Tiny Houses

Nest House by Jonathan Avery

I confess. I have been a fan of the tiny house movement for at least a decade, and perhaps longer. I grew up in Germany where large living spaces just aren't normal, and even prosperous locations are often tight quarters. Every square foot (or should I say meter?) is creatively utilized, there is nothing useless, storage is kept to a minimum, and many items and rooms are multi-functional. 

No surprise that the van life would sound appealing to me as well. The same concepts apply, except the homeowner is much more mobile. I seriously considered going this route a few years ago.

And then my eyesight failed. That plan is now a no-go.

However, my planned novels with traveling characters are still very much in process, and everything I have learned can be adapted to a tiny house lifestyle. Oh, yes, that's definitely still on the agenda. In my wildest dreams, I would have more than one tiny house on my little rural acreage.

Did you know you could buy tiny houses on Amazon? They sell out fast, and units like this one are much less expensive than even a travel van. 

There are other creative options. You could convert a storage shed like this:

I would probably dive into a gazillion books and plan my own version. Then put Himself to work building one. Or maybe two. I can't quite imagine two polar opposites living together in such a tiny space, but that's another issue.

There are countless books published about designing tiny houses. Here are a few that interest me:

And there are so many more! I get excited just looking at the covers. 

How about you? Have you ever thought of living small? 

T is for Tarot

 Pamela Colman Smith: From Tarot Artist to Suffrage Activist - Lost Modernists

Henry Bell reads Tarot cards, and always does a reading for himself as well as reading the cards for others at Renaissance Festivals and other esoteric gatherings. Much to his chagrin, his frenemy love interest does too. Perhaps I'll have them BOTH seeking help from their cards about their mixed feelings about the other. That could be amusing! Foolish humans.

I've spent a good deal of time looking at Tarot cards after working my way through this book:

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But I would have Henry spring for a better, updated version of the original Rider-Waite deck. The printing of my first set leaves a lot to be desired. This Rider-Waite Radiant set is better:

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What about Fae Donovan, the heroine? I suspect she would go for something prettier, and perhaps even support a friend who designs Tarot cards. Here are a couple of choices:

Home - Kris Waldherr Art and Words: the official site of bestselling author Kris Waldherr (kriswaldherrbooks.com)

This one is a favorite of mine: 

It seems logical that a costumer would appreciate Art Nouveau clothing, yes?

T is also for other sorts of testing. I love to run my book characters through various kinds of analyses. Like this series of tests about Shadow Work:

My favorite will always be the Five Love Languages. It's fast, easy, fun, and really makes a writer think about their characters.

And I know all the astrological signs for my characters. Do you know your characters' birthdays? I do, and I make sure they act somewhat in line with astrological themes, even though I don't really believe strongly in astrology. No reason your hero can't be a little superstitious!

Next, I'll have a post about Tiny Houses - you get Two-fers for the letter T!


S is for Sewing

Fae Donovan is my heroine in the Cutting Edge mystery series, and she is a costumer in great demand across the United States. She loves her job and is quite comfortable in her perfectly planned and organized Mercedes Sprinter van in which she travels to various theaters and cosplay venues across the country. Her home/studio on wheels is magnificent in its organization and modern efficiency. She has all the amenities of a tiny home, with plenty of space to work and to store the tools of her trade. 

And lots of scissors. She always has plenty of good scissors. Isn't it handy and totally annoying to know that Henry Bell, that irritating man she keeps stumbling upon wherever she happens to be... that he, the wretch, sharpens her beloved scissors better than anyone... ever?

Side note: if you're looking for sewing shears, you can find them at Amazon. Like Fae, I prefer Ginghers because they are reliable and affordable, and also hold a sharp edge.

Fae has plenty of storage space under her travel van, so she carries a full-size sewing machine that she can set up at various theater locations. She is a Singer girl, like her mother and grandmother before her, and the pricing of Singer machines sits well with her Scot's blood. This one available on Amazon is quite affordable, and light enough to carry into work locations.

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Would Fae carry books with her? My guess is many of the reference manuals she uses would be available online or via eBook. But most craftspeople do have a few books that serve as professional bibles. Here are some that she keeps tucked under the seat of her travel van. 

