Today is the Deadline for SAD PUPPIES!

A valuable PSA from Author Larry Correia

Monster Hunter Nation

Just a reminder, today is the last day to get your nominations in if you’ve registered to vote for the Hugos!

And here’s a tip from your friendly retired local auditor. When it doubt, print it out.

If you have registered and not received your PIN, then there are shenanigans afoot. I already know of people who registered before the cut off, but were not given their PIN because “we didn’t process your registration in time”. You might think that’s bad, but us trained auditors calls that evidence. 🙂  If that has happened to you, I’d really like to know about it.

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Anomaly Con Denver Review

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I went to Anomaly Con this past weekend.  It’s a smaller Fan Convention in Denver, Colorado.  The general theme is steampunk and alternate history, though there was certainly guests, panels, and events linked to science fiction, traditional fantasy, and even urban fantasy as well.  I’ll cover the highlights for those interested.

Tracy Hickman was there, talking about his new game Sojourner Tales, which looks to be a lot of fun, check it out here.  He also hosted his Killer Breakfast event, though that had a depressingly low turnout.  It was still a lot of fun, and I got to be slain multiple times..  For those who haven’t heard of it, typically several hundred people are killed in a 2 hour session, mostly whenever their characters cease to entertain.  My favorite part was when I used my long underwear as a parachute, then rolled a natural 20 as a success, leaving Tracy Hickman literally speechless.  It even has a website, apparently, find that here.

Author Carrie Vaughn was there.  Most famous for the Kitty Norville books, she is an excellent panelist, and she had a lot of good info, is always very organized, and she kept on topic as well as answering any questions from the audience.  All in all, she’s a friendly author, and seems to be a great person.  If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, you should check her out.  I’ve read a number of her books, and they are an excellent example of urban fantasy, and more original than most.  Check out her website here.

Also present was Quincy Allen.  He’s a ‘hybrid’ author, who started out self published and has since gotten involved in small press.  He’s a Colorado author, an all around interesting fellow, and fun to talk with.  His novel, Chemical Burn, will be re-released under Kevin J Anderson’s Word Fire Press.  Check it out here from Amazon, and Word Fire Press here.

I didn’t have the opportunity to set on any panels, but I did have some fun conversations with a variety of folks there at the conference.  I also found a very cool John Crichton Farscape-style vest and jacket, just out of my price range at the moment.  Of course, if my book sales pick up a bit, I suppose I can work buying it in the future.  Check out their website here.  They’ve got a lot of cool stuff.

Just out of reach.  Monetarily and height-wise.... sometimes I hate being short.
Just out of reach. Monetarily and height-wise…. sometimes I hate being short.

 

All in all, it was an interesting weekend.  Anomaly Con is a quirky little convention.  I don’t know that I’ll attend next year, but it was an experience this year.

World SF Convention, Hugos, and You

Last year I purchased a membership to the World SF Convention.  I ended up going to Dragon*Con instead, but I still voted for the Hugos.

For those who don’t know, the Hugos are the awards for the ‘best’ new stuff in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Why is this important?  Well, it’s a combination popularity contest and kudos for authors.  While selling well is nice, it’s also good to know that your peers like your work.  Of late, however, the Hugos have often gone to people with messages, books that are more about causes and politics than about what we all got into SF&F in the first place: being entertained.

Larry Correia writes quite a bit on the subject, and if you haven’t read his take on it all, you should.  It’s highly entertaining, if nothing else.  I personally beleive that ‘best’ in Science Fiction and Fantasy should mean “well written” and “entertaining” and maybe even “fun.”   I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.  As a disclaimer, I am eligible for two catagories, so I’m pitching my hat in the ring.

Luckily, because I bought membership last year, I get to vote this year as well.  Seeing as I hope to attend next year, I’ll be voting next year too.

Without further ado, here’s my nominations, they’re all books I’ve enjoyed (well, I enjoyed writing mine, ok?)

