Business Tip: Claiming Travel Expenses

Business TipOver the weekend, I bumped into a gentleman I had met a few months earlier at a market. Like me, he makes and sells his own soap. We talked about business, and the tax man soon came up.

Obviously no one likes the tax man whether you’re making lots of money, no money, claiming everything and being honest or hiding things and being a crook. That’s just the way things go. For most of us, taxes mean piles of paperwork that is not always comprehensible.

Still, we plough on and learn what it takes to please the tax man.

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Lesley Crewe on Making a Film

Atlantic Books Today asked Lesley Crewe to share five things she learned while turning her novel, Relative Happiness, into a movie.

  1. Always answer “yes”, when someone calls you out of the blue and asks if you own the movie rights to your novel. The only reason I did, is because Jane Buss of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia told me it was absolutely necessary, and I was not to sign a book contract without it. I was anxious to sign any book contract, and did it really matter if I had sole ownership of film rights? I mean it wasn’t like my novel would be made into a movie. That was ludicrous. It was my first book. Who the heck would want it? Turns out someone did. And because I listened to Jane’s advice, I didn’t have to share my movie earnings with anyone other than my agent.

To read the four other things she learned, visit Atlantic Books Today.

Black Widow is a Slut

Female SuperheroesWhose fault is that?

We could easily blame it on Hawkeye’s vision of her, but is he to blame? Although Captain America agreed, is he to blame?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, view this clip in which the interviewer starts the interview with the following question, “I have a very serious question to start with about shifting(?) (difficult to make out). Because I know a lot of fans were actually pretty invested in the idea of Natasha with actually either/or, or both of you guys, and now obviously she’s with Bruce. What do you guys make of that?”

A tired and bored-looking Hawkeye replied, “She’s a slut.”

Captain America released a whole-hearty laugh and agreed.

In reality, neither of these superheroes are to blame for the image of Black Widow and the idea she is a slut. They didn’t write the story or the script. They also didn’t write the comics in which Black Widow appeared.

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East Hants Fine Art Show

If you are in the Milford Station, Hants County, Nova Scotia, area this weekend, you might be interested in stopping at the East Hants Fine Art Show. Dozens of artists will have their work on the display. Visitors can also purchase a selection of artwork.

The show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday May 1st and 2nd between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. If you are interested in joining the East Hants Fine Art Association, you can pick up an membership form there. If not, drop me a line, and I can help you get in touch with the right people. Read the full post »

Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so…

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Character Sheets

Know your charactersIn a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of Style Sheets. Another form sheet equally important is the character sheet. Even if a story has only a handful of characters, a detailed list will help keep them in line and their hair colour from changing from chapter to chapter.

A character sheet is a life saver if a novel contains many characters or is one in a series. During the first edit of Shadows in the Stone, I created one to save my sanity. The story contains 74 named characters. Some of these individuals were mentioned only two or three times, but it was important to keep their individual stories straight, along with their age and the weapons of their choice.

What to put on a character sheet is up to the writer. Personally, I use the following headings.

Name

The full name of the character is written in the first column along with nicknames, ranks, titles and keys to pronunciation (if it is an unusual name). With regard to nicknames, I add a note about who uses them.

For example, we may know a character as Chris, but his mother might still call him Christopher while his best friend calls him Shortie.

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The Relatively New Hostage Virus

New FlashComputer viruses are our arch nemesis. In the first attack on my system in 1999, I lost everything. The computer was new with few personal files, so it wasn’t a tragic loss. The biggest headache was taking the system to a shop and having them delete the harddrive and reinstall the software.

Since then I’ve stood as the front line defence against many attempts to infect my system. The famous worm that shut down our server did not get to me because I acted quickly. Every email is scrutinized. Those suspected of carrying a virus are deleted without opening.

The attempts to damage my system were minor inconveniences. Not everyone has escaped these viruses with as little damage. But knowledge is power, and everyone who is aware of these sorts of infections can take immediate action to reduce the damage.

So when my files were taken hostage with a click of a false update, it came as a complete surprise.

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IndieRecon This Week

Is this the online event of the year for indie authors? It just might be.

What is IndieRecon?

“Three packed days of advice and education about self-publishing and reaching readers. PLUS this year: a live-streamed Indie Author Fringe Festival, from the London Book Fair.”—IndieRecon.org

Who else is involved?
IndieRecon is being run this year in conjunction with the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), one of the best of the author-centric groups for indie authors.

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How to Contact an Illustrator

Castle clouds cropped02 5x5aI’ve talked with many writers over the years about how to find or create illustrations their books. That might be just the cover for a novel or a multi-page children’s picture book.

Although these writers had a handle on writing, they confessed the best they could do were stick people or an actual photograph (which still doesn’t get the job done). When I suggested hiring an illustrator, they said either one of two excuses:

1. They’re too expensive.

2. It’s impossible to find one.

Well, it does cost money to create images, and just like teachers, pizza makers and writers, illustrators need to eat, wear clothes and have shelter. They might even want to take in a movie every other year. So they must make money.

