Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reality Gets In The Way

The following was originally posted at the Acme Authors Blog:

One of the joys of writing is the ability to escape to other places and pretend to be whomever you want to be or create characters who do many of the things you might be afraid to do yourself. Writing is also a way to work through personal difficulties.

One of my ancestors, Wallace Bruce - or WB as I call him, was a world-renowned Robert Burns scholar and poet. In fact Wallace Bruce held the same Poet Laureate post in Scotland in the late 1800's that Robert Burns had held a century before and it is through WB that I am a descendent of Robert the Bruce according to genealogical records. While I'm not putting my self anywhere near WB's league in my writings I find myself drawn more and more to poetry to work through some difficult times.

Here's my offering of a poem-in-progress (the name I use is another story):

Learning to Fly by Vashtie

I learned to walk
I wanted to learn to fly
I learned to smile and talk
And I learned how to cry

Every step I take a treasure
In this journey called life
Bringing both pain and pleasure
With intense joy and strife

At times the pain is too great
At times the joy euphoric
I hang onto the ride each takes
The highs, the lows are chaotic

I dared to love but life stalled
While I tried learning to fly
My wings breaking in the fall –
I fell hard looking up at the sky

But I will take these broken wings
And learn to fly again and again
Because to not try, to not fly nor sing
Is like slowly dying before the end

As I put one foot in front of the other
I console myself that I can even feel
But these feelings threaten to smother
Both what is farce and what is real

Every step is part of life's journey
Every joy and pain part of a story
Every story is a journey
Every journey has a story

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conference Plugs

Okay here's my plug for a conference local to the Chicago area and my discalimer is that I'm on the board. It's called Love Is Murder (www.loveismurder.net) and we are celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2008. It's held the first weekend in Feb each year so check out the website and consider coming. My husband Todd, the Novelist's Boot Camp guy, will once again present his workshop and in the past there has been Standing Room Only (SRO). So come on over this coming Feb to the Love Is Murder conference and make sure you register for the Novelist's Boot Camp - one of the best kept secrets in the Chicago area. Also, check out www.storytellerroad.com for more information on Novelist's Boot Camp - a Writer's Digest book - and Todd's works of fiction to include two award winning mysteries. See you at Love Is Murder or one of Todd's other venues for Novelist's Boot Camp.

His loving and supportive wife, and his number one fan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Many Hats A Writer Wears

I've been sadly neglecting my fiction WIP. Instead I've been working on my non-fiction Tax Tips for Writers articles. It's a different mindset than writing fiction. I've also been working on tallying up the costs for this years writers conferences, events and other related expenses. Let's just say it's not uncommon for those of us at the lower end of the publishing rung to spend much more than we take in with regard to our writing.

In the process of researching information for one of my tax articles I came across some information from and relating to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) audit of the IRS. Yes, even the IRS is adutied, but specifically for the way they do business. The audit addressed the Tax Gap, which is the amount of money that is not collected but owed to the Federal government. The GAO has determined that the largest contributor to the increasing tax gap - now estimated to be in excess of 300 billion dollars - is from underestimating income and overestimating deductions. The biggest offenders of this, contends the GAO, is from tax entities that do not have third-party verification measures, specifically Schedule C filers, which includes writers who earn money as independent contractors.

As a result of this audit the GAO is strongly recommending that Congress give the IRS an adequate budget to perform more audits on this and other categories to close the Tax Gap in this country. For more information on how this breaks down go to http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06208t.pdf. You can also do a google search on "GAO Tax Gap" and you will get lots of hits. It's a hot topic!

Why is this such a hot topic? Well, as a country we are spending far more money than we are taking in and the tax gap provides a ready-made solution. After all, the gap address the money that isn't collected but that is legitimately owed, so there isn't a need to pass new tax laws. The IRS just has to collect what is owed.

So, what does this mean for writers? It means that writers need to have a better understanding of how the federal tax system works and how they can best comply with the rules of reporting and recordkeeping because based on the GAO recommendations to Congress and based on the need to bring in more money, the chance of being audited by the IRS just increased significantly.

A writer wears many hats in the course of her business - writer, promoter, travel agent, and yes bookkeeper. I hope to have a series of Tax Tips for Writers articles out very soon that will help writers navigate the thorny road of tax compliance. Yes, there is a plethora of information about taxes on the web and you should familiarize yourself with what's out there, but I'm hoping to bring a fresh approach to understanding the complexities of the federal - and some of the state - tax rules so that writers can feel confident that they are making a good-faith effort in complying with the law.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Man in Kilt

Todd recieved some interesting 'exposure' on a PW Blog. Here's the link:


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Measuring Success

Todd's workshop at RWA (Romance Writers of America), "Unstick Yourself – A Dozen Dynamite Drills From Novelist's Boot Camp" was a HUGE success. I had 60 handouts and ran out with two rows of people left to go. To me this was especially amazing given that it was on Friday night from 6-8PM. The bookseller has also sold out of the Novelist's Boot Camp books and from my estimation she brought at least 40 maybe even 50 copies and quite a few people ordered the book online to have it waiting when they return from the conference. So we are jazzed. We have no flyers left and very few business cards. BUT, wait there's good news (I think) - Todd now has a camouflaged Toby Keith cowboy hat! Yes, you got it - Novelist's Boot Camp does

We also found out that some published authors are using Novelist's Boot Camp as their guide and text book for online workshops they are giving and several are here at the conference. The feedback is that they love using the book for this purpose.