Best Novel:

A Few Good Men, Sarah Hoyt, Baen

Grand Central Arena, Ryk Spoor, Baen

Warbound, the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia, Baen

Best Novella:

Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption, Kal Spriggs, Sutek Press

Best Short Story:

Skyspark, Ryk Spoor, Baen

Best Editor:

Toni Weisskoph

Best Graphic Novel:

Schlock Mercenary, Howard Taylor

Campbell Award (For a new author)

Kal Spriggs

Frank Chadwick

 

Why does this matter to you?  Well, you might be like me and have a membership lying around from last year.  Might as well use it, right?  Vote for the books and authors you enjoyed and let’s make the Hugo awards into something we can enjoy again.

 

Independent Author Toolbag: Publishing an Audiobook Pt 1

This is mostly aimed at other authors, but for those who are interested in what goes into it, perhaps this will be entertaining.  This first part is about the process I went through to market my books, The Fallen Race and Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption to a producer all the way through to the selection of a narrator/producer I wanted.

It all started, for me, when I got an email from amazon about ACX.  The email informed me that it made it fast and easy for authors and publishers to find narrators and producers for their books.  It seemed relatively straightforward, so I dove in. One thing ACX does well is that it sets everything up in a simple order to follow. I claimed two of my books, but the next part stumped me… I had to post what pay bracket I wanted to pay in.  Part of my confusion, at the time, was that I didn’t realize that it is pay per finished hour.  Luckily, after reading through the help section, I figured that out.  Still, what’s a ‘fair’ price for this?  I’m doing SF, so there’s lots of weird names.  Also accents and strange dialog.  So I finally just selected one of the brackets in the middle $50-100.  ACX calculates the rough novel length for your stuff, so that put the production cost at between 600 and 1200 dollars for the work.  Still, it seemed a good price to pay if I could get someone good to narrate.  Out of curiosity, I looked at audiobook pricing.  I was somewhat annoyed to learn that ACX establishes a price that they think is fair.  Thus, I’d have no control over the sale price.  The last part of the process is where you upload a sample section for a narrator to read, it suggests the first few pages, and I went with that. That was my first mistake.

I got my first reading the next day.  The narrator read it well, though not quite what I was looking for.  That’s where I made my first mistake.  I figured that since this guy was pretty good, I should go with him first.  I made an offer right away, and got a response right away, they wanted more money, or a share of the royalties.  I balked at the latter.  Then came several other readings from other narrators.  The thing is, I couldn’t give them offers because I had the outstanding one.  Until it was rejected, accepted, or expired, I couldn’t make an offer to one of the others.  In the meantime, the first narrator was willing to work down their price somewhat, but I just didn’t know if they’d work for the project as well as some of the others.  I talked with them, and suggested they read for my other project.  This is where my first mistake came in, the narrator read that part well, but the first pages didn’t have much dialog with other characters.  I picked that narrator for that project, then selected a different one for the first project.

If that sounds confusing… well, it was for me as well.  I had around a half dozen narrators read for the part.  Apparently I picked a good bracket.  Still, most weren’t near what I wanted.  The lession I learned there was that I should have waited a few days, listened to the various ones, and then selected after some time to think.  I should have also have either written a section of text that includes a variety of characters in discussion or selected that from the novels.  That part came back to bite me later.

The next part, after selecting a narrator, is the first 15 minutes is generated.  This is to make sure the narrator/producer and the author are all seeing the same vision for the project.  Project one, The Fallen Race, was going well.  Project two, Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption went well… right up until the author tried to do Anubus’s voice.  It wasn’t what I wanted, but there were options for that.  In this step, the author can ask for corrections, sometimes multiple times.  If it works out, then everything proceeds to production.  This one didn’t work out.  I tried to discribe what I wanted, but it didn’t work out.  It was mostly my fault, I’d admit, I should have had dialogue from other characters in the sample, but I hadn’t.  The narrator tried, I tried to adjust my expectations, but it just didn’t work.  Thankfully, since it’s a relatively small amount of time spent between one another, both parties can cancel the contract at this point.  I did that, and I’m started over in the process to get Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption as an audiobook.  The Fallen Race has continued to production, and my goal is to get that one out near the end of March.

