Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing as a Business: Tracking Expenses

On Monday I showed you my easy method for tracking income (click on "Writing as a Business: Tracking Income" for the article). Today I'm sharing the second tab of my Income-Expense spreadsheet: Expenses.

Why should you track your expenses?

1. For planning purposes. This helps you set aside funds for upcoming expenses. Imaginary example: If you spent $150 on office supplies, $120 on web-hosting, $200 on promotion items, $100 on professional dues, and $300 on everything else, you can use these figures ($870) to plan for the following year.

Maybe you decide to drop a few items. Maybe you know you'll need more for other writing expenses. This just gives you a starting point.

2. For tax purposes. Writers earning income need to maximize their tax deductions. Log your expenses and throw your receipts in a folder. Tax time won't be nearly as daunting!

This is a sampling of some of my expenses.

As you can see, I created four columns. You might need five. Or three. It's up to you! 

The "Description" is who I made the payment to. The "Category" is for me to keep track of how I'm spending money. The date and amount are self-explanatory. An auto-sum formula adds all the figures in the "Amount" column. There are some expenses I won't log until the end of the year. I'll add up all of our monthly Internet bills and add the sum to the total then.

What expenses should you be logging? 

Anything related to your business. Office supplies, office equipment, postage, professional organization dues, conference expenses, books on writing, books to use as comparables on your proposal, mileage to and from writer's groups, promotional items, stationery, a portion of your Internet service, any data back-up service you use, web-hosting, website costs, any self-publishing costs like an editor, cover art, stockphotos, etc...

**Check with a tax professional for a full, detailed, accurate list of exactly what you can deduct on your taxes.**

My husband and I hire professionals to do our taxes. I plan on asking them if we're allowed to deduct the entire amount we pay for Internet or only a percentage. Also I'm finding out if we are allowed to deduct anything for my home office.

The tax laws are constantly changing, so it's good to either pay a tax expert or do extensive research yourself.

Obviously, it's all fun and games to have an expense spreadsheet until you realize you haven't logged your expenses in six months. I have a solution for that too. Keep a manila folder handy. Label it Current Year Writing Expenses. Throw every receipt into this folder. Try to toss them in the front so they're in order. You can always log the receipts later. :)

Do you log your expenses? What did I miss?

Have a terrific weekend! I'll be taking Labor Day off, but come back on Wednesday for my big Critique Boutique launch!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Writing as a Business: Tracking Income

Last week, I spent hours researching a spreadsheet for my business. I wanted a simple income/expense tracking system for my writing. Two hours of online searching didn't yield what I'd hoped to find. Either the samples were too in-depth, too simple, or just too something! And that showed me the problem--I didn't know what I wanted.

Microsoft Excel to the rescue! I created a new spreadsheet and started a table for income. Further down the page, I started an expense form. But I couldn't format the size of the columns and rows differently. At that point, frustration roared.

I'm not the first writer to need an easy money tracking system! This shouldn't be hard. What am I missing??

Cracking open a Coke, I noticed the tabs under my spreadsheet. Duh! I'll create three tables in one spreadsheet and format them by giving them their own tab.

Why three tables? One to track my income. One to log my expenses. One to keep track of my business banking.

That's right. Business banking. As most of you know, I sold a romance novel to Harlequin Love Inspired. Next week I'm launching my Critique Boutique, a paid critique service. I also occasionally submit short stories/pieces to various publications. Since writing is my business, I set up a bank account specifically for it. This helps me set aside money for taxes, keep my business funds separate from our household's, and generally makes my writing life easier.

Let's look at tracking income. 

My income spreadsheet has seven columns: Source, Date, Gross, Deductions, Net, Taxes, Total.

