Lucky 7 Meme

Ok, so one of the bloggers I follow (Joanne Phillips) posted a Lucky 7 Meme. While no one tagged me, I thought it would be an interesting way to look at my work in progress. As it happens, the only thing I have that reaches page 77 (so far) is Feral Magic. King’s Mutt goes to page 54, so I could make that work if I changed the page size.

The Rules Are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 writers and let them know

There is no pressure to join or continue the chain. While I enjoy doing exercises like this, I am not much of a chain-person. But if you decide to do a Lucky 7 Meme, leave me a comment with a link to your work! It’s fun to see all of these out-of-context sections.

Mine is horribly out of context, but there you are.

I bolted up taller. “I will do no such thing, but I will put in a good word with the judges if you volunteer to help.”

“In stealing?” The man wrinkled his pig nose, such a dainty thing on his face was utterly misplaced with his sharp chin, profound forehead, and greased black hair.

A cold breeze rolled over my back; I advanced on the him. “I do not believe we have been formally introduced.”

Even for a hardened dark sorcerer, it was hard for him to deny civility when he was faced with it. It was what he was raised to do, and I made him hesitate. “No, and I do not wish it. I do not interact with creatures.”

Creature? It seemed a bit harsh, but I played along. “Then you will not interfere with my duties further.”

“I am going to take you to the proper authorities. Please come with me quietly.”

I recognized the smooth flow of words now, but I did a second look, then squinted my eyes. He sounded and acted very much like a vampire, but there was something strange about him, something very alive yet dead. I frowned and took an involuntary step backwards, “What are you?”

7-paragraph clip from Feral Magic

Wow, my writing has changed since then!!! Ok, I changed up The King’s Mutt’s formatting to be 1″ margins and double-spaced. Which is probably what most people have their stuff at anyways…I have a quote now!

Deann poked me with her stick. “Get out of here! Go enjoy the festival.”

Stepping out into the walkway where grass was already turning to dirt, I looked to catch Clyde’s eye. He waved, then went back to cajoling Ash about looking so stunned when the magician produced an egg from behind his ear.

I almost lost Hunter when a group of giggling girls moved away from a jewelry stand. When I next found him, I did like all the friends did, and grabbed his elbow. I didn’t think about it until he raised his eye at me.

“Social taboo?” I let him go.

“It’s fine,” he said, waiting for me to grab his elbow again. I did, but I let go as soon as we had food and were out of the stampede zone.

We sat on a grassy slope beneath budding trees, and soon Belle joined us, curling up between Hunter and me. She had food, and soon an agitated teenager exclaimed that Belle had stolen it right out from under his nose. Hunter gave the boy a coin that would buy much more than one meal.

“She’s rather similar to a child sometimes,” mused Hunter.

7-paragraph clip from The King’s Mutt

It really makes you think, doesn’t it? I think I’ll use sideways editing like this more often.

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My husband’s favorite flowers have always been daffodils and tulips. In that order. To be honest, I was never thrilled about either until I discovered the existence of double-petaled flowers, but even so, I prefer sweet peas, hollyhocks, and roses. That said, I’ve had nothing against daffodils and tulips. I think they’re pretty. I plant them, and I don’t remove the ones already in the ground. But they aren’t my favorite, the way they are his. Likewise, he thinks of my favorite flowers.

So much of our marriage is like that.

I think most people’s marriages are like that.

He left at dawn today. I packed ham and Easter eggs in his backpack. We celebrated early this year. He hauled his clothes out to my pick-up. He’s taking it; it’s the only rig we have with a valid registration. I’m borrowing my mother’s moose of a suburban until we can get the state to send a duplicate title so I can register my V-dub Bug. I’m glad I have something to drive. I literally need it to get beyond the driveway (closest town is 4 miles uphill, on a windy grade; there’re two gas stations, a restaurant, a chapel, and a school there; the next town isn’t much bigger, but is less slum-y; the closest small metro area is 50 miles away).

I’ll miss him.

But I’ll also enjoy having him gone.

Dinner can be noodles and shrimp every night, if I’d like. That would get old after a few months. Which is when his job ends and he comes home.

The puppy doesn’t know he’s gone, as in, not returning in a day. I think the kitten might be a little smarter; she knows a “trip” when she sees one. Our bird prefers to hog me, so he’ll be happy.