So, this is what I’ve learned thus far: think carefully, very carefully, before you make an offer.  Do some research on pricing and don’t be afraid to haggle a bit.  Overall, I’m happy with how things went, preproduction.  I do caution other authors to read the contract terms carefully and to only enter into it with the best of intentions and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Part 2 here, part 3 here.

Taxes for Writers, part 2

In my last bit on taxes, I went into what I’ve learned as far as tax deductions.  Now comes the less fun parts.

Writers, God(s) help us, are considered self employed.  This has a number of effects upon the money we earn and the taxes we have to pay.  As far as the US tax system and the IRS, being self employed puts most of the burden upon the writer.

There’s three types of tax that all US Citizens pay.  There’s Social Security, Medicare, and then income tax.  Normally, you only have to pay a net 7.65 percent of your income to social security and medicare.  The problem is, your employer is paying the other 7.65 percent.  As a writer, your employer is you (regardless of whether you publish with a big company or not, they push the onus of paying that to you), so you have to pay all 15.3% as the self employment tax.  Now then there is income tax on top of this.  What’s nice about being a writer is that your deductions come from both areas, because your income is what is left over from your earnings after your expenses.  In case you didn’t notice, right off the bat you’re in around a 30% tax bracket.  This is pretty painful if you’re writing with no other income.  It is especially painful when you are supposed to pay your taxes quarterly, or face fines from the IRS, and you may not receive your royalties until months after the quarter (trust me, it’s happening to me now, it hurts, I’m paying taxes on income I still haven’t received, which comes from my savings…)  Bringing those taxes down a bit you have the things I listed in the previous tax article, which is why keeping track of all that is essential to making sure you keep a little bit of that hard earned money.

The problem some authors run into when they file their taxes is that they see their income as royalties and try to file them that way.  Those kinds of royalties are more for land owners who earn royalties on mineral rights.  Your royalties from book sales are income, much like a contractor.  That’s how you should report it and that’s how you should take deductions.

This is important because if you are a professional author, this is your income.  You’ve probably spent tens or even hundreds of thousands of hours writing, honing, and perfecting your craft.  You’ve earned that income, you can’t avoid paying the taxes on it, but you can make sure that you only pay as much as necessary.  As a disclaimer, I am not a tax professional, I’m heavily reliant upon the things I’ve learned from writing conferences (where they have tax panels) as well as using programs like TurboTax and even going to some tax professionals.  Also, this is just an overview, more to get you thinking in the right direction than anything else.

Here’s some links you may find helpful

Taxes for Writers

Tax Advice for Writers

Fool’s Gold Sample

Here’s a sample from the beginning of Fool’s Gold, a short story set from the perspective of Anubus from The Renegades series.

***

 Anubus figured his safest long term option lay in the murder of the entire crew.

Unfortunately, in the short term, he required them alive. He knew little enough in regards to navigation much less engineering or half the other flight systems. Anubus figured the others realized that which explained why they disregarded his threats so far.

As he sat with his back secured in the corner he did another quick threat analysis of the crew lounge. Mike stood with his back to the tank of water with the eel. Anubus had observed the human’s poorly hidden fear of either the water or eel or both. He thought the ploy too obvious to consider a true weakness, which made him wonder why the Captain bothered. Anubus also found the tank a source of annoyance, mostly at the others insistence that ‘Rainbow’ vanished when motionless.

He could not understand how the others might not sense the Arcavian Fighting Eel. Even if Anubus couldn’t see the eel, he could smell the creature’s scent on the water from across the room. More than that, he could hear its heartbeat, a slow, rhythmic pump that could have almost lulled him into a relaxed state.

