Christmas Gifts for Writers

A Google search for gifts for writers(or photographers or gardeners) and out comes a list of blogs to newspapers, all advising what to buy. I noticed that only one or two items on each list interested me, so I’ve put together my own. Some are expensive, some not.

1) A writers’ retreat. My favourites are the Writescape retreats organized by Ruth Walker and Gwynne Scheltema. Find them at

2) Scrivener, a superb writing programme from the folks at Literature and Latte. I’ve been using this gem through two books now and couldn’t do without out. It replaces everything from research notes on random bits of paper to character biographies kept in notebooks without a search function. It   allows the generation of a rudimentary plot synopsis and a virtual corkboard on which scenes can be repositioned. I could go on and on, but try it for a month. Now available for Windows.

3) Pens: To record those thoughts that would other wise be lost. I like Staples Optiflow: ca709364grp_1_std







4) Books on writing: I love to read books about writing. Writers Digest has a good selection, but there are others:

1. Stephen King, On Writing

2.David Morell: Lessons for a Lifetime of Writing

3.William Brohaugh: Write Tight

4. P. D. James: Talking About Detective Fiction

5. Sol Stein: On Writing

6. Jack Hodgins; a Passion for Narrative

5) A Kindle: Writers need to read everywhere and a Kindle is handy on the subway, in a bus, on that trip to  Europe.

7) Coffee maker, coffee mugs, coffee.

8) A web design package, perhaps from Linda Lyall who did Louise Penny’s

9) A smart phone with a camera, because you never know when the perfect scene to jumpstart your imagination will pop up in front of you. (The phone is always in your pocket, unlike your SLR)

10) Time, uninterrupted. If she has children, offer to babysit. If she needs a day away, offer your cottage, or pay for one day in a lovely B&B. I like the Gardener’s Cottage near Elora.

8 Gifts for Photographers(amateur variety)

I’ve been roaming around, looking at sites with gifts for photographers. Some cost megadollars and some under ten. Here’s a list of a few, not too expensive items that I found.

1) The phone is a great carry-around-every-day camera,always in the pocket. Make room for these little items. The cost is great and  the company ships internationally. Fisheye, Macro, Wide Angle and Telephoto Phone Lenses Telephoto: $20 (US) Wide/Macro: $20 (US) Fisheye: $25 (US)  These lenses work with any camera phone and attach using a magnetic ring that sticks to your cell, allowing you to easily change lenses.









2) Hate taking photos in the cold? Check these out.




3)A tiny tripod to wrap around whatever is handy to keep the camera steady. These are available at Black’s and on-line.





4)I haven’t tried it, looks great. Costs about 180$

5)But these are for the women photographers. Click on the link to check them out.










6)Just a lens clip, but so svelte!


7) A diffuser to give your pop-up flash photos a softer look.








8) White balance in a lens cap. I have to have one!

Gifts for Writers

To follow on my gifts for… theme, here are some gifts for the writers you know.

1) Self-editing for writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Collins 2nd edition 2004. Great information, exercises and examples for the writer who must edit her own work(and who doesn’t?)

2)Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham. Writers Digest Books 1993 Understand how scenes and sequels interrelate to give structure to your fiction.

3)Writing the Breakout Novel  by Donald Maass. Writers Digest Books 2001 Donald Maass is and agent and author who gives invaluable advice.

4) The entire Write Great Fiction series from Writers Digest Books.

5) A selection of Hype! highliters from Staples for marking up your own work and these books.

6)Scrivener, a writing, organizing programme from Literature and Latte. Easy to use once you get onto it, and a terrific way to organize thoughts, research, drafts, scenes, characters, locations…and so on.

7) An over-sized Sustainable Earth notebook from Staples

8) Pens, lots of them. I use OptiFlow.

9) An eReader, any one, (but I use a KOBO) for taking books with you on vacation, or even storing your own work as pdf files.

!0) Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Pocket Books 2002. Available for that eReader. A biography of the writer as well as his thoughts and guidance on the craft.

11) Last but not least Turning Leaves Writer’s Retreat from Writescape

Gifts for Gardeners

What to Get for Green-Thumb Types. It’s a No-Gnome Zone.. The gifts in this article from Houzz website are for the modernist on your list. My favourites are the Circle Pot by Potted in Designer Pots and the Lighthouse outdoor torch.
This one is lovely and guilt-free.

For the birds
This gift is not only pretty and practical, but it helps more than just our feathered friends. This ceramic bronze birdbath is made by artisans in Vietnam, who are paid a living, fair-trade wage to produce their artistic wares. While it’s a little cold yet to put outside, this birdbath looks elegant on a table filled with fruit. Ten Thousand Villages, $22.