It should be much easier to keep up to pace with the dishes, laundry, and sweeping the floor. Ugh, laundry. I need to launder puppy’s bed (she puked rotten fish and dog food all over it last night; I used a shovel to clean it. Vomit should not wriggle.) and I’m not looking forward to that. But you do what you gotta do.

You do what you gotta do.

We tell ourselves that a lot. First, it was to get through an assignment, then a class, a semester, a year, then to graduation, wedding planning, moving, unemployment, moving again, fixing up a house that the fire chief suggested to use as fireman practice.

You do what you gotta do, and right now, that is earning some money. And if that means having the hubbs travel 23 hours and across the continental US, then that’s what is going to happen. That’s what is happening.

It’s time to embrace my introverted nature again. Get cracking on writing. Put out more books. No more shoulder-poking at crucial moments of character interaction. No more reading over my shoulder. No more asking if this or that is going to happen. No more “Lovies! Whatcha doin?” even though it is plain what it is that I am doing. No more “You don’t pay attention to me. You’re having an affair with your book, I know it.”    …that one might as well be true.

I will not miss that. Or so I tell myself.

I have a whole day to myself. Yesterday, I would have known what to do with it. But today?

Today I gotta do what I gotta do.

And that involves deep cleaning so I’m not staring at the mess while I’m trying to think about my next ten words. It also involves sending him a picture of the first opened daffodil in the yard.

Taxes, the Writer, and Imprints

While I was unaware of the issue, there is a moral question about independent authors creating an imprint for their books. Specifically, the question is: Is it deceptive to make the reader think that you are a small press? Many people seem to not care, but many also declare that to do so is dishonest.

When I was setting up my book, I decided I wanted to do my own imprint as a doing business as (DBA), mostly to keep my financial records straight. Publishing is a business, and to me, the most crucial part of being a business is to have something that someone can call you by.  Years ago, I had a small cattle business. Though I did not own buildings, pasture, or much equipment, I sold a quality product, and so I went by the name Silver Nickel Cattle. This kept my business income and expenses separate from my personal income. Yes, there is quite the difference! On personal income, your employer is required to take out such taxes as social security, state income, and federal income. Therefore, most of your taxes on the money you earned is already paid for (with some adjustments over tax season). On your business, however, these taxes are not automatically removed from your paycheck. You receive 100% of what you sold, minus the cut that your distributor (or auctioneer, in the cattle world) takes. Think that you don’t have to pay higher rates on that income? Think again. Naturally, it depends on your state laws, how much your business has earned, what category it falls under, and a smattering of local legal items.

If you make more than $300 on anything–including hobbies–you should report it on your taxes.

How much do you need to set aside from your earnings so you won’t be stripped and left gasping at tax season?

Set aside 25% and you should be pretty close.

Can you use supplies as tax write-offs?

If you don’t already, you should be keeping track of your expenses. In the cattle world, it was everything from pasture rent to semen. In the writing world, it can include paper, pens, software, ISBN numbers, and printing costs. Do pay for these items with a card  or check, and either receive paper bank statements or print them off. Highlight the items off your statement, and keep these statements in a manilla envelope with the receipts (and photo copies of receipts) stapled to them. You can use file folders, but I find they lose loose receipts too easily. Store the envelope (label it with “Expenses for xxxx from Jan-Dec 2012”) in a safe place. I personally have a file box with a combination code. Do this every month for every item. If you don’t have expenses that month, take a sheet of paper and make a note. That way, you won’t be wondering if you’re missing documents. Keep these for at least 5 years.

Why should you do this?

For starters, in case you get audited, you have proof that you aren’t committing tax fraud. For your own records, it’s an organizational no-brainer.

Why do photo copies of receipts? Aren’t the receipts good enough?

No. No, they’re not, because even tucked away from sunlight, the “ink” fades. And no, most receipts aren’t printed with ink. It is heat-activated paper. The longest I’ve seen a receipt last is 3 years, and it was pretty darned faded. Think  a file folder filled with blank receipts will impress an IRS man? Not a chance. But if you have bank statements with purchases highlighted, a series of blank receipts, and copies of what used to be on them, then you will be A-OK.

If you used checks (not a card), then you should be using your check register and ordering checks with the carbon layer. If you aren’t doing either, start doing it now. Highlight relevant purchases in your register and, once you’ve used up your pack of checks, toss the carbon layer into the Expenses manilla envelope. Also, your bank statements will show a copy of the checks cashed. Put those copies into your envelope.

Does your book or imprint receive bills?