Fortunately, the incessant chatter of his companions countered that hypnotic beat. Their scents assaulted his nostrils even as their rapid movements drew his gaze. They smelled like food, and they acted like it too, and it took considerable self control for him not to indulge in the buffet that they presented.

Instead, Anubus forced himself to take shallow breaths and walk slowly towards Eric’s buffet. The scents there did not smell nearly as delectable, for he could not sense the blood just under the skin, ready for his jaws to plunge into the hot flesh…

I need to work on my self control, he thought, or just kill someone, either would do.

***

Fool’s Gold will be featured in the upcoming Renegades: Compendium I along with other short stories and the first five Renegades novellas.

 

Runner sample

Here’s a quick sample from Runner, a short story written about the origins of Run the Chxor, a character in The Renegades series.  Runner will also be available in the upcoming Renegades: Compendium

***

 Ghren paused as he pulled up his notes: “On 5674-Juhnar, Medical Scientist Rhxun, violated standard methodology and protocols with his current experimentation. He disobeyed direct orders from the Planetary Governor, violated Chxor Medical Procedures seventeen, forty-two, one-ninteen, and seven-thirteen through eight-forty-five.”

“Also, technically, nine-fourteen,” Rhxun added.

“As well as nine-fourteen,” Ghren amended. “Due to his inability to follow proper procedures regarding medical methodology, he implanted three quarters of the population, roughly four million of the Than subcaste with implants designed to limit free will and induce loyalty protocols to the Chxor Empire in general and to Senior Scientist Rhxun in specific. His implants utilized wireless signals to maintain overall control of the population and had minimal electromagnetic shielding.”

“Four million, three hundred thousand, four hundred and seven of the Than subcaste,” Rhxun corrected automatically. “With an additional one hundred and twenty test subjects who survive at the shielded testing facility.”

“Correct, four million, three hundred thousand, four hundred and seven,” Ghren stated flatly. Apparently he did not like the reminder that his inferior intelligence did not allow him to retain data as well as Rhxun. Well, it isn’t as if I didn’t expect as much, Rhxun thought. The Tier Three Investigator continued, “When a stellar flare erupted, it caused massive radio frequency interference across a broad spectrum, this interference proved particularly hazardous to the population implanted by Senior Scientist Rhxun. The result was initial extreme pain, followed by violent aggression. Final results appear to be the destruction of higher level brain functions and feral behavior. This subsequently resulted in the termination of the entire test population as well as some three million – “

“Two million, nine hundred thousand, nine hundred and thirty,” Rhxun interrupted.

“ – of the rest of the population. This number included seven District Administrators as well as the Assistant Planetary Governor, Police Commander, Deputy Fleet Commander, and Investigator Krell who had been dispatched to investigate Planetary Governor Hraal’s statement regarding insurrectionist activity in regards to Senior Scientist Rhxun’s research.” Tier Three Investigator Ghren paused. “I therefore find that the proper punishment is to strip Senior Scientist Rhxun of his rank and sentence him to immediate termination.”

“I understand how you have come to this decision,” Rhxun shook his head. “And I believe you have done your best at the limits of your intelligence and understanding. Am I correct in my estimation that you have followed procedure fifteen of the investigation protocols and have waited to file your official findings pending my sentencing?”

“Of course,” Ghren said. The tone of his voice suggested that any other option would not follow the proper regulations. A loyalty to regulation and bureaucracy that Rhxun agreed with and appreciated immensely.

“Excellent,” Rhxun said. He drew his dart pistol and fired once. The small dart struck Ghren in the side of his thick neck, just above the collar of his brown uniform.

Ghren stared at him in shock for a moment. Then the convulsions began. Rhxun walked calmly around the desk and deleted the Tier Three Investigator’s notes. He then pulled the dart out of the dead Chxor’s neck and carefully dropped it down the incinerator chute behind the desk. A moment later he tapped the intercom button. “Excuse me. It seems that Tier Three Investigator Ghren has undergone a seizure. I would suggest that a body disposal team be dispatched.”

