Monday, December 31, 2012

Nothing is Certain in a Writer's Life except Rejection and Taxes

To paraphrase B. Franklin (one of my lifelong idols) nothing is certain in a writer's life except rejection and taxes.

I don't have the stamina to talk about the former, so let's discuss the latter. It surprises me how many writers fail to file their writing expenses on their taxes.

"I haven't sold anything, so I can't claim any expenses on my taxes."

backgrounds,Benjamin Franklin,currencies,finances,firearms,founding fathers,guns,history,messages,NVTOfficeClips,people,politicians,show me the money Wrong! It's true the IRS is picky, but as long as your writing is more than a hobby you can claim writing-related expenses on your income taxes. In fact, you should. Writers conferences, reference books, classes, etc. etc. all cost money. As long as you're serious about having a writing career it's in your best interests to deduct writing-related expenses - and claim any profit you made.
I have been 'serious' about my writing career since 2007 and I've made a little money every year. It's pocket change really, but enough that I needed to claim it on my taxes. Also, every year since 2007 I've had expenses such as writing conferences, meals with my critique group, and mileage to critique sessions. I claim all of this.

Whoa, buddy, you say. If I claim stuff like that the IRS will audit me.
It's a possibility. Any American may be audited at any time. How do you protect yourself? Keep accurate records.
  • I keep receipts for any conferences or classes I attend, as well as a copy of the program from the event, my name badge, notes and handouts.
  • I keep a hardcopy of every meal receipt with the writing topic discussed and the names of other authors in attendance written on the back.
  • I have a detailed mileage spreadsheet that lists the starting and the ending physical addresses, the reason I attended (must be writing related), and the starting and the ending mileage.
Yes, this is a lot of work, but when you make it a habit, you will save a bundle during tax time.

Still think authors can't claim writing expenses on their income taxes? Here are some links that might help convince you.

Diane Kelly is a funny romance writer who just happens to be a CPA. She offers some great tax tips for writers. If you are able to attend her tax workshop for authors, consider yourself blessed. 
J. Kathleen Cheney just sold her first novel and has a very interesting blog post about how she's dealing with her taxes.

How about you? Any tax-related stories you'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Don't Mess with my Walks!

I'm blessed to live in a neighborhood with numerous walking paths. Most are sidewalks, but even more are unpaved trails that wind through trees and along a stream. During my journey, I encounter both civilization and a taste of wilderness . . .

And humans trash both.
I know, I sound like a tree hugger. In a way, I am. I believe we were put on this planet to enjoy its fruits and to care for it. I'm saddened that so few of my fellow souls share the same philosophy. Sure, they're out doing something healthy for themselves by exercising, but when they toss away their empty water bottles without they are causing damage. It's as if carrying the bottle the extra few feet to a trash barrel would be too much of a strain.
As I walk, I have a rule. If a glass or plastic bottle, aluminum can, or drink cup are located near the path I'm on, I pick it up. I don't gather the other trash I encounter. Why? Because my local city will only recycle glass, plastic bottles (not bags), and aluminum. Plus, I have to be practical. If I spent my entire time picking up trash, I'd never accomplish my first goal: exercising.
During my average morning walk, I accumulate between 5 - 7 bottles and cans. People give me odd looks when we pass, because my arms are so full. I return their odd looks and want to ask them "Why aren't you helping?"

Are you a tree hugger? If so, let me know in the comments. It would be nice to know I'm not alone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years

For SF buffs, this is worth sharing as long as the link remains active.

110 Predictions For the Next 110 Years by Popular Mechanics. (The comments are almost as much fun as the article.)

On an unrelated side note, after reading this I better understand why so many SF&F writers are turning to the F instead of the SF. Technology is changing so rapidly, it's impossible to be more imaginative than the reality we all face. At least in fantasy, a writer has a 'chance' to develop a unique world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Roundup 2012

As mentioned in a previous blog I do not have as much time to read as I would like (plus, I'm a slow reader). However, each year there are books that I thoroughly enjoy. Here's my top five for 2012.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I saw the movie before I read the book and enjoyed both for different reasons. The movie was visually stunning since I'm a history buff. The book took my heart and squeezed it to a pulp. By far the most emotionally satisfying book that I read in 2012.


The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

I love me some good steampunk and Stephen Hunt delivers the most imaginative world building around. The political intrigue and fully developed characters made this an enjoyable read.


Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Mr. Lansdale is one of my favorite writers. If I could ever be half the storyteller he is, I'd consider myself blessed. The images he evokes in his prose more than make up for the meandering pace of the story. Overall, I enjoyed this book for its slice-of-life approach.


Soulless by Gail Carriger

Toldja I like steampunk. Originally read in 2011, this is the rare book that I've read twice (most bore me the second time around, because I already know the story). However, I enjoyed the humor, love story, and writing so much, I dove back in for a second go. 


Timepieces: Masterpieces of Chronometry by David Christianson

Non-fiction? Yep, I read a lot of that too. I have a fascination with clocks and found this book to be both educational and enjoyable. Highly recommended for other lovers of timepieces.


Jacob, my youngest son, is also a consummate reader. In his words, here are his top five picks of books that he read in 2012.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This book deals with a subject that's not only serious, but a feeling we've all probably had at one point or another. The book takes suicide and twists it into a unique, emotional rollercoaster that you won't want to get off any time soon (I've re-read the book more than a dozen times).

Crazy by Han Nolan

This book brings you into the character's world as a troubled boy slowly goes crazy, always talking to the voices in his head. Made me nervous.


Pendragon: The Quillan Grames by D. J. Machale

Out of this 10-book series, this seventh installment got the most emotional reaction out of me, and really made me feel like I was there.


Cut by Patricia McCormick

A great book that makes the main character's problems very relatable and goes further with the main character not only dealing with cutting, but overcoming it.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This book deals with a serious subject and makes the main character's problems feel very relatable.


Friday, December 14, 2012

2013 Writers' Conferences Around Texas

Here's a list of writers' conferences in and around Texas for 2013. I'm not promoting any of these events, just offering what I hope is a helpful summary.

March 1 - 2            North Louisana Storytellers & Authors of Romance

April 5 - 6               Houston Writers Guild

April 26 - 27           Northeast Texas Writers Organization

May 2 - 4               Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc.

May 4 - 5               DFW Writers' Conference

June 10 - 14          West Texas A&M Writers' Academy

June 21 - 23          Writers' League of Texas

July 12 - 14           LexiCon

July 14 - 21           Taos (New Mexico) Summer Writers' Conference

Aug 29 - Sept 2     World Science Fiction Convention

Oct 4 - 6                FenCon

How did I compile this list? Google.

Did I miss some events? Probably, but not intentionally.

What were my criteria? The webpage had to mention 2013 dates, even if there weren't a lot of details. For example, there's a conference in Arkansas, but it didn't have any 2013 info.

Have I personally attended all of these events? Nope.

Have I attended some of them? Yep. I went to the Writers' League conference once. I've gone to the DFW Writers' Conference four times (but honesty-in-blogging I'm a member of the DFW Writers' Workshop, so I get a nice discount); and I've attended FenCon four times.

Are all of these conferences? Nope. I included West Texas A&M because I've heard it's money well spent; World Science Fiction because I'm excited to be going, and FenCon because they offer the best danged writers' workshop I've ever attended.

Ewh! Exercise (NOT!)

Of all the changes I made in 2012, the one of which I am the most proud was my decision to exercise daily. To get the full impact of that statement, you have to understand that I've been overweight my entire life (oh, there's a picture of a skinny me about age two, but after that I huskied up a lot).

Gerbil running in its wheel, exercising
I had a hamster named
Digger who loved to
exercise. My dad hated
the squeeky wheel. One
night he dumped some
WD40 on the wheel -
and the hamster. Took
me a while to get poor
Digger clean again.
In high school, I had an on-going argument with one coach that P.E. should be deemed 'cruel and unusual' punishment (he never agreed with me). My weight yo-yoed throughout my adult life. Exercise wasn't a part of my routine.

