Renegades Out of the Cold Snippet Two

Snippet One brought everyone up to speed on what’s going on, snippet two leads right into the action:

“Captain,” Simon said, “They’ve brought their weapons online and they’ve gone active on their radar.”

Mike grimaced.  The piddling sensors on that ancient pirate vessel would probably be painfully inadequate under normal circumstances.  The Gebnar mounted some kind of gravitational sensor, emissions sensors, and a host of secondary passive sensors as well as an extremely advanced phased radar system.  They could probably map the other ship’s hull from fifty thousand kilometers or more…

“Wish we had something to hit them with from here,” Eric said from the weapons console.

“Yeah,” Mike grunted, “That would be nice.”  Their pulse turrets had a maximum effective range of five thousand kilometers.  Anything outside that and they might as well be throwing soft-boiled eggs.  Mike wasn’t entirely clear on just how the exotic particles lost their effectiveness, but Pixel had assured him that they deteriorated after generation.

Which meant that no matter how blind the pirate was, in order to shoot at it, they would be well within targeting range of the ship’s outdated sensors.

On the positive side, the pirate didn’t know that, “Pixel, put some energy into the main weapon system, not enough to damage anything, but enough to make them wary if they can see it,” Mike said.

“Yeah,” Pixel said, “that might fool them a bit…. But what happens when we don’t fire it?”

“Leave that to me,” Mike said.  As much as he would like to take down a pirate, he’d be happy enough to chase him off.  He brought up the route Ariadne had plotted and gingerly brought their engines online.  Not that he had any genuine concerns that the engines would work… he just wasn’t entirely certain that he trusted the makee-learnee maintenance that Pixel had to follow on the alien ship’s systems.

“Ariadne,” Mike said, “adjust course.  I want to swing in on their right flank.  Give them just enough room to keep out of our front arc.”  The female psychic frowned at him, but she gave a nod and went to work.  “Eric, as we come in, I want you to pour fire in on them from our turrets.  We won’t be able to do serious damage, but anyone gets nervous when they’re being shot at.”

Eric gave him a grin, “You bet,” he said, “get them to make a mistake and we finish this, right?”

Mike gave him a tight-lipped smile in return, though his own hope was that the pirate would break it off and run for it.  As it was, he didn’t know for certain that they could get close enough to help.  The single, marginally-inhabitable planet had a debris ring from where its moon had died sometime in the past million years.  The pirate had come out of the debris ring on the sunward side of the planet, boosted to take it out of orbit, and now it had begun a turn to put it inside the course of the freighter.

The freighter captain, either brave or stupid, Mike couldn’t guess which, had chosen to dive towards the planet, using his velocity to angle for cover within the ring.  Depending on what kind of missiles the pirate mounted, he might already be in range, but it was unlikely that the pirate would want to waste such munitions, especially when a solid hit might just destroy the ship he was here to capture.

If he gets lucky, Mike thought, he’ll get down in the debris ring, shut down power, and hide before the pirate gets close enough to use his guns.  Of course, it would be harder for a ship to hide on the dark side of the planet, there would be so much thermal heat that it would stand out, but it was still a better chance than letting the pirate board, Mike knew.  He had enough experience out here on the edge of human space to know that taking chances was the only way to survive.

Pirates like this one, he thought, they’ll probably take the ship, then space the crew, or else just sell them as slaves.  There was little profit to be had out here as a pirate and someone who preyed off of something as pitiful as a Ghornath refugee colony was unlikely to be a kind enough soul to expend fuel to land and discharge the crew.

“I fail to see the importance of this maneuver,” a high pitched voice said from beside him.

Mike started a bit, then looked over to see Run.  The little alien had quietly moved up beside him.  Mike hadn’t even heard him come on the bridge.  Damned spooky how quietly he moves, Mike thought.  “They’re pirates, we are going to chase them off so that they don’t attack that merchant ship.”

“Why?” Run asked.  “The merchant vessel is not of your tribal-societal group.  What the pirate does to them doesn’t matter.”

“It’s the right thing to do, man,” Rastar said.

“I am not a ‘man,’ which due to the limited Ghornath species intelligence I understand the need to explain,” Run stated, “Moreover, moral equivalencies such as right and wrong are social constructs crafted by primitive species.”

Mike restrained a sigh as Rastar’s reddish hide turned a shade darker.  “Run,” Mike interrupted, “The pirate is unlikely to be satisfied from just the freighter.  If we don’t put on a position of strength, it is likely that he will attack us, thinking we are weak.”

“Ah,” Run nodded, “this makes some sense.  Do we not have the ability to leave, however?”

Mike gritted his teeth, “We do, however we still don’t have star charts for anything past this bit of space, so if we can get those from a grateful merchant ship who we just saved…”

“I follow your logic,” Run said.  “Your explanation is adequate, however you could have summarized it more succinctly.  This is an understandable failure in a primitive species such as humans.”

Mike restrained any further reply and returned his attention to the pirate.  The older ship had far lower acceleration than his own.  Unfortunately, so did the freighter.  To make matters worse, the pirate had the inside curve to cut the civilian captain off.  Mike saw that the course of the pirate angled sharper than he would have expected, clearly at the very margins of their acceleration.  It was a maneuver that would angle the engines towards the freighter at their closest point of approach as the pirate’s plasma drive counter-thrust to lower their orbit and slow their vessel.

It was risky if the freighter had any weapons, but that was unlikely on a refugee supply hauler like this one.  After that maneuver, the pirate would be well within weapons range and both ships would be several thousand kilometers short of the debris ring.  Mike glanced at Ariadne’s updated course and pursed his lips.  They wouldn’t be able to get there in time to stop a boarding.  If they wanted to fly past with one chance to fire, they would arrive two minutes after the pirate could intercept the freighter.  If the pirate crew could convince the freighter captain to allow them to board, the pirates would have hostages towards Mike’s good behavior.

If they wanted to slow to intercept velocity themselves, they would give the pirates almost five minutes, which might be long enough for them to take over the freighter and get it moving.  Faced with the pirate vessel ready to fight them and the freighter under way, Mike didn’t see a good option.

On the other hand… He looked over at Rastar and the inky black shadow of Anubus in the corner.  “You two up for some boarding operations?”

Rastar gave him a thumbs up while Anubus’s lips drew back in a hungry snarl.

Mike took that as a yes.  “Ariadne, we’ll go for the intercept maneuver.”  He looked at Simon, “Patch me through to the freighter captain.  I’ll see if I can talk some spine into him.”  It wasn’t likely.  Most civilian crews knew that if they resisted, the pirates would be more likely to torture, murder, and rape.  Since small freighters like that one were family-crewed, they would be even more leery of any risk to them.

All the same, this was probably their best chance at survival, in Mike’s opinion.

“Attention Tagon’s Venture,” Mike said, “This is Captain Mike Smith of the Gebnar.”

“You’re… human?” a surprised voice asked as a man’s face appeared on the main screen, cropped so that it didn’t show anything below his neck.  “I expected a Ghornath crew, I mean, that is a Ghornath privateer, right?”  There was something off about the merchant captain’s expression.  There wasn’t enough panic or despair.  It was almost as if he thought he could pull off his escape.  Great, Mike thought, probably some kind of crazy or idiot.  What else could he expect of someone who ran refugee supply runs, though?

“It was,” Mike said.  “That’s a long story.  Look, we’re going to try to help you, but you can probably see that we’re going to arrive a few minutes late.”  On his sensor display, Mike could see that the pirate was about to pull off the braking maneuver.  “Look, Captain…”

“Captain Raimus,” the merchant captain said, he looked a little distracted as he glanced at something off screen.

“Captain Raimus, then,” Mike said.  “We should be able to arrive about five minutes after they’ve come alongside.  If your people could disable your ships power until then, we should be able to put some crew aboard to help you fight off their boarders while we chase their vessel away.”

The merchant captain looked back at the camera, “I’m sorry, you’re offering to help?”

Mike stared at him, “Well… yes.”  Seriously, had the man no situational awareness?  On the screen, Mike could see that the pirate had flipped over, tail towards the merchant ship and begun hard deceleration to match the merchant vessel’s course.

Captain Raimus blinked at Mike for a long moment before he gave a slight snort.  “I’m sorry, out here beyond civilization it is a rare thing to have someone offer to help.”

“Captain,” Simon said, “I’m picking up–”

Mike’s jaw dropped as the “freighter” suddenly cut loose with targeting sensors.  A moment later, it fired and the pirate vanished as a single missile, fired from close range, detonated almost on top of it.  As the thermonuclear fireball cleared, Mike could hear the warning warble from the sensor console.  He recognized the tone: the “freighter” had them locked as well.

“I do appreciate your offer of assistance,” Captain Raimus said cheerfully, “However, Captain, uh, ‘Smith’, as you can see, we didn’t really need the help.”

Mike bit back a curse as the screen panned out to show that Captain Raimus wore a space black uniform.  “I’m Captain Ajax Raimus of the Nova Roma Imperal Fleet.  While I’m certain that your ship has the speed to escape a similar fate to the pirate I just disposed of, I do appreciate your offer to help… and I’ll take that into consideration if you are courteous enough to power down your weapons and match course so that we can have a civil discussion.”

Mike gave a sickly smile, “One moment, Captain.”

He cut off the transmission and looked around the bridge.  “Well, people, we wanted contact, this is it.”  He couldn’t help the note of wry resignation in his voice.  Of course their first encounter with civilization would come like this.  Captain Raimus must be laughing at us, he thought.

“I do not trust him,” Rastar said, his hide flushed.  “The Nova Roma Empire betrayed my people…”

“He could have fired and clearly did not,” Simon said, his voice calm, “that is a sign of trust.”  Of course the former cop likes the authorities, Mike thought to himself.

“We’re at long range, idiot,” Eric said.  “He has to think we’re at full strength, our guns could intercept anything short of a massive salvo.”

“We need him,” Ariadne said, her voice calm.  “We gained goodwill from trying to help, even if he didn’t need it.  On top of that, we’ve got the Nova Roma ambassador.  That should earn us good enough relations that, with his help, we can get back to civilized space, resupply, rearm, and go help people!”

Mike nodded along, right up until the ‘help people’ part.  It wasn’t that he disagreed with helping people, he just thought that they should provide adequate compensation for that help.  “She’s right,” Mike said, ignoring Eric’s gagging gesture.  “This is our opportunity to get in good with the strongest nation around.  They may not like that we’re on a stolen vessel, one that used to privateer against their ships… but they’ll like that we hurt the Chxor and that we’ve escaped from a Chxor labor camp.”

“More or less,” Eric said with a grimace.  He looked over at Run, “We might get in better with them if we offered them Run to dissect, they may learn something.”

“Humans have already had numerous Chxor corpses to dissect and prisoners to vivisect,” Run said.  “I doubt that they would learn anything of value when I have done such far more often and with greater intelligence and expertise.”

“You never know,” Eric said, “Maybe they’ll think you are a Chxor spy and it would be better to torture you for information.”

Run stared at Eric for a long moment, “The invalidity of your statement would require too much time to fully explain.  Obviously, if I were a spy I would offer up any information in order to avoid such a fate.  Logically I am not a spy.”

Eric sneered, “You’d say that if you were–”

“Enough,” Mike said tiredly.  “We face them as a crew.  None of us,” he leveled his gaze on Eric and then swept it around the bridge, “are perfect.”  He let his gaze linger a bit on Simon, who had led a witch hunt for Crowe’s murderer and accused all of them of wrongdoings.  “So,” he said finally, “we stick together, we tell the truth.  We do that, and we have nothing to fear.”

No one responded, so Mike brought up the transmission again, “Captain Raimus, we’ll be pulling alongside soon and we can talk in person.”

“Excellent, I look forward to that meeting.”


Renegades: Out of the Cold will be available April 2nd on Amazon.

Renegades: Out of the Cold Snippet One

Here is snippet one of Renegades: Out of the Cold, coming April 2nd, 2016.

Out of the Cold

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” the high pitched voice called out over the radio, “this is the Tagon’s Venture, we are a merchant ship delivering emergency supplies to a refugee colony and we’ve come under attack by a pirate vessel…”

Mike tuned out the rest as he brought up the sensor display.  The Ghornath lettering and icons were just as alien after months of looking at them, but he could understand enough to function, mostly.  The two ships were only a few hundred thousand kilometers distant, a small tramp freighter and a smaller, slimmer pirate vessel.  The merchant ship had been screaming for help since the Gebnar arrived in the system while the pirate craft had remained ominously silent.

Mike frowned as he looked around the bridge, “Where the hell is Ariadne and Simon?”  He had put the ship on general quarters as they first arrived in the system, the whooping alarms should have reached both of them, regardless of where they might be on the ship.

Before anyone could answer, the back hatch opened and the pair of them rushed in.  Ariadne looked flushed and breathless.  For that matter, so did Simon.  Must have run here or something, Mike thought absently.  “Simon, get on the sensors,” Mike snapped, “get me as much data on these two ships as you can.”

“Yes, Captain,” Simon said as he moved to the sensors.

“Pirates?” Ariadne asked as she hurried over next to Mike.  Since he had appointed her as his XO, he supposed such a question was warranted, to keep her up to date.  Still, he felt more than a little irritation that she hadn’t been present when they left shadow space.  Besides, he thought, she sounds a little too eager, like she’s looking forward to a fight.  Mike didn’t want a fight, not when half the ship’s systems needed a full overhaul.

“That’s what it looks like,” Mike said.  “I don’t trust it, though, the one ship might well be bait.”

“For who?” Ariadne asked, “We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

That was true enough.  The star system didn’t even have a name, just an alphanumeric code in the navigation system: 567X43.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic out here, a long run around the edge of the Nova Roma Empire, headed towards the Danar system… which was occupied by the Chxor Empire.

Still, the last merchant ship they had run into was a trap.

“The refugee colony,” Rastar said, “The one on record is listed as a Ghornath colony.”  The big alien’s deep voice held a trace of anger, though if that was because most of his remaining people lived in squalid refugee colonies like this one or because the pirate was stealing supplies designated for them, Mike wasn’t sure.

What he was sure about, with a quick glance at the eight-limbed, three meter tall alien was that Rastar’s emotions were getting the better of him.  His normally brown hide had changed to a dull red, with splotches of orange.  Great, Mike thought, I really need him going berserk on me while I’m trying to fight a pirate.

“Ariadne,” Mike said, “Plot me a course for them.”  He saw her step up to the console next to him as she worked.  Since she was a psychic, she was able to plot a route without the need of a navigational computer, beyond using its data for a reference point.

As a bonus, she did it faster than most normal pilots.

He brought the ship’s engines online and matched the course she’d plotted, even as he glanced at Simon, “Any luck?”

“Sensor data coming up now,” Simon said.  Pixel had remotely brought up some basic data, but he wasn’t as proficient in the ship’s sensors as Simon, and Mike would rather have the engineer focused on other things… like keeping their reactor online and powering up weapons and defensive systems.

Mike looked it over.  Simon had identified the freighter as a Nico-class, which matched what Pixel had estimated.  The data he had on the pirate made it out as a frigate, which was bad news, since it was fifty percent larger than they were.  Then again, he thought as he parsed the details, it looks like a Coral-class, which probably means old and decrepit.

Old and decrepit sounded fine by Mike.  The Gebnar’s main gun was still down and their defense screen still only operated at thirty percent, which meant it wouldn’t be particularly effective against anything beyond a light fighter’s armament.  The Ghornath-built corvette’s external missile racks were empty, too, which meant the only offensive firepower they had were the five anti-fighter turrets.  While they were powerful for their size, they were still anti-fighter weapons, not meant for engaging something the size of a frigate.

“Alright,” Mike said.  “We’re going in fast, defense screens up and weapon systems online.”  He looked around the bridge and met the gazes of his crew.

Simon looked calm, though Mike didn’t miss the moue of distaste.  He didn’t think this was necessary, picking a fight with an unknown enemy.  All the same, he wasn’t about to break the chain of command and say that.  Rastar’s mirror-like eyes and unexpressive face didn’t show emotions, though the set of his cat-like ears and red hide suggested that he was more than ready to engage the enemy.  At the weapons console, Eric Stryker just had a smirk, like he was happy to finally get to shoot something, hardly surprising from the former mercenary, in Mike’s opinion.  I wonder if he’s still screwing the Nova Roma Ambassador, Mike wondered absently.  He still didn’t know whether he should be irritated at the complications that would cause later or envious of the man’s skill at bedding women.  The Wrethe, Anubus, merely stood waiting, his black fur and dark eyes disturbing as he cocked his head.  Mike wondered if Anubus expected them to pirate the freighter.  Given his background as a pirate and his demonstrated lack of compassion, Mike would assume so.

“We’re ready down here,” Pixel said from the engine room.  The engineer sounded more resigned than eager, but that was probably because he knew he’d have to repair any damage they suffered.

Ariadne gave Mike a nod, the psychic had a sunny smile.  “Let’s go help those people.”

Mike restrained a groan.  For someone as incredibly dangerous as she was, Ariadne had a tendency to wear rose-tinted shades when it came to measuring people.  Odd trait for a mind-reader, he thought, not for the first time.

“Right,” Mike said.  He flipped through several commands on his console until he finally got the communications system to go through, “Attention pirate vessel, this is the Gebnar.  I’m Captain Mike Smith.  Turn away from the Tagon’s Venture, or we will fire upon you.”

A moment later, the pirate messaged them back, “Look, I can see you’re a Ghornath Privateer, ‘Smith’ or whoever you are.  This freighter is mine.  Find your own.”

Before Mike could say anything, Rastar reached over and activated the transmission, “Fithly pirates, that ship is bound for a Ghornath refugee colony.  If you do not turn aside, we will shred the pathetic piece of don kar that you call a ship.”

Mike sighed, there went any chance of bluffing or faking some kind of bargain with them.  He waited until Rastar stepped back away from the console before he faced the big alien, “Rastar, I am the Captain, let me do the talking.”

“Those honorless xurok will not–”

“You’re right, they won’t,” Mike snapped.  “But let me do the talking.  I am the Captain and if you mess this up, those bastards might just blow the freighter out of spite!”

Rastar’s hide went a darker shade of red, but then he gave a slow nod and his color shifted back to a more neutral reddish-brown, “My apologies, Captain.”

Mike doubted it would be the last outburst from the three meter tall alien, but he would have to settle for what he could get.  What I’d give for a decent crew, Mike thought, and a fully functioning ship… and while I’m at it, wealth, riches, and women…

Taxes for Writers Part 2

Taxes add more stress to your writing!
Taxes add more stress to your writing!

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.

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.  You report your income from 1099-MISC’s, which acts much like your W2 from a normal job.  The exception, as stated above, is that you have to pay the full self-employment tax rate.

One caution: most publishers and publishing platforms don’t do automatic withholding.  So you’ll need to balance your income between your normal job and writing.  The last thing you want at the end of the year is to file your taxes and learn that you owe more money to the IRS.  (It sucks).  On the other hand, you want to avoid paying too much early on, so monitoring your sales and adjusting your payment to the IRS throughout the year is the best tactic.

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.

To make things more complicated, if you are buying covers or other services (Audiobook narration or editing, for instance) of over $500/year to a single person you have to file a 1099-MISC for that person’s income… and they have to pay taxes on it.  Filing a 1099-MISC isn’t hard, you can get the form from the IRS and do it yourself or you can use Turbo-Tax’s 1099-MISC form.  To make matters slightly more complicated, you only do a 1099-MISC when paying in cash or check.  When you do a payment through a bank or a platform like PayPal, you have to do a 1099-K, because the bank tracks and reports the payment to the IRS.   The annoying part is that you need the person’s Social Security Number in order to report it.

The good news is that since these payments are business expenditures, you get to deduct them from your income.  If you aren’t otherwise tracking your earnings and budget throughout the year, you can quickly see if some things are paying for themselves.  If, for instance, you spent $3000 for audiobook narration, $500 on a cover, and another $1000 on professional editing but only earned out $2000 from your book sales, you might want to reevaluate your expenditures.

One other thing.  Because writing is a business, I highly recommend setting up a separate “writing” checking (and possibly savings) account for this.  Not only does it show to the IRS your intent of making this work, but it also makes it far easier to track your payments and income as well as your expenses.  Not only should you keep your receipts and document your expenses, but you should also monitor your income from book sales, track how your books trend up (or down).  These things will help you as a professional, especially as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

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 other links you may find helpful

Taxes for Writers

Tax Advice for Writers

Skidding Sideways on the Ice

Now on my Wednesday morning commute, we had what they call a “blizzard”.  You know, whiteout conditions and lots of this fluffy white stuff everywhere. (25 inches of it at my place, with drifts over four feet in height)

More or less in the middle of this commute, I watched several vehicles driving sideways down an off-ramp, tires spinning as they fought for traction… and oddly enough I had something of an epiphany.

