Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Interwbez Home -- AKA: I've Moved to WordPress!

Hello and thank you for stopping by!

The site for Author Melinda S. Collins has now moved to:

Please stop by and visit Melinda at her new home.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Springtime & Starting Fresh: New Site, New Blog, New Lessons

It’s Springtime again! Woo hoo! Time for Spring-cleaning, warmer weather (if Mother Nature cooperates *shakes fist*), and fresh blooms.

If you think about it, New Year’s and Springtime both have a few things in common: Both are times to start fresh, begin anew, get rid of the clutter in your home and/or life, and to revamp, rethink and reboot.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been up to this past month: starting fresh, revamping, rethinking and rebooting. :)

Starting Fresh With a New Site

Okay, so it’s not exactly starting “fresh”, but it’s close. ;)

During the final session at WANACon, Jami Gold did a quick rundown of the differences between (the free version) and (the paid/self-hosted version). This particular topic got my brain turning on the possibility of making the move to WordPress. So from there, I contacted Jami's TechGuy, Jay with TechSurgeons, and started the process of “testing” out a WordPress powered, self-hosted site.

And for those writers who aren’t quite sure where to start on developing a website and blog, Jami has two workshops coming up this month at WANA International where she teaches students how to start their website/blog (whether it be the free WordPress route, or the self-hosted route). For more information on her upcoming workshops, click here.

So, with all this information floating around, it's like the universe was sending some kind of sign. "Make the move, Melinda," it said. "Go for it!" I sucuumb easily to peer pressure, so I decided to make the leap from Blogger to WordPress. There are a few other--more legitimate--reasons as to why I made this decision, and I’m going to get to those on Thursday. But believe me, the leap was worth it and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. :D

So as of next Monday, I’ll have a new interwebz home. *tapes up last moving box* Look for the link next week so you can come join me over there. ;)

Starting Fresh With a New Blog

Again, not entirely starting fresh since I’ve been able to move all my Blogger posts over to the new site, but again, it feels so fresh!

Something about changing locations, moving into a new home, reorganizing your desk, buying a new wardrobe and moving websites gives us such a sense of newness that we can’t help but think, “Fresh start. New beginning. Yay!”

So over on the new site I’ve made a commitment to post at least three times a week—Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Even though blogging isn’t new to me (dang, I just checked my calendar and I’ve been doing this for 3 years next month. O.o), my thinking and approach have both drastically changed. Drastically.

I recently finished reading Kristen Lamb’s book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and I have to say that Kristen’s approach to blogging was so truthful and so spot-on that it hurt. Hurt! But in SUCH a good way. If you don’t have a copy of her book, go buy it and devour it. Now. :)

Starting Fresh with New Lessons

We’re never going to get anywhere unless we learn. Unless we fall down, pick ourselves back, and learn a lesson from what caused us to fall face-first into the mud.

  • If these last eight months have taught me anything it’s this:
  • Nobody’s perfect
  • We all make mistakes. It’s what we do to learn from them that sets us apart.
  • Nobody ever got anywhere being negative all the time. <-- This is my Southern ‘Tude coming out, by the way. ;)
  • Becoming a published author is a marathon, not a one-mile sprint.

So with a new site and blog, I’m looking forward to sharing the failures, lessons, and triumphs I’ve made over the course of my journey in a positive light.

Blogs may be “ours” and a place to share “our writing journey”, but the posts won't do much unless they have something to offer the reader. It’s the same with our novels—if we can’t provide entertainment or an escape, give the reader a sense of belonging and understanding, or teach them something new or a different way to think and/or do things, then why are they going invest in us? Why are they going to spend time and money to allow our words into their hearts and minds?

So here’s to start fresh with a new site, a new blog to call home, and new lessons (and what I’m sure will be many, many more before it’s all said and done)!

What about you? Have you thought about moving your website and/or blog? What lessons have you recently learned? What are you looking forward to the most this Spring? 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Gits and Shiggles

Dear Wednesday,

You puzzle me. You signify the middle of the week, yet also remind us there are still two more days before the weekend.

