Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Friday, January 31, 2014

Since it’s tax time, let’s talk mileage!

So, you’d think a topic such as which miles you drive related to your writing or writing business qualify as a tax deduction would be an easy thing to figure out, but you would be wrong.

There are a number of variables that affect which miles you can deduct on your income tax return related to your writing or writing business and the most significant variable is whether or not you have office-in-the home which in turn impacts on which miles are considered commuting miles – which are NEVER deductible – and which miles are not considered commuting miles.

There’s an IRS Publication 463:  Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses that every writer should review on an annual basis, and this publication includes a thorough discussion of car expenses.  Of particular note is Table 5-2 which provides a detailed example of a Daily Business Mileage and Expense Log.  Of further note is Figure B titled, When Are Transportation Expenses Deductible?  This diagram will demonstrate very clearly that commuting miles are NEVER deductible.  So, just what does this mean for the writer?

Well, let’s say that you have a regular job and you write on the side, a situation that I think is most common for writers - you know the starving artist/writer thing we would all have going on if we didn’t have a regular job or a partner who did? So, you come home from your regular job to have dinner before attending a meeting, or going to the library to do research, etc.  Well, if you do not have an office-in-the home you cannot deduct your mileage from your home to the meeting and if you come back home after the meeting you cannot deduct those miles either.  They are considered commuting miles.  Don’t believe me?  Please check out Figure B in IRS Publication 463 referenced above.

Now let’s say that you went straight from your regular job to your writer’s meeting/event, well then those miles would be deductible but if you went home after the meeting without making any business related stops then the miles driven home would still not be deductible.  (NOTE:  your writing is essentially considered a second job.)

As you can tell, calculating your mileage deduction can be a very tricky thing which is why it is critical that every writer train themselves to review the publication mentioned above each year and follow the IRS guidelines for recording miles driven and for which purpose.

Now I’m not advocating that you have an office-in-the home just to qualify for the mileage write off because trust me, the office-in-the home deduction comes with its own set of perils and red flags for audits, BUT you need to be aware of the consequences of all your choices when conducting your writing as a business or hobby and how those choices impact on your income tax profile.

BTW – the standard mileage rate for 2014 is 56 cents, a half cent less than for 2013.  The standard mileage rate is actually adjusted quarterly based on the cost of gas and other expenses and in some years the mileage changed during the year which is another reason it’s critical to keep a detailed mileage log.  In the case of mileage and how it is reflected on your income tax return, the devil really is in the details.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Are You Wandering in the Wilderness?! by DL Larson

Have you ever stood around wondering, waiting for something good to happen in your writing career, thinking things are going too slow?

I feel I'm always waiting for something to change. About the time something does change, I realize I'm not ready! It's actually the forces that be waiting for me!
Take my next manuscript for example. I thought it was ready for editing. I'd been searching for an editor for a few months now. But I've also been busy with other matters, mostly writing my paranormal romance series, and hadn't really taken a final look at my latest manuscript in my historical series. When I did, I discovered many things. Mostly ... I wasn't ready for an editor.

1. I'm old school in keeping my files and realized I had yet to put all my chapters together into one giant file to complete my manuscript! Oops!
2. Trying to insert numerous chapters together into one file is grueling. Correcting the page numbering ... well, let's just same I'm glad I have no broken windows and I'm not bald, yet. I have four more chapters to insert and I just can't do that to myself right now. I gave myself a few days off. I call it a 'cooling down' time. I just hope I don't forget how I did the other sixteen chapters.
3. I haven't finished that final read through - the one where you pretend you are the editor/publisher! It's amazing how problems jump off the page when I step into someone else's shoes. I haven't found too many hotspots, but I'm glad I noticed them BEFORE I sent my work to an editor.

Sometimes I amaze myself! I think I'm ready for the next big step and become antsy waiting for something to happen only to realize I'm not nearly as organized as I thought I was. I suppose that is human nature, but good grief, I had completely forgotten a few steps. Really important steps, too!

There's a saying, 'we spend most of our lives in the wilderness, waiting and wondering why we're stranded, blaming God for not helping us out, only to realize it is God waiting on us!'

Well, I've seen the error of my ways and have a huge task to complete. I wish all the work was behind me, but I know too, the journey is a story in and of itself. I learned a great deal about page numbering this last week. If anyone is having trouble with re-numbering, let me know, I may have a solution for you.

No matter where you are in your writing career, remember to enjoy the journey!

Til next time ~

DL Larson
www.DLLARSON.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson Has People in Her Head




Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes in mystery, romance, and horror. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies. 


The People in My Head  
by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
One Christmas my best friend (also a writer) gave me a sweatshirt with the saying “Writer’s Block – when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Every so often someone presents a program at one of my writers’ groups on how to create characters. They bring charts and questionnaires and personality assessments of varying lengths and complexities and talk about how to create a complete character from scratch. They talk about how to give him a backstory and outlook, even down to his favorite flavor of Jello. I’ve dutifully taken down every scrap of information and – for a while – tried every system.

