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February 17, 2019: Tax Tips for Writers

The last of the Peacekeeper series now stands at 25,490 words. It's been slow going over the past few weeks but at least I'm making some progress.

Every year around this time, I put out a short list of tax tips for writers. For the sake of tradition, I'll do so again:

  • Compare the number that appears on your Amazon 1099 with the total of all the amounts that have been deposited into your account. You will notice there's a small discrepancy. The difference is caused by the foreign currency conversion fee that you have been charged for overseas sales. This is a business expense and should be reported as such on your return.
  • If you have a profit, make sure you fill out the 1040 SE form. You will be required to pay your fair share of social security and Medicare taxes. Make sure you deduct these from your business income. I believe you can deduct up to 40%. The reason I don't know is because I had a slight loss this year.
  • Travel expenses (half of your meals, parking, taxi, air travel, lodging, etc.) are all valid business expenses and should be claimed.
  • Keep meticulous records! I can't stress this enough. If you are ever audited, the IRS will want to see receipts and a mileage log if you claim mileage. These days, such records can be scanned and securely stored in the cloud.
  • Review your tax return with a critical eye. This is especially important if someone else does your taxes. I found a mistake on my return several years ago and had to file a corrected return. Don't just assume that the person who prepared your taxes knows what they are doing. You know your business better than anyone else. You should know what you're sending the IRS as well.
My schedule is going to be pretty busy over the next month or so. I am attending a convention from March 1st through the 3rd. Even though it is only an hour's drive from here, I plan on spending the nights there. This will give me more time to write as well as hang out in the author showroom until closing. I don't plan on making enough to cover my room expense, but I'm going to get a lot of writing done and I hope to meet some interesting people as well.

The very next weekend, I start working 12-hour days. The nuclear plant I work at will be shutting down to refuel and that means 12-hour days. My job during the outage will be to keep the reporting systems running smoothly and to work on all the programs I maintain. The outage will last for 25 days. Don't expect me to be doing any writing during the outage, there's not going to be any time!


February 3, 2019: Diversity

My current work in progress (the last of the Peacekeeper books) stands at 22,808 words putting me solidly at the approximate 25% point. If all goes well, the novel might be ready for publication by the end of this year.  We shall see.

One of the primary reasons I created a Twitter account was to stay informed on the activities of the people I've met at Launch Pad. It has also been an educational experience as writers like to share some of their important thoughts on the platform. The other day, I read a tweet from Katrina Jackson that one of the people I follow had replied to. The tweet basically asked why authors found it necessary to identify the race of their non-white characters yet did not identify the race of the white characters in their works? Her answer is simple and it points out one of the major issues with our society in general. Writers point out that a character (minor or not) is black, or Asian, or Native American because most readers automatically assume the characters in almost any novel are white.

Her point was well taken by many other writers, myself included. And, I've done the same in my books. I did it to point out the fact that the universe I write in is diverse and race, sexual orientation, and personal beliefs are no longer used to denigrate a person or categorize them into a marginalized group. A writer should not have to point out that a character's race unless that fact plays an important part in the book. I never thought about it, but pointing out a character's race is like a person describing a new employee to a significant other and specifying that person's race only if the person is not white. It means we see others who are not white as different when they are not. We are all human.

There are instances where a person's racial heritage should be identified. I have a Native American character in one of my books and the fact that he was Native American played an important part in the book. This would be the only case where pointing out a character's race should be done.

This discussion about racial identification can also apply to sexual orientation. If you want to write a diverse book and include people of all colors, customs, beliefs, and sexual orientation, you don't have to come out and point a finger at a character and say "she's lesbian" or "he's black" or "he was once a she". If it's important to the plot of the story, then work it into the prose in a manner that the reader can clearly see who the character is without having to resort to a pointed declaration. When someone walks into a room, they don't stop in the doorway and shout "Hi! I'm a black transgender person!". Pointing out a character's race or sexual orientation during the first description of that character is like doing the same thing.

We are all human. Who cares what the color of our skin is or who we love. We are all human.