But don't worry, Wednesday. You will not beat me. For I have funnies to put a smile on my face and keep me laughing until then.

So ... nice try? Maybe next time? Pooey on you? Which would you prefer I say to you this week?

Sincerely Yours,
Still Smiling :)

Here's some laughs to keep you going 'til Friday! Hope you enjoy! :)

Supernatural Season 7 Outtakes and Funny Stuff
Who doesn't love to laugh at Jensen and Jared?
Feed Me from Simon's Cat
Simon's Cat never fails to make you smile. :)
Jeff Dunham and Peanut as Batnut
"You're Batnut's butler. The Nutler!"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Highlighter-Infused Crazy List Maker


My lists went from plain and boring to
fun and rainbow-colored.
I bet you were wondering who I might’ve been referring to by that title. *raises hand* Yup, that’s me. And I'm willing bet this is some of you as well. Though you might lean more towards the "list" part of that title and not the "highlighter-infused crazy", am I right? ;)

I’m as guilty as ever for being so far OCD that I not only make To Do Lists for everything, but I color-code said lists. And I make no apologies. Why? Because these To Do Lists keep me and my life straight. Without them, I’d get nothing done and would end up so disorganized and discombobulated that Writer Husband would have to check me into a mental facility (though I think he’s starting to find other reasons to get me checked in).

Here’s the method to my madness:   
  • Dayjob To-Do List:
    • Title: "To Do: Week of X/X"
      • I list all items that are due to be done during the week. Then I follow-up the items with the day they're due (usually in parenthesis). I normally start the next week's list on Friday afternoons, and keep adding to it as more things come up during the week.
      • Then I highlight each item a color based on its due date:
        • Monday - Pink
        • Tuesday - Orange
        • Wednesday - Yellow
        • Thursday - Green
        • Friday - Blue
    • Why I run it like this:
      • On a white sheet of paper with only blue or black ink, it started to get annoying to have to actually read through every item in order to find the ones I needed to do that day. While I could've made a chart with a box for each day to help keep the daily due dates straight, that also took too long (and wasn't as much fun). So by color-coding the due dates, it made it easier to seek out the pink highlights on Monday, the orange on Tuesday, and so on and so forth. (I also keep a daily day planner, but that's slowly fallen by the wayside in favor of this To Do List)
    • Comments I've received on this list form coworkers (using initials to protect identities):
      • "You're so organized!" -M <- Notice she didn't call me crazy. :)
      • "That's actually not a bad idea. I need to start doing that." -C <- I immediately handed this person a pack of highlighters to get 'em started.
      • "Ooo, pretty!" -V <- Why yes, definitely pretty. The list makes me smile every time I look at it.
      • "Ummm ... you know you possibly might be certifiable, right?" -D <- Um, this doesn't compute.
Now, I also have two other To-Do Lists that I visit daily: Home Life and Writing Life. The Home Life is nowhere near as detailed as the dayjob, and neither is the Writing Life. But my Writing Life To-Do List can be just as complicated.
Writing Life To-Do List:
  • Title: "Get 'Er Done!" 
    • I have 3 sub-lists for this one: Long Term Goals, Monthly Goals, and Weekly Goals. So I basically keep track of my career goals while breaking it down into a smaller, more detail-oriented goal listing. And I keep each list separate on three different worksheet tabs in Excel.
    • Why I Run it Like This:
      • Looking at your Long Term Goals daily can be overwhelming. For me, I'd never get anything done because I'd end up paralyzing myself staring at a goal such as Get published within the next X years. Don't get me wrong, it's my goal and something I'm gonna make happen, but ...
      • The Writing Life is all about taking things one step at a time. And most steps are small in the grander scheme of things, such as drafting and/or revising. Seeing larger goals in the To-Do List when I'm trying to focus on the here and now, the smaller goals, overwhelms me. So I prefer to separate these lists/goals so I can concentrate on eating my elephant one small bite at a time.
    • Comments:
      • Nada! This list is just for my eyes. So there's really no one to hold me accountable. Though let's be honest, if you don't get it done you're only letting yourself down, and that's the worst possible person to disappoint, right?
    • My Favorite of these Lists:
      • The Weekly Goals List. Each item is a small step in the bigger picture and just seeing everything crossed off on a particular week makes me feel so, so good.
      • I even have a column entitled, "Why did you not get this done, nimrod?"
        • If I'm having a horrible week and just couldn't seem to get anything done on my list, having this column is how I hold myself accountable. Maybe I need to adjust my schedule? Adjust the To-Do List itself, not put as many items on there? Or maybe I need to stop slacking off? Whatever the reason, it's a good rule of thumb to learn from the mistake and move forward.
Tips for Making & Keeping To-Do Lists
  • Every item on your list should be SMART:
    • S = Specific: Make your goal clear and well-defined
    • M = Measurable: Can you track the success of this goal?
    • A = Attainable/Actionable: Is the goal a challenge? Something you can achieve?
    • R = Realistic: Is it within your reach? Something you can achieve?
    • T = Time: Does the goal have a deadline? Is the deadline workable/achievable?
  • Hang/Post your To-Do List somewhere you’ll see on a daily and/or hourly basis. The constant reminder of what you need to get done will be a great motivator.
  • Don’t kick yourself too hard if an item doesn’t get checked off (unless you’re contracted). I tend to be very hard on myself, but I’ve learned to get a little lax when it comes to missing an item on my list. That just means there’s more to do the next day. :)

