late last winter.

3.Get a short story collection ready for publication (not including The Futility of Loving a Soldier, which was released by Evolved Publishing in December).

Did not happen because the combination of working full time while attending grad school full time kicked my butt this year.

4. Self-publish at least two long short stories through my publisher.

My publisher, Evolved, released “Not My Thing” in April. It’s been free since this summer and did pretty well for downloads.

I haven’t gotten anything else written because the combination – you get the idea.

5. Read 100 books.

I read 56 (post to come soon), which averages to about 1 a week. Not bad, considering this doesn’t include all the reading I did for classes and my thesis proposal.

6. Learn a new language – either Spanish, Tamil, Arabic, or Icelandic – to the point I can carry on a basic conversation in it.



I didn’t do so well last year when it came to writing goals – I started a new job that had about 5-10 hours/week mandatory overtime for several months, I took 4-5 classes each semester, I had a 20 hr/wk summer internship, and I was working on a thesis proposal the whole time. And I bought a 100-year-old house this fall that’s needed a bunch of work – painting everything, refinishing hardwood floors, etc.

2015 should be calmer though (or not – I may be in a PhD program instead of working, so we’ll see how that trade-off goes). However, every time I cross something off my list I seem to add two more things in its place, so with that in mind, here are my goals for 2015:

1. Write and submit at least one new short story every month, with the goal being at least 10 publications this year.

2. Write the rough drafts for a seven-part novella series, and maybe even publish one or two of them.

3. Have at least one novel published, with another one polished enough to publish in 2016.

4. Publish at least two long short stories (10k+) or short story collections.

5. Improve my marketing strategy in order to increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.

6. Read 100 books.

7. Get healthier: cut out my daily breakfast Pepsi (not sure how the lack of caffeine will work when I generally only get 4-5 hours of sleep) and eventually almost all soda; go out to eat once a week or less; eat more fruits and veggies and less processed, sodium-drenched foods; use the gym membership I’m paying for; ride my bike to work when it warms up; etc.


What are your goals for 2015?

5 writers that have inspired me

One of the great things about my publisher, Evolved Publishing, is that we have a street team – a group of people who love our books and are committed to sharing them with others. Not only is it great for promotions, but it gives readers and fans a chance to meaningfully interact with authors.

This week we were asked, “Which 5 authors have most influenced your writing choices, style, and career aspirations?”

Thinking about this, there are two things that stand out in my choices – ordinary people not always coming out ahead, and prose that conveys their emotions well.

1. Ernest Hemingway.

When I was a high school junior, our crazy English teacher, Sr. Betty, had us read The Old Man and the Sea. And by read, I mean dissect every single freaking sentence in the book. Needless to say, it really turned me off Hemingway. In fact, I didn’t even teach any of his stuff in my own HS English classes. While picking books for my students’ book bingo assignment, I decided to give him another try. I picked up For Whom the Bell Tolls, and then promptly read everything else he’s written. The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite books, and I love Jake Barnes.

The thing I love most about Hemingway is his sparse style. He manages to deeply and vividly convey characters and emotions with stripped-down prose. This is something I try to do in my stories, and it’s part of the reason I write so much flash fiction – with a smaller word count, every word has to count.

2. Annie Proulx

She’s most notably the author of The Shipping News (much better book than movie, of course, and I really liked the movie) and a couple books of short stories set in Wyoming, Close Range and Bad Dirt.

Her prose is beautiful and alive. It flows and dips, rolls and hesitates, with a life of its own. And she writes about ordinary people in bad situations, which sometimes work out but most often don’t – something that readers say I’m guilty of as well.

3. Anton Chekhov

Speaking of writing about ordinary people in bad situations – that’s pretty much all mid-late 19th century Russian lit. And Chekhov is one of the best at it, telling the slice-of-life stories of ordinary people so that they matter just as much as royalty and warriors. “Lady with a Lap Dog” is my favorite of his stories. He was one of the first to do this, focusing even more on the rustic peasant than his contemporaries Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. And his short stories are more approachable for ordinary people than their massive tomes.

4. Nikolai Leskov

Probably the best Russian author you’ve never heard of, he mixes Chekhov’s everyday characters with Gogol’s satire and offbeat sense of humor. His short stories are painfully real, with emotions that come alive as he makes his characters suffer for goals they’ll never reach; again, something I try to do. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is one of his best known, thanks to Shostakovich’s opera based on it.

Leskov’s influence is evident in the works of later Russian writers I admire, especially Soviet-era authors Mikhail Bulgakov and Ilf and Petrov (both of whom you should read).

5. Brian Jacques

Jacques is best known for his Redwall children’s series, about woodland creatures waging war. I’ve written about him before; basically, he was the first author I read who killed good guys, either for the sake of the plot or for no reason at all. For a fourth grader reading books with happy endings, this was profound. Bittersweet, is the word I’d use to describe his books.