***

You can find the rest here

Taxes for Writers, Part 1

In writing, as in many things, there is no getting away from the absolutes: Death and Taxes. The good news, such as it is, is that writing can have a number of perks, chief among them is making you a bit of money.  The bad news, of course, is that you’ll have to pay taxes on that money.

Even if you’re not earning money on writing just yet, your writing can save you a bit come tax season.  Writing, so long as you are making a sincere effort at publishing or getting published, is a business.  As a business, you can take deductions from expenses common both to general writing and genre fiction.  Those deductions can really start to add up and can be a real benefit when you go to file your taxes, hoping to get a little bit more money back.

If, like me, you’ve earned money writing, those deductions can help you to keep a little bit more.  As a business, you need to keep track of receipts, invoices, and other expenses.  That part can be the most frustrating, particularly when you return from a convention tired, travel-lagged, and of course with a case of the con crud.  Still attention to detail here can save you a lot of money when it is time to file those taxes.

The big thing is to know is what you can and can’t deduct.  Remember, this is the fun part because deductions are expenses that drop your earnings so you pay fewer taxes.  There are a lot of viable areas for business expenses that you can deduct.  Attending conventions, both writing and genre is a networking and educational event.  The convention fees, hotel room charges, and even your meals are tax deductible.  If you’re attending conventions, you also probably have business cards or some other means of marketing, these too are tax deductible.

There’s more than that, though,  Your travel to and from the convention is deductible, both in whatever mileage you drive (keep a record of miles you drive in your car for such events), as well as airline, train, or bus tickets.  That new computer you had to buy, that’s deductible, though you may have to depreciate it because it’s something that should last more than a year.  If you’ve bought Microsoft Office, that’s a tax deduction too, as you need it to do your writing.  Most meals for business are only 50% deductible, however, that’s still 50% that comes out of your taxable income.

If you’re meeting with an editor or artist over lunch to do your cover design or illustrations, not only is the travel to the location a deduction, so is the meal.  So, in fact, is the expense of the editing and the artwork for the cover.  Any kind of entertainment meals are 100% deductible, so keep a log of what is just a business dinner and what is entertainment.  Any time you conduct business during the meal or the discussion is going to take place immediately before or after, you can consider it an ‘entertainment’ expense and you get the 100% deduction.

There’s also deductions you can take towards research that you do as a writer.  If crucial scenes in your book are set in a specific location, travel to that location as well as any expenses towards researching it are deductible, within reason, of course.

All these deductions can add up and that’s important because, as we’ll see later, as an author, you are self-employed and you’ll have to pay more taxes, the Self Employment Tax, on top of what you would normally pay.

So, save those receipts and try to save as much of that hard-earned writing money as you can!

Renegades: A Murder of Crowes sample

I thought I’d share a short section from Renegades: A Murder of Crowes, which comes out in only a few weeks. This section comes from near the beginning. I’ve tried to avoid any spoilers, but if you haven’t read through Renegades: Ghost Story, then you probably don’t want to read this yet.

“Okay, first order of business,” Mike said. “Lock down the ship. Since Crowe is involved, lock down all the terminals too, until we know more.” He looked over at Rastar and Eric. “You two do manual locks on the airlocks. Mandy and Miranda, you’ll secure the bridge with Ariadne and Pixel. Simon, Anubus, Ludmilla, Run, and I will start the search, Rastar and Eric join us after you’ve secured the airlocks. Run, be sure you bring your medical equipment.”

Simon nodded. The search party and security elements all contained technical and combat elements, which he approved of. Granted, Simon hoped that he wouldn’t need Run’s medical attention.

“No,” Anubus growled. “If Ghost is on the hull, it is after my prowler. We need to go out there and kill it before it steals my ship.”
Simon had forgotten that the Wrethe had clamped the small vessel on the hull of the Gebnar.