If it does, label another manilla envelope with something to the effect of “Bills for xxxx from Jan-Dec 2012”. Include the bill, a copy of the check used to pay it, and a document confirming that the billing party received your payment. This could be a certified mail stub (if you send anything at all  to any government agency, use certified mail, the idiots lose paperwork like mad and will blame you), a copy of a bank statement showing the payment was processed, or a statement from the billing party showing that a payment was made. You can include bills in the Expenses envelope, but I find it is easier to have two envelopes.

What about recording income?

For the sake of anything you consider sacred, do not forget to record even a single sale. Label a large envelope with something like “Income for xxxx from Jan-Dec 2012”, and make a copy of your bank statements with a highlight for the income. Keep a list of companies or people who carry your products, and make sure that you have recorded all income you received from them. When February comes around, make sure you get relevant tax forms from them–and that their numbers match your records. Contact those companies ASAP if you know your records are right, and yet there are discrepancies. Do not allow the IRS to find these issues for you.

Are tax preparers worth the money?

I strongly recommend them unless you have a thorough and extensive knowledge of the taxes for federal and state laws, know about new laws passed that influence your situation, and are comfortable holding your own should you be audited. Do not go to a tax person (or company) who will not stand between you and the IRS should you get audited. Even Turbo-Tax will represent you in case of an audit. Tax preparers can save you thousands or tens of thousands. That is worth the several hours at $100/hour that they spend dancing with the IRS for you. Do I think that a typical household who are employees will save big by using a tax preparer? Not really. Is it a very good idea for self-employed people? Yes.

So what does this have to do with an imprint?

Unless you are a professional, self-employed writer who already has to keep track of income, expenses, bills, and receipts, you may find that keeping your business as a separate entity is downright vital. This is particularly true if you wish to write multiple genres, or have multiple pen names, and you wish to keep them all under the same business. It is easier (or flat-out legally necessary) to have one account for places such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and CreateSpace. If you have multiple names (or even multiple people, supposing you and your spouse both write books), then making an imprint is a viable option. You can look into either being a DBA or an LLC. Research it if it appeals to you. And believe me when I say that is it easier to do taxes for one entity rather than three.

But is it ethical for a self-published author to have an imprint?

Did I not hear the term self-PUBLISHED? Independent authors are publishers! If they choose to link their works together via the “Publisher” option, then that is an instant way for readers to know “Yes, I like this person or publisher” or  “Eww, no, I can’t believe they are still wasting paper with their crap”. A common objection by readers is that when the imprint is filled out, they “know that it was hand-picked from a pile of slush”. This is only one person’s perception. Christopher Pauloni self-published until his book was read by the right person. JK Rowling had to fight tooth and claw to be accepted into a small publisher’s imprint. This is to speak nothing of Dr. Suess, who had an incredibly difficult time finding someone to take a risk on his outlandish prose. Being accepted by a traditional publisher means pretty little. They accept books they think will sell, not books that they think are fantastic.

How dare you, Nicolette Jinks, for “tricking” your readers by claiming to be Standal Publications!

Oh! I double-tricked you! My real name isn’t Nicolette! Take that.

No, seriously.

My pen name and  my imprint names both belong to me. I use or did use them on legal documents.  I didn’t pull them out of a name generator. I’m being selective, not secretive. I’m sure you can divine who I really am based on this blog and the copyright page of my book.

If a reader takes issue with independent publishing, it only take a quick google to decide to avoid my books.

Busy Babysitting a Farm… Warning: Antagonists may be involved

Sorry for the utter lack of updates, I’ve been watching over a farm. Two to three times a day, I have taken care of many, many animals. Some came down ill, and I honestly expected it would be worse than it was. There was no need for treatment, thank goodness, but they did need extra tender, loving care, as well as a restricted diet. While I would love to use this as part of a story, I cannot. See, there have been animal rights people trespassing on local farms, harassing farmers, and even mass murdering the animals. They think it is OK to kill them because “the animals are going to die anyway”. That is the ultimate fate of anything with a pulse, yes, but the animals they killed were going to live long,  fruitful lives.

I was just thinking today about antagonists and how carefully we writers craft them to be believable, then I think about real life antagonists, who they are, and why they do what they do. I came to the conclusion that antagonists are even more romanticized than the protagonists. A hero can make stupid mistakes, do dumb things, and even fumble his way to victory. But a villainess must make sense, must have a justifiable reason for doing what she’s doing.  Even in crime shows that are supposed to make you ponder, you never see someone doing exactly what they are against, but think that it’s  fine because they are the ones doing it.  I think it’s time for the villain to undergo a makeover.

