Monthly Archives: March 2010

Getting Ready for RavenCon

In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to Richmond, Virginia, for RavenCon 2010. It’s happening the weekend of April 9-11, and it looks like a lot of fun. Besides writing and books, there are tracks and events for film, gaming, filking, art, costuming, podcasting, and science.

RavenCon’s Author Guest of Honor is Rachel Caine! (Excuse me while I have a fangirl moment: Squeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!) I’m super-excited that I’ll be on a couple of panels with her. I’ve been a fan ever since the first Weather Wardens book came out.

Here’s my schedule (subject to change, of course):

Friday, April 9, 8:00 P.M

What’s Next for Urban Fantasy?

From vampires to werewolves to fairies and beyond—what myth hasn’t this genre explored, and what would you like to see?

–Mike Allen, Rachel Caine, Nancy Holzner (moderator), and Laura Underwood

Friday, April 9, 11:00 P.M

The Changing Face—Body, Language, Imageryof Feminism in SF and Fantasy

Feminism has been introduced in literature in various ways. But as with everything, time mandates that in order to keep the interest of the audience, some things have to change. Or do they? Are there ways in which feminism can displayed without the “in your face” use of the stereotypical woman who can kick every alien’s ass and yet still be womanly?

–Gregory Eatroff, Laurel Anne Hill, Nancy Holzner, Laura Underwood (moderator)

Saturday, April 10, 9:00 A.M.

So You Want to Write a Book . . .

From conception to working habits to outlining to wrapping up with a great ending. Authors share their secrets and answer your questions about the book writing process.

–Rachel Caine, Laura Cory-Haywood, Nancy Holzner, Jim Stratton (moderator)

Saturday, April 10, 1:00 P.M.

To Agent or Not to Agent: That Is the Question

Do you or don’t you need one? The panel discusses the pros and cons from participants that fall into both categories.

–Nancy Holzner, Michael Kabongo, Jim Stratton, Leona Wisoker (moderator)

Sunday, April 11, 10:00 A.M.

Workshop: Breathing Life into Your Writing

A two-hour workshop that focuses on staying close to the point-of-view of characters and revealing the story world through their five senses, thereby creating authentic, believable characters.  Discussion also about story structure, believable dialogue, creating forward momentum, and strong/weak verb usage.

–Laurel Anne Hill, assisted by Nancy Holzner, Barbara Ish, and Allen Wold

I’ll also be doing a book signing on Sunday at 1:00 P.M.

Looks like I’ll be busy! I’m not sure how I managed to sign up for one panel at 11:00 P.M. and another the next morning at 9:00—I must have been paying attention to topics, not times. But that’s OK; they’re both great topics.

I’m writing up a list of questions for the panel I’ll moderate: What’s Next for Urban Fantasy? If you have any questions you want me to ask Rachel Caine or the other panelists about that topic, post them here or email me and I’ll add them to my list.

Advertisements

Tax Time

Mu husband and I filed our taxes last week. We were a little trepidatious because we’ve owed money for the past couple of years—but this year we’re getting a refund. Yay!

But that’s not what I wanted to blog about today. I wanted to mention a few of the extra hoops you get to jump through, tax-wise, when you’re a writer in the U.S. I’m neither an accountant nor a tax attorney (so don’t take this as professional advice), but I’ve been self-employed as an author or editor for most of the last decade, so I’ve got a good amount of personal experience jumping through those hoops.

Back when I was employed by someone else, I really only thought about taxes once a year when I had to file. The rest of the time, someone else took care of taxes for me. The money I owed the federal and state governments magically disappeared from my paychecks, and every April I filled out a couple of forms, checked figures on my W2s, and made sure everything squared. Not my favorite way to pass the time, but not too hard, either. And I usually got a refund.

As a self-employed author, I think about taxes a lot more. When I get a check from a client or one of my agents, no one withholds any taxes from it, and that means Uncle Sam and New York state both want to hear from me a lot more often than they used to: a grand total of five times a year. Besides filing in April, I have to keep track of what I earn and send in estimated tax payments four times a year: in April, June, September, and January (the final estimate payment for the previous year).

To file, we have to use form 1040 (the longest and most complex version of the 1040) and fill out Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business), Schedule SE (to calculate our self-employment tax), and Form 8829 (Expenses for Business Use of Your Home), among others. Lots of paperwork.

Before I was self-employed, I had no idea what self-employment tax was. In a nutshell, it’s how self-employed people pay their share of Medicare and Social Security taxes. When you’re employed, you pay about 7.5% of your income into these programs, and your employer pays the same amount. When you’re self-employed, you pay the whole amount yourself: 15.3% of your income. I’m not complaining, because I think those are good programs, but it was certainly a shock the first time I had to pay it. (On the plus side, you can deduct half of this tax from your other federal income tax.)

So if you’re switching from being employed to being self-employed, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep good records. Anyone who’s ever seen my office knows I’m not the most organized person around. But money is one thing I’ve made an effort to get organized about. I use a spreadsheet to track income and expenses, and I have a file for receipts.
  • Set up your own payroll deductions. Something new I’m trying is having a separate account for taxes. When I get a check, I deposit it into my main account and then transfer a percentage into my designated account for taxes. This  prevents me from thinking that I have more cash on hand than I really do.
  • Don’t be late. It’s never fun to send a big check to the government, and it’s even less fun when you have to do it four times a year. But there are penalties for being late, so it’s important to pay attention to due dates for those quarterly estimated payments.
  • Get help. Taxes for self-employed people are complicated. If you’ve never had income from self-employment before, consult a tax professional to get help filling out all those forms and to find out what you can and can’t deduct. It’s worth the money.
  • Get educated. Even before it’s time to file, talk to an accountant or tax preparer and get a list of the writing-related expenses you can deduct. There are many allowable expenses related to advertising and promotion, research, professional development, writing-related travel, and so on that you might not think to deduct. Of course, keep receipts and document everything.

Paying taxes is never much fun. But it’s a reminder that I’m really making a living as an author, and that does feel good.


Dark Faerie Tales’ Debut Urban Fantasy Challenge

Dark Faerie Tales is challening YOU to read 15 debut urban fantasy novels this year. It’s a terrific idea, and with so many exciting new urban fantasy authors out there, you’re sure to discover some great new authors and series.

Follow this link to get the details and sign up. Have fun—and let me know about any great new authors you discover.


Happy (almost) spring!

I know the official start of spring is still a couple of days away, but lately we’ve had warm(ish) temps, clear blue skies, and birds singing all over town. So in honor of spring, I’m posting this way-too-cute video starring one of my favorite signs of the season. (Thanks, Tamsen!)


Guest Blogging on RomConversations

You’ve probably heard that old writing advice “write what you know.” It’s a good starting point for a writer, but if you want to write fantasy it doesn’t take you very far. When you’re building a world that exists only in your imagination, you have to think about new ways of knowing.

That’s the topic of my guest post at RomConversations today. Stop by and leave a comment, and you could win a signed copy od Deadtown. (Yup, I still have a few to give away.)

Hope to see you there!


Digging Out , Part 2

Last week, I thought I was all dug out—from snow, from work, and from personal stuff that kept happening. But I guess the thing about digging out is that there can always be another storm just over the horizon. Because on Tuesday (my birthday), I got hit by an avalanche.

I woke up to a family medical emergency that caused me to spend most of the day in the emergency room. I also spent two nights at the hospital, feeling grateful that they allow family members to stay overnight in a patient’s room. And I’m deeply grateful that the crisis has passed and things look OK.

I’d originally planned to use my birthday as a day to reevaluate the promises I made to myself at the start of the New Year. Two months down the road, another milestone—it seemed like a good time to take stock. To tell the truth, I didn’t think I was doing very well keeping my self-promises and meeting my goals. But sitting in the emergency room, it didn’t matter so much. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for goal setting, and I intend to get back to that. If I don’t have goals to work toward, I end up drifting from day to day without getting all that much done.

But there’s nothing like a sudden crisis to throw you into a different perspective. Things that seemed to matter a lot the day before just disappear. They’re still there, and they’ll matter again, but I can see them in a different context now. I have a tendency to let small things inflate, until they take on an importance that’s way out of proportion to reality. So I’ve been thinking about what really matters to me. Those are the things I want to emphasize in my life.

Now, I’m behind again at work and will spend the weekend getting caught up (digging out again!). Then I’ll go back and look at those goals and promises I wrote down in January. I think the most important promise I can make to myself (and I don’t remember whether I wrote this down at the beginning of the year) is to take time to appreciate the good things that I have in my life right now. That appreciation is another thing I’ll be digging out—and I’m not going to let it get buried again by overinflated problems and worries and responsibilities that, in the larger scheme of things, don’t really matter all that much. I don’t want to look back in regret at something I’ve lost. I want to appreciate what I’ve got while I have it.


It’s release day for Shade Fright by Sean Cummings!

My friend and fellow urban fantasy author Sean Cummings has a brand-new novel out today. It’s called Shade Fright, and it’s a lot of fun.

Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:

“I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Central and Infrastructure Canada like to keep track of these things. Don’t ask me why…”

There’s a malevolent force in town, and it’s quite literally Valerie Stevens’s job to determine who’s behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary. She’ll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by ‘Bill’ these days). But that’s not all—Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.

To celebrate, Sean is giving away three copies of Shade Fright this week. Go here for the details. I was lucky enough to read an early version of Shade Fright, and you don’t want to miss it! It’s  fast-paced and action-packed, with a great heroine and a unique spin on urban fantasy.

CONGRATULATIONS, SEAN!


%d bloggers like this: