2015-01-25

Progress report

Dragonverse edits are complete and the new version is now in the hands of Lee Dilkie for a final sanity check. In the meantime, I've started work on Dragonverse Origins. For days, I pondered over how to begin the novel. I thought about starting out by describing the town, the main character, the time period, all sorts of different beginnings. Nothing seemed to work. A few days ago I got home from work and had some time, so I decided to start writing. I still had not decided how to begin. I fired up Scrivener, loaded my template and sat staring at the blank (blue in my case) screen. And then the magic happened.

Words appeared in my head, traveled down to my fingers and appeared on the screen. The story had a beginning! And it was a good one. I kept working on it until my wife came home. There were several interruptions (cats knocking something over and phone calls) but I eventually wrote several paragraphs. I fired off the rough beginning to Susan Forest (SFWA secretary, award-winning YA author, editor, and teacher) to get her opinion. I got a quick response – she loved it. She did have a few comments though as I had expected and hoped.

I had my wife (who is also my copy-editor) read it and then I showed her Susan’s response. They both had pretty much the same comments. This told me that my wife’s insights were right on track (which I have known all along but this provided validation). The other morning, I made some changes to that rough beginning and kept on going. By the time I had to quit, the novel had expanded to almost 1,000 words. Now, I’m sitting at B&N writing this blog so that tomorrow morning I will be able to get up, make tea, and start writing.

My new battery arrived for my netbook. This, along with my old battery, will give me at least 9 or more hours of usage. That’s a good thing because I plan on doing a ton of writing while flying to Launch Pad in June as well as flying to WorldCon in August. Spending $24.00 on a new battery makes a lot more sense than spending $1,000.00 on a whole new computer, especially when the machine I wanted (Microsoft Surface Pro 3) might not work very well as an actual laptop. Anyone out there ever try to use one on their lap? If so, how well did it work out?


My Goodreads giveaway ends on Feb 7. If you’re interested in possibly winning a copy of Translight (or one of my other books) please consider entering.

An acquaintance of mine, Sandra McDonald, posted an interesting tweet this morning with a link to an article discussing authors reluctance to disclosing their financial resources. It's an interesting read which you can do yourself by clicking here. I don't think it's a secret that I have a good-paying job at a nuclear power plant. I get great benefits and I usually work from 0600 until 1430 Monday through Friday. I do most of my writing in the mornings on my days off as well as more when my wife and I go to B&N, usually on Saturdays. If I'm in the middle of an editing pass, I will take an hour each day to keep going because I don't want the thoughts to go stale. Writing is not a full-time job for me.

I have about an hour before my wife wakes up. Time to get back to writing...

2015-01-18

Last Year's Sales

I did this some time ago and I promised to continue to report my sales. I do this because there is no other way for an indie author to know if he or she is doing well compared to other authors. I have said it before and I will say it again, writing--in my opinion--is not a competition. But sales numbers matter. Here are my total book sales since I started keeping records. The jump in November of 2014 is from the release of Peacekeeper 2.


Author Jim Hines has gone one step farther and posted his income from writing. I applaud him for this! I haven't asked him yet, but I hope he's going to WorldCon so I can meet him in person. Here is a link to his writing income post: Jim Hines: Writing income

Just a quick reminder - don't forget about my Goodreads book giveaway. If you don't want a copy of Translight go ahead and enter and then let me know what book you do want.

I spent a few hours at Barnes & Noble (our favorite hangout) working on Dragonverse updates. I managed to get over 90% done before my netbook battery died. When I first bought the netbook, the battery would easily run for 5 hours. Now it lasts about 2.5. One of the writers in my B&N writer's group just recently purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Nifty machine. I immediately wanted one. Yesterday, after the batter died, I was seriously considering buying one. But then, I started thinking. I do a lot of writing with my netbook on my lap. The configuration of a tablet would make writing in this position a bit of a pain. So, instead of spending almost $1,000.00 for a new computer, I spent $24.00 on a new battery.

If all goes well, I will have my Dragonverse edits done by the end of today and then begin work on the next novel -- Dragonverse Origins.

A reader of this blog (Nathan Pim) asked what will happen when I upload a new copy of Dragonverse to Amazon. I never really gave it much thought before because most of the changes I've made in the past to other books were minor, involving nothing more than grammatical fixes. I have made a few story changes to Dragonverse but not enough to warrant having anyone reread the book. But still, the question remained -- what happens? Nathan did the research and came up with two links from Amazon that provided the answer. You can read the exchange here. Thanks Nathan!

I'm bringing this up for two reasons: 1) Self-published authors are about the only authors on the planet who have the ability to make such changes and have them out in the world with a touch of a button. The typical publishing time for a novel from a major publishing house is 3 years. 2) If the author makes what Amazon considers 'major' changes, they will email everyone who has downloaded the book informing them of the update. This got me to thinking...

If Amazon thinks I made 'major' changes to Dragonverse, they will email everyone who has ever downloaded a copy. This sounds like free advertising! So, I will be holding on to my updates until a month before the release of Dragonverse Origins and I will then upload the changes and inform Amazon of this fact. If they decide to send out an email, then everyone who has ever purchased Dragonverse could potentially discover I've released a new book. It's a marketing ploy I did not know existed.

Now, I wonder if Amazon has a way of informing people when an author they've bought books from has released a new book?

Back to writing.

2015-01-11

Amazon currency exchange fee

I’m about 60% done with bringing Dragonverse up to my current writing standards. I've made a few small tweaks to the book as well to put it more in-line with what I have in mind for the series as a whole. This is the wonderful part of electronic self-publishing—I can go back and edit a book at any time.  For those who have already read Dragonverse, don’t worry—the changes I've made don’t affect the story at all and you will not be at a loss if you read the next book in the series. The biggest change is the age of the protagonist—now 22 instead of 37—a much better age. This was a suggestion from a reader from a long time ago.

It’s tax time and time for my annual reminder regarding Amazon 1099s. If you have any overseas sales, Amazon is going to charge you a small fee to convert the currency into dollars. This fee is a business expense and is tax deductible. Amazon is real good about telling you they're about to deposit money into your bank account. They don’t tell you how much you are being charged for this service though. So how do you find out? Easy, when you get your 1099s from Amazon, add them up and then subtract the total that they actually deposited into your account last year. The difference is the foreign exchange fees. Why doesn't Amazon simply tell you what this fee is? I don’t know. I ask them the same question every year and every year I get the same answer – silence.

This points out another important tip for writers—maintain meticulous records of everything business related. I touched on this subject in my previous blog but it certainly can’t hurt to stress this important business practice. As long as you are being as honest as possible with the IRS and you have the records to back up what you file, then any audit or questions from the IRS will be a breeze. Keep good records and keep them safe.

This brings up the final point I want to cover—keeping your data safe. Hard drives are not foolproof storage devices. Drop one on the floor while it’s running if you want to try to prove me wrong. Most writers have a lot of electronic records. Make sure you have a foolproof backup of this data. I use Dropbox to house my writing files. My books, business log, scanned records, and Quicken financial database are all stored on Dropbox. These files are backed up to the internet and synchronized to all of my other devices automatically.

I also use Crashplan to keep all of the home computers backed up to the cloud. The cost for this service is worth the peace of mind it give me. If my house were to be beamed into space by aliens, I would still be able to recover everything. I have hundreds of songs, pictures, movies, and books stored on my hard drives and losing them would be a major depressing event.

One final application you should download is LastPass. This is a secure, password organizer. It runs on all my machines as well as my phone. All of my complex passwords (generated by LastPass) are stored in this application’s database. Since all of my passwords are stored in LastPass, I can make each one different and as complex as possible. Of course, if you leave this program unlocked on an unlocked cell phone, then anyone can gain access to your username and passwords. Never leave LastPass unlocked and please put at least some sort of minimal security on your cell phone. The same applies to your home computer. Using LastPass also allows you to periodically change your password to keep it secure.


That’s it…back to writing.

2015-01-04

The Writing has begun

Hello 2015!

I've not only settled on my next project, but it will provide me with about 3 years of work. This long-range project involves the following activities:

  1. A small rewrite of Dragonverse to bring it up to my current standards as well as to clean up the plot.
  2. A similar rewrite of Ishnef's Revenge.
  3. Write a new novel titled Dragonverse Origins. The story begins in our distant past and shows how our myths about dragons and wizards came to be. It will also establish a tentative link to one of my stand-alone novels.
  4. Go over the stand-alone novel to make sure it conforms to current standards.
  5. Write the book that completely and firmly ties it all together. This will be a military science fiction novel with battles and all the good stuff we military SF people love. The premise for this book is: How do you destroy a nearly indestructible warship?
  6. Write another story that's firmly in the realm of Dragonverse but has a serious scifi twist. I'm thinking of calling this one Dragonverse collides with Humanverse but don't hold me to that title. It could also be named The Children of Dragonverse or Dragonbound.
This entire process should take around 3 years.

I'm already about 1/3 of the way through my re-edit of Dragonverse and things are looking really good. I'm enjoying this since I love dragons.

My Goodreads Giveaway is not yet live--I'm waiting on approval from the Goodreads team. When it's live, I will include a link to it in this blog.

Tax season will soon be upon us and it's time for me to begin mentioning some important tax items for writers. First up (and this is a new one for me): if you plan on making money as a writer (and who doesn't) then you should apply for an Employee Identification Number (or EIN) from the IRS. There's a good reason for this. If you don't, you will have to include your SSN on all your writing-related tax forms such as contracts with publishers, Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, magazines, and any employees you might need to hire such as editors, artists, etc. That means your SSN is being widely distributed--not a good idea. Getting an EIN, even if you have no employees, is more secure. You use your EIN in place of your SSN. The process is simple and instant. To get an EIN right now go to the IRS website and apply for one.

Another thing writers should do is to perform an end of year reconciliation. Make sure all your documents are in order and you are lined up to get all the tax breaks you deserve. If you claim mileage (you must have a home office to do so) you should have recorded the starting miles on your vehicles as well as the ending miles. The IRS forms don't seem to allow for more than one vehicle but there is a work-around. We own two cars. I keep detailed records showing the starting and ending mileage and which vehicle I'm driving when I use a car for my writing business. At the end of the year, I just add up all the miles. The IRS also wants to know how many total miles have been driven. That's easy--at the beginning of each year I record the mileage on all my cars. A simple subtraction gives me the number of miles driven with each vehicle and I just add these up for the IRS. If you keep detailed records, this will not be a problem.

How do you remember to do all this? That's even easier. I use Google calendar to track a lot of my business-related activities and I use the calendar's built-in reminders to remind me to do things like record mileage, send off estimated taxes, etc. I have an Android phone so the calendar automatically syncs to my phone, tablet, and all my computers. If you put in everything you need to be reminded to do in the calendar, you will never forget to do anything. There are other applications that would work just as well. One of the most popular is Evernote. If you want to learn about Evernote and how it can be used in your business, you should check out Jamie Todd Rubin's website. I met Jamie at the 2013 Launch Pad. His website is filled with useful ideas on how to automate your life. If you're a computer geek you should definitely check out his site.

I will be posting more about how a writer should be preparing for tax season in my next post. In the meantime--I've got some writing to do.....