“Yeah… with how poorly you docked it, no one is getting it off the hull any time soon,” Pixel said. The engineer didn’t look up from where he worked on the console. “You managed to lock onto an unarmored section of hull over our port sensors. At least one of your clamps punched through the hull. You couldn’t get off with your maneuver thrusters, and you can’t engage the main drive this close to the ship. The Red Hunter is stuck.”

Anubus’s lips drew back over his teeth in a snarl, “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

Pixel looked up after he hit a last button, “Something of an insurance policy, in case you betrayed us. Besides, we can’t do anything about it without a lot of work. And we have bigger priorities just now.” His comment met with total silence. Simon quietly upped his estimation of the engineer. Apparently he’s not as unaware of some things as I thought, Simon realized. A moment later, Pixel gave a smile, then opened up the ship’s intercom, “Attention all passengers of the Gebnar. We have a possible security situation, the Captain will brief you.”

“Okay,” Mike said with a nod. “All personnel, move to your quarters and take up defensive positions. We may have an univited guest. Crowe, if you’re near an intercom switch, please contact us immediately.” They waited a long moment in silence. Mike clenched his jaw, and Simon saw the muscles stand out on the short Asian’s jaw. Mike switched off the intercom and when he spoke, Simon could hear the anger in his voice, “Now that that is settled, get moving people. Whatever Ghost and Crowe are up to, we need to find out and put a stop to it.” Even as he spoke, Rastar opened the storage closet and swept his guns across the entrance. The big alien gave Eric a nod and the two entered the lift.

Simon followed the others as they started down the stairs to the next level down from the bridge. The first compartment was one of the sets of crew quarters they shared. Mike activated the automated door while Ludimilla and Simon took up ready positions with pistols. Despite his dislike of the bountyhunter, Simon admired her professionalism. Not so much with Mike, who held a Chxor submachine gun casually in one hand. We really need to do more of those weapons handling classes, Simon thought.

The hatch swept open. The oversized crew quarters sat empty, other than some litter and trash from where some of Simon’s less tidy companions had eaten their lunch. Once again, the scale of the ship gave Simon a weird feeling of juxtaposition. Even Anubus looked dwarfed by the oversized room as he swept into it. The Ghornath-sized nests that lined the walls were not designed for humans or even the larger Wrethe. The Gebnar was a captured Ghornath ship, after all. The large furniture and lockers, like most of the rest of the ship, were designed for the three meter tall, eight-limbed aliens. Only Rastar felt truly at home with the ship.

The Wrethe paused and sniffed the air. “I don’t smell Wrethe… but I smell blood. A lot of it.”
“Shit,” Mike said. He glanced in the room, “Where? I don’t see any.”

Anubus slowly spun in a circle. Finally he turned and walked back through the hatch. He paused outside the door for the other set of quarters across the hall. “Here.”

Simon trained his pistol on the hatch. The archaic 1911 forty-five felt cool in his hands as he took up a two handed stance. It was pure muscle memory as he readied himself to fire. The world seemed to slow down as Mike moved up next to him and leveled his submachine gun at the hatch. Mike nodded at Run to trigger the switch to the side of the automatic door.

The hatch swept open without a sound.

Fallen Race and Renegades Audiobooks Coming Soon

As something of an experiment, I’ll be trying out audiobooks, via audible.com and Amazon here in the near future.  I’m excited to be taking this step and it’s something of a gamble, since I’m spending money out of my pocket to do it.  For those of you who prefer audiobooks as your method of entertainment, this is your chance to see if you like what I write.  If you aren’t into audiobooks, but you know someone who is, this is your chance to get them into reading my stuff… or not, of course.  I’ll keep everyone updated on the progress as it comes closer to completion.  Ideally it will go up in early April.

As always, I’d love to hear any comments.  I’m going to post a bit of progress on this over time, what my thoughts are on the process and how it works for me, for any writers out there considering making that jump.

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to those of you who buy my books, you are the ones making this possible.