Up until about two years ago, I believed what many writers said: illustrators are impossible to find. I had not looked for one, but occasionally I heard of freelance authors working with illustrators to create their books. I knew they were out there, but the question was, Where were they hiding?

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Style Sheets

EditingWe may not consciously think about style while we’re writing. We’re too busy getting the words down and telling the story. Still, in the back of our minds, we’re thinking, What style is best for this story?

I’m not talking about the genre, the make-up of the characters, how the plot plays out or how words are composed to create a feeling for readers. I’m talking about the style of mechanics we consciously decide upon to create the story.

I’ve not heard of other writers talk about style sheets, and I’ve never created one for any writing I’ve done for either fiction or non-fiction. But in the back of my brain are a few basic commands that come into play while I’m writing.

For example, when I’m writing my genealogy column, I avoid using too many contractions. I also use short paragraphs because in the newspaper world, columns are narrow, making a long paragraph look even longer. This, apparently, can tire a reader’s eyes (and interest) faster than short paragraphs.

When I write for children, I avoid complex text and punctuation. When I write fantasy, I’m more likely to use words such as goblet instead of glass, spirtle instead of wooden spoon. Basically they are the same things, yet one conjures images of fantasy whilst the other takes us to the kitchen where dirty dishes await.

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Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Dana Scully

Diane Tibert:

Alyssa Waugh, in her blog post, explains well why I admired Dana Scully of “X-Files”. I dislike the way many women are portrayed in movies, television shows and books. “X-Files” is still one of my favourite shows.

Originally posted on Alyssa Waugh:

dana-scully

“Baby’ me, and you’ll be peeing through a catheter.”

Dana Scully….

DanaScully

She was on The X-Files in 1993, and as one fan says:

scully_motivational_by_ryuyasha_mercury-d3r898d

If you don’t understand what we mean by most women on T.V. today being portrayed as complete idiots, watch two seconds of any episode of Two and a Half Men. Go on, try to formulate an argument that women on Two and a Half Men are portrayed in any quasi realistic way.

indexBut as it always has, the science fiction genre shows women in strong and intelligent roles. On the cult SciFi classic TheX-Files which aired in 1993, Dana Scully became an inspiration for strong women everywhere.

Despite her small stature, rest assured that Dana Scully can kick ass. She’s handy with a microscope as well as a gun, physically fit, can take down a man twice her size, and has on multiple occasions. Remember…

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Finding Great Book Cover Ideas

I have designed all the covers for my books. For me, it’s the treat of the whole publishing process. I love playing with images, text and light to find something that attracts my eye.

Although many will say, Don’t judge a book by its cover, it’s a fact that many people do just that. I know I do.

I’m more likely to buy a book if its cover appeals to me, and I will pass on a book if the cover hits a wrong nerve or is unattractive. Trashy fantasy novels with half-clad women never go into my cart. It doesn’t matter who the author is or how many people brag up the story.

I’ve been asked many times where I find the ideas for my covers. My answer is everywhere.

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Farewell But Not Goodbye

Milk-SpiritYou died on a warm, windless, sunny winter’s day, a day boxed between a blizzard and the promise of thirty centimetres more in snow. A black bird sang a solitary song on a birch branch nearby. Three crows watched atop one of the great evergreens lining the garden. The donkey peeked around its shelter, looking forlornly towards your bed. The occasional rooster call echoed across the frozen ground, and the cloudless sky swathed the earth in a bright blue canopy.

If there was a peaceful day to die, this day, a breath away from spring, was a good day. The sun shined down on you, making your coat warm and cosy as you lay in the hay. Your barn mate walked around you, checking you or perhaps saying goodbye, one more time. No more would you both ram heads together in play, in challenge or in silliness.

Huge mounds of snow surrounded us, cradled us as we waited, for it did seem we simply waited: waited for the last breath, the last heartbeat, the last goodbye song by the bird, feathers glistening in the morning sun.

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Self-publishing Books for Children post

I have not yet self-published a children’s picture book, but I probably will in the future, so I’m going to tuck this post away for that day.

My first book, The River Dragon (Harpercollins), was published in 1990, and I’ve been involved in the industry since then. In the last 20 months, I’ve made the switch from traditional publishing to an independent publishing company, with 20 titles available. As I say in this article, the first 18 months were devoted to production, distribution and accounting. The next 18 months will continue those activities, but focus more on marketing.