Anyway, the larger point I meant to make earlier in the post was this: be careful what you write about, because what you say can be misinterpreted and taken out of context and used against you…as well as causing trouble for people you rather like. It’s not copyright infringement, it’s worse.

With those cheery thoughts, enjoy your day!

Nicolette

“I’m Feeling Lazy” Post on Advertising

Title says it all. I’m feeling lazy. Or rather, I’m feeling sleepy. But I found two posts that I really want to share with you fine readers, so I will provide!

No. 1 is Lindsay Buroker’s post on improving ebook sales at B&N, Smashwords, and iTunes. It doesn’t address Amazon, but I strongly suspect that she has written extensively on the topic.

http://www.lindsayburoker.com/book-marketing/how-to-improve-your-ebook-sales-at-barnes-noble-smashwords-and-itunes/

No. 2 is a WordPress featured article about Rachel Bertsche who shares her tips and tricks for building a blog audience.

http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/build-your-audience/

Well! This should give you plenty to read and think about. For now, this household has a lot to think about—basic household changes to job offers to figuring out which car stays/goes….fun stuff.

So, enjoy the Spring Equinox and I hope you enjoy the posts!

Your Dearest Nicolette.

Feral Magic is Now Free Until the 21st

I decided to use my promotional days at Amazon. Today was the first day, and I got caught up in St Patty’s Day cooking, fun, and drinks, and reading FridayFictioneers, so I spaced this post. Oh well.

Feral Magic usually sells for $2.99, but it is FREE for the next few more days. I looked up the stats, and it’s currently ranked #54 #51 #44 #32 #20 on the Fantasy list. So stoked! It’s so awesome to see!

Edit: Recent stats. 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Feral-Magic-Swift-Codex-ebook/dp/B006Q74G42

I just thought that my faithful followers would appreciate knowing. And I can’t help that I’m excited. When I’m feeling in the gutter, I do my very best to exude a positive, cheery attitude no matter the situation. Now that the situation is happy…well. I’m thrilled.

Oh, gosh. At least until one or more of those people decide to do a book review. Hope that the first reviewer doesn’t hate the book and decide to maul me. Not that it matters, really. I mean, I’m not going to be booted out of house over a bad review. Nor will I lose my job. If I had a job, that is. Ahh, there’s something to be said about living in the moment and being happy about what you can, then not concerning yourself with things you can’t control.

Love you guys! You’re awesome!

Till later, my Dearest Readers!

Nicolette.

#FridayFictioneers 3-16-12

I can’t believe that for once I’m going to be able to do this! So fun and exciting, and a nice way to spend the evening since the hubbs is occupied and dinner isn’t a priority. I know this isn’t Madison’s original photo, but what the hey, it’s on the same subject. Also, a non-fiction. So, here is my #FridayFictioneer !

"Blue Pointer" and tabby kitty fight over a laser dot on the rug
Terra and Elizabeth

Terra salivates when she sees me move the laser pointer. She points, wags, and eyes me hopefully. I roll my eyes and click the laser on. Terra hops, bolts after the red dot. Up the stairs, down the stairs, into the kitchen, back to living room. Elizabeth ambushes, holding on behind Terra’s ears, dangling over her nose. Terra stands stiff and still, waiting. Elizabeth flies onto the floor again, batting at the light. Terra runs away, then points to the laser. Both pets stare. Neither can catch it, a thing that isn’t even really there, but they both long after.

About the pets:

Terra is a blue heeler x pointer(?) mix mutt we got from my haircutter who was giving away the last of her parent’s puppies from the farm. This was in October ’11. She was too meek to make a good cow dog (probably why she was the last one remaining in the litter) and was highly picked-on by the other dogs; my friend had to get the sneak on the 12-week-old pup. Terra submissively peed over her and tried to squirm away. You can imagine what I was thinking when I was handed a mostly-wild, wet pup who was intent on escape, but I’d spent my whole life handling frightened animals. After only a few seconds in my arms, she started relaxing. We talked with the grandpa of the farm. After several minutes, the family pet wanted me to pet him and tried to cozy up to my thigh. The puppy saw his advance and snarled. She’s got the mentality of a 3 or 4 year old child (my friends have them, so I have a good comparison) and the energy of a lightening bolt. Thankfully, she is not a destruct-a-puppy and does not like to chew on stuff. Terra is now 8 months old (or so) and understands the basic subject-verb-direct object sentence. She knows over 24 commands and thinks that she has to be with me at all times.