Additional Resources on the Interwebz:

Your turn: Do you use To-Do Lists? Are you as neurotic diligent as I am? Or more lax? What tricks have you come across that have helped you knock the items off your list?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Gits and Shiggles

Happy Hump Day!
Wednesday. The middle of the week. The moment where you often think only two more days to go and then it's the weekend! 
This is the point in the work week where I often look to laughter to help me finish out the week. So I wanted to share some of what makes me laugh. No matter how many times I see these clips (and the TV episodes and/or movies they're from), I can't help but laugh. Almost instantaneously, too! ;)
Hope you enjoy! 

Peter Griffin singing 'Ding Fries Are Done'
I'm singing along. Are you?
"Eurotrip" anyone?
One of my all-time favorite movies. Simply because "Europtrip" is fun to watch, fun to quote, and it never fails to make me laugh.
"I'm Batman!"
Who doesn't love Big Bang Theory?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Keeping Positive to Keep Moving Forward

Paramore on the Honda Civic Tour
Summer of 2010
Picture by Me :)
I’m a huge music junkie. No doubt I’ve done everything to hide that fact. *sheepish grin* One of my favorite bands is Paramore. I’ve seen them in concert twice, usually listen to their albums while driving across the state for the day job, and yes, many of their songs are in my writing playlists.

On Sunday I ran across a photo of Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore, on Facebook where it appeared as though she got a new tattoo. (Don’t want to post the pic here since I can’t locate the copyright license for it.) This tattoo may be one she’s had for a while and I’ve just never noticed, but when I saw it, it struck a chord with me. Call it coincidence, but I just so happened to be pondering my writing journey and thinking about how badly I want my writing career to succeed ... then that pic came through on Facebook. And of course I noticed the tattoo right away because I myself have two of my own and enjoy checking out others' artistic expressions.

The tattoo I'm referring to is on her left forearm and it says: Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative.

Considering what Paramore’s been through over the last fourteen months with the loss of two original band members, Hayley’s tattoo is no doubt speaking from her personal experience of having to deal with the usual breakup issues (you know, the stuff where the ex says XYZ that isn’t necessarily true and yada, yada, yada). No matter what type of breakup it is, there will always be negativity associated with separations rooting from a difference of opinion and direction.

