About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.  View website

Money-saving Hacks

These days, people are looking for ways to pinch pennies. I know I am. Here are some of the techniques and tricks I learned over the years.

Save in the Garden If you live in a climate where the trees lose their leaves every fall, all the annual flowers you’ve bought and planted in the spring also die. (Note–the cheapest place to buy these is Walmart, if you can get them before the staff kills them.) You can save even more by cultivating perennials like iris, black-eyed Susans, tall phlox, hardy primroses, and peonies that come back year after year. You may not even have to buy them. Most of mine come from friends who needed to trim back large plantings. The same with ground covers like pachysandra, liriope, hostas, and vinca. (Yes, I also give my excess away to others.) And many of the ferns in the yard are ones I dug up in the woods.

Three years ago, I began trying another method. I’ve always hated that my pots of annuals like begonias and geraniums die in the fall. Now I take in as many pots as I can. I put some under grow lights in the basement and others in the sunroom–and bring them out again after the threat of freezing has lifted. (BTW, don’t knock begonias. They do well in sun and shade, and there are some amazing new varieties with larger flowers.) The begonia below is spending its fourth year in the front yard.

I’ve also got some pots of culinary herbs in the sunroom. (A sunny windowsill or a grow light will also work.) Basil, thyme, and parsley are easy to keep going inside. I wish dill plants didn’t get so high.)

If you’re not into gardening, there are lots of other ways to save money.

Cutting utility bills is another of my favs. A toaster oven uses 30% to 50% less energy than a conventional oven. I have a large model and use it way more than my large oven. (It will take a 2 ½ quart CorningWare casserole, if I leave the top off and use aluminum foil for the cover instead. I can also put in a 9 by 13 ½ inch baking pan–the standard lasagna size. I love it for baked potatoes, corn bread, and apple crisp. If you can cook something in the microwave, you’re saving even more energy.

I have a friend who accused me of walking around in the dark. I do turn off lights I’m not using. In the kitchen, I mostly use the under-cabinet fluorescent rather than turning on the overhead lights.

One of my favorite strategies is to pack the dishwasher as full as it can get before we run it. According to an article in the Washington Post, you can save $40 a year that way. I use a similar method with loads of laundry.

Try thrift shops. I have a friend who was chief technical officer for a company that was sold for millions of dollars. Although she shared in some of those millions, she told me she never buys clothing new. It’s always from thrift stores, but you definitely can’t tell. I also love bargain hunting in thrift stores. I may buy clothing or household items. (Yes, the downside is that you can’t find the same thing in another size or color.) I have knit tops, jackets, and jeans I love that came from thrift shops. (As a corollary, I search eBay for expensive brands I like. If it’s gently used, it’s going to be a lot cheaper than the retail price.)

Also, find out what colors and shades look best on you. (Years ago this was called “getting your colors done.”) If you know what your best colors are, it’s easy to put together mix and match outfits from your closets.

A thrift store is also where I got the dressy purse that I’ve been using for years. I have also picked up cutting boards, throw pillows, mugs, dish towels, and cat food dishes. I also have a collection of one- or two-of-a-kind thrift-store glassware. Instead of buying plastic cups for small parties, I put them out for guests to use instead of buying plastic cups. That way, nobody gets mixed up about which glass is theirs. I always like to see which guys take the glasses shaped like beer cans with our local team logo.

Saving on food and kitchen costs For food shopping, try some of the cheaper grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl. They have perfectly good products–canned goods, meat, and bread for less. And buy at the big-box stores if you can. I’ve got packs of napkins, paper towels, canned goods and other large items tucked behind sofas and under chairs. Big bags of dry cat food and bird seed are in the front hall closet.

While we’re talking about saving money on food, learn to make soup. You can use up all kinds of leftovers that way.

Also, I don’t buy food storage containers. I use plastic take-out cartons. And I use old bread wrappers for storage bags. (I admit, that makes it harder to see what’s inside.)

Prescription drugs are a big expense in many households. They may be cheaper at a mail order pharmacy–or they may not be. We live near a small pharmacy in a medical building that has better prices for some of our medications than our mail order service (where the copay is a minimum of $10). My husband discovered this when he did a price check of everything we use.

