2017-01-15

Tax Thoughts

Update
While waiting for Peacekeeper Pathogen to be reviewed by Lee Dilkie (reader turned content editor), I've been catching up on my reading and television shows. The writing itch however, got the best of me yesterday and I pulled out a short story I'd started a very long time ago but never finished. Yesterday, I finished it. It's not very long and it's not really science fiction. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it now that it's done. I also began work on my next novel -- a sequel to Off Course which I haven't named yet. I only added a few hundred words, but I can officially say it's been started.

Yesterday, we were supposed to have our monthly writer's meeting at Barnes and Noble. My wife dropped me off and took off shopping for sewing material. I didn't see anyone from the group but it was still a bit early. When the meeting time arrived, nobody was there. I haven't been to a meeting since October either because I was at an event selling books or the weather was too bad. But yesterday it was nice out and everyone should have been there. I emailed and texted everyone I had contact information for. Only one person responded and she had no idea what was going on. She was actually at another meeting. I hope to hear back from someone soon. In the meantime, I asked to be put back on the mailing list for another group I've been to before.

On the way into work last Friday, I had a deer run out of the woods and slam into my car. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw it get up and run away. The impact did a little bit of damage to the edge of the cowling just forward of the front tire. When you live around here, being hit by or hitting a deer is to be expected at least once in your driving career.

Tax Thoughts
Tax time is approaching and it's time for writers who treat their writing as a business to begin thinking about gathering up everything they will need. I have a reminder in my Google calendar to record the mileage on my cars on January 1st of every year. The reminder triggers two days, one day, and then 12 hours from the start of the year. That way, I have the mileage recorded for tax time. I also have a checklist of things that I will need prior to sitting down in front of the computer to begin working on my taxes. This list will be printed out soon and hanging next to my computer. As paperwork comes in or each item on the checklist is completed, it all goes into a file folder or an electronic folder on the computer so everything is together.

Running a business requires a lot of documentation and a well-organized method of keeping this documentation for at least 7 years. If you don't have a system now, you should give some serious thought about setting one up. Tax time might only come once a year, but the documentation needed to file your taxes will arrive at unscheduled times all year round. Being organized will make tax time easy and it can also make surviving an audit much easier. I normally put out a short series of tax-related posts just before it's time to begin filing your taxes. I plan on doing the same again this year.

2017-01-08

Quick Update

Not much to report this week. Waiting on a report from Lee Dilkie on Peacekeeper Pathogen. In the meantime, I've started thinking about and doing some research for my next book which will be a sequel to Off Course. My biggest problem with this book is I can't seem to answer the question: "How do you stop an unstoppable warship?" When I have the answer, I can begin work on the novel.

I've also been catching up on television and scifi shows I've had on standby while writing. Even though I've not been writing for only a couple of weeks, the itch to write is beginning to appear. Soon, the itch will be unstoppable and I will have to start writing something.

There was a news story the other day concerning one of the nuclear power plants owned by the same company that owns the one I work for. According to the analyst, there is a 50% chance the plant could be closed down resulting in the loss of a little over 10 million dollars in tax revenue for the surrounding community as well as the State of Ohio. It will also result in the loss of several hundred jobs which will impact families and communities far more than the loss of tax revenue.

My own plant is officially up for sale. The possibility of someone buying it is much greater because we are a much larger facility and we make a ton of money when the plant is running. But, there is no guarantee that I will have my current job after the new owner takes control. I'm not incredibly worried, but the possibility is there. I've always been a long-range planner and the prospect of being unemployed (especially with our nation's current health care insurance problems) does not sit well with me. So, I am heavily weighing the possibility of cutting back on my writing so I can learn a new programming language. I am very well versed in Microsoft Access and I'm pretty good at SQL. I used to be very good at VB6 (no longer used much) and even longer ago I was good at C (back when DOS was king). Today, Java seems to be the language to learn and so I might embark on that particular path.

If I do decide to learn a new language (about 90% sure at this point), it will impact my writing and will result in a delay of the next book. But, that's life.

2017-01-01

2016 Review

2016 is now history. It was a year I hope to forget but I know I can't because of all that happened. Humanity lost many people that were a part of our past -- people that will live on in our memories and in the media for many years into the future. We saw Brexit and soon we will see just how it will affect the UK. There were terror attacks, wars, police shootings and shootings of police, the standoff at the Dakota access pipeline, the tainted presidential election that has split this country and will continue to do so, and many more events I would rather forget. Based on what has happened in 2016 and the path this country is taking, I don't see 2017 being much better.

Being depressed about all the bad news has made 2016 a year to be remembered as well as one to be forgotten. I'm lucky. I live in a small community where most people seem to get along with each other very well. I work at a company that promotes equal opportunity and where everyone is treated with respect. I don't see the things that many other people see and I don't have to deal with the things that many people have to deal with every day. That does not mean that such things don't concern me, because they do. For me, 2016 has changed how I see people. I am more distrustful and far more opinionated than when the year first began. Our future looks pretty bleak and I hope things will change.

