Monday, June 25, 2007

Keeping It Real

The literary field is littered with writers who are alcoholics, on their third even fourth marriage, drug addicts, you name it. Not every writer has one of these scars but many writers do because how else would we be able to put into words such intense emotions as loss, redemption and growth! How can a writer describe something she has never felt?

Well, some writers can because they are keen observers but still there has to be something in their experience that resonates with the energy and emotions going on in a scene that they are writing. That's why many writers are such tortured souls.

I am one of those writers. I have a very tortured soul and I sense that Todd does as well. We both grew up poor, hungry for love and badly abused. We've beat the odds in many ways and not only survived but thrived. Still old news and old demons have constantly attacked our present day selves and we almost let them win recently. We certainly let them in and they pinged around doing some damage. Time will only tell if the damage is reversable enough to recapture the love and attraction that brought Todd and I together in the first place.

I owe my husband an apology - and I will do so in public - for letting the fear of the past shutout my true feelings for him and get in the way of us. He even gave me a message in his second mystery novel, No Place Like Home, at the end where the hero and his love ride off together on a motorcycle. I even said, "You wrote that for me, didn't you?" and he replied, "Yes."

I'm hoping that it's not too late to correct the damage that's been done. I'm hoping that from now on we can keep it real between us and not let the past define our present. I even said to Todd that once we honor our current author/writing commitments if he wanted to stop chasing all the writing dreams then I was with him. If he wants to keep going I'm with him as well. I just don't want to lose him, myself or us in the process.

We had two wonderful rides together over the weekend and I'm hoping for many, many more. I love you Todd - have since I met you and always will. You're my hero and bad biker dude and I just want to let you know that you are more important than any title or book contract or anything else and I would love to ride off into the sunset with you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Writers Block

One of the things that Todd likes to talk about in his Novelist's Boot Camp Workshops is Writers Block. He has several drills to help properly identify what it is and what it isn't as well as drills and techniques to overcome it.

Often writers say they're 'blocked' when in reality their life events are getting in the way or weighing them down. We had such an event recently.

Todd was walking the dog Wed night at around 10:35 PM when another dog was suddenly let out of a house not too far from ours and this dog attacked ours. Now our dog Rocky is a 14 year old West Highland Terrier (all things Scottish to go with our heritage) who is in pretty good shape for his age but he's a smaller dog. The dog that attacked him was much bigger and grabbed Rocky by the neck and started shaking. We took him to the emergency vet service in our area because he had a puncture wound in the back of his neck.

Rocky is a member of our family and I know lots of folks will relate to this sentiment. So, we take good care of him, which is why the Vets often tell us he looks and acts much younger than he is. Still he's an old dog and events like being attacked take their toll on older dogs, and their owners.

We've already followed up with our regular vet and I have to take him back in a couple of days to make sure he's healing properly. So, far so good but Rocky is definitely feeling the pain. I did contact animal control and this isn't the first time they've had a problem with the dog that attacked ours.

So, life gets in the way and my plans to work on my writing projects got a bit derailed, albeit temporarily. I was also incredibly tired on Thursday after spending time in the Vet emergency room waiting for Rocky to be seen Wed night. On Thursday riding the commuter train home from where I work in Chicago I dozed off while trying to type. Again, life events got in the way. But it was interesting talking with the other folks in the emergency room even thought it was almost midnight and we were all there under traumatic circumstances.

One of the women had brought in a feral cat that had kind of adopted her but stayed outside. She had found it that day with a metal trap (you know the kind they use on wild animals) around one of it's legs. Ultimately, the cat ended up with a broken bone but what a cruel thing to do to this animal. We're not talking an area that is out in the boonies somewhere. We're taking a developed and established area that has animal control services. The woman said that she believed it was teenage males next door to her that set the trap up to see what would happen.

She described other aggresive and down right evil behaviors from these males that were definitely anit-social and even somewhat psychotic. So I said to her - "I know this might sound strange, but my husband is a mystery author and because we've had to reserach criminal behavior, what you're describing isn't healthy." She said that she knew that but that her brother told her just to ignore these males but another family member said how much she worried about her living next to people with such dangerous behaviors. I encouraged her to report the situation to at least animal control.

I also told her that while not everyone who does what these young men are doing turns out to be a serial killer, all serial killers have this type of behavior in their pasts - especially the sadistic behavior.