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Book and Soap Sale Event

Today (Saturday March 14) I will be selling books at the Crafter’s Train Vendors Market taking place at Sackville Lions Club, 101 Old Beaverbank Rd, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

I will have for sale copies of the following books:

Diane Lynn McGyver

  • Shadows in the Stone
  • Fowl Summer Nights
  • Pockets of Wildflowers
  • Nova Scotia-Life Near Water

Sheila McDougall

  • City of Light and Shadow

Sam Lynn Smith

  • Boys Ride, Too

Also for sale will be my homemade Moonshire Goat Milk Soap. The varieties available are

  • Coconut Creamy
  • Safflower Supreme
  • Luscious Lavender
  • Citronella Bug Off
  • Gardener’s Delight
  • Oatmeal and Honey
  • Lemon Poppy Seed

The event runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Hope to see you there.

Will Google find you after April 21st?

New FlashThe Internet world is always changing, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the not so good. As users we are forced to take the good with the bad if we still want to play the game.

If you’re like me, you use Google a lot. It is my go-to search engine. It has been for years.

Using Google to check my own sites to see if they appear in search results is something I’ve also been doing for years. After all, we all want to be found on the Internet so people can read our blog posts.

On April 21st the ability to be found in Google search engines on mobile devices might be hampered if you’re not mobile friendly. If your website doesn’t properly fit in the apps of telephones, tablets and other small, mobile devices people use to search the Net on the go, then you have two choices:

1) fall into a black hole, never to be found by a random search

2) tweak your site to fit to make it mobile friendly.

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When to Capitalize Names That are Not Names

EditingI’m in the midst of editing a short story for another writer. One of the items I’m highlighting for correction is names that are not really names. About seven years ago, I was in the same situation except I was the one creating the error.

Back then I had Goggle and a few great writing friends to guide me, so it was fairly painless. Here are the general guidelines I follow (which in some style guides/writing circles may be different).

  1. Of course, all proper names are capitalized:

Betty and Jim flew to Mars for their anniversary.

It was seven days before Jack realised he had a balloon stuck to his front door.

Together Gilbert, John, Grace and Billy hiked the mountain.

  1. Parents and grandparents names are capitalized if used in place of a name (Hint: it isn’t preceded by her or my):

In the morning, Mom let the chickens out to eat the bugs.

Sally wanted to give Dad a trip to Scotland for his birthday.

I went to the store with Grandpa to buy cranberries.

These names are NOT capitalized if NOT used in place of a name:

In the morning, my mom let the chickens out to eat the bugs.

Sally wanted to give her dad a trip to Scotland for his birthday.

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When Should You Give Up on Writing?

Castle clouds cropped02 5x5aIn the recent WritingWorld.com newspaper, the following question was posed by a reader named Sheila: At what point should an author give up writing?

After thinking about this a bit, I wrote the following post:

When should you give up on writing? I’ve asked myself that dozens of times in the past twenty years. In fact, I’ve asked that question more in the past five years than the first fifteen. There are so many writers out there, everyone struggling to be read.

Up until about eight years ago, I was consistently getting my nonfiction published in newspapers and magazines. It was fun and paid the bills. But it wasn’t exciting. Like Sheila, my passion was for fiction not nonfiction.

I slowly slipped out of nonfiction (though I still write a weekly genealogy column), and while I occasionally get an article published, I write what makes me happiest: fiction.

I went through the query phase and decided to self-publish. Like Sheila, all the work (blogs, social media, publishing) hasn’t generated a huge interest or a lot of money. Yet I’m satisfied with the experience. I am currently in a position that doesn’t force my writing to pay the bills, or I’d think differently about it.

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Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

NookPressAuthorSolutionsNook Press – Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand.

Immediate speculation surrounded who exactly was providing these services, with many – including Nate Hoffelder, Passive Guy, and myself – speculating it could be Author Solutions. However, there was no proof.

Until now.

A source at Penguin Random House has provided me with a document which shows that Author Solutions is secretly operating Nook Press Author Services. The following screenshot is taken from the agreement between Barnes & Noble and writers using the service.

NookPressAuthorServicesBloomingtonopt

You will see that the postal address highlighted above for physical submission of manuscripts is “Nook Press Author Services, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana.”

Author Solutions, Bloomington, Indiana. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, uploaded by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0 Author Solutions, Bloomington, IN. Image from Wikimedia, by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0

There’s something else located at that address: Author Solutions US headquarters in Bloomington…

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Nimoy was a Timeless Vulcan

Leonard_Nimoy_Mr._Spock_Star_TrekThere are individuals we ‘meet’ in our lifetime that we believe will always be there, like the sun behind the clouds. We think them invincible, immune to death, exempt from leaving this world even though we are led to believe they were not from here to begin with.

These heroes are timeless. They entertain us decade after decade, from one century to the next, across the universe and beyond. Their respect for life rubs off on us, and we take on some of their values because we believe them to be true.

We respect their logic even if at times we don’t fully understand it. We raise our hands in greetings—two groups of fingers splint in the middle, thumb thrust to the side—because we have been taught that this is the way things are done…in their culture. We silently delight in showing our knowledge and our ability to perform this simple gesture.

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