I accomplished a lot in 2016. Here is a short list:

  • Finished and released Dragonverse Origins.
  • Started and finished writing Peacekeeper Pathogen.
  • Attended Launch Pad.
  • Raised enough funds for Launch Pad to pay for the cost of one of the vans as well as provide a generous donation to help Mike Brotherton continue the workshop.
  • Revised the interiors of all my existing books to conform to today's professional publishing standards.
  • Revised the covers of all of my existing books to provide a consistent look and feel.
  • I was promoted at my day job.
  • Completed several Microsoft Access projects at my day job.
  • Completed a full revision of a complex Microsoft Access database application that had been giving inconsistent results.
  • Designed and wrote a near bullet-proof watchdog program that monitors the other programs used to keep my database system updated and generate hundreds of daily automatic reports. This watchdog program has allowed me to take vacations without worry.
  • Started work on a major rewrite of an application I wrote in 2003 (SCMS - Simulator Configuration Management System) that no longer runs under Windows 7. Original was written in Visual Basic 6. The new version will use Microsoft Access per owner's request.
  • Provided financial assistance to several family members when they were in need.
  • Updated my website.
  • I learned about Amazon advertising and successfully applied it to boost sales.
Looking ahead:
  • I will finish and publish Peacekeeper Pathogen.
  • I plan to start and hopefully finish a sequel to Off Course that firmly ties that book to Dragonverse.
  • Raise funds to support Launch Pad.
  • Attend the 10-year anniversary of Launch Pad.
  • Finish moving SCMS to a full Microsoft Access platform.
  • If possible, begin the final book in the Dragonverse series - Children of 2 Universes.
  • Learn a new programming skill - I have not yet decided if this will be learning about web technology or a new language such as Java or C++, or a combination of these.
  • I will be at my dad's in South Carolina during the total solar eclipse. This is something I've been planning on doing for the last 7 years.
  • I hope to make sure my brother and sister are both in South Carolina with me. If this can be arranged, it will be the first time all three of us have been together since the passing of my mother and it will mark the first time they've visited my dad in his South Carolina home.
Let's work together to make 2017 a better year.

2016-12-25

Holiday Update

Updates
Happy holidays! Please remember why so many people celebrate this time of the year. It's not about the gifts. 2016 is a year I would dearly love to forget. It has changed my perception of people and not in a good way. But, there are still islands of goodness out there.

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the grocery store holding a huge tray of chicken for today's feast. When the young woman in front of me had her turn at the register, she turned and said, "I'm paying for his as well." I said, "No you're not!" She turned to the cashier and said, "Ring his up as well." I've done similar things in the past in restaurants but this is the first time anyone has returned the favor. Thank you again, stranger.

With Peacekeeper Pathogen in the hands of my content editor, and me being on vacation for another week, I've got some time on my hands. I have an extensive todo list and I've started working my way through it. Here is what has been accomplished so far:


  • A newly reformatted interior for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A new cover for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A newly reformatted interior for Ishnef's Revenge.
  • A new cover for Ishnef's Revenge.
I'm very proud of the new cover for the first book in the Dragonverse series. I'm including it at the end of this post. The cool artwork was a gift from the wife of my content editor, Corinne Dilkie. I love staring at it and I hope those who buy the newly recovered book will too. The goal is to make all of my covers look the same as far as basic formatting is concerned. It helps with the branding of my books.

Yesterday, I started working on redoing the interior of Off Course. That was when I noticed that back in 2010/2011, I was still putting two spaces after a period. So, I decided to to a complete re-edit. I'm not making large changes, just cleaning it up to bring it up to standard. I hope to be done in a few days. Then, I will work on When Ships Mutiny. That will complete my total reformatting project thus giving all of my books a more professional look and feel.

That's it from today. I have a lot of work to do. Here is the promised cover. You will see it on Amazon soon.


2016-12-18

First Draft

Update
The first draft of Peacekeeper Pathogen is complete! I finished it off this morning. The final word count came out to be 87,450. A couple days ago, I mentioned on social media that I should be done with the book yesterday. But, after sleeping on it, I came up with something I just had to add. The basics were there in the ending paragraphs, all I had to do was to make a few changes and the book's ending shines.

That's the fun part of being a seat of the pants author. I never know when something good is going to happen to my characters. It's a fun, strange feeling when that happens too. A wonderful feeling that the book is practically writing itself. That's when I know I've written something good when the story begins to surprise me.

The book will be converted to Microsoft Word and sent out to my content editor Lee Dilkie for his take on the plot. His job is to read through the entire manuscript and point out any plot blunders, mistakes in how people interact, and other over-arching corrections that need my attention. With the holidays upon us, I don't expect anything back from him until next year. Once I get all his input, I will make the appropriate corrections, write a second draft, and hand it over to my wife for proofing.

She will fix my grammatical goofs and correct my sentence structure. This process can take upwards of a month or more primarily because my wife does not really care much for science fiction. But, bless her heart, she sticks to reading it and will help me turn the final product into a professional book.

As a final check, I will send the book to a fan in Germany. His second language is English and he has been able to find and point out mistakes that everyone else has missed. While all this editing and changing is being done, the first draft will also be passed to my cover creator. She will read the book and based on what she reads will create a cover. The cover creation process will itself go through several iterations until we have the final product.

Finally, the book will be formatted for Kindle (ebook) and Createspace (print version) and uploaded for release to the reading public. The day before, the final version will be electronically submitted to the United States Copyright Office where my book will be officially copyrighted.

As you can see, even though I'm a self-published author, it still takes a team of people working together to create the final product. Sure, I could do it all be myself. But the end product would be a lot poorer quality. I owe it to my readers to produce the best book possible published and formatted as if it came from a major publishing house. Doing that takes many people each one with their own special talent. Without them, I would be just another average writer.

In between all this, I plan on fixing up the rest of my existing books with corrected interior formatting and new covers. I also need to update my website. A writer never sits idle.