It didn’t work. Oh, I created some lovely characters on paper, fully rounded and complete with all the requisite quirks, strengths and histories, but that’s all they were – paper. I was Frankenstein without the lightning, and my carefully created characters were nothing but lifeless pixels.

My method? Stand out of the way. While I envy those who can create their characters to their specifications, I can’t do it. My characters simply walk in and take over. Yes, just like possession, though not as frightening or dire. My characters are like real people, with all the attendant flaws, quirks and differing histories. And no, I don’t think they’re Mary Sues (ie, perfect versions of me). Sometimes I don’t even particularly like them, but I can’t change them.

For example, take my heroines. Admittedly, some of them share a few traits with me – for example, we’re all female (a given). On the other hand, all are younger than I, which these days covers more and more age groups. Most are tall (which I wish I were), but a few are short. Most are fair and blonde or redhead (which most definitely I wish I were) but a few have dark hair and olive complexions. Some are spunky and courageous and a few are – in the beginning, at least – cringing, browbeaten cowards who must grow into fully rounded humans. Neither one of these extremes describes me at all. One or two have been downright snots who I would have kicked out of my house if they had been substantial enough to be kickable! Same goes with the heroes; one of my most popular heroes is a man whom in real life I wouldn’t have spoken to twice. Go figure.

So what do I do? How do I start a book? It’s not a formula graven in stone, but generally a situation creeps into my mind. It could be sparked by a bit of conversation heard in a restaurant, a news item, something I read, even something I experienced. It’s never the whole thing, though – whatever it is, it’s like a grass seed. It burrows into my mind and lies dormant there, often for years, then something brings it to life and it starts to grow. As it grows people appear.

Yes, they just appear, marching into my mind and pretty much refusing to be changed.  One character told me his name – which was not the one I wanted to give him – and refused to do anything until I called him by the name he chose. Determined not to be bullied by a figment of my imagination, I persevered, but the result was lifeless. What had promised to become a fascinating character became a jerky, wooden puppet. I decided to experiment and wrote a chapter using the name he wanted. It was so easy! Everything came to life and the writing flowed. The eventual result was one of my most popular books.

When I told The Husband (who had been listening to my woes for a week or more) about what had happened, he looked as me as if gauging the measurements necessary for a straightjacket, and I could hardly blame him. He is a totally grounded science guy, but you’d think after all the time we’ve been married he’d have gotten used to my ‘writer-weirdnesses’ by now!

If there is any useful advice in this post, it is to listen to your characters. Character is what makes a good story. A situation is the seed, but a situation is not a plot. A plot, to me at least, is the story of the interaction between the characters and their varying, sometimes changeable desires. Every character must have his own reason for being – past, desires for the future, foibles, hurts, prides, all the things that make anyone human. No character should ever exist just to forward the story. Of course, I’m talking about major and most secondary characters – you don’t have to give the convenience store clerk who sells the heroine a package of gum and is never referenced again a backstory. Unless he decides not to be ignored and works his way into a major character!

So – when your imaginary friends talk to you, you’d do good to listen.

Here are two wonderful books to check out, resulting from the voices in her head. Apparently, those voices also insisted she write under two different pen names: Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson.


FAMILY OF STRANGERS 

A Gothic novel of Victorian Scotland where a young widow discovers that an unexpected legacy has turned her husband’s unknown family away from her while a callous predator plotting her death wears a smiling face.

Cast upon the cold charity of her late husband’s unknown family, Linnet MacTaggert is shocked that her brother-in-law was her husband’s exact twin. Both complications and threats ensue when it is known that she is the sole heiress to the estate, a situation that only worsens when she finds herself drawn to the family’s arch-enemy. But is her husband truly dead? Before Linnet can solve the mysteries that surround Jura House she must not only put herself at risk, but also almost lose her life.



BEADED TO DEATH



Please welcome Janis to Book Beat Babes by leaving a comment.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dreams...

Do you remember dreaming about what you'd be when you grew up? The real question - did you follow that dream?

Well, my dream was to be an archaeologist, either study dinosaur bones or study hieroglyphics.

No, I didn't do either one.

But I did enjoy reading all the books I could on Egypt, learning to read the hieroglyphics, and still enjoy reading fiction on my favorite persons - Cleopatra and Nefertiti.

I did dream of wanting to write as a kid and began later with poetry. So, some dreams do come true.

And as a writer, I can still indulge my love of ancient Egypt and dinosaurs if I want, simply by putting them in a story!

I dreamed of writing fiction and books like my latest, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

Who says dreams don't come true?

** So.... what did you dream of doing - and did you accomplish it or take a different course?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Bit More Productive

Compared to last week's post on procrastination, I'm pleased to report I've been a bit more productive this week.

It all came down to making a list.

Instead of having a vague I have so many things to do mantra floating around in my head, I took some time to write down what specific things I needed to accomplish. Not only did it focus me, but there's something immensely satisfying about checking things off as I get them done. As of the writing of this post, we're about halfway through the weekend, and I'm about halfway through my list. Not too shabby. Plus I've managed to throw in things not on the list like laundry and a trip to Menards. And I've gotten some reading time in.

So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about what I'm getting done these days.

When you have a million things to do, how do you organize yourself to make sure you're staying on task?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Indie or Traditional by Margot Justes



Much has been written and debated about indie or traditional publishing. There is no perfect solution, it is up to the individual writer to decide which way to go. Neither are easy. A writer can submit to an agent, or go directly to the publishing house. Some houses require an agent, others do not. That research should be done by the writer.

Getting an agent is not easy, and there will be many rejections. The process is subjective, one agent will hate it, another will love it, and between that time of hate and love, the rejections mount up.

Once you get an agent, a contract needs to be signed. I firmly believe that a literary attorney should review it. An agent will attempt to sell your book to the publisher, and once sold, there is another  contract to sign, and same proviso should apply, a literary attorney should review the publishing contract.

There is a great deal of information available about agents and publishers and their submission requirements. Do your research before you proceed. There is no point in submitting to an agency that only handles non-fiction when you write romance.

Let’s say you have an agent, and the manuscript is sold. A writer still needs to do the marketing and promotion, while the editing, cover art, all those lovely things will be done by the publisher.

The indie route places a lot more responsibility on you, the writer. Again, a good product is a must, a good editor is also a must. A requirement. You, as the writer have complete say in your cover, your back page, getting your book out, and all the marketing and promotions. There are editing and formatting, and cover art costs.  Unless you feel well equipped to do all of it.

I have a formatter, a cover artist, and a fabulous editor.

In both cases indie and traditional, you must have a website, a blog, or two or three, and the required social media outlets.

I’ve been with a small traditional press, and once I regained the right to my first novel, I went indie. I like it that way. I like the freedom. It’s an uphill battle, but I found it is better to work for myself. Amazon pays royalties monthly, and sales are clear cut. I have a long way to go, before I can make a living writing, but progress is being made.

One author whose blogs I would recommend if you want to go the indie route is Joe Konrath. His blogs are helpful, and a tremendous asset to an indie writer. He’s articulate and upfront about the writing business. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

Should You or Should You Not DIY?



The number of authors publishing through independent means such as Amazon, NOOKPress, Smashwords, etc is exploding, but with that independence comes a host of responsibilities that traditional publishers (both large and small) took care of.  There are a plethora of other companies springing up that take care of these responsibilities for you, but for a fee, of course.

What are some of those responsibilities?  Well, to start with there are the formatting issues that each publication process requires, book cover art, editing and proof reading and indexing for non-fiction; etc., and if you think these things don’t matter – think again.

All of these processes matter to the success of your book and don’t get me wrong, there are authors who’ve done just fine juggling all these different responsibilities and are quite successful, but some authors decide along the way that it’s just better to outsource some of these responsibilities so they can do the one thing they really want to do and that is write.

For those of us who independently publish our work, there are many tough choices to make.  Do we “do-it-ourselves” when it comes to editing, book cover art, publicity, etc., or do we outsource one or all of it to someone else.  More often than not it comes down to what we can afford to do or not do, but in the end if we spend all that time writing a novel or non-fiction book, we want people to notice it and buy it and come back for more if we’ve actually continued to publish.

Take the example of Russell Blake who is a self-published author and who has released 25 books in the last 30 months  He was recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal in an article dated Jan 7, 2014.  Here’s the link:


The article is a fascinating read!  I was struck by the fact that Mr. Blake started outsourcing certain aspects of the self-publishing process so he could focus more on the writing aspect.  After all, isn’t writing the main aspect of being a writer/author?  I was also fascinated by how he positioned himself to be able to outsource those pieces and I think all writers/authors should take note of the lessons they can learn from what Mr. Blake has done.

I haven’t read any of his books – yet – but, I’m very curious about his process as a writer and once you read this article, you will be as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Rest of the Story! by DL Larson

A news broadcaster, Paul Harvey, used to have a segment on his radio show called, The rest of the story. He would share back-stories with his audience to reveal a truth few knew existed. It was usually entertaining, noteworthy and just plain interesting. I thought of Paul Harvey when I received this little story and decided to share it with you today.

I take no credit in the writing. I don't know who wrote it, and I'm pretty sure it's true, but again, it may be somebody's imagination. What it is ... is a good bit of writing that feels informative, and above all entertaining!

Here goes:

Subject: Who is Mr. Gorsky?
In case you didn't already know this little tidbit of trivia, on July 20, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar module, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon.

His first words after stepping on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," were televised to earth and heard by millions. But just before Armstrong re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet cosmonaut. However, upon checking there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs.

Over the years, many people questions Armstrong as to what the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.

On July 5, 1995, in Tampa Bay, Florida, while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year old question about Mr. Gorsky. This time Armstrong responded because Mr. Gorsky had died, he felt he could answer the question.

Here is the answer to "Who was Mr. Gorsky?"

In 1938, when Armstrong was a kid in a small mid-western town, he was playing baseball with a friend in the back yard. His friend hit the ball, which landed in his neighbors yard by their bedroom window. His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky.

As Neil leaned down to pick up the ball, he heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky, "Sex! You want sex! You'll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!"



Now go have some fun today!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Here's Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith, With the LowDown on Conferences and Conventions


Today, I'm happy to host multi-published mystery author, speaker, and more, the amazing Marilyn (F.M.) Meredith, who offers valuable insights on conferences and conventions. - Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. 

Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/

ABOUT MYSTERY CONFERENCES AND CONVENTIONS
by Marilyn Meredith

Probably everyone who reads this will know the difference, but just in case, here’s my explanation. Conferences are more of the “how to” variety, how to write a mystery, how to create convincing characters, how to make sure you get your forensics right, how to kill someone off in a new and innovative manner, and so on. A mystery convention is geared to fans, those wonderful readers who love to read (and buy) mysteries and actually enjoy listening to authors talk about how they came to write their mystery, or how they did the research for it, or how they created their characters, and so on.

Many mystery writers attend both. At a mystery conference there might be one of the presenters telling how they do all of the above mentioned how-tos and of course, they will figure out how to talk about their own book in a subtle manner so those listening will be curious and want to buy their books.

At the convention, the mystery writer hopes to sparkle and entertain in the hopes that those listening will be eager to buy his or her book.

I’ve gone to lots of both types of mystery confabs. The biggest of course is Bouchercon. This one is held all over the country and has the biggest attendance of both fans and mystery writers. This is the place to see some of the biggest and most popular mystery writers in the business. It can be pretty overwhelming at times. You might make a new friend and never be able to find them again among the throngs of people. Long Beach, CA is the location for 2014.

Left Coast Crime is the second largest mystery con and always held on the left coast (though once that left coast was in Britain and another time in El Paso TX, and yet another in Hawaii. It’s smaller than Bouchercon, though many big name authors are always in attendance and lots of wonderful fans. This year it will be in Monterey, CA.

A fairly new one is Thrillerfest, always in New York, with lots of big name authors and opportunities to learn about the craft of writing thrillers.

Then there are other smaller cons and conferences like Love is Murder which is always in Chicago. Some big names attend this one too—just not quite as many because there just aren’t as many people who go. It is also a writer’s conference as there are lots of opportunities to learn about writing mysteries and there are usually a few publishers and agents in attendance.

A writing conference that is rather unique is the Public Safety Writers Association. The organization was started by a law enforcement officer for law enforcement officers who write or want to write. Over the years it has embraced other public safety fields and people who write fiction and non-fiction about any of the public safety fields and have included mystery writers.
This is the smallest of all the cons that I’ve mentioned, but it has top-notch experts in forensics and all aspects of law enforcement as well as publishers and editors on hand. Because it’s small, there is ample opportunity to network. Anyone who wants to be on a panel is welcomed. To learn more about the PSWA conference go to: http://www.publicsafetywriter.com

Other areas of the country hold smaller conferences too, way too many to list here, but you can easily do an Internet search and find them.

Some conferences and the hotels they are held in are more expensive than others, if you’re on a strict budget, that might influence you too.

My advice to anyone wanting to go to any convention or conference, register early. If at all possible, stay in the hotel where the con is being held. Plan to get to the conference a day ahead of time so you don’t miss anything. While at the conference, be friendly, talk to everyone. This is the best way to meet people. If you don’t have anyone to go to dinner with, ask someone to go with you. If they already have plans, ask the next person. Hand out your business card to everyone. If you’re fortunate enough to be on a panel, smile a lot, be funny, tell about your book but don’t go on and on about it, and don’t hog the panel.

Go to the panels that interest you the most. Hang out in the bar in the evenings—you don’t have to drink—just get acquainted with folks. And again, talk to people. Find out why they’re at the con—are they a writer, find out what they write, are they a reader? Tell them about your book.

And on a practical note, wear comfortable shoes and always have a sweater with you, sometimes the conference rooms are way too cold.

What are your favorite cons and why?

Marilyn Meredith



Marilyn’s latest mystery is Spirit Shapes: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.


Please welcome Marilyn Meredith to Book Beat Babes by Leaving a comment.