Three years ago I joined the ranks of work-at-home folks and gained even more weight. It was just too easy to snack. Combined with a lack of movement (butt in chair to get job done) my belly bloomed from soccer ball-sized to more beach ball-sized. I accepted it, because A) I rarely left the house, and B) working from home allowed me to wear very roomy clothing.

Then, this summer, I needed to dress up for a work function. I dug out my unused nice clothes and - dadadum! - they didn't fit. I went through five shirts before I found one that would button without leaving gaps. I felt sorry for myself.

Normally, I might bury my sorrows in food. This time, I decided to do something different. I registered for Healthy Coaching at work, cut my calories and started exercising daily. Three days a week I walk. Three days I lift weights. On that extra day, I do a combination of both.

I've lost weight (and I'm happy with that), but what's pleased me the most is how I've come to truly enjoy exercising. I love my speed walks, which have become longer over time. I even enjoy lifting weights and finally having some arm muscles. I feel so much better, I now question why it took me so long to get started.

How about you? Do you exercise, or avoid it like a plague?  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sigh. Almost resolution (uh, goal) time again

One of my 2012 goals (I don't make resolutions) was to buy fewer books. I already had too many unread ones piled on my nightstand, because a) I'm a slow reader, b) my day job doesn't allow me a lot time to read, and c) I'm a slow reader. I was determined to read the books I already owned before I bought any new ones.

You've already figured out the twist, haven't you? I failed. Not just a little, but BIG TIME. I estimate I bought more books in 2012 than I did in 2011. My poor nightstand couldn't support all of them, so I started a new pile on my dresser (had to get rid of some pictures of my kids to make space - bad father).

I'm thankful books don't
grow on trees, or I'd never
read all of them.
At least I was an equal opportunity spender. I bought some at yard sales, at used bookstores, at Dollar Tree (actually a great place to get nice books for only $1 each), online, the big chain stores, and independent booksellers. It was my way of helping the economy. 

However, it leaves me with a dilemma. I still have too many books and I'm still a slow reader. I actually read all throughout the day (when I take a break at work, potty time, before bed each night), but it takes me weeks to finish an average-sized novel. I've tried speed reading, but my brain doesn't absorb well enough to do that. I've tried reading just the dialogue, but often get lost. Steady and slow is how I read, and it's not a fast process.

Now that I've dedicated more time to writing my own fiction it means - oh, golly! - I have less time to read. You would think that would make me stop buying ever more tomes, but the books keep multiplying. I'd like to blame them for being like rabbits, but I know who the real culprit is. 

I love books. Physical, enjoy-the-feel-of-paper books. I guess there are worse habits to have.*

What about you? Do you have endless piles of books stacked around your house, or are you more restrained?  Maybe I need an intervention.

*The books that I read in the course of a year are donated to my local library for their annual book sale (which I attend and buy more books - but never my donated ones back - I have more self-control than that).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Paper vs. Electronic

I recently placed my first short story in a long time. It's a gratifying feeling to see a piece of writing you've labored over finally in print.

I wonder what an electronic
version of a bookworm looks
like? Probably a virus.
As part of my contract, I received an electronic version of the magazine. The day it arrived in my email inbox I was proud. However, being the old-school person I am, I wanted a hardcopy too. While it cost me a small fortune, I ordered a physical copy of the magazine

It arrived yesterday. When I opened the box, I became ecstatic (notice the stronger verb). Maybe it's because I grew up before the digital revolution, but I'm still a paper vs. electronic guy. I still buy paper-based book-a-ma-things (as Homer calls them). I don't own an e-reader. I do own a t-shirt proclaiming ten reasons not to own an e-reader. And the ability to hold a printed copy of a magazine with one of my stories in it still gives me a thrill.

How about you? Paper vs. electronic?