What writers have influenced you?

13 tips for a cheap, awesome road trip

I know I say it a lot, but I love road trips. Not only do I get to see beautiful/weird new stuff and eat great food, but the trips are a great way for me to recharge, think my way through stories I’m working on, and gather ideas for new stories.

Niagara Falls’ rapids

But I’m currently a bit on the broke side, so I have to find ways to get my fix as cheaply as possible. I’ve taken two big trips this summer – camping in Minnesota and Thunder Bay, and a recent sightseeing trip to Detroit and Toronto – as well as multiple trips the summer before – New Orleans and Pensacola, FL; Door County, WI; and Duluth, MN – and have come up with some useful tips I thought I’d share.

First, all road trip expenses can be broken into four basic categories: transportation, lodging, food, and activities (I guess you can make the case that souvenirs is a fifth category, but I don’t tend to buy any). No matter where you go, if you’re staying overnight you’re going to have costs from each category.


abandoned pirate ship outside Hamilton, ON
  1. Take a fuel-efficient car. Mine, for example, gets about 30-35 mpg on the highway. Especially for long distances, you’ll really notice fuel savings. What if you drive one of those big manly 10 mpg trucks? Consider renting a sedan. Even with the price of the rental, you’ll still save money.
  2. Take highways instead of interstates. You get the best mileage the closer you are to 55 mph, which is the speed limit on most highways, compared to 65-70 on interstates. Plus you get to see more local flavor on highways than you do on the interstate, which is mostly stripmalls, chain restaurants, and hotels clustered around exits, and farmland.
  3. If you’re in a big city, look into a day pass for public transportation. It’ll cost less, plus you’ll be glad to not have the stress of driving in big-city traffic (Minneapolis, for example, is hell, no matter when you’re there).


  1. Obviously free is best, so if you’re going somewhere where you know someone, see if you can stay with them.
  2. Don’t know anyone? How about camping? (By which I mean sleeping in a tent; staying in a 40-ft RV complete with cable TV, two bathrooms, and air conditioning is NOT camping. Plus it goes against tip #1 above.) Campgrounds are way cheaper than hotels, and many state and local parks are free; check websites for nearby parks before you go, as many require advance reservations.
  3. If you want to sleep inside (it’s winter or stormy, maybe), stay at a cheap hotel. I’m not talking bed bugs, chalk outlines, and long-term residents with no teeth – put your health and safety first, of course – but do you really need to stay somewhere with hardwood floors and seven pillows on each bed if you’re just using the room to sleep in? In addition to checking travel sites like Orbitz and Travelocity, look at the town’s website; it often has a section with quirky local low-priced hotels not found through the big travel sites.


Our Toronto hotel came with free snacks!
  1. The problems with roadside fast food meals are that they get expensive, they’re unhealthy, and you soon get sick of the same thing over and over. (“Hmm, what’s for lunch? Burger from McDonald’s? Burger from Wendy’s? How about a burger from Hardee’s? No, I think I’ll go for a burger from Sonic.”) Avoid all this by bringing a cooler of food with you. Sandwiches are super easy on the go; either make them in advance or stop at a park and assemble them there.
  2. Same thing with snacks and drinks: buy them in bulk at the grocery store rather than at gas stations and rest stops. Chips, fruit, and sodas are all cheaper this way, plus you get more variety. I bring gallon jugs of water with me ($.39 refills at the local grocery store) and refill my water bottle rather than buying bottled water. There’s less garbage this way too.
  3. Stay at a hotel with a refrigerator and microwave in the room. Some places even have kitchenettes included in the rooms, stocked with basic dishes and pans; hit a local grocery store and cook your own meals. I keep a small tub of kitchen stuff in my car, just in case: a couple each of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware.
  4. Free continental breakfast! Another advantage to staying at low- and mid-priced hotels is that they offer free breakfast; pricier hotels often have an attached restaurant and expensive room service.


Sometimes I have to physically restrain
the kid in order to get a picture
  1. Especially when I’m on a trip by myself, I love hiking around – for free. I’ve taken some awesome pictures at free places, like parks and lakeshores.
  2. Do you really need to go in? My kid is six and has a super short attention span; we get inside somewhere (St. Louis Arch, Ford Rouge Factory in Detroit, CN Tower and Casa Loma and zoo in Toronto, Niagara Falls…), he looks around for all of three minutes, and then he starts bugging me to leave. The pricier the admission, the longer I make him stay – but some of these places really aren’t worth the price, and I’d be just as happy snapping a picture outside for free.
  3. Sometimes it’s worth it to bundle. In Toronto, for example, we bought City Passes – admission to five places, four of which I wanted to go to, for way less than buying them individually. Make sure you do the math though, to guarantee individual prices of what you plan to do aren’t less than the pass itself.

What are some travel tips that work for you?

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