Elizabeth is the family’s dream cat. We were living in a tiny apartment and Terra was only 16 or 20 weeks old when one of the stray cats got into another row with the landlord’s cat in the hallway. These fights had woken up Terra twice (I had to work hard to get her tired), and I was not willing to let another fight wake her again. I opened the door and called one in. The stray came in, sized up a very cat-obsessed (read: overly loving and affectionate),  hyper and immature puppy, and decided to stay. We named her, and discovered kitty and puppy are the same age. They’re sisters now. My cousin came over with her crawling baby girl, and we were delighted to see that Elizabeth purred while having her tail gummed and her ears pulled (my cousin did all she could to discourage this, but I was very happy to see kitty’s response).

While I’m writing this, Terra is bringing me her toys (herding instinct) and kitty is hiding behind boxes, readying the next strike. I’m just glad our cockatiel is munching on a millet sprig instead of screeching. He has a bit of a love affair with the kitty, and he doesn’t have a clue she is a femme fatale.

Till next time!

Your Dearest Nicolette

New, Improved Cover Art

Making better artwork has been on my to-do list for quite some time, as you all know. I finally got around to it, now that I have worked out of a job (for now) and it was rainy today, so I thought I would make the most of it today. Now, I wish I were some brilliant person who knows how to do everything right the first time, but I’m not. I’m figuring stuff out, and I’m glad for it. I actually got two covers done: one for my ebook and one for a POD print press (createspace.com).

First, the final results:

Feral Magic Cover
Feral Magic Cover Art

Before you make any comments on the lopsided letters or ask what font the title is in, know that it is calligraphy; I’ve got an affection for it, but a tendency towards imperfection. Eventual plan involves writing the major and minuscule letters, then importing them into Photoshop or Illustrator for future use.

I pulled from a few sources for inspiration:

http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/designing-tutorials/dirty-design-create-a-grungy-thriller-book-cover/

http://pshero.com/photoshop-tutorials/graphic-design/hero-header-part-ii

http://www.designparagon.com/2011/03/25-outstanding-photoshop-tutorials-for-designing-book-covers/

So yeah…this was a combination of a few techniques. I really enjoyed the grungy thriller book cover tut, but instead of using the paper texture that he linked to download on textur.es, I instead used Photoshop’s granite pattern, blowing up one square to fit the document, then setting it to Overlay. Granite works awesome as a grunge paper substitute for texture purposes, fyi. I’m way concerned about misusing something (anything—a font, a texture, a brush) and getting in copyright problems, but the stock photoshop stuff is free game.

Having said that, this would have taken a couple less hours had I not had to make a damask photoshop pattern. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I’ve been longing to do one forever. And yes, it was terribly finicky. But way fun. And yes, I spent pretty much all day, afternoon, and evening on this project. But it is done. And I am happy with the result. Though in another three months, I will probably re-do this whole thing all over again. And that’s OK. 🙂

As a heads-up, I’m going to put Feral Magic up for free sometime very soon. As in, within a couple of days. Just cuz I’m that awesome. …no, really, it’s because I have like 10 days to use my 5 free days, even though I’ve had 90 days to use them. No, I’m not a procrastinator at times…I just get sucked into life and stuff…

Ahem.

So, free book within a few day’s time. I will post links, but any spreading of the word would help. Since I finally got the cover art updated, I’ll finally be contacting all these other lovely blogs who help people find cheap ebooks. Looking forward to that. 🙂

Well, my Dearest Readers, I think that is all for tonight. I have to go let my brain sleep for a while. Tomorrow, I’m writing The Showdown for The King’s Mutt. Hopefully going to do some edits to sections I haven’t yet posted. I’m about 4 or 5 sections ahead of my posts, and that is because I knew I was going to do fidgets with the timeline and events, and I wanted to at least make it seem like I had half a clue what I was doing. 😉 You know, how we writers can be so particular at times.

Tomorrow, it’s either The King’s Mutt showdown, or I showdown some weeds with the new shovel my father bought and sharpened for me. Hyah! Take that, Canadian Thistles! And you, too, Mullein!

Have a day as amusing as mine was!

Your Dearest Nicolette

And, if there is a call for it, I will do a tutorial on Photoshop, but I don’t think that should be much of an issue considering that I’ve provided my references up front here, though I did do a lot of variations and changes.