Monday, January 23, 2017

Taxes and Anthology News

It's that time of year when we start thinking about those taxes. Those of you who are self-employed (writers) know there can be a lot of paperwork involved in trying desperately to hold onto your earnings instead of handing them over to the government. It's easy enough to google what you need to know about taxes as a writer, what forms to use, what deductions you can claim and learn that the wine you drink while writing isn't one of those deductions.

“The taxpayer: that’s someone who works for the federal government, but doesn’t have to take a civil service examination.” – Ronald Reagan

I've been doing it for almost ten years now, so I pretty much know what is what. One thing I learned back at the beginning is to organized all year long. I keep every minor postal receipt, ink receipt, travel mileage, paper purchase, membership dues, conference fees, ... you get the idea. I fill out a ledger every few weeks and mark them in their proper category. When January arrives, all I have to do is add up columns. All the receipts are kept in a folder, all in order by date. It's easy because I keep up with it. My advice for taxes, stay organized and be grateful that you have income so that you have to be concerned about deductions.

If Patrick Henry thought that taxation without representation was bad, he should see how bad it is with representation.— Farmer’s Almanac

Now for some good news. The next IWSG anthology will be released May 2nd in print and Ebook. I love having those print copies on my bookshelf. Here's a blurb and the lovely cover.

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Fell back a little on my word count this past week but it was for a good cause. I hosted a baby shower for my upcoming granddaughter on Saturday. It meant a lot of prep work and a lot of shopping. Babies are expensive. I'm not glad to be old but I'm also happy not to be juggling all those expenses. Fun was had by all and the expectant parents received some wonderful gifts. One of the best parts was all of Team Gourley showing up to help with setup and cleanup. They even helped transport to and carry in all the gifts to my son's home.

The mild temperatures means more outside exercise than I usually get in January but that's a good thing. I know it probably doesn't mean good things for the planet, but I'm feeling selfish about it in the short term.

Are you ready for tax season? Do you do your own taxes or pay someone? Do you try to sneak in some questionable tax deductions? Is winter acting out of character in your neck of the woods? 

Bonus quote:

People who complain about paying their income tax can be divided into two types: men and women. — anonymous 

Monday, January 16, 2017

What Do You Do?

A great thing about being a full time writer, you can schedule those pesky appointments like the dentist and haircuts any day, any time. It's nice and relaxing, but those wonderful hairdressers and hygienists always want to make small talk.

"Are you off of work today? What are your plans for the rest of the day? Where do you work?

Now maybe I could do some marketing by sharing things about my job as a writer. But I really just want my teeth cleaned and my hair cut. People have so many misconceptions about writers and their jobs.

Yes, I work at home. A lot of people do that for their jobs full time or part time. I can work in my sweatpants or PJs. I can get a cup of coffee or glass of wine anytime I wish. But I'm still working.

Writing isn't a hobby. It's work and I do it almost everyday. Sometimes I think because so many people have to do at least some writing at their jobs, they believe writing is easier or less time consuming than it is. They are wrong.

“As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.” —Neil Gaiman 

Writers don't just write. We can't. There are too many other things we're responsible for if we want to make a living at this. (Or at least make some money.)  Submitting our work takes time both to research and prepare those query letters. Promotion and marketing, the bane of a writer's life, can be the biggest time suck of all. Writers who self published have even more work to do. Many writers have obligations to professional organizations they belong to such as writing groups.

So, I don't want to talk about my job when you have that sand blaster cleaning tool in my mouth, but I'm a full time writer and I work at home. Stop asking me.

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” ─ Robert Cormier

And the writing is going great. I started a new series on January first and already have written 30K in the first book. It's going great and I'm loving the story and characters. I know I'm going to cut a lot of what I've written out when I get to the second draft, but it's on the page for now.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.” ─ Shannon Hale

At one time, perhaps 10 years ago, I considered getting my MFA. But I was too busy at the time to attend even a low residency program let alone suck up the cost with two children still in college. So I never did, but I know a number of writers who had great success with the manuscripts they developed while attending Seton Hill's MFA for writing popular fiction. Instead of focusing on literary like so many programs, they're not afraid to go with the genre fiction courses. An entirely online MFA program is offered by University of Texas, El Paso. I've seen good reviews on their program and might have considered it 10 years ago.

Does your dentist talk to you while they're poking around at your teeth? Do they learn that in dental school? Ever consider getting an MFA? Are you having a good January in writing?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Digital Fatigue

Is it real? Is there such a thing as digital fatigue? More and more people spend their work day using some kind of tech device. It might not be a computer. It could be a tablet or a smartphone. Then our recreation time is turning ever more toward using our phones and tablets. We read the news on them. We watch movies and sports on them. We play games on them, communicate with videos and chats. If our leisure time is spent in much the same way as the work day, is it really relaxing?