One of the reasons why I’ve always loved Paramore, and particularly Hayley Williams, is that they haven’t been afraid to say what’s needed to be said. A song like “Ignorance” may punch you in the face with lines like, “You treat me just like another stranger,” but that line’s quickly followed up with, “Well it’s nice to meet you sir, I guess I’ll go. I best be on my way out.” In other words, thanks-nice-to-meet-ya-I’m-outta-here, and I don’t want or need your negativity. When I’m angry at a situation, this is one of my go-to songs. :)

The awesome pic the hubs
took of me while I jammed
Another reason why Paramore’s listed in my top favorite bands is because of their determination to keep going, even during the rough times. Band members/friends come and go, a clashing of opinions and/or direction will happen, and sacrifices will always have to be made. And I’m sure that there may have been several moments where the remaining band members have thought about quitting (I don’t know the band, so this is purely an educated guess from a fan). But, obviously, they haven’t quit. They continue to persevere and keep going.

One way Paramore's done this is by eliminating the negative and accentuating the positive.

They’re still a band and they’re still recording music. Even though they’ve lost two major band members, the three remaining members are moving forward and focusing their efforts on making a positive album – which is scheduled to be released in April – and giving their fans what they want a need.  

As a human being, an individual, an artist, a woman, and a wife, I’ve taken a long hard look on the inside after seeing Hayley’s tattoo yesterday, and I’ve pulled a lifelong lesson and will now strive to live by that same motto tattooed on Hayley’s arm. The lesson has been there all along, right in front of my face, right in front of everyone’s faces. It’s a known law of the universe that if you put positivity out into the world, positivity is what you’ll get back. *the epiphany moment where I slap palm to forehead*

So as a show of commitment to myself and others of this particular change in my life, I put it out there on Twitter. Kristen Lamb followed up with a response to this new-beginning-proclamation of mine:


As always, WANA Mama Kristen is there to help support artists when they need it, and she’s 100% right-on with this response. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. And I actually like the way Kristen put it. So maybe I’ll end up adding another tattoo to my mini-collection in the near future? :)

The bottom line of my post today is this: Keep positive no matter what happens, no matter how negative others are around you, no matter how many lemons life throws at you. When you do this, you’ll continue to move forward on your life’s journey.  

And always remember: “It’s not the way you plan it, it’s how you make it happen.” – Paramore from “Hello Cold World 

So from this day forward, I’m going to keep moving forward by keeping a positive mindset. And I hope that many of my friends, both online and in real life, will hold me to this. ‘Cause God knows I am in no way perfect. :)


Your turn: Have you struggled with keeping positive? Have you had those moments where you’ve recommitted yourself to the journey you’re on? What’s the best advice you’ve been given to help you stay positive?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

WANACon: The Worldwide Writing Conference

Last weekend I attended the first-ever WANACon - an interactive global conference for writers based solely online. Yup, you heard me right. The conference was fully online with a virtual classroom complete with audio, video, and chat capabilities - all that were used to maximum capacity. There was even a lobby where attendees could hang out in between seminars and chat.

WANA founder Kristen Lamb, her team at WANA International, and TechSurgeons (the genius behind all the technology) led the charge in this new and innovative approach at writing conference where you could simply log in from the comfort of your home and listen to top-notch presenters such as New York Times Bestselling author Allison Brennan, bestselling author Candace Havens, and the social media Jedi herself, Kristen Lamb.

You could even pitch to an agent while dressed in your pajamas, wearing a leopard-print slippers, and listening to "Eye of the Tiger" at your desk (and yes that's exactly what I did, music and all).