As I read the news and watch television, I realize that we are all doing the same thing.  As a society, as a nation, we realize that we’ve lost control and that something is wrong.  Watching the faces of the drivers, I saw anger, fear, panic, and even some people having fun as they careened down to the highway.  As our world spirals out of control around us, people, in turn, are reacting in similar fashions.  Some are angry, some afraid, and some people are completely panicked.

Just like those people (who thankfully made it onto the freeway without collision), we all react to the situation in different ways, but we all have that sick, sliding feeling as we know that something is going horribly wrong.

It is human nature to want someone to blame for the situation.  So that fear and anger gets turned to whoever we decide must be to blame.  After all, this has to be someone’s fault… right?  The people who are willing to place all that blame on one cause, one set of policies or one method of behavior scare me.  The unstable conditions we face can be traced back to a number of causes… many of them to our own action or inaction, rather than those of others.

Then there’s the people who enjoyed the loss of control, the same people who are gleefully saying “burn it all.”  In some ways, these are the most terrifying people.  These are those who have either given up hope or never had it in the first place… or else they don’t understand the consequences of their actions.  Seeking to pull down entire nations in the hopes that what will rise from the ashes will be better (or at least different), is much like sliding down a hill in a multi-ton vehicle with only a modicum of control.  At the end of it, everything might come out alright… or you might end up with a pile of shredded wreckage.  Worse, even, are the people who want to throw out all the controls or to hit the gas in the hopes that more of the same will pull us through.  (Don’t even get me started on the people who want to light the car on fire because it’s their passenger’s fault they’re in this mess)

What stuck with me, though, was the calm determination on the faces of some of the drivers.  They weren’t professional drivers, they didn’t know exactly what to do, but they knew they were in trouble.  They fought for control the whole way down… and when they got to the bottom, they had to fight their way through traffic to get to work.  They might have felt some or all of the emotions that the other people did… but they focused on doing what they could to make a crappy situation better, and they weren’t crying for attention while they did it.

Those people.  We need more of them.


Renegades: Out of the Cold Coming Soon!

I’m excited to announce that the next book of the Renegades series will be coming soon to Amazon.   Renegades: Out of the Cold takes up where Renegades: Origins left off.   The band of misfits, pirates, and aliens have returned to human space.

The Renegades are coming out of the cold.

They have escaped from an alien prison, stolen a ship, survived pirate attacks, and now they are finally returning to civilization.
Yet civilization brings all new threats.  Old enemies await and new enemies abound.  They’ll have to work together to survive, even as their own pasts and fortunes seek to tear them apart.  Along the way, they’ll face an infamous assassin, slavers, bounty hunters, and get caught up in the biggest war that humanity has ever seen.
Because the Chxor are coming and if the Renegades won’t help stop them, who will?
Renegades: Out of the Cold will be available on Amazon in early April.  Check back here for updates, for the cover, and for snippets over the coming days!

Taxes for Writers Part 1

Taxes add more stress to your writing!
Taxes add more stress to your writing!

It’s that time of year again: Tax Season!  In honor of this (in)asuspicious occasion, I’m bringing up some tax advice that I have picked up from various conventions and doing my own taxes as a writer for five years now.

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!  In Part 2, we’ll look at how you are categorized in your taxes as a writer.

Starfest 2016 in Review

Eshka Jedi at Starfest
Eshka Jedi at Starfest

Starfest is come and gone, gee that was quick!

They held it at the Crown Plaza Hotel near DIA this year, which was a new venue.  The new location was sort of a mixed bag, while I felt there was plenty more room for vendors, artists, and media, there was a bit less room for panels (which is a big part of why I attend!)

That said, it was a fun convention.  I was supposed to have three panels: Ow! My Spleen, Where Did This Chocolate Come From?,  and Combat in SF and Fantasy.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the panel on Chocolate, though I heard it went well.

The Ow! My Spleen panel discussed injuries of characters, always a fun topic.   While I didn’t get everyone’s name from the panel, I was moderating, also participating was Sam Knight and  Chaz Kemp.  Both of them had some great contributions about what horrible things to inflict upon characters (all in the name of plot, story, and character growth, of course).