1. Mason Bee House
This gorgeous mason bee house is handmade from reclaimed barn wood. If you’re buying for a gardener who grows fruit or vegetables, this would be a great gift. Mason bees are native to much of the U.S. They are solitary, and don’t produce honey, but they are expert pollinators. They often nest in small holes and cavities in tree trunks, but if you can provide a cozy little house like this for them, you may be able to entice them to take up residence in your own garden. Beautiful and functional. (Via Etsy.)


I love this butterfly puddler from Uncommon Goods.

Gardens Take Flight

There’s nothing quite like a garden aflutter with wild butterflies in the afternoon sun. Attract your neighborhood beauties with this sand-and-water puddler, designed to hold on to natural minerals after water evaporates.

Its shallow well of recycled glass holds sand or rock salt along with a teaspoon of water. When the water evaporates (in under a day), butterflies are attracted to the minerals left behind from the hard water and sand/salt. Once butterflies know where they can find these minerals, they return regularly. Place it in a conspicuous nook to transform your outdoor space into an enchanted garden.

Designed by Jo-Anne and Gerald Warren. Handmade of stoneware and recycled glass in Canada. Click here to see instructions included with each peddler.

  • Item ID: 20351
  • Materials: recycled glass, stoneware clay
  • Approx. 8.5″ L x 8.5″ W x .75″ H, 3 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Comes with sand and instructions for use. Will not crack in the snow or fade in the sun. Due to the handmade nature of this product, each will vary slightly.

From the same company, a toad house:

The Toad Abode

This elegant ceramic piece makes a creative accent to your garden. Toads will be thrilled to duck under this leaf and enjoy the dark and cool shade – they can even burrow holes in their bottomless home. Big bonus: kiss your bugs goodbye, because toads eat thousands of insects. Handmade in Canada.

  • Item ID: 21006
  • Materials: stoneware clay
  • Approx. 12″ L x 7.5″ W x 5″ H, weight: Approx. 3.5 lbs
  • Weatherproof: designed to not fade in the sun or crack in freezing temperatures. Place in a shady spot in your garden.
Finally, for your best friend or your wife or your husband or your mother who taught you all you know about gardening, the bog boot from Lee Valley. For mud, for snow, for tramping in transplants, for walking the dog in the ran, they are the best—warm, comfortable and almost indestructible (unless your husband slices one open with a pruner).
Perfect for working in mucky, cold conditions, these boots are constructed from waterproof neoprene with a semi-rigid natural rubber overlay that spans from the sole to above the ankle. Toe, heel, Achilles tendon, and shin reinforcements offer protection and comfort, making these boots the ideal footwear when digging in the garden. Mid-length boots, they are easily donned using the rear pull-loops. The neoprene walls are flexible and generous in width, and can be easily rolled down if desired.

Gardening gifts, Christmas photo tips

45 gift ideas for gardeners – Fun and fabulous gifts – Gardening Gifts – Garden Gear – Canadian Gardening. This article from Canadian Living offers help to the last-minute gift buyer with a gardener on her list. My favourite, not counting the trip to England to visit fabulous gardens, is a truck-load of triple mix. If that is too much, check out the page at, and donate trees to an African family.

If you’re the person with the camera at the Christmas festivities, read the advice at the Digital Photography School at

The Digital Photography School is a terrific site to visit, or, as I do, have on your home page. The e-mailed tips are great too. I like the opportunity to see other people’s work, and to submit some of mine. I’ve been struggling with learning the finer points of my Canon Rebel T1i, and the site has been a great help.

Finches at the Winters' cafe

My new e-book: The Facepainter Murders

My new book has been online at and at, but the cover art hasn’t migrated to the initial listing. I thought I would post it here, along with a brief synopsis.

The Facepainter Murders

Anne McPhail, doctor and genealogist, is back visiting friends in Culver’s Mills, Vermont. She finds a murdered, naked man in the lane behind her friend’s home. The corpse is identified as an art thief from Montreal, who has stolen works from the local gallery.

Anne researches the ownership of the paintings back to painter Zedekiah Belknap, a facepainter or itinerant artist of the early nineteenth century, and forward to the actual owner of today.

Someone has killed the thief, and then others in his criminal gang, finally turning his attention to Anne.  She escapes the attempts on her life, discovers the identity of the murderer, and the secrets of the painting he has stolen.

Canon Rebel T1i

I got a new camera for my birthday, a replacement for the venerable Minolta SLR and the point and shoot digital I had been using. The Canon Rebel T1i was small enough and light enough to fit my hands, and I thought, foolishly as it turned out, that I could transfer the skills I’d developed with those cameras to the new one. I opened the book, started to play and realized that the abilities of the camera outstripped the knowledge of the photographer.

The instruction book wasn’t as obscurely written nor as minutely printed as I had expected. On the other hand, the menus seemed to go and on to different levels of complexity. I decided to take advantage of the lesson that came with the camera and one evening sat with a very young woman, and went over it all. I recommend this as a way to become more comfortable with a new camera. One of my first pictures appears below.

Kobo Reader – the experience

I’ve been away the last few days, visiting a friend in Toronto. I took along my new Kobo reader.

Good things about it:

1. It’s light

2.I didn’t have to buy anything for the trial as it comes with 100 books. I read Emma, a novel I had neglected.

3. I could change the font to reflect whether or not I wanted to wear my glasses.

4.No light source, so no computer like beam into my eyes at bedtime.

5.I could carry it in a small purse.

6. I read it at a solo lunch. No keeping the pages open with the greasy fingers on one hand while trying to eat with the other.

7. No one could see what exactly I was reading.

8. It’s cheap, compared to the Kindle or the iPad.

Things I didn’t like:

1. No wireless, so no instant download if I had a mad urge to read something other than one of the downloaded books while away from my computer

2. No clock. (Okay, I don’t wear a watch.)

3. No light source, so reading was difficult in a dark cafe.

4.Font changing limited to smallest, smaller, small, medium, large, etc. not a number. No change in font style.

5.No one could see what I was reading so no conversation starting questions.

6.The battery seems to have a much shorter life than advertised. 8000 page turns relates, I think, to the number of times the page is turned on the machine, not in the actual book. I have no idea how many times i turned the page while reading Emma, but I did have to recharge.

7. It doesn’t ship with the adapter needed to allow a recharge from an electrical outlet rather than the computer. I used the one for my iphone.

8. It’s not as pretty as the iPad.

9. No underlining of favourite passages.

All in all, I like it. It’s a single purpose machine, that performs that function well. The features it lacks would all increase the cost and the weight. Within the time it took to read a few pages, I found myself just reading, and not focussing on the fact that I wasn’t reading a “real” book. Emma was still Emma. I did miss the ability to go back to previously read pages to find something I wanted to read again. It is possible  to do that but it’s tedious.

I wanted a light weight storage/reading device that I could take to Europe. Kobo will do just fine. If I wanted to go into the Amazon, far from electrical outlets, it wouldn’t.

Christmas Gifts for Writers and Readers(cont.).

Christmas gifts for Readers and Writers(cont.)
The Internet Writers Workshop has an annual catalogue of books recommended and reviewed by the writers belonging to the group. A disclaimer here, I’m part of the group and two of my reviews appear on the site.
Another site with gifts for writers, oddly enough suggests no books but rather stuff, such as kindle, book bags, and best of all a gift card for a bookstore. Christmas gifts for Readers and Writers(cont.)
The Internet Writers Workshop has an annual catalogue of books recommended and reviewed by the writers belonging to the group. A disclaimer here, I’m part of the group and two of my reviews appear on the site.
Another site with gifts for writers, oddly enough suggests no books but rather stuff, such as kindle, book bags, and best of all a gift card for a bookstore.–Top-10-Christmas-gifts-for-Book-Lovers.
A site for gifts for writers at, has many useful books, like On Writing, by Stephen King.

Gifts for the writer, gardener, birdwatcher, reader…

Poking around here and there on the Net, I found some great gifts for the passionate writers, gardeners, readers and birdwatchers on your list. Okay, gifts for me. Gifts for writers are up first, naturally, so check out Margaret Atwood’s suggestions on her Blog. 4 and 10 are the gifts I would choose, and can recommend 1 and 2 from personal experience.( My little book is the moleskin variety.) While you’re on Margaret’s blog, read her 15 book Tour packing tips. It’s hilarious.

Ben McNally, (of McNally Robertson) has a blog on Book Lounge, with his list of gifts for readers. He’s recommending Peter Ackroyd’s Venice: Pure City, a book I would like to read, mainly because I fell in love with the city last fall, and because he did such an outstanding job on London.

Susan Reimer writes a column, On Gardening for the Baltimore Sun. Her list of gifts for gardeners includes some of my can’t do withouts, like Felco pruners and gardening gloves. Lee Valley has some that are even warm on those nasty spring mornings, which can include rain freezing rain and wind in April, in Ontario.

Our Little Acre Blogspot has some unusual gifts for gardeners. I can recommend the Velcro plant ties, also available at Lee Valley. I’ve used them for years, especially for tying climbing roses to their supports.

For the birdwatcher, check out Squidoo. The site’s a bit wonky but worth it. What about birdsongs for the iPod!

All these blogs are listed to the right. Have fun!