There were no plane tickets to purchase, no convention centers to drive to, no hotel room costs. No downfalls whatsoever, and the only cost involved was the conference fee itself, which, let me just say was completely affordable and was well worth spending on the first day alone - much less the next day and half's worth of seminars. :)

I ended up getting very sick on the 2nd night thanks to the dinner we ordered (for the record, food poisoning sucks!), but it was okay because I was still able to listen via conference phone. If that had happened at any other conference, I would've a) been totally embarrassed if the illness had happened in front of the attendees vs. the privacy of my own office, and b) wouldn't have even been able to stick around and listen to the last presenter of the night <-- Which was publishing attorney Susan Spann, and she was incredible!

Still though, as sick as I was I couldn't really take notes. So what did the fantastic moderator, Jami Gold, do? She put the word out to the other attendees requesting they share their notes from the presentation I missed - along with any other notes they'd like to share from the entire conference. How kind and thoughtful is that?

I haven't been as involved in the WANA Tribe/Community as I'd like to be lately, and that's mostly due to the revision hole I've dug myself into lately. But this conference, all of the amazing attendees, Kristen Lamb, the act of kindness by Jami and the attendees willingness to help another writer out when she was ill - all of it served as a reminder as to why I love the writing community as much as I do, why I love, love, love being on Twitter to connect with fellow artists, and why I absolutely should take the time out to continue to put myself out into the digital world more

WANACon is innovative, informative, exciting, fun, one-of-a-kind, and something I'd gladly do again and again. :)

But don't just take my word for it. Check out the Storify stories Jami Gold put together that captures what WANACon attendees and WANACon presenters thought of the conference. And here's another with quotes about WANACon from the blogosphere. If you're up for it, go to the WANA Int'l site and register to receive updates on the next conference. Kristen's looking at scheduling another soon - possibly in June - due to the ever-changing publishing industry and the need to keep writers informed and educated.

Your Turn: Would you attend an entirely digital writer's conference? Does the thought of attending a writer's conference in your pajamas interest you? What about the idea of learning from bestselling authors and industry professionals from the comfort of your own home? Do you think you may be interested in attended WANACon in the future?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Tax Tips for Authors

Last week I talked about how meeting with my new CPA made me feel like a *real* author. So this week, I wanted to share some quick and dirty tips on how to be better prepared when the time comes to prep your taxes. Most of you may read these tips and think, "Duh, Melinda!" However, truth be told, I wanted to say the same thing to my CPA even though I was going to have go home and do a mad dash of gathering all the needed data, receipts, and values.

But first let me preface this post by saying ...

I am not a CPA. I am not a Professional Tax Preparer. And I am not an Expert on the subject.

I am simply an author who is navigating the tax laws for the first time in her career, and I want to share a bit of what I've learned this year. :)

Tip #1: Keep your receipts for anything you've purchased in relation to your writing career.

This is uber important - because the last thing you need is to claim some costs that you cannot show proof of purchase for. Especially when it comes to Uncle Sam. ;) 

Ideas for items you want to keep receipts for:
  • Pens, highlighters, paperclips, etc.
    • Any basic office materials that you use on a daily basis to get your work done with
  • 3-ring binders, notebooks, etc.
    • What do you use to store your printed MSS in?
  • USB flash/jump drives
  • Books
    • It's a good rule of thumb to keep the receipts for every book you purchase. Regardless if it's a book in your genre for market research or a craft book to hone your craft.
  • Associate and Membership fees
    • My personal examples are my RWA membership and my local chapter memberships
  • Conference and Travel Fees
    • That trip to Colorado that I took last year for Immersion Master Class? Yup, I'm expensing the cost of the class, the flight, and the hotel charges. :)
    • I plan doing an Immersion Class again this August, but this time it'll be in OH, so I'm going to make the drive from NC. And those miles are expansible for me also.
  • Computer equipment
    • Example: I bought a new laptop last month, therefore I will end up claiming part of this on my taxes for this year. :)
  • Anything that goes in your writing space/office space. This can be as simple as lightbulbs for your desk lamp to your desk, chair, a new bookshelf, etc.
*Keep in mind that all of these are simple ideas and examples. I'm not saying that you'll be able to claim all of them, but it's a good of thumb to keep track of all of these items. Your CPA or Tax Preparer will be the one to tell you what you can and should expense, and what you can't.

Tip #2: Become a good record keeper.

For authors, this should be the easiest task of all. We've already trained ourselves to be good record keepers when to characters - and their backstory - and our storylines - along with all the subplots. However, as easy as this may seem, it's hard to get in the habit of logging your records frequently ... because, ya know, if you don't do it at least once a week, the next thing you know you're gonna end up with two months' worth of receipts to record. :)

Tip #3: Create a system that works for you.

This is another incredibly important point. You'll want to find a system that will be easy for you to use, and one that you won't mind doing as often as once a week. For me that system was logging/tracking everything into an MS Excel spreadsheet. I have individual tabs set up within my spreadsheet. One for travel expenses, another for membership and conference fees, one for education fees (craft books & classes), one for books in my genre that I read for market research, one for office supply purchases, and so on, and so on, and so on. Then I have a nifty main tab that automatically adds up all those totals and summarizes the entire spreadsheet for my CPA. (Have I mentioned recently how much I love, love, love Excel??)

So find a system that'll work for you. Be it by hand, by spreadsheet, or by Word doc. Find something that'll keep you on track throughout the year.

Tip #4: Do your research on local CPAs.

When Writer-Husband and I chose our CPA, our first quest was to get a referral from the intelligent gentleman that we did our mortgage through. Our second course was to speak with any of our friends who own their own businesses and gain a referral from them, such as Writer-Husband's sister. So when it came down to making the choice, we checked out their websites, About pages and Bios, and then we had short conversations with the CPA to obtain their knowledge of tax laws as they pertain to authors. Through that process we discovered that the first one we called was incredibly knowledgeable, incredibly nice,  and overall, the woman knew her stuff.

Hmmm ... then again she could've told us there are rainbows in hell and we might've believed her. ;) Just kidding! (Not really ...)

So do your homework. Find someone who's been in the business for at least 8-10 years. And check your local state's registered CPA database as well as your local Better Business Bureau. Oh, and you might also want to make sure that they do prepare taxes. I learned that not every CPA is willing to dive into Uncle Sam's pool.

Tip #5: For goodness sakes, do your own research as well.

So earlier when I said that our CPA could've told us there are rainbows in hell? Yeah, well I was seriously joking. I had done research. Then I did more research. And more research. That's what I had to do to even make sure that we were picking the right CPA.

Take being a writer as an example. You've done your homework, you've learned the craft and you live it every day. So what if you're talking to another individual who calls themselves a writer, but yet you've noticed that you ask them for a critique, it's like they can barely put two sentences together? What does that tell you? Exactly ... they're new to the craft and they've got some learning to do. It's the same concept with CPAs. So you gotta do your own research in order to help you weed out the inexperienced in tax laws for authors.

I suggest going straight to Google. When I Google "tax tips for writers & authors", the following are the first 5 sites that pop up:

So there you have it. The tips I have to offer as an author navigating business tax filing for the first time. Again, I am not a CPA, nor a Tax Preparer, nor a professional in the tax industry. So please do not take my words to the bank. :)

What about you? What other tips do you have to offer authors regarding taxes? Anything I missed? Do you have a personal experience of your own that you've learned from and would like to share?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Tax Time Makes Me Feel Like a *Real* Author

Last night, the hubs and I met with a CPA for the first time. Ever. And I have to say, this CPA made me feel more like an author than I ever had before. :)

At first we had gotten the referral to my CPA because we bought a house in December. But then I thought about my writing expenses for 2012. I took 4 online Lawson's Writing Academy courses, traveled to Colorado for an Immersion Master Class, bought tons of craft writing, books, and on, and on, and on we go. Still though, we thought, and thought, and thought about whether or not to start filing those expenses.

Questions start going through mind like, "Is it worth going ahead and claiming those expenses? Will the IRS tie me a particular timeline? As in, if I don't get a publishing contract within the next few years, will they throw me in jail for these expenses?" *bites nails and shudders*

The answers are: Yes, it is worth claiming those expenses from this journey to publication! And no, the IRS isn't going to throw me in jail if I don't start showing a profit within the next few years! WOO HOO! Can't tell you how much better I feel now that I know that. Whew!

So this post is my plea to all writers out there: No matter where you are in your writing journey, if you're serious about writing - as in you will be published, and nobody's gonna hold you down from your publishing dreams - then do your homework and meet with a CPA in your area!

I never imagined that there would be a CPA in my area who would know the tax laws for authors inside and out. And why in the world would I've even though that? I mean, I know my insurance/healthcare/analytic stuff for my dayjob, and I take severe pride in it, so why wouldn't anyone else, right? Duh! So yeah, I was a bit naïve in thinking that this lady may not know everything, so I was wary going into the appointment, and had ensured that I'd done my homework so that I wouldn't look like a total idiot. :)

But when I left, I held my shoulders back, my chest high, and it was like a chorus of angels were singing "Hallelujah!" in the background.

For the last year I've been calling myself an author. I've spent time, money, blood, sweat and tears on this dream. So yeah, I'm an author. And I don't have to published to call myself that either. Because it's the attitude and the hard work that define me. But never, I'm telling you never, have I ever felt more like an author as when I walked out of that office. Okay, I digress...I always feel like an awesome writer when I get kudos within the comments from my Beta Readers. :)

This lady told me straight up (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Are you spending money on this serious, professional venture? Are you educating yourself to become a better, stronger, more competitive writer, and spending the money to do so? Then yes, you're an author, you fall under that category (vs. claiming writing as a 'hobby'), and you should begin filing now."

So, again, whether you're just starting on this journey to publication, or if you've been on it for a while, seriously consider taking the time and spending the money on a CPA. Navigating the tax laws of our country is never any fun. And come on, can you honestly say that you've been able to read all those laws, rules and regulations and fully understand them? Can you stake a possible audit on it?

Me neither. Which is I went for help, and I was pleasantly surprised and delighted with the guidance, advice, and results of the consultation.

Your turn: Do you have a CPA or Accountant prepare your tax return? If so, what made you take that route? If not, why? Are you not ready to take that leap? Or are you not where you feel you need to be to start telling the IRS that you're an author? Please share! Times like these are when the advice is needed and welcomed from our writing community. :)

Stay tuned because next week I'm going to post a list of items that my CPA advised as tax-deductible for an author.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love, Music, and John Lennon

Today I’m over at Yelena Casale’s blog talking about the music that inspires the muse. The post even comes with mini playlists for high emotional scenes, and YouTube links to each song so you can listen before purchasing the tunes. Please head over, visit with me and Yelena, and share some of your favorite muse-inspiring music. :) 

When Yelena asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I honestly wasn’t sure what I’d talk about. The craft? Yes, I could’ve written about that. But when I really sat and thought about what I really, really would rather share with others, what's in my heart and what's been there since the day I was born, I got my answer in a ring tone on my phone when my hubby called: Everything by Lifehouse.
The hubs and I didn't go with any traditional wedding songs. Our family was seated to What a Wonderful World by Louie Armstrong, the entire wedding party - and me - walked into Everything by Lifehouse, and after we sealed our marriage with a kiss, we walked away from the alter to Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.
So ... there was my answer! So simple. So perfect. So very ... me! :)
Since I was writing about music over on Yelena's blog, I decided to also write a small post about music over here, more or less to explain that choice and to share a part of my background and history and love of it.
And that brought me around to John Lennon. Because he and the rest of The Beatles are the reason why I have such a profound love of music.
I wasn’t around at the time of John Lennon’s death, but based on the articles I’ve read and the documentaries I’ve seen, John Lennon’s death represented more than the loss of a beloved man who was known around the world. More than the loss of a man who didn’t see color.
His death represented a HUGE loss to the art of musical expression. In the days following his death, thousands of people appeared outside his residence and both mourned his death, and celebrated his life, his music, and his fearlessness.
John Lennon taught the world the power of music. The power of standing up for what’s right, saying what needs to be said - no matter the consequences. The power of word choice, and how we can and should stand up for what needs to change. 
For me, personally, he taught me how to use music to tap into my subconscious and write my truth. He taught me how to love – unconditionally.
Granted, he wasn’t a perfect man. And he never claimed to be. That’s what I find so incredible about John Lennon. All he wanted was peace and love, which is part of the reason why the following moments make me think of him and his music and its influence in my life: Valentine’s Day (because it's all about l'amour), December 8th (his date of death), and whenever I hear a song with so much truth, so much emotion and heart.
So while we're enjoying Valentine's Day by sharing some one-on-one time with the ones we love, let's try to remember that that's what life's all about: loving one another.
I'd love to see you over on Yelena's blog! Remember to stop by and leave a comment if you can.
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Dos and Don'ts - A Guide for Writers & The Ones Who Love Them

With Valentine's Day arriving this week - where the hell did the month go? - I started thinking on what would be the *perfect* Valentine's Day gift for a writer. This was both good and bad. Good because I discovered there were many items that I think would make a great gift. Bad because there are a few reminders I had to strategically place throughout the house to ensure Thursday went off without a hitch in this house. :)

So I threw all of these little notes and yes-that'd-be-perfect items and figured I'd share ... you know, just in case anyone wanted to maybe print the lists out and strategically place them in front of our spouses. ;)

Valentine's Day Dos (for the author's significant other):
  • Do buy flowers. They freshen up our writing space and urge the muse into creativity.
    • Word of caution: If your significant other's like me and has a bad habit of knack for forgetting to water the flowers, you may want to opt for some lovely, bright, fake flowers instead.
  • Do Snag Us an Awesome Candle. Like flowers, a spicy and/or exotic scent in our writing space can also do wonders for our muses. Chocolate scented candles anyone? ;)
    • For tips on the best scents to purchase for an artist, check this out.
  • Do Get Us a Gift Card. Gift cards to Barnes & Noble and Amazon are ALWAYS welcome! ALWAYS needed!
    • What? You didn't know many authors spend oodles of money at the bookstore? :) 
  • Do Get Creative with Homemade Coupons for Peaceful Writing Time.
    • I don't have kids - yet - but I know many, many authors/writers who do. So why not have the kids make a coupon book for their writerly parent?
      • Tip: Be sure to include at least 3 coupons for at least 4 hours of quiet writing time. Translation: Be prepared to take the kids for lunch and a movie for a few Saturdays. :)
Valentine's Day Don'ts (for authors):
  • Don't Plan to Write on Valentine's Night. Unless you're up against a deadline, don't make any plans to write, be on Twitter, blog, edit, or any of that other writerly stuff. Simply enjoy the night with your loved one!
  • Don't Even LOOK at a Book Until Your Date's Up. Even if it's a pleasure-reading novel, don't look at it, don't pick it up, don't start reading it until after your Valentine's night is through. If you're anything like me, then the rest of the night will be filled with you saying, "Just one more chapter, honey." :)
  • Don't Forget to Leave Your Work Worries at Work. Whether you'll be writing all day and didn't make your daily wordcount, or you'll be at the office having a stressful day because this and this and that and that went haywire, don't bring it on your Valentine's night with you. Leave it at home if you're going out, or leave it at the door if you're eating in. Find something else to talk about over dinner besides work if you can.

And that pretty much sums it up! Now I'm going to print this out and lay a few copies around the house in hopes that I'll be writing beside beautiful flowers, smelling chocolate chip cookies via candle flame, buying the next book in Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series, and doing all of that in perfect peace while the kitties are locked up with the hubs for a few hours on Saturday.

Yup ... for authors it's dream big or go home! ;)

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
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