Hair and skin care Long ago, I taught myself to cut my own hair. Obviously that saves me a bundle. And during the pandemic, I started cutting my husband’s hair too.

I also don’t spring for the expensive face creams and beauty products. The ones from the drugstore work fine. (Oil of Olay is my go-to brand.)

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas. What are some of your money-saving strategies? I’d love to hear them.

My latest release is Morgan Unbound.

After escaping her sadistic captors in a sordid brothel, Morgan feels unfit to return to her old life. She flees to an isolated farm, where she avoids everyone — including the man sent to protect her, a warrior named Royce.

Royce’s heart goes out to this lovely, damaged noblewoman, in part because of his own tragic history. Using his ability to enter her dreams, he gains her trust and makes her long for a normal life again. As Morgan rediscovers her passion and confidence, she and Royce forge a psychic bond of mind and heart.

But even as they fall in love, the brutal men who sold her into slavery close in, determined to kill Royce and return her to a life of bondage. Can Morgan and Royce turn the tables on those who want to destroy them?

Happy Anniversary!

Since my sister and I were married around the same time of the year, we like to celebrate our anniversaries together with our husbands. Usually, we book rooms at a nice hotel and go out for a special dinner.

Over the years our favorite anniversary spot has been The Inn at Little Washington, located in Washington, Virginia. It’s a posh bed and breakfast, and the restaurant is now Michelin three-star rated. Recently added is a less expensive restaurant across the street where you can have lunch and dinner.

The Inn started out as a restaurant located in a former gas station but became a bed and breakfast to accommodate diners who wanted to spend the night after the hour and a half trip down from DC. We first stayed there for my birthday perhaps 30 years ago, and I remember looking out our bedroom window to see massive plantings of pink tulips in the garden.

The interior is meticulously designed, with every room charming and unique. I like the ones at the front of the building because they have large balconies.

Over the years the chef has added buildings to the inn’s campus. You can now stay across the street in one of the rooms of The Parsonage. And if you’ve got the bucks, you can book the whole Claiborne House mansion. It’s across the street behind the main building and across from an extensive formal garden.

Because the Inn is very popular, we book way in advance and look forward to this anniversary treat for months. This year was no different.

The staff always greets overnight guests with a cocktail. Next is a lovely afternoon tea with little sandwiches and sweet treats like scones and small pastries–and exotic teas. The next morning, there’s a continental breakfast, but protein options are available for an additional charge.

This year there’s a new addition to the main building, a Victorian greenhouse room. During the pandemic, the chef set up a large tent in the garden so that he could spread out the diners. He liked the extra space so much that he replaced the tent with the greenhouse. Below is the interior followed by the exterior.

My sister and I like to walk around the grounds. There’s a small farm with vegetables and herbs and also sheep, goats, a couple of llamas and chickens. Look at the palatial accommodations for the hens.

Dinner is a limited “tasting menu” in the main restaurant. The number of choices has gotten smaller over the years. There used to be three basic tasting menu options. Now there are only two–with one being vegetarian. Between courses there are small surprises–like Caesar salad ice cream–that are served to everyone. And the bread is fabulous. But I fear, sadly, this will be our last trip to the inn. I don’t mind splurging on a beautifully appointed room. But the dinner is now more than $400 per person. That’s $800 per couple–not including wine. (The price is the same for the vegetarian menu.) Given that we could book a spectacular hotel room in downtown DC for $800, I simply can’t justify paying that for dinner.

Finally, here’s the view from our balcony.

The Big Apple

I used to go to at least three conferences a year. Since Covid hit, I’ve only been to one–a local conference called Creatures, Crimes & Creativity held in my hometown of Columbia, Maryland.

This year I’m going back to some of my faves. First up was ThrillerFest. Until this year, it’s regularly been held at the Grand Hyatt in NYC. But the Grand Hyatt has crossed the rainbow bridge, and the conference had to find another venue. Since they needed a big hotel, they contracted with the Sheraton New York Times Square. For some weird reason, there’s a lot of outdoor decorating in the city with artificial flowers. It does make a pretty first impression.

I hated the Grand Hyatt. The Sheraton has a couple of big advantages over its predecessor–the garage is attached to the hotel, so you can wheel your luggage right over. And they have a high-tech elevator system. You punch the number of your floor into a keypad, and a display tells you what car to take. That speeds things up a lot. On the downside, the conference facilities are on three separate floors–two below the lobby and one above. Trying to find where you are supposed to be is a challenge. Next time perhaps they will print maps in the conference program. (Hint hint!) And then there’s the restaurant. Would you believe it closes at 2:00 pm? If you want food later than that, you must go to the bar. Luckily there are a lot of restaurants in the vicinity, like a good but fairly expensive deli right across the street. And that’s next to Rosie O’Grady’s–also good.

I suppose because of Covid, conference attendance was a bit low, with only about 700 people. But the programing was good.

Diana Gabaldon was a ThrillerMaster. Kind of strange because, as she said when she accepted her award, she’s not a thriller writer.

Here she is being interviewed by Heather Graham.

Some of my favorite authors were there. Here’s Gregg Hurwitz.

I also enjoyed Jeffery Deaver’s panel.

One of the big perks of the Sheraton is that it’s near Time Square and the Theater District. When I read a review of POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, I told Norman to get tickets. We scored my favorite seats, right in the middle of the first row of the mezzanine, with a great view of the stage and no one in front of us. It’s at the Shubert Theatre, one of the great old Broadway venues with gorgeous decoration. The only downside is that the stairs are pretty steep.

The staging was imaginative, featuring rooms in the White House on a turntable, so the scene could switch quickly.

We went to the play on the Sunday after ThrillerFest. Now I’m thinking we should go a few days early and take in more plays. Or maybe we can just drive up for a few days in the fall and go theater hopping.

I Love New York

After two years of huddling in the local area, if not battened down at home, we’re finally traveling again. Last month I told you about our trip to New Orleans. Now we’re at it again. As I write this, I have paused in my packing for Thrillerfest, in New York City, which will be in full swing when this blog comes out. We’re driving because it’s only three and half hours away. I’m looking forward to seeing my thriller-writer buddies, and on the Sunday afternoon after the conference, we are going to a Broadway play, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. I read a review in The Washington Post, and it sounded like fun. So we bought tickets. When it’s over, we’ll jump back in the car and drive home.

But this New York City trip isn’t even our first visit to New York. We’ve barely caught our breath from the trip last week. Our grandson graduated from Ithaca College, and we went to the graduation. His major is writing for film, television, and emerging media. Not only did he graduate magna cum laude, he got the faculty award for excellence in the major, and got into the communications honor society. That was a pretty exciting moment for us.

As you may have noticed, the weather has been a bit weird lately. Here’s a good illustration. When we went into the graduation ceremony, the temperature was in the upper 80s. When we got out, it was in the mid 50s. Actually, that was good for the next day, when we did some exploring of Ithaca. We started with a trip to the Cornell Botanic Gardens. The office was closed Monday, but we could still walk around the gardens. Here are a few pictures.

I am a hosta freak, and I’ve never seen this one before.

Here I am about to be swallowed up by a giant weeping spruce.

After the botanic gardens, we stopped for “lunch” at the Cornell Dairy Bar. I enjoyed something different-–black raspberry ice cream. Norman stuck with our usual strawberry.

Next we went to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They have interesting exhibits in the building, but the highlights are outside. There are a lot bird feeders. If you’d like to take a peek, they are at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N609loYkFJo The camera’s trained on only part of the setup. I’m sorry you can’t also see the finch feeder.

One of the staff told us we could see a mom goose sitting on her nest from one of the trails. She was on an island, where she was protected from predators.

We ended the day with wonderful sandwiches from the Ithaca Bakery.

I should also say, we stayed at the Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus. Because it’s the training hotel for the Cornell hospitality program, the service was wonderful. And I loved the way the dining room was decorated.

After Thrillerfest, we’ll be home until the end of the month, when we’re taking our traditional anniversary trip with my sister and brother-in-law.