Tax Time

Debt.It’s that time. At least for us. Happens every year around my birthday. All the forms are in, and we’d just as soon get it over with. The sooner the better. Happy birthday to me.

Sigh. There are better things I’d like to do on my birthday than try to work out the numbers and flip through those depressing 1099s.

But if you’re a writer with the intention of turning this into a career, keep in mind all those wonderful things you can deduct:

  • Professional fees and dues
  • Professional services
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Equipment depreciation
  • Repair and maintenance of equipment (I include the cost of this blog domain)
  • Supplies (I include the stock photos I buy for my blogs, not to mention the ones for book covers)
  • Continuing Ed Classes (through conferences and colleges)
  • Business related travel expenses including lodging, meals, airline expenses, car rentals, and mileage traveled on your own car (be careful how you keep records on all this)
  • Postage and shipping
  • Advertising and marketing/promotions
  • Vendors fees (I frequently sell at festivals)
  • Designated office space of 300 square feet or more.

I’m sure there are others, but these should help you realize that if you don’t keep good records, you probably should. Whether you’ve published or not, you can deduct these for a while as the costs of starting a business.


Posted in Misc. | 2 Comments

Gettin’ beat up


I love this meme. I posted it last Friday with the rest of the “Especially for Writers” memes, but the reason this particular one resonates with me is because it’s the story of my career.

Here are some lessons from it:

Write, write, write some more–keep at it. Daily, if possible. On a regular schedule, if possible, but on your schedule, not on your muse’s. If you wait for that elusive, lazy little imp to awake and help you, you’ll never get it done, you’ll never finish what you’ve started, and–worse of all–you’ll never have the discipline required to call yourself a professional at this business.

After you’ve written, show it to people whose opinion you respect. If that’s Aunt Martha, fine–show it to her. Does she know about writing? This is something that freaked me out when I first started this mess. I have a degree in English, but guess what? That didn’t mean I knew how to write a novel. The benefit of being in a community of writers is that you can meet like-minded people of varying degrees of expertise, and some of them will be willing to help you with your work. You can rely on the word of those who know, not just those who think any scratching you put on paper is brilliant (although those folks are vital too. If your ego gets crushed too much, you’ll need the salve they provide). Every genre has a professional organization. Check ’em out and join one or two. (Yes, they’ll most likely come with a price tag. Consider it a tax deduction. You can do that.)

Get beat up–figuratively, of course. But it does hurt, having something you’ve sweated over for the longest time ripped to shreds. Even the kindest of critique partners can tear your heart out, because what they’ve found wrong with the piece is the only thing you remember. Compliments disappear into thin air. But if you’ve done #2 and submitted it to people you respect (preferably other authors), you can learn from the experience.

And if you learn from the experience, the “rinse and repeat” part will bring better results and less beatings.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. if you’ve been getting beat up regularly, pay attention to what your critique partners are pointing out most often, then study that aspect of writing.
  2. if there are too many things the critters are red-lining, maybe it’s time for comprehensive study. There are tons of books and websites that can help that “light bulb” illuminate your mind. Believe me, once the light comes on, you’ll be amazed at the difference in your writing.
  3. if you’ve studied like crazy and most of your critters are happy with the results as illustrated in your work, but one is cranky? Remember this: most authors think they can do something you did better than you did. Some of the most egotistical of us believe that your work isn’t right until it’s written precisely as they would write it. Once you’ve learned the craft well enough to know the difference, you can tell the difference between a valid critique, a novice critique, and a blowhard trying to tear you down.

The secret to #3 is that you must study the craft. There’s no way around that. You must study the craft.

Then, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Keep writing. Even if you become the one whose opinion others respect, you’ll never stop learning. So, write, write, write, rinse and repeat–and eventually you won’t get the beatings in between.


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Review of Lie Catchers

A friend recommended Lie Catchers and told me about the interesting twist–the unusual abilities the main characters possess that make them good at their jobs, but miserable in life. These aren’t super-human powers, they’re oddities of the human condition that make for fascinating characteristics to give a couple of cops.

Detective Jane Randall has synesthesia, “a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color.” In her case, she sees color streamers attached to the spoken word. She knows the color of confusion, sincerity, lies.

Detective Ray Pagan is an “empath”–someone with exceptional abilities to be empathetic, an acute ability to feel what another is feeling, and some of the things he feels in his line of work are hard to shake off.

Between the two of them, they solve crimes and catch criminals.

The idea fascinated me, and I expected to see something highly gripping and unique. I  was a bit disappointed.

The plot itself is a good one: two children are kidnapped simultaneously, in seemingly unrelated crimes, one from the home of a mortuary owner and the other from a rap-music producer. The two detectives rely on their skills and their unusual abilities to solve the case.

I liked both of the main characters. Jane, dubbed Calamity Jane, is the wounded, scarred hero who has a lot to overcome. Ray has already conquered his ghosts–or at least learned to live with them. All but one, anyway. Ray has created a haven for special people, and without her permission, has dumped Jane into it. She resents his gall, but loves the haven. Frankly, so would I.

