Monday, November 16, 2015

Are handcuffs and wine a tax write-off?

An interesting side-effect of a writing career that finally takes off after a decade of so-so earnings is that you find yourself needing professional help.

I’m not talking about a sex therapist (though that does sound fun). I mean folks like a publicity agent and a tax accountant.

The former is a bit ironic, considering I’ve worked in marketing and PR for 15+ years, but there comes a time when an author realizes her time is better spent actually writing the books, as opposed to telling folks about them.

Then there’s the tax guy. Last year was the first time since I started writing fiction in 2002 that I actually showed a small profit on this author gig, and since 2015 is shaping up to be a bit heftier, I knew we needed a tax pro who’d worked with authors before.

The one we chose came well-referred by a creative colleague, and I knew we’d found the right guy when he walked in looking like a spitting image of Neil Young, and led us to an office that had walls adorned by Tibetan prayer flags and a Jimi Hendrix banner.

Did I mention he’s right next door to a marijuana dispensary? (Legal in Oregon, lest you feel the need to phone authorities).

At any rate, he cautioned us up front that he wouldn’t support any creative accounting in which we attempted to write off a personal Lear Jet. That said, he encouraged us to think outside the box in terms of what constitutes “research” and “inspiration” for my writing career.

I thought about it a moment. “I’m known for writing a lot of shower sex scenes,” I told him. “Could we write off our recent remodel project where we installed a two-headed tile shower?”

“No,” he said. “But I like how you think.”

So I thought some more. Not about tax write-offs, necessarily, but about the odd things that count as “research” when you’re a romantic comedy author. Sunday morning I did a guided tour of a local cave, an expense I could easily defend to an auditor because I have proof that a cave scene will appear in my June 2016 release with Entangled Publishing (tentatively titled The Hang Up, and though that one’s not for sale yet, you can pre-order the first book in the series, The Fix Up, which comes out December 14).

Other forms of “research” are a bit harder to categorize. In August my husband and I went out for a nice dinner to celebrate my 41st birthday, and we spent half the meal eavesdropping on a large family group. At the center of the discussion were two middle-aged brothers who engaged in such competitive conversation that I expected them to whip out their meat wands and rest them on the table to be measured. The bizarre dynamic between them inspired a key piece of the story for my third rom-com with Montlake that’s scheduled for release September 2016 (also not for sale yet, but you can pre-order my second book with them, Let it Breathe, which comes out March 2016).

And speaking of Let it Breathe, that book is set at a fictional Oregon winery that’s based around a number of real-life wineries I visited while researching the story. While I probably won’t be permitted to write off every bottle of wine I’ve ever consumed, I’m guessing I’ll be allowed to write off at least a few of the expenses I incurred (i.e. drank) while crafting that story.

Then there’s The Fix Up. It’s the first book in a new series called First Impressions, and all the books will be based around a PR and branding agency. Since my day job career has spanned 15+ years in that industry, it’s not tough to figure out I’ll be drawing from my own experiences in writing some of the scenes (though if my boss is reading, I swear the sexy scene in the conference room is just a figment of my imagination).

Does that mean my entire day job career counts as “research?” When you’re a writer, doesn’t everything that happens around you technically become fodder for your stories?

In the end, I’ll trust Neil Young  the new tax guy to tell us what’s permitted as a write-off and what’s not.

I still think the shower should count, though.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Does beating yourself up count as BDSM?

It occurred to me the other day that I'm approaching the six year anniversary of this blog.

The impending blog-a-versary gives me a twinge of guilt not unlike an uninvited nipple tweak from a stranger with chilly hands.

When I started this blog in Febraury 2010, I somehow managed to post every single day. Not only that, but I replied to everyone who took time to comment (sometimes 50-100 commenters per entry), plus I wrote weekly content for several other blogs and still found time to write the books that necessitated the blog in the first place.

These days I'm lucky to post here twice a month.

Frankly, I could spend hours beating myself up for things I used to be able to do and can no longer accomplish. Don't get me started on putting my ankles behind my head.

But then I remember I don't have hours to spend on self-flagellation these days, which is unfortunate since flagellating myself is one of my favorite pastimes. Or maybe I'm confusing flagellation with another verb.

In any case, a lot has changed in my life since I started this blog. Back then, I had a brand new three-book deal for my first romantic comedies, but the first one wasn't slated to hit shelves for another 18 months. Making Waves (the aforementioned debut novel) was already written, as was my second contracted book, Believe it or Not, which meant I had a long, leisurely time to write the third book in the contract.

That's a far cry from today's schedule, which has me contracted to publish five books in the next 12 months with two different publishers. (Incidentally, two of those are up for pre-order already. The Fix Up comes out December 2015, and Let it Breathe comes out March 2016. The other three, not exactly written. Or plotted. Or brainstormed. Or....hell, here we go again with the self-flagellation).

Besides the changes in my writing and publishing schedule, I've seen a helluva lot of change in my personal life since the start of this blog. Back then, I thought things were hunky dory with my marriage of 13 years, but I had no idea I was on the precipice of a divorce that would consume every ounce of my time, energy, and soul for more than a year.

Things are much happier these days, and my remarriage to an amazing guy last September gave me the added bonus of two incredible stepkids. Of course, life with young kids (even on a part-time basis) goes hand-in-hand with family dinners and soccer games and cross country meets and parent/teacher conferences and pumpkin carving and a million other activities which -- while joyful -- are time commitments I didn't have six years ago.

I don't mean for any of this to sound like a list of excuses for why I'm not blogging every day anymore. On the contrary, it's a reminder to myself of why it's okay to cut myself a little slack every now and then and accept the fact that my life, my career, and my schedule are always evolving. If my existence weren't a constant string of changes, that would be cause for alarm (though admittedly I could do with a bit less change when it comes to gravity's effect on the contents of my bra).

Are you as prone to self-flagellation as I am? What are your tricks for learning to cut yourself some slack? Please share in the comments!

Oh, and even though I've slipped to posting here only a couple times a month, I do have some new avenues for staying in touch with readers and friends. Just last week, I launched a new author Facebook page (and yes, I acknowledge the irony of having a day job that's 80% Facebook content creation and strategy, yet it took me five years to start an author Facebook page).

Anyway, if you go here and like me, I promise you'll get the inside scoop on new releases, giveaways, contests, random pet photos, inappropriate jokes, and more.

Also, I'm getting ready to launch a new author newsletter. That will be chock full of exclusive content like excerpts, behind-the-scenes details from my books, and oodles of giveaways. You can sign up for that here (and I promise not to spam you. Honest.)

Now back to the issue of self-flagellation! Do you use your right or your left hand for that?