And, most important of all - Todd and I have been able to spend some much needed alone time reconnecting. It's so damn easy to get caught up in all the work that has to be done with this crazy writing and publishing business (not to mention working full-time jobs) and lose sight of what's really important. Too much opportunity for feelings of neglect and not being appreciated, and while that type of angst works for characters in a book it's not that great for real relationships. It makes one vulnerable to predatory people who love to exploit the situation. So, don't neglect your life and your important relationships for your writing or the sake of being published. It really isn't worth it in the end if those relationships are important to you. I consider this trip to have been a success in our relationship as well as with the book. Ah, what a nice feeling that is.

We're looking forward to going to RWA National next year in San Francisco and then Todd will be on my turf. I grew up in Venice, California but spent an army assignment as a Company Commander in Monterey, California before heading for back-to-back assignments in South Korea. While stationed in Monterey, I spent many weekends in the San Francisco area and of course lots of trips to the various wineries for which Northern California is so famous. I would have taken Todd out to travel around this area before but I was (and still am a little) afraid that he wouldn't come back to the Chicago area. We're already making arrangements to rent a motorcyle and travel the area and as much of the Pacific Coast Highway as we can. We're thinking of retiring out that way.

As far as I know our daughter hasn't burned down the house in our absence, just a few other minor problems that can be worked through. We head back home tomorrow and then the reality of our day-jobs (the ones we can't quit!) loom over us sooner than we'd like.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blogging From RWA National

Well, after some iffy travel experiences we finally made it to Dallas and are now in the same hotel as the RWA National conference. We had to spend the first night in a different hotel because only three of the nights we are here were available in the conference hotel. Add travel manager to the many hats a self-employed author and his/her signficant other have to wear.

Todd and I are finding it ironic that when we left Chicago just yesterday, the weather had finally turned nice, just in time for us to come to Dallas and find the hot humid weather that was finally relenting in Chicago. Ah well, timing is everything.

We've been making new friends here and are pleasantly surprised how many have come up to Todd and have raved about his book Novelist's Boot Camp. His workshop is tomorrow night and we are optimistically hopeful that lots of eager faces will show. We're going to work the crowds the rest of the day to entice them to spend their Friday night with us instead of going out on the town. I think spending time with Todd and his Dozen Dynamite Drills from Novelist's Boot Camp is definitely the preferred place to be.

The keynote speaker at the luncheon today was Lisa Kleypas, whose first book was published when she was just 21. She told a fascianting story of her journey over the past 20 years as a published author. Let's just say that armadillos were featured. Seriously though, it was a great speech and she echoed many of the issues both aspiring and published authors face and that Todd and I talk about at our workshops and other venues.

On the plane ride to Dallas, I decided to read The Writer magazine that I had received in the mail just the day before. I recommend that everyone get their hands on the August issue (or go to http://www.writermag.com/wrt/ to see what the cover looks like), but it's the article on the Edgar finalists and winner. That article is fascinating because it dissects the journey each writer took to get to the point of having their book published. Again, something Todd and I talk about frequently when we present at conferences and other writing related programs.

Well, gotta go - Todd's throwing stuff around the hotel room anxious to get going on the things we need to get done today. Although I have to say that it's been nice to be by ourselves this trip. The grown-up daughter stayed home. Someone asked me who was babysitting and I said, "The dog, of course." Now before you take that the wrong way, we have a 14-year-old West Highland Terrier, and being both a Terrier and Scottish he knows what needs to be done and when.

But back to being alone. I often joke that I want to co-write an erotic romance with Todd so we can do the research. Let's just say that lately, and especially on this trip, we've done enough research to write quite a few.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Novelist's Boot Camp Does Dallas

Todd and I are off to the National Conference for the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Todd will be presenting a workshop called:

Unstick Yourself: A Dozen Dynamite Drills from Novelist's Boot Camp.

We've been to many, many writers conferences but this is our first time for RWA National and we are really looking forward to it. It's also the first time without the kid. The now 21-year-old kid so probably about time. I'm hoping for some much needed alone time with my husband although a national conference with 2,000 (mostly women) other attendees doesn't sound very alone, especially when he will spend most of that time in a kilt!

But we've gotten better at taking more alone time in the past few weeks - lots of motorcycle rides which he has always enjoyed and I just re-embraced, but also time to just sit together, drink coffee, stare into each others eyes and more. Sounds simple but that's what we let slip away over the past several years and that's what we've needed the most.

In trying to work out some of our issues recently, I likened marriage to a lawn (guys love their lawns!). When the lawn isn't maintained and nutured then weeds are very attracted to that lawn and have a better chance of taking root and keeping the lawn from being healthy and united. Todd and I have pulled a bunch of weeds out of our lawn lately both literally and figuratively. Some weeds were unfinished business from the past that have now been contained and eliminated. Bottom line is that it's the lawn owners responsibility to make sure weeds can't get in and anchor.

Next a trip to the hardware store - another place where guys like to indulge themselves.