The author, Paul Bishop, was with the LA police department for 35 years and was “twice honored as Detective of the Year,” according to his Amazon bio, so he provides a lot of detail pertaining to interrogation and the laws governing it. If you write Police Procedurals, read this one with a notepad nearby.

And, if you write Police Procedurals, don’t do it like Bishop did.

I’m not sure whether Bishop didn’t trust his descriptive abilities or his readers’ abilities to understand what he just presented, but he was forever explaining the obvious. It got to be annoying after a while.

Truth is, Bishop presented his scenes convincingly. He did a great job of it, and I understood everything that happened. Then, as I said, he turned around and explained it all to me.

Reminds me of the greatest rule of all in writing: RUE. Resist the Urge to Explain.

If you’re not sure the reader will understand your scene, write it better. If you’ve written it as well as you possibly can, get a beta reader to let you know whether it works. If it works, leave it alone, if it doesn’t, rewrite it. But never assume your reader isn’t bright enough to catch on to what you’ve written.

And always write to your smartest, most critical reader. You please that one, you’ll please ’em all.

Posted in Writing | 2 Comments

Writers Retreat

Frontier Camp

Anthea Kotlan, (me), Kathrese McKee, Elizabeth Elliot, Lisa Godfrees

A few of us writers had a weekend getaway at Frontier Camp’s “Fossil Creek” a few miles outside of Crockett, Texas. I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Don’t get me wrong–we each got a lot of work done. But we also got a lot of laughing done too. There’s nothing better than spending time in a close group of like-minded nuts who get you.

For instance, one morning, Lisa kept us riveted with a vivid account of a dream she’d had, and just after she described a particularly frustrating scene, Anthea asked, “And how did that make you feel?”

I’m sorry to all the psychologists out there, but that was such a writer question.

We all understood when another, deep in concentration, would giggle at her computer screen. We were patient with each other when one just had to share what she’d just written or asked for editing help–or had to respond to a phone that had some of the most hilarious ring tones and text alerts I’ve ever heard.

Frontier Camp Fossil CreekWe stayed in a cabin that had nothing in it but bunk beds and a bathroom (and I do mean nothing–not even a chair), but we worked in this building. Our little cubby hole was toward that far right pillar. We had access to the balcony and could sit and write with the wind blowing through our hair and the sun sparkling on the water of a man-made pond. And we did write outside. Often. It’s winter in Texas and the temperature reached up to 76 degrees.

I’m amazed how much I got done despite how much we clowned around, how rested I felt despite the hours I kept. How relaxed I was after coming home from a working weekend away.

Can’t wait to do it again next year!


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The Windows 10 Experience


If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you already know I finally downloaded Windows 10, primarily to stop the nagging. The download took awhile, which messed with my internet service. I should’ve done it in the wee hours of the morning, during free time.

In case you’re wondering, I live out in the country, and my internet service is provided by Wild Blue/Exede. Its receiver is mounted on my roof right next to the one for Direct TV. Ordinarily, the basic service is enough for a month, but last year, I had to increase it–not that my use of the internet changed, but (I suspect) the amount of time I was getting  for the amount of money decreased. Can’t prove it, but . . . well, there ya go.

But this download wrecked me, and kicked into the “overtime” service that I’ve been paying for since last year. This service allows me to continue functioning as I always do, but at a slower rate.

Add that slower pace to the glacially slow performance I was experiencing when I first downloaded W10, and you can see my frustration. First thing I tried to figure out (after struggling to get used to that monstrosity of a menu they forced on me) was how to shut down some of the things on the start menu. Most computer wizards know better than I what is safe to shut down and what isn’t, what to uninstall and what will send your computer into paralyzing spasms if you do uninstall it. But, based on what little knowledge I have, I forged onward, unpinning things from the start menu, from the short-cut screen, from the task bar (they put the Trivago icon on my task bar–like I travel on a regular basis, and must have that button handy. Uh . . . no).

That much helped. My computer is starting up a bit faster now and running better.

During set-up, I was asked to let Microsoft and whoever their buddies are receive information about the sites I visit, my surfing habits–all that stuff that allows them to personalize their ads to me. Wait. Who said I wanted ads? Who said I wanted them that involved in my life? It freaks me out enough when something I’ve shopped for on the internet shows up on the sidebar on Facebook. What makes them think I want them to advertise to me at all?

That one burned my biscuits. My answer? Oh, hell no!” And trust me,  you don’t want to mess with a Texas woman when her rejection is worded that forcefully.

Besides, I’m an author. I search for a wide variety of things. Right now, I’m working on a short story in which my main character tries sky diving–not something I’ll ever get to do, but I’ve been researching parachutes and jumping schools, etc. I can imagine the pop-ups, or whatever, advertising cute little jumpsuits, pretty parachute canopies, and accidental death-and-dismembership insurance.

Can you imagine the pop-ups if I were a mystery/suspense author?

Anyway, Microsoft decided I didn’t need ccleaner anymore–they’re wrong, but that doesn’t matter. They took it off my computer, I’ll put it back on. I had to update Avast to the W10 compatible version, which is fine, I guess. Microsoft wants me to use McAfee, which came with my new HP notebook (which had W10 already installed), but frankly, I like the combination of Avast and ccleaner. Even the free versions do their jobs, and I’m happy with them.