Source: Where the income came from.
Date: Date received
Gross: Total amount of check before any deductions
Deductions: Any fees taken out of check (agency fee, etc...)
Net: Take home amount
Taxes: Percentage of check I'm saving for taxes
Total: Total minus fees and taxes

ABC Publishing, 08/25/2014, $200.00, $30.00, $170.00, $60.00, $110.00

How did I arrive at these figures? The gross amount of the payment is $200.00. Let's say there's a 15% agent fee of $30.00. The net value of the check is then $170.00. I have to estimate how much to pay for taxes, and I have to pay taxes on the gross amount. If you pay 30% tax, you need to set aside $60. This leaves $110 for me to actually keep.

I also set the spreadsheet up with formulas to automatically add all the columns. This lets me know at a glance how much I need to have set aside for taxes and how much money I've earned.

Why 30% taxes? Well, it's complicated.  I spent three hours researching taxes. As a self-employed writer, I have to pay double the FICA taxes because I don't have an employer to split the cost with me. It differs for each individual and depends on where you live. I pay Federal taxes, State taxes, and Local taxes. It's confusing!

The key to any report lies in updating it. Every time I receive a payment, I must log it into my spreadsheet or else it's useless. :)

Join me on Wednesday for a breakdown of the expense report!

Any questions about tracking your income? I'm no expert, but I'm happy to help!

Have a terrific day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writer's Life: Christina Lorenzen

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life! Every Wednesday features a writer of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I'm excited to share some of my favorite authors and hope you'll find new books for your to-be-read pile!

I'm so excited to host debut author Christina Lorenzen!! Christina and I met online through our social networks, and we instantly bonded. Christina is super-supportive, honest, and upbeat. She just makes me smile! Her debut novel, A Husband for Danna, released yesterday!!

Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

For me, writing is an escape from the tragedy and sorrow that is just too prevalent in our world today. I am a HUGE Hallmark Channel fan because I need happy endings. I am also a lover of small towns, tight knit communities and happily ever afters. These are the things about my writing that make my heart sing. I realize that my characters will have to face setbacks and struggles, and no story is a good story without some conflict, but in the end I can guarantee my readers a happy ever after.

2. What is the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now as a writer?

I would say that it’s a tie between self-doubt and procrastination. Or maybe it’s the self-doubt that causes the procrastination lol. I don’t outline but I keep a novel notebook for each of my books. I have a notebook going for my second story and I have a notebook for another book. But somehow I can’t seem to get started. In the back of my mind I keep thinking “What if I can’t do it again?” Writing a book, and completing it, is a huge accomplishment. Looking back at all the work it took to get this book to the point where it was accepted for publication makes me doubt I can do it again. And, of course, it’s my goal to be prolific so I have to find a way to move past the fear of becoming a ‘one hit wonder’.

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

This is such a fun question! I’m a cat lover so when I’m feeling stressed I like to sit down with a cat and let myself go into an almost meditative state listening to their purring. When I’m feeling a bit ‘dry’ I can fill my creative well with jewelry design. Back in 2012 I was having a lot of problems with writer’s block. I visited a local craft store with my daughter, who had taken up making these yarn bracelets that were a craze at the time. I wondered into the bead aisle and was stunned at all the gorgeous beads. I bought a few things, made a few pieces and slowly it became a regular habit. I now have a shop on Etsy (Addie Frank Designs) where I sell my jewelry. But I’m also very interested in helping others and my jewelry has let me do that. I’ve donated dozens of pieces to help raise funds for a woman battling breast cancer and a child battling leukemia. Jewelry design helps me fill my creative well and help those battling cancer if only in a small way.

4. What are you working on now?

Well, I’m working on getting myself past my self-doubt lol. But seriously, I have another book that’s based on my favorite fairy tale, Rapunzel. My grandmother used to tell me that story as a child on the nights she would babysit my brother and I. I even have a dedication page in it to her. I also have an inspirational story that I’m hoping to complete by the end of the year and pitch to Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. I love reading and writing inspirational stories and I believe they do so much more than entertain readers. This is a vital genre that offers people hope, builds faith and, I believe, brings them closer in their relationship with God.