Writers block (if such a thing really exists) aside you never know when your research will come in handy.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Weekend In the Life of a Writer

Todd and I spent last night at Dukcon (www.duckon.org) where he presented his Novelist's Boot Camp. It was a great success. Then this morning we dragged ourselves out of bed to drive to downtown Chicago and Printer's Row for the annual bookfair sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. Todd signed books in the Twilght Tales Tent and a great time was had by all. It was a beautiful day for an outdoor event such as the Printer's Row Book Fair and we caught up with old writer friends and acquaintances.

Tonight I return to Duckon, which thankfully is just a few blocks from my house, to help another writer friend of mine, Kelle Z. Riley (http://www.kellezriley.com/), sell her books and provide assistance in her workshop as needed.

Then tomorrow I return to Duckon to present a session on Tax Tips for Writers.

On Monday - we all return to work our day jobs that pay the rent, put food on the table and provide medical coverage.

Okay, I know it sounds like I'm complaining. Yeah, I am a little. Just want folks to know it ain't as easy as people think. Even the folks who make it look easy are only foolin' ya!

So, why do we do this. Because we can't NOT do it. Disease or Passion? Take your pick but it's a calling, it's a compulsion, it's an obsession, it's all of the above. Just know that it takes a lot of stick-to-it-ness to make a go of writing. I often say (and may have said it in this blog) that there are two types of writers who don't get published - those that give up and those that die first. That should tell you something.

I suspect that most of the artistic endeavors have the same challenge. My daughter is a musician and that is yet another arena where very few make a living off their talent. But we're in there helping her. She cut her first demo CD and she's been a backup singer in a local cover band. So far, lots of hard work but more money going out than coming in.

So, next time you see an new writer or a struggling musician consider buying their book or CD. You can always give them as gifts but you just might find out that you like them for yourself. After all, even the big name authors were nobody's starting out hopeful that someone would buy their books. I just read that a first edition Harry Potter is expected to 'catch' 20k (that's $20,000!) at an upcoming auction. Can you imagine if you had bought one of the first editions?

Okay, so the odds are against you being able to predict something like this but think about how much good you can do for a struggling writer or musician. The holidays are coming up and books and CDs make great gifts. They really do.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Don't quit your Day Job - Part III

Continuing with the example in the previous blog let's look at the following:

It's the next tax year and I've received my second half of my advance - $2,500 (or $2125 if I have an agent). I've also received my first royalty statment and while my book is selling I haven't yet earned back my advance from the publisher. So my income for the year in the second quarter is $2,500.

On my second royalty statement I've earned back my advance and earned an additional $1975 in royalties. So my income for the year is $4475. I have expenses of $375 to my agent and $1100 in additional expenses that include travel and attending conferences to promote my book. So, my net income for my Schedule C is $3,000. This amount becomes income on my Form 1040 and if it's my only income then my standard deduction will reduce this to zero but once again I will still owe Self-Employment tax which in this case amounts to $423.89. The calculation is ($3,000 X .9235) = $2770.50 then ($2770.50 X .153) = $423.89. Again, see Schedule SE for more details.

One of the ironies of becoming a published author who is earning royalties is that you, the writer, have to spend some of that royalty money to promote your book so it sells and so your publisher will want to publish even more of your books. There's a saying in the writing/publishing industry - "You're only as good as your sales figures from your last book!"

Bringing this discussion back Close To Home (great title for a book!) I see Todd working very long hours not only promoting his latest book, Novelist's Boot Camp, but also his four works of fiction. In addition to this he is working on another piece of non-ficiton and working a full-time job, AND developing the story line for another piece of fiction - this one a military suspense/mystery, AND working on the plot for a motorycyle mystery series.

The second weekend in June 07 we're off to Duckon (www.duckon.org) and off to Printer's Row (http://www.chicagotribune.com/about/custom/events/printersrow/) both are happening Close To Home (there's that title again!) so we don't have extensive travel for these two gigs - thankfully!

We traveled last weekend for a sister RWA Chapter's retreat - Todd and I are both members of the Windy City RWA Chapter (www.windycityrwa.com). It was an incredible retreat and we had a fabulous time with all the members of the Chesapeake RWA Chapter in a beautifully rustic setting. Todd gave a Novelist's Boot Camp to the group and it was extremely rewarding to see recently published, multi-published and struggling-to-be-published (including me) get something out of the techniques that Todd presents. I attend every boot camp that Todd puts on and while he has a basic set of drills and techniques that he presents based on his book he also tailors the presentations based on the venue and the audience.

I get something out of every boot camp and I as I continue to work on my final (I hope!) edit of my romantic suspense novel I marvel at how much I still have to learn.