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.–Oscar Wilde

There is some evidence, that readers are the first to rebel against the digital takeover of their leisure time. Young people lead the pack for abandoning their tech when they want to just read for pleasure. Publishers Weekly uses digital fatigue as one of the links in the anchor chain that has dragged down eBook sales numbers. Though many see the resurgence in print sales numbers, others claim only the coloring book craze brought about that little bump.

My local group had our monthly meeting this past Saturday. As usual at our first on the year meeting, we spend some time talking about the state of the industry. A surprising bit of good news was shared by a member. After being writing a number of books for a 'digital only' imprint of one of the big publishers, she and a few others received contracts to headline a new mass-market imprint. Not too many years ago, publishers were claiming mass market was dead except for 'big name' authors. Most print was trade-size paperback. Nearly all POD books, like most small presses use, are for trade-size. But lots of people don't want to spend the $10 to $18 that bookstores ask for the trade size. Hence, the popularity of the $7 to $10 mass market.

All this makes my head buzz. I'm so glad I work with a publisher rather than trying to make it on my own as in indie author. Trying to keep up with the twists and turns of the publishing industry exhausts me. I'm rather sure no one really knows what the new, shiny thing is going to be.

“He loved books, those undemanding but faithful friends.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

I love reading 'real' books and I love reading on my Kindle. I love the ease of purchasing an eBook and I love browsing in a book store. I love thinking of a book I've written sitting on a bookshelf in a store, but I also love knowing I'm making money from people downloading an eBook.

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?–Henry Ward Beecher

The good news about the digital fatigue is that many have seen a resurgence in bookstores, especially indie bookstores. I've even heard B&N is doing a bit better. They plan to close some of their huge impersonal stores and open smaller 'book's only venues. That sounds good for writers.

Any good news on the writing front from your point of view? Do you take a tech-break at all? Does you job require lots of 'screen' time for you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG 2017 Kickoff

It's the first Wednesday of 2017 and that means the first IWSG post for our group. You can still join this wonderful group started by Alex J. Cavanaugh and enjoy all the support and fellowship that goes along with being a member. Share your woes, ask your questions and celebrate you accomplishments with us. If you have none of those things to share, you can just answer or also answer the monthly suggested question (totally optional question):
What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?

I would call this advice more than a rule, but when I first started out, I heard numerous times to 'write what you know.' Well, I write fantasy and science fiction. Who knows that stuff? I know lots of science but the future is endless possibilities. Even if you're writing contemporary or historical, you can research anything you don't know about. It's bad advice for fiction writers.

And what members have been waiting for, it's time to announce the latest winners of the IWSG anthology contest. First the official title: Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life.

The book will include short stories by these amazing members:
Jen Stanton Chandler  The Mysteries of Death and Life
Renee Cheung  Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight
Sarah Foster The Last Dragon
Sean McLachlan The Witch Bottle
Yvonne Venstresca The Art of Remaining Bitter
Ericka Beebe The Wheat Witch
Ellen Jacobson The Silvering
Olga Godim Captain Bulat
Elizabeth Seckman Mind. Body, Soul
Roland Yeomans Sometimes They Come Back
L Nahay Breath Between Seconds
Tyrean Martinson Of Words and Swords

Congratulations to them and all who entered. The stories were great this year and a real tribute to the quality of writers who belong to our group. I hope you have a chance to congratulate those who were selected.

Probably all of us are hoping for great writing things in 2017. I found this first in a series article from Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest. He's put together a list of tips from agents to help with your queries this year. Check it out.

Watched Sense8 on Netflix this past weekend. Very confused for the first episode but it really intrigued me after that. Lots of nudity and bad language, perhaps worse than GoT, but the idea is pretty cool. Tried the first episode of The OA but haven't been caught up in it yet.

I've been doing some cleanup after the holidays. I took a bunch of books to the second hand store where hopefully they find someone new to love them. And now I'm getting rid of lots of other stuff to the trash or Goodwill. I'm not a saver of things but when you raise four children, things tend to accumulate. It's a start.

Any writing rules you want to throw out? Find anything of interest in the query tips? Any series on Netflix or Amazon Prime that you recommend? Or some that really stink and I shouldn't bother?

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 We've Been Waiting for You

Happy New Year, dear readers. The calendar finally turned over to 2017. I hope no one jinxes us by asking how it could possibly be worse than 2016. I'm sure there's a way so let's not tempt fate.

Tempting fate ... after proudly saying I hadn't had a bad cold in a few years, I'm suffering through my second in less than a month. Darn germs. Go away.

Don't forget the 4th is the first Wednesday of 2017 and that means it's time for IWSG monthly blog hop. It's also the day the winners of the anthology contest will be announced. I was humbled by the talent of our members. So many excellent writers and stories. The question of the month should you decide to use it: What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?

Looking back on 2016, there are lots of things to be depressed about. I spent yesterday thinking of all the good things that happened in 2016. (In between blowing my nose.)

We learned we were expecting our first grandchild. My daughter graduated college with highest honors which also means no more tuition payments. I reconnected with an hold friend and have enjoyed a number of lunches with her as we catch up. I read some really terrific books. I only wrote two books last year but I received a contract from my publisher for both of them. My children and my husband are healthy as everyone loves everyone, faults and all. So on a personal level, 2016 was pretty good.

In the professional area, 2016 threw one more fastball at the head. And it hit a lot of writers. All Romance eBooks, a distributor of ebooks, announced it was closing its door on December 31st and would not be able to pay anyone the royalties owed to them for the 4th quarter of 2016. Wow! This hit a lot of indie writers but also publishers of all sizes who sell their books through ARe. They don't just sell romance but also sell other genres on their sister site, OmniLit. There is more fallout from this coming out every day. Mostly what it confirms is how few ways there are for writers to protect their work. Pirates steal and now legitimate sites can't be trusted? How many people now believe the owner of ARe was paying them all monies owed before this? Here is an article discussing the closing and another with further information. I'm waiting to hear from my publisher when they figure out what it will cost her and me. I hope it didn't hurt any of you.

"Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games." Babe Ruth

What can a writer do? Just keep on writing. I'm starting a new romance series set in a post-apocalypse America. The apocalypse seems to be on a lot of minds these days.

Not setting goals for this year. I'm going to write as much as I can and regain the energy I couldn't seem to find in 2016. I need to get more done.

"Do or do not. There is no try." Yoda

One more thought before tonight's football game. Go, Penn State!

Are you tired of football bowl season? I am. Were any of your books for sale on ARe? Are you entering 2017 with hope and a positive outlook? I hope the Force is with you all in 2017.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Today I'm posting over at the IWSG site if you'd like to stop in and visit. This post will close out my blogging for the year but I'll be around on Twitter and Facebook now and then.

2016 was a rough year for a lot of people. Within our family, we had ups and downs but through it all, we stuck together and supported each other. I trust that we'll be of one heart going into 2017. We're rich in all the right ways.

"Contentment lodges oftener in cottages than palaces." Thomas Fuller

We had a bit of snow and ice at the end of last week but I'm trying to have a better outlook on winter this year. We'll see how long that lasts.

"Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart." Victor Hugo

I'll use my first post after Christmas to talk about this year's writing progress and my plans for the next year. Some good news and some not so much.

I do want to thank all my faithful readers of this blog and especially those who leave comments. You make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. To all of you, I wish the very merriest of holidays with the warmth of family and friends around you. I pray for your good health and happiness. If I could gift it to the world, I would share with one and all, my contentment and joy as a mother, wife, sister and friend. Bless you all.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Seasonal Musings

I always complain like so many other people about how early retailers put out their Christmas goods. Yet, here I am again with Christmas less than two weeks away and I'm unprepared.

This past weekend I accomplished a few things. The house is finally decorated. The tree is up but not decorated. The children insist on all being present to participate in that and it's very difficult to get that scheduled. But it's worth the wait to have all the good-nature arguing and teamwork that does into that. They all have their favorite ornaments that they must put on. There have been years when we didn't decorate the tree under the 23rd.

Another obligation was an extended family gathering on my husband's side. It was calm and fun, lots of good food.  A third thing was the start of plans for my daughter-in-law's baby shower. Male readers might not agree, but I love a baby shower. They're so hopeful and filled with joy.

The only shopping I've done so far is bring in packages from the front porch and the mailbox. The rest should arrive this week.

Book outline is not very far along but I'm going to work on it this week. Cold weather brought a bit of snow, a dusting, this weekend. I DON'T like it.

I read an interesting stat in Writer's Digest Yearbook. In 2015, 54% of ebook purchasers use their phone to read books at least some of the time. I do that sometimes when I'm waiting at the dentist's or doctor's. I would guess that lots of people read the news on their phones. My husband does this now after fighting about getting a smart phone.

Another mention in WD Yearbook was how adult coloring books actually accounted for the 3% increase in print book sales in 2015. Does that count? I'm sure you've heard the thoughts of how coloring is a good stress reliever for adults. Not my thing.

Are you ready for the holidays? Any gatherings you must attend? Do you read on your phone? Are you into the coloring book trend?