Microsoft wants me to use dropbox. That’s fine, I guess. I have to use it for some of my business, but my preference is “My PC Backup.” I like it, I’m used to it, so I’m keeping it. So there.

Otherwise, so far as I can tell, everything else is fine–except they stole Hearts from me. I don’t know why they stole it from this computer when another version of it is on my new notebook, but they stole it. The dirty birds.

I’ve gotten into the habit of playing a game of solitaire or Hearts between jobs to clear my mind and make the transition easier. Sometimes I play when I can’t come up with an effective word or phrase while I’m writing. And sometimes I play because I’d rather not work at all.

Actually, I mentioned that to God recently. I needed to take Hearts off my computer because I spent too much time playing it. Well, sure enough–it’s gone. Is that Microsoft overstepping their bounds, or God agreeing that I spend too much time on Hearts?

I do have the other solitaire games I like, but their format is different. No biggie, I’ll get used to it.

One of the really cool things about it is that I was having a private conversation on Twitter with Susan Brannock yesterday, and whenever she wrote to me, her avatar and note popped up on the screen. I imagine if I were more active on Twitter, that would make me crazy, but it was fun for the time.

Another thing that keeps popping up is a note from Microsoft begging me to pat them on the back. Don’t you love W10? Won’t you rate it for us? Would you recommend it to your friends?

Are they insane? Not fifteen minutes after I had it fully installed, they started wanting me to fill in a satisfaction questionnaire, and that’s just plain nuts. It’s different from what I’m used to. It adds things I don’t know diddly about and takes away things I’m accustomed to. Of course, I hate it!

But that was then.

Right now, I can’t complain–I’m not going to answer their questionnaire, but I can’t complain. I’ve read others’ comments about how W10 crashed their systems, or about how they had to pay to return to an earlier version like W7 or W8. By now, I’m kinda used to this thing, and it hasn’t given me any real problems.

But my advice to you? Don’t upgrade, or if you’re going to, do it when you have plenty of time to devote to it. But really? Don’t upgrade.

Posted in Misc., Personal | Tagged | 23 Comments


I’ve gotten myself into a mess. I have so much to do and so very little time to do it all in, that I’m wondering how it’ll ever get done. I’m feeling overloaded and overwhelmed, and I did it to myself. Although I’m excited about each project coming up (in sets of four–all due at the same time, and all to be followed by more sets of four), I didn’t realize what I’d done to myself until I sat down and updated my calendar. That’s when I discovered how many things are scheduled against each other.

Oy vey!

This isn’t a job for Supergirl or Wonder Woman–it’s a job for Super-Secretary! If I could come up with some sort of heroine like that, she’d be sharp, focused. Have an eye for detail and a mind for logistics. She’d be able to plan a calendar that included all work projects, home events, and trips to Mom’s, that would effectively maximize the amount of things I can get done in the amount of time I have to do them and never miss a deadline or doctor’s appointment.

And she would know the answers.

Have you ever noticed that if you really want to know something, the best person to ask is the secretary?

I want someone like that.

I have projects coming up that I have no clue how to do. And while I have a network of people to help me, I hate to keep picking on them. Super-Secretary would already know the answers, and would probably have the groundwork laid before I had my first cup of coffee, which she would have already made and would serve it to me just the way I like it–bless her.

Right now, I’m typing on a new HP Pavilion x360 that I just set up yesterday. It’s not quite fully functional, but I did at least fix it to where I could work in my blog. My main computer is getting upgraded to Windows 10 so maybe Microsoft will stop giving me pop-up ads about the upgrade, but I wonder what I was thinking to let it upgrade this morning–Monday morning, the busiest time of the week because I have to make up for all the time I took off over the weekend.

Super-Secretary would have already set this computer up with everything I need and have the other one already upgraded. And to top it all off, she’d be able to tell me what would happen if I push that button or how to get this button to work like it does on the other computer.

I bet Super-Secretary would even know how to keep me from taking on more projects. I mean, seriously, why is “no” so hard to say?

The Lord has been warning me that MSB and I are facing some changes, both personally and professionally. Two major changes in particular. If He’s doing what I think He’s doing, I’m looking forward to them, but they’re going to require a lot of work on top of the work I already have lined up and a lot of time that will take away from the work I already have lined up. He knows this, so maybe He’s going to provide me with a Super-Secretary–or at least the organizational skills to become one myself.

Meanwhile, I’ll just see how much more time I can carve out for myself if I cut out sleep and meals.


Posted in Personal | 16 Comments

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Posted in Authors, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Advanced Notice!

MAAL January ad

Susan May Warren’s birthday is tomorrow, January 21,

so to celebrate,

we’re giving away our set of six contemporary romance novels,

Much Ado About Love

A one-day only giveaway!

Christian romance at its best, all ready to be downloaded into your Kindle tomorrow!

Seriously, how can you say no to this face?


Happy birthday, Susie May!


Posted in Authors, Personal, Promotion/Publicity/Marketing, Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment