Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Best Intentions

Best Intentions by Emily Listfield started out as just another older chick book. Manhattan mom of two kids begins to suspect her husband is having an affair. She becomes close to another man and spills her worries. Her company is sold and her career is up in the air. Sounds familiar, right?

But then you get about 2/3 of the way through and her best friend is murdered and it could be her husband who did it or her best friend's on again off again old lover. The man she became close to isn't what he first appeared as. At one point you even wonder if the narrator did it.

This quick turn from chick lit to whodunit is a bit surprising, but made for a good read. I whipped through this one very quickly because I was drawn in. It's a very convincing 'who do you trust' scenario that you can easily imagine yourself in as you read. It was fun to have a chick lit book suddenly turn into a murder mystery. This one was hard to put down and I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two Duds

Last week I picked up a giant stack of books from the library and dug right in. I was disappointed because two of them didn't work out for me. I'm calling them duds, because they were for me, but out of respect for the authors, let me say just because I didn't like them doesn't mean you won't!

The first one is Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank. I have read many of her books and loved them all. I love the Low Country and I was so excited about this book - another Low Country story, this one on Sullivan's Island again. I was really disappointed though. I read about halfway through this and gave up. The main character never came alive for me. The Low Country was not alive. I was annoyed by a plotline involving a ghost who puts away food and empties drawers. I just couldn't get through it. Sigh. I was sad because I was all geared up for a nice Low Country story.

My second dud is Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. This is a story about four women graduates of Smith College. I'm not really sure what else it's about. I gave up on this too. The plot flashes between past and present. But the present is never very fleshed out. I had a hard time keeping the women straight. I was tired of being reminded that there are a lot of lesbians at Smith. At some point you have to realize your readers get it! I just wasn't invested in anything that happened.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers Interview

Today I'm interviewing Brigitte A. Thompson, author of eight financial books including the just released Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers published by Crystal Press.

Why do writers need your book?

Writers have many questions about income and expenses, but no single source for answers. I created this book, Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers, to be that source. It is an easy-to-understand guide to organizing a writer’s financial life.

This book addresses issues writers face daily such as how to deduct travel expenses, determine taxable writing income, and claim home office deductions. Navigating through the recordkeeping required for a small business owner can be difficult. This book is written exclusively for those of us who earn money by writing.

Readers will also find that each part of this book works together to assist in forming an overall business plan. The chapters take the writer through a comprehensive process that works as a building block towards a successful writing business.

Do freelance writers need a different set of bookkeeping rules?

Many bookkeeping rules are universal such as the requirement to record income, but there are some areas of the tax law that are of more interest to freelance writers. This includes dealing with royalty payments, bartering, personal property and agent fees. My book addresses the universal tax rules as well as the infrequently discussed rules that apply specifically to freelance writers. Learning how to document expenses and how to track income will give writers the best chance at overall business success.

Taxes are one of the areas writers have the most questions about. Are there tax deductions that freelance writers should know but might not be aware of?

There are many tax deductions available to writers. Some expenses are common, such as the cost of purchasing a case of paper or paying for a computer software upgrade. Other costs incurred in the operation of your writing business may not jump out at you as expenses. For example, consider the following examples:

Mileage: Trips made in your vehicle to pick up office supplies or to the library can be counted as a business deduction if you record the proper information to support it.

Meals: Treating your agent to a restaurant meal with the discussion focusing on your next book can also generate a tax deduction when properly documented.

Shipping: UPS charges or postage used to mail a query or review copy of your book can be a small expense, but it should still be tracked. Those small deductions add up and every penny spent as a qualified business expense will reduce the amount of income tax you owe.

Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers devotes an entire chapter to expenses including a comprehensive listing of expenses and detailed information regarding what documentation is required to support each one.

I know I'm interested in things that save me time and money. What are some financial mistakes writers make that cost them time and money and how can we avoid them?

The most common misstep I’ve seen with writers is not taking themselves seriously as business owners. This can lead to financial pitfalls. Many writers have been honing their craft for years so it’s hard to identify an official starting date for their self-employment. Without this point to mark the beginning, it is easy to put off tracking income and expenses. This can be an unfortunate mistake.

The IRS will consider you to be in business when you are actively pursuing projects intended to generate income and expenses. This means they will expect you to file a tax return to report those transactions. Keeping track of your income and expenses from day one will enable you to pay the least amount of income taxes on the money you earn.

Many people (especially some writers) find numbers, particularly when related to bookkeeping and taxes, intimidating. Does your book make these things easier to understand?

Yes, my book breaks down complicated number crunching into easy to follow steps. By reading the book, readers will understand why it's important to keep certain receipts (and how to organize them) and how those pieces of paper factor into the overall success of their writing business. Sometimes knowing the reasoning behind a task makes it easier to complete.

Writers can take advantage of some wonderful tax deductions, but only when they are aware of the possibilities and know how to accurately document the expenses. My book explains it all in a reader friendly format.

Why is it important for writers to understand bookkeeping?

Writers are earning money and this money needs to be reported as income on their income tax return. If writers do not have any expenses to claim, their taxable income will be higher and they will owe more income tax. Understanding what can be claimed as business expenses when you are a writer and how to properly document these expenses will help ensure the success of your business.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to become organized. There are many books available on how to organize your writing, but this is the best book available about how to organize the financial side of your writing business.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Year of Fog

I'd heard good things about The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. Even so, I held off on getting this from the library until I was desperate for something to read. Abby takes a walk on a San Francisco beach with her fiance's daughter, Emma. It's foggy and Emma disappears. Was she kidnapped? Did she drown? These are the questions that pull you through the book. At first I was intrigued by the shift between past and present in the book, with the glimpses we kept getting of when Emma disappeared. But then I started getting frustrated. I didn't care about Abby's past. It was obvious she and her fiance weren't going to get back together, so I didn't care about their interaction either. I just wanted to know what happened to Emma. So I pretty much speed-read the second half of this book. I didn't want to return it to the library until I knew the answer, but I just wasn't invested enough to care about anything else that happened.

I've read a few of these books about missing children and they're just depressing. This was the story from a different angle - the fiance and her quest to find the girl. Even so, I didn't care. The book was well-written but it just wasn't a story I wanted to read carefully.

The Finishing Touches

Today is the first day of my newly revamped blog. I'm leaving up my old posts, but moving ahead with a new direction. From now on I'm going to post about books I'm reading and enjoying. I would love to hear about your favorites. I would love to welcome authors on blog tours, talking about their own books.

Today's book is The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne. I am in love with Hester Browne. I could not get enough of the three books in the Little Lady Agency series. They are about a woman who runs an agency that teaches men manners and helps them learn to become better all-around people. Of course there is lots of cliff-hanging romance in them. I thought the new title was part of the series, but it's not. At first I was disappointed. I needed more Little Lady books! But then I dove in and it was fabulous. This is about a London finishing school that is now outdated. Betsy, the adopted daughter of the owners (who was left on their doorstep as an infant), comes back to revamp it and include lessons girls really need to know, like budgeting, how to deal with embarrassing social moments, and how to make an omelet, while still being true to the school's history by teaching them to be ladies, albeit current, up to date ladies. Betsy also tries to discover who her parents really were and there is suspense as she is interested in two different men.
I loved this book and I'm already waiting for the next Hester Browne book. That's the worst part of a good book - getting to the end and realizing there's no more!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Books on the Way

I'm holding in my hands the book I co-authored with my husband, The Essential Supervisor's Handbook.

It's a terrific guide for new managers that outlines how to gain the confidence of your employees, learn to manage yourself, and succeed in your new position.

I recently finished up The Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35, which will be in stores in November.

And I just signed on to write Unmarried with Children, a guide for singles and unmarried couples who are raising children outside of marriage. The book will be published by Adams Media at the end of the year.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Powered Up

On October 13, we got a bit of a nasty surprise here in the Buffalo area - two feet of snow. Falling on trees still filled with leaves, this meant downed branches and downed power lines. We were without power for a full seven days here - other people went as long as 11 days. Schools were closed for a week and a day.

No power meant no computer. We did have a generator, which, plus a sump pump are the only reasons our basement is not filled with seven feet of water right now. The generator did let me use the computer from time to time, but cable was out! We ended up buying a dial up account, and using that on phone lines that kept going out was an adventure.

At long last we're back to normal with kids off to school, lights on and internet working. What a relief that is. I didn't want or need a one week vacation from writing in the middle of October, but I sure got one. So now I'm back at work on the Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35 and trying to finish up a couple of magazine articles as well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Back From the Conference

I'm just back at my desk this morning after spending the weekend at the Connecticut Coast Writers Retreat in Milford, CT. I had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on non-fiction book proposals. It was a great crowd and they had lots of questions which I enjoyed answering. The rest of the presenters did a great job as well, including my wonderful husband Terry who did a seminar on web sites for writers.

I met some terrific people and also got to meet one of my own editors who I've only talked with via email to this point. The conference was in a terrific setting - at a yacht club on the Long Island Sound, so it was a beautiful place.

This morning I'm back at work. I've already answered a ton of questions that piled up while I was away for the "Ask Brette" column I do on a women's divorce web site. I'm also working hard at The Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35. I've got a magazine article to get to work on soon too, so that will keep my busy.