Bean Counting for Authors

Today’s post certainly won’t grab fiction readers, but I know there are plenty of authors who tune into my blog. I’m slipping this one is in specifically for them, because it’s the best resource I’ve read on the subject yet.

BeanCountingECover-742x1113Becoming a self-published author is frightening. Not only are you opening your creativity to significant criticism, you also have to navigate the entire world of Authorship alone. That means finding editors, formatters, and design artists; learning how to use new software and navigate unfamiliar publishing websites; and learning the ins and outs of marketing and promotions. It also means keeping accurate records for tax purposes.

This was by far the most terrifying aspect of authorship for me. I have zero experience with anything business, nor can I wrap my head around such concepts easily. Words and grammar, spacial art and design, historical research–yes! Numbers, accounting, IRS, legaleese–NO!

In all honesty, I’ve been winging it for years. I keep track of expenses and income, but beyond that, I just do a lot of finger crossing. How does one actually set oneself up as a legal business? What tax filing is required? What other records should I be keeping? Christina Mercer, self-published author and former CPA, answers all those questions and many more that I didn’t know enough to ask in her book Bean Counting for Authors. It was something of a relief to find out that I’d actually been operating as a Sole Proprietorship for four years and my feeble attempts to be on the up-and-up are sufficient from a legal standpoint. But Bean Counting does more than that. It describes other business models available for authors along with the pros and cons of each. It also breaks down legal terms, defines applicable taxes and an author’s legal responsiblities, and is filled with tips for more efficient management.

I’m actually still working my way through some of the meatier sections that require a little extra chewing. Most of the difficult stuff doesn’t really apply to me at the moment, and might never, but I want to understand it anyway. Fortunately, Ms. Mercer lays out her content clearly, concisely, and with a gentle humor. She gets that we’re not all going to grasp this stuff quickly, so she leads us through it gently, with lots of illustrations as to how, say, COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), NEXUS, or Sales and Use Tax might be relevant to an author. It’s tough stuff, but it’s need-to-know stuff, and it’s helping me gain confidence in my…yes, my author business.

Very well done and very helpful. I highly recommend it for those like me who really don’t have a clue what they’re doing from a business and financial standpoint. Grab a copy here!

The Break (Tales of a Revolution), by Lars D. Hedbor

 

the breakAs you know by now, I’m a history addict and a fan of Lars Hedbor’s historical fiction series, Tales of a Revolution. Over spring break, I had the honor of reading two of his latest releases. The first, The Wind, posted right after I read it. This is the second. It’s sort of fitting that it’s posting on Independence Day.

The Break is another off-the-beaten-path story of the Revoutionary War. This one starts in that very familiar epicenter of rebellion, Boston, and portrays quite realistically the violence visited on those who chose to remain loyal to the crown. Susannah Mills’ father is faced with the difficult choice—stay and take a chance with his family’s health and safety, or abandon his holdings and forge a new life in a safer locale. Like many Tories, he leaves Boston and repairs to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Though the lower colonies tried to enlist the Canadian colonies to join their rebellion, Canada remained steadfast. This is part of that story.

I particularly enjoyed reading this account from the flip viewpoint. The Tory perspective is neglected, even vilified, in our history books, but Hedbor very accurately reminds us that this was indeed a civil war, one that split friends and families down the middle as much as that greater Civil War of a later date, and that theirs was a valid viewpoint. Actually, it was the more reasonable, more conservative of the two. Sometimes we forget that the Royalists weren’t villains. The fact that The Break is told from this point of view, without ever changing to a more “patriotic” loyalty, makes for a unique and authentic voice. It’s odd to think that if history had turned out differently, it would be the firebrands who would be held in disdain today.

Having applauded Susannah Mills’ unique perspective, I confess I had a difficult time actually “seeing” the war through her eyes. The reader’s vision is constricted by the daily life of this proper middle class young lady, with most of the scenes confined to the inside of her own house, the store, or a small scope of the town. Vital information such as the battles for Quebec and Montreal, even the skirmishes and the building of forts very near to Halifax, are passed to us secondhand. It gave me a greater sympathy for the sheltered life of young women. But I wished it had been told through the freer perspective of Colin MacRae, her would-be suitor, who I found to be the more interesting character.

Even so, we’re treated to a broad scope of the rebellion and to the daily lives of those who lived through it. And once again, Hedbor brings particular life to these people through his magical use of language—through dialogue, through letters authentically penned with random capitalization and antiquated (British) spellings, and through the use of wonderful old words that we have, sadly, let go from our modern vocabulary (like my favorite, “poncy”). Let me give you a few examples of his gift for vernacular:

“They are small boys, playing with fire in a storehouse because it pleases them to see their shadows leap upon the walls. They will soon discover to their regret that they are not so large as their shadows permit them to believe that they are.”

“I will not stay here and expose you to the whims of the mob as they drag our community into the very flames of the hereafter.”

“I forget at times that I am not at my table of peers, and that your interests are far different from the high questions of philosophy that haunt the depths of our cups.”

“The loss and pain that we experience between the cradle and the grave is all part of the plan of the great Author of the world to instruct our souls on the meaning of strength and faith.”

As always, The Break is beautifully written and history faithfully portrayed. Written for adults, it is nevertheless appropriate for a high school audience. Ages 14+

Grab a copy from Amazon!

 

 

The Beloved Daughter, by Alana Terry

  • beloved daughterREADERS’ FAVORITE, 1ST PLACE GOLD MEDAL
  • GRACE AWARDS, 1ST PLACE
  • WOMEN OF FAITH WRITING CONTEST, 2ND PLACE
  • BOOK CLUB NETWORK, 1ST PLACE BOOK OF THE MONTH
  • INDIEFAB FINALIST, RELIGIOUS FICTION

I don’t rave about books very often, but this one blew me away. I’ve familiarized myself with some of the inhumane activities going on in North Korea under the current Kim dynasty. It’s gut-wrenching. Nauseating. I almost can’t believe these Nazi-like atrocities are going on in the 21st century, but then again, I’ve been shocked by recent events in the Middle East. Obviously, people still have the flaws of power, greed, lust, and violence. Dictators seem to have them in abundance.

Let me warn you now. The Beloved Daughter is highly disturbing and appropriate only for a mature audience of high school age or older. From everything I’ve read, this fictional account is extremely accurate and takes no pains to soften the truth of what’s really going on behind North Korea’s closed borders. Chung-Cha is abused in every way. But this isn’t a dark, morbid read. It’s a celebration of life and love and of the human spirit. It’s also a hard look at why God lets such atrocities go unaccounted for.

The Beloved Daughter is written from a Christian perspective. The atheistic communist government allows for the worship of only one god, the “Beloved Leader” (emperor). Anyone who runs amuck of the ruling dynasty finds themselves dead or imprisoned, and Christians are among the most hunted subgroups. But the book is not at all preachy. It’s brutally honest. After giving the most horrific examples of evil, it cries out, “How can a God of love permit this to happen?” The answers are as hard and muddied and honest as the question.

This is a phenomenal read. It’s won numerous awards. And I’m proud to say it’s independently published. Put it on your must read list. Ages 14+

Grab a copy from Amazon!

Dumpsters and Dinosaurs, by Lois D. Brown

Just a quick note before I get to today’s review to let you know that Blood Moon is FINALLY available in paperback!

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dumpsters and dinosThis is a fun new release by fellow Emblazoner Lois D. Brown who, as you may recall, wrote a fantastic young adult series I really enjoyed. (The first book, Cycles, was a top 5 finisher in the 2012 Kindle Book Review Book Awards and is now priced free everywhere. Here’s my review, written before I knew her.) This new one is my favorite middle grade title by this talented writer.

Silly, funny, and just a little outrageous, Dumpsters & Dinosaurs has true kid appeal. Twelve-year-old Steven Walker has just moved to Vernal, Idaho, but making friends isn’t easy for a kid who works part time as a janitor and wears jeans from Goodwill. Fortunately—or unfortunately?—a bit of rubbish he saved out of the museum’s garbage bin is about to change everything.

The story is cute, and the word pictures Ms. Brown created made me chuckle. (ig. Three wiener dogs could fit inside of it.) She speaks like a kid without sounding absurd and nails those awkward tween moments, like trying to chew in front of cute girls without making funny noises. A story that will keep kids entertained and turning pages. My only caution is some evolutionary science that doesn’t jive with a Creationist point of view. Recommended for kids ages 8+.

Grab a copy from Amazon!

Peak, by Roland Smith

PeakI thoroughly enjoyed this teen boy adventure. Peak Marcello is a 14-year-old boy, the son of two well-known mountaineers, so he hardly can help it that climbing is in his blood. But when he’s caught climbing a New York skyscraper, he only escapes jail when his father, Josh, shows up and offers to take him back to Thailand with him until things cool down.

But Josh has never been part of Peak’s life. He left when pregnancy and then a serious fall caused Peak’s mom to give up the sport. Peak hopes for a meaningful time with his dad, and he’s stunned to find out Josh’s motivations are primarily financial. Josh wants Peak to climb Mount Everest. If he succeeds, he’d be the youngest climber ever, which could only benefit Josh’s guide business.

This is a fantastic adventure novel. Not only do we have a well-rounded character in Peak with a tough predicament, we get to climb Mount Everest with him! The context is a virtual crash course in procedure, equipment, hazards, glories, geography, and topography. It got my blood pumping, I’ll tell you! In addition, we’re introduced to several sherpas, those unsung heroes who guide climbers to the top, making the trip again and again. It was an interesting look at the local people who live, work, and often die tragically on Mount Everest. We even get a taste of the restrictive politics of China (Tibet), which shares the mountain with Nepal.

Peak becomes close friends with a local Nepalese boy named Sun-jo whose grandfather is a sherpa. Without giving away anything, let me just say the friendship does much to drive the story into deeper levels and illustrate who Peak really is, deep down. Peak’s classic quote, the great takeaway at the end of his emotional journey, is: “The only thing you’ll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below.”

I loved Peak. I enjoyed his story, and I liked his conclusions. Moms, there are a couple mild swear words, but I still highly recommend for boys (and girls who like a good kick-butt adventure now and again). Ages 12+.

Blood Moon has released!

blood moonI am thrilled to announce that after 1 year and 5 days, 672 hours, and 95K words, Blood Moon, book two of the Ella Wood trilogy, is now available! Here’s the blurb:

Charleston lies in ruins and so, it seems, does Emily’s future. She has sacrificed everything for a chance to attend university—her family, her home, even her relationship with Thaddeus Black. But without her father’s blessing, how will she afford tuition? With hostilities raging between North and South, how will she gain acceptance at a school in the Union? She’s lost so much already. What will the war claim next? In the midst of such uncertainty, Emily finds that hope can rise from ashes, determination grows with adversity, and love can take root in even the most stubborn of hearts.

Ella Wood coverI’m currently working on the paperback version, but I’ve decided to postpone the Nook and Kobo editions until I try a run in Amazon’s lending program. If you haven’t read book one, Ella Wood, it’s currently free for Kindle. Now…on to the conclusion, Ebb Tide!

Here are both Amazon links:
Blood Moon
Ella Wood

Blood Moon: Military Innovations of the Charleston Campaign

blood moonThis is the final post in a four-part series about writing and researching my upcoming young adult historical fiction novel, Blood Moon, the second book in my Ella Wood trilogy.

The Civil War provided the turning point from the old European style of fighting (massed armies standing in a field with inaccurate, bayonetted muskets) to modern warfare. It also marked the origin of many of the weapons and techniques that would be so strongly associated with World War I fifty years later. The sieges of Vicksburg (May – July 1863) and Petersburg (June 1864 – March 1865), especially, are noted for their extensive use of trenches, but it would be the Siege of Fort Wagner (July – Sept 1863) outside Charleston harbor, and the harbor itself, that would prove the testing ground for many innovations and improvements.

Barbed Wire

Wagner marked the first time wire entanglements were used on a wide scale. Five wooden stakes were driven deep into the ground and strung tightly with wire. The resulting quincunx made an effective obstacle against advancing Union forces. These were the baby brothers of the barbed wire barriers of WWI.

WWI razor wire obstruction

WWI razor wire obstruction

Rifled Artillery

Rifling had been around for several centuries, and conical ammunition since the early 1800’s, but it was the Civil War that truly tested this combination in high powered artillery. The Battle of Fort Pulaski in April 1862 in the mouth of the Savannah River proved the effectiveness of rifled cannons at close range against the brick masonry that was the standard in coastal defense works up to that time. During the Siege of Fort Wagner, the strength, range, and accuracy of rifled artillery was further tested when prolonged bombardment reduced Fort Sumter to a pile of rubble. Shells were also accurately fired into the city of Charleston from a range of over four miles. This also marked the first time a city with a present civilian population was specified as a military target.

Two 30-pound Parrott rifles

Two 30-pound Parrott rifles used against Pulaski and Sumter.

Machine Guns

I’m going to quote from Steven R. Wise’s Gate of Hell again in describing the next innovation. Requa batteries “were intended to replace the short-range field guns in defensive positions. They consisted of twenty-five rifle barrels arranged horizontally and attached to a field carriage. Operated by three men who fed in a clip consisting of twenty-five cartridges, the gun was effective up to thirteen hundred yards and a good crew could fire 175 shots per minute. The engineers, impressed by these accurate and efficient weapons, placed them liberally among their trenches” outside Wagner. The Requa gun was, of course, a forerunner of the machine gun.

Requa gun

Requa gun. Note the fellow in the background holding the 25-bullet clip.

Mines

Rains Barrel Torpedo (underwater mine)

Rains Barrel Torpedo (underwater mine)

Confederate General Gabriel J. Rains developed the first landmine, a simple barrel filled with gunpowder and fitted with a fuse and detonator. Condemned as unethical by the North, they were used to good effect by the South throughout the war. Underwater mines first appeared in Virginia’s James River but received a far more thorough testing in Charleston harbor. General Beauregard, in charge of the defense of Charleston, was especially keen on exploring the possiblities of these “torpedoes” and used them extensively. In fact, they generated such fear in the Union navy that they almost single-handedly prevented the takeover of Charleston in 1863 after the Union army took Fort Wagner and decimated Fort Sumter in the harbor mouth.

Submarines

It was also General Beauregard who championed the use of torpedoes as offensive weapons. Ram class warships were steamers fitted with a long underwater spar and used by both sides in the war, but it was the South’s Captain Francis D. Lee who, encouraged by Beauregard, experimented with the placement of torpedoes at the end of the ram. The limited success of these torpedo rams was due, not to lack of effort, enthusiasm, or ingenuity, but to the South’s painful lack of reliable engines. The first tests were conducted with rowboats!  Of all attempts, only the David accomplished anything when it disabled the Union ironclad, New Ironsides. But experiments continued. Beauregard and his engineers eventually fastened a torpedo to the ram of a new submarine prototype, the famous H. L. Hunley, and in 1864, after the loss of several crews during trial runs, the Hunley became the first submarine to sink a ship when it destroyed the Union’s HousatonicThe Hunley disappeared in the attack with all hands lost. It was discovered in 1995 and raised in 2004.

HL Hunley

HL Hunley

Cooperation Between Military Branches

Finally, the Siege of Fort Wagner marked the first major amphibious assault using the combined forces of the army and navy. While the army dug in and battered Wagner from the trenches, the navy’s ironside and fleet of monitors pulled along side the island fort and provided fire cover for the army’s operations and assaults. (Note the role of the battleships in the illustration of the storming of Fort Wagner below.) This proved a template for later cooperation between the armed forces.

The Storming of Fort Wagner, an 1890 painting showing American soldiers attacking the Confederates at the fort.

“The Storming of Fort Wagner”, an 1890 painting showing the charge of the 54th Massachusetts Colored regiment.