The Combat in SF and Fantasy panel went excellent as well.  We had Johnny Woodard, Betsy Dornbush, Chaz Kemp, and Courtney Farrel and one other author whose name I couldn’t remember (I think I have his business card, he had great things to say).  We had a very full room, with great discussions and I really want to thank Johnny Woodard and Courtney Farrel for their excellent expertise that they brought to the subject and it was awesome to have Chaz Kemp with an artist’s perspective.

All in all, I really enjoyed Starfest and I hope to be back next year!

Costumes at Starfest
Costumes at Starfest

Free Stories for Starfest 2016

Hi everyone!  I’ll be giving away stories for free on Amazon this weekend.  My short stories Look to the Stars and The Freeport Mutineers will both be free during Starfest 2016.  What that means is that you can get both stories from Amazon for free from March 12-13.

Look to the Stars blurb:

Look to the Stars, a short story by Kal Spriggs
Look to the Stars, a short story by Kal Spriggs

Mason McGann is a smuggler, a liar, and a cheat.

With his ship impounded by customs, he figures he has no choice left but to auction off information about the lost Dreyfus Fleet.

But things are never what they seem when you hold information that can change the course of history.




The Freeport Mutineers blurb:

The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs
The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs
Troubled by the rumors spread throughout the Southern Fleet, the young officer turned to the Marines and Sailors under his command… yet he and they were betrayed, arrested, and convicted of mutiny, all under the orders of the ambitious Lord Admiral Hennings.
Faced with the prospect of not only his own death, but that of the men under his command, Wachter must somehow find a way to do the right thing.  Yet there is little hope with he and his men jailed, weaponless, and condemned, while the town of Freeport lies under martial law and the threat of dark sorcery.
Only one course lays open to him, to break his oaths and to swear allegiance to the cause of another, to become exactly what his enemies have accused him of being: a mutineer.

Valor’s Child Kindle Scout Campaign Final Countdown!

Valor's Child by Kal Spriggs
Valor’s Child by Kal Spriggs

We’re getting into the last three days for the Kindle Scout campaign for Valor’s Child.  What does that mean for you?  Well, this is an opportunity to both help me to get a publishing contract and a chance to get a free book in the process.

For those of you who haven’t seen one of my posts, Valor’s Child is the first book of my new Young Adult series.  I like to describe it as a cross between Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers.

Jiden’s parents barely scrape out a living on the dry, dusty world of Century. Jiden wants more for herself and she is ready to step into a bright future, one which may lead her far from the frontier world of her birth. She’s just got one obstacle: five months of military school. She’ll be away from her friends, subjected to long hours and a crushing work load. Yet as the challenges mount, she finds that there may be more to life besides comfort and security… things like duty and service.

You can find the Kindle Scout campaign here.  All you need is an Amazon account to vote.  As a secondary note, if the campaign doesn’t get selected, I’ll explore some other options as far as publishing/self-publishing.

Kal’s March 2016 Forecast

Okay, seriously, what happened to my winter?  Sunny and 70 degrees in Colorado since early February makes me wonder when the other shoe will drop…

But corny weather jokes aren’t why you’re here (I hope, because that wasn’t even funny for me, I’m just running at a severe sleep deficit right now).

The good news:  I’ve sent Renegades: Out of the Cold off to my alpha readers and as I get their comments, I’ll edit it and send it to my beta readers.  I’ve also started in on a book for submittal to a publisher, it’s titled Prisoner of the Mind and it deals with the origins of Kandergain and Shaden, two of the most powerful psychics in the Shadow Space Universe.  Right now I’m just over two thirds of the way done, so I hope to have it finished soon!

I hope to have it done by the end of the month.  And by hope, I mean I’m going to have it done.   Which is good, because my plan is to publish Renegades: Out of the Cold in early April.

My writing project for April is the fourth book of the Shadow Space Chronicles: The Sacred Stars.  For those of you wondering what happened to the Ghornath and Strike Leader Maygar… well, we’ll get into that!  Assuming that novel goes smoothly, the plan is to have that one available for my readers in June.

As a reminder, my Kindle Scout campaign for Valor’s Child is winding down, please nominate it if you haven’t yet.  Also, I’ll be at Starfest in Denver this weekend (11-13 March) so be sure to see me there!

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!