Here is one essential:

And this one for pattern making:

This is her mother's copy and she carries it for good luck:

If you have sewing book favorites, by all means, tell me in the comments! I love costumes, but true confession and full disclosure: I hate to sew. How I ended up with a main character who does it for a living is clearly wishful thinking of epic proportions! 

R is for Reading

Artist: Laura LaCambra

My day begins with books, and it ends with books. But not necessarily ones made of paper. I do have plenty of those, and they line the walls in most of my rooms. But as my eyes have aged, I find reading on a Kindle is much more comfortable, and it eliminates the need to go to the library or bookstores, something that became a major issue during the COVID pandemic.

I don't know what I would do without my Kindle these days.  I am due to buy another one soon. If you are thinking about it, here's my Amazon Affiliate link, which I just set up! If it works okay, let me know in a comment. 

Most of the books I read, at least the first time, are reviewed via my state library's Overdrive feature. I can read eBooks for free on my Kindle, and most larger libraries carry tens of thousands of titles. 

I also subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, and for about $10/month, I have access to millions more books. I highly recommend signing up for this service and know that all the authors who have opted into this program receive royalties every time their books are read. 

My goal with my own Vella books is formatting them using Kindlepreneur, and then moving them into the Kindle Unlimited program. 

One of those future books will include a romantic suspense series about modern travelers living in their vans. Henry Bell is a tinker with a young daughter, a young American man of Romany descent, and his frenemy love interest is a costumer who travels the RenFest circuit. In fact, most of this blog is brainstorming for that book series. And, yes, it all begins at the beginning of the pandemic. You can bet they are using Kindles for their reading and research! Like most folks in the first year of the pandemic, they will have a lot of time on their hands, and reading will help fill a void. 

Have you continued reading more since the slow-down of COVID? I still don't go to the library much, and because I am trying to downsize to a van life size, I am buying fewer paper books, and even giving up my own beloved collectibles. 

And research - right now it's all about van life and tiny houses. There is so much terrific information online about that, as well as groups. But more about that in a future post.


Q is for Quick

Getting up to speed on any new venture can be challenging and time-consuming. I have three days to gear up for the Amazon Prime summer sale via my new Amazon Affiliate account. Where to start, where to start?

I decided to ask AI, my favorite being Google Bard, which is like regular Google on steroids. Here is the rapid-fire response to my query. 

Well then. At least now I have a game plan! Onward, ho!


P is for Personality

 Running your characters through personality tests. Do you?

Finally, A Personality Quiz Backed By Science | FiveThirtyEight

I also like to check astrological compatibility. I don't really believe in it, but I suspect at least one of my main characters would. I don't want to get too involved with astrology because it's such an involved and huge study. Too much work for this writer.


Credit: Nebula | Facebook

I think I've mentioned before that I like the Five Love Languages to get a handle on what my characters are really like. Here's the link to give it a try! There are various quizzes. Think about each of your mains and then run them through a quiz. Learn anything new about them? Leave us a comment if you came up with some surprises. 

And, finally, when it comes right down to it, I discover personality details and quirks in the actual writing. Sometimes those characters can surprise you! It's especially true if they misbehave, and that's bound to happen when there is a lot of stress. Oh, yeah, I don't think the pandemic brought out the best in people all the time. 

Tough times for an enemies-to-lovers romance.

P is also for Promotion, and as an indie writer, I am always looking for new ways to get the word out about my books. I haven't ever tried promoting products that relate to my stories, but as I plan this new series, I think about all the "stuff" my characters will be using. Not only for a van life, but for anyone (like me) downsizing their lives and moving to smaller accommodations. To that end, I have joined the Amazon Associates Program just in time for Prime Days. Please be sure to tell me if you like my recommendations!

Now to test an affiliate link. How about for the best computers to travel with? Best Computer for Travel Let's see what Amazon recommends.


O is for Obstinate and More


The Stubborn Mule by Hermann G. Simon

People who are obstinate can be real asses, can't they? I expect that characteristic will loom large in the beginning of the first book of the Cutting Edge mystery series. I have three people to define, two in an antagonistic hero and heroine relationship, that will eventually (who knows when?) turn into a romance, and one adolescent child between the two determined to get them matched up. All will exhibit unique forms of obstinance. Because the ways we're are stubborn are very personal, aren't they? And the reasons for obstinance are even more interesting. Some negative characteristics often cloaked by obstinance include:

  • Close-minded
  • Manipulative
  • Hostile
  • Anxious
  • Rebellious

But even more interesting are the positive aspects, which include:

  • Strong will
  • Resilience
  • Defense against peer pressure
  • Passion and vigor
  • Good work ethic
Just to name a few good qualities that all my mains will possess! And maybe a few of the negative. I'll have to pick a few for each so they don't overlap and sound like the same character. Or worse, the writer! Who me? Obstinate? That could never happen. 


N is for Narcissism

Narcissus by Caravaggio

I have read that narcissism is at epidemic levels in western culture, and I am not sure what that means exactly. We're a selfish society? Yeah, well, who can argue with that?

From Wikipedia:

Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance and an excessive pre-occupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Being overly boastful, exaggerating one’s own achievements
  • Pretending to be superior to others
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Looking down on others as inferior
  • Monopolizing conversations
  • Impatient, angry, unhappy, depressed or has mood swings when criticized
  • Easily disappointed when expected importance is not given
  • Always craves for “the best” in everything
  • Has a very fragile self-esteem

I don't know about you, but that sounds like an antagonist waiting to happen! 

Note to self: Read this book. The Narcissism Epidemic


M is for Murder and Mystery

Dial M for Murder by Alfred Hitchcock

It has to be for murder, of course. It's a Cutting Edge Mystery. What will make this set of stories a little different is that all the murders will involve blades of some sort. Knives, swords, and even box cutters. And don't forget straight razors. Henry Bell, my hero, is an expert blade master. He might be a suspect in any of the murders, but not for long. He usually is sought out as the civilian expert and becomes part of the police team.

So, let's think about murders and where they might happen. It's early days here, and I have only started brainstorming the first book's murder.

Most obvious, since Henry is a knife sharpener with restaurant clients, is a chef's knife that is used for a murder... with Henry's fingerprints on it. They would be easily explained and, of course, he'll have an alibi. Probably the antagonistic heroine. I have to find ways for them to keep running into each other.

Another idea: because he helps choreograph theater fight scenes, a sword could become a murder weapon in that setting. No clue why, but actor egos seem logical. Maybe even some competition around the heroine?

He participates in knife throwing contests and also teaches knife throwing. Those settings are competitive and involve people of a certain mindset, and I'm not talking warm and fuzzy crafters. Definitely murder potential!

Shears. He sharpens those too. Murder at a hair styling salon? It could happen. Those scissors are pointy and very sharp. There is a lot of pressure on business folks in the early days of the pandemic, and hair salons were shut down. Death by stress? It could happen.

Garden tools, farm equipment, and even power tools like drill bits can all be used to maim and murder. I don't even like thinking about those possibilities. Ew.

And the classic throat slitter, er, I mean, straight razor, a time-honored way to end a life quickly. Double ew. 

I don't have a straight razor, and I definitely need to buy one for research purposes. Those things aren't cheap though, if you buy a quality one. Wow, even the used ones are pricey. A European brand-name vintage razor in good condition on eBay will cost you $50-$100 easy. 

L is for Laundry

 ... and for laundromats. I haven't used one in forever, and probably take my washer, dryer, and clothesline too much for granted. But someone who travels in a home on wheels, would have to scope out laundry facilities everywhere they park, right?

I am guessing most aren't nearly this fancy, especially in small towns. 

How do they even work nowadays? Does one still use cash? How much per load? Do campsites have laundry facilities? I'm guessing probably so, but don't know for sure.

And think about personal behaviors, when cleaning clothes becomes an event that has to be planned. You wear your clothes more than once, right? Or you wash by hand. But you can't necessarily do this sort of thing wherever you happen to be parked:

No, indeed. You'd have to figure out a way to dry handwashed clothes inside your rig. The bathroom would be logical, but they are tiny in travel vans. Of course, there are other options too. You could park at a friend's house and catch up on laundry there. Here are some other options in an article about van life.

Now keep in mind that my main character has a child. That changes the paradigm a little, too, doesn't it? Because children are not naturally clean, and most kids love to play.

Photo credit: HuffPost

We might get a glimpse of Grumpy Dad every now and again.