Christina, I totally get the self-doubt!! Starting a new project can be daunting, especially for a plotter like me. One thing that helps? I take long walks and ask a lot of what-if type questions. And I try not to force or rush the story idea process. But I still struggle with doubt. Probably always will! Your "purr" therapy is my kind of relaxation! I love cats. I'm excited to see what the future holds for you, Christina. Thanks so much for being my guest!


A Husband for Danna ~ 

Off and running! In her frenzied quest to escape from a groom her father has chosen for her, Danna Rashba ‘borrows’ a limousine parked on Main Street. The last thing on her mind is finding a groom from another wedding in the backseat. What are the chances that the bride and groom from two different weddings running from the altar on the same day? The last thing Danna wants is a hostage as she tries to escape from her nuptials.

The last thing Eric Harmon wants is to be saddled with yet another spoiled, needy woman. He’s furious about this wrench in his plans, he accuses Danna of stealing. He wants to send her home in a cab as soon as they get to the nearest town, but Danna refuses. Much to Eric’s frustration, one thing after another seems to keep them tied together.

Soon the generosity of a local shopkeeper and several people in town have them mistaken for newlyweds. Danna and Eric find themselves stepping into the role as husband and wife leading them to realize they just may be each other’s ‘match’. But will Danna be able to stand up to her rigid, old fashioned father and choose her own husband?

Click HERE to buy at Amazon! 
Click HERE to buy at Barnes & Noble!

About Christina ~ 

Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door-to-door saleswoman. Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less walking than going door to door. A Husband for Danna is Christina’s first novel. She is busy working on her next. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.


Do you love happy endings? (I do!!)

Have a terrific day!

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Learned From The Color Run

My teenage daughter runs cross country every fall. Before the official start of the season, she decided to participate in The Color Run with a girlfriend. She'd been looking forward to this for weeks, but deep muscle strain in her foot forced her in a "boot" and on the couch for two weeks. No race for her.

The ticket was non-refundable, so I had it transferred in my name. I figured I could walk it. I couldn't find a friend to join me on such short notice. My hubby agreed at the last minute, but registration had closed. Thankfully I was able to register him when I picked up my race packet!

We didn't get as much color as many racers--we opted not to join the color explosion after the race!

Did my husband want to run this 5k? No. He took one look at the shirt, headband, and temporary tattoos and blanched. He wasn't a happy camper. I tried on my gear, at which point my daughter forbade me from wearing the headband. Naturally, I wore it anyway.

Race day came Saturday morning. I'm a little spazzy so I insisted we leave over an hour early to get a parking spot. When we arrived downtown, we missed our planned parking lot, got a little chippy with each other, drove around, and finally parked. Our neighbors parked there too! A quick round of picture-taking ensued before we headed to the starting point.

The first thing I learned was people take their attire seriously. Tutus, striped socks, colored tights, pigtails--you name it--runners had their happy clothes on! Everyone wore the headband. Yay! I fit in!

The next thing I learned? A good friend warned me not to do the pre-race Zumba. I mean, it was early, cold, and we were preparing to run a 5k. More exercise? No thanks. :)

I left most of my belongings in the car, but I needed my phone in case our kids had an emergency. Wish I would have thought to slip it in a plastic baggie, though.

As the start time approached, my hubby and I joined the crowd in the street. We whooped and yelled with everyone else. Our plan was to walk the entire thing, but most participants started the race running. We opted to alternate between jogging and walking.

We loved the low-key vibe. After the initial surge, most people walked the course. And having colored powder flung at you? Pretty fun! Music blared throughout the race, and it was really cool to see the gorgeous architecture in downtown Toledo.

Five kilometers flew by. Yes, my legs grew tight from lack of stamina, but my hubby and I were proud of ourselves for pushing through and running roughly half of it. After we crossed the finish line, we met up with our neighbors again and took pictures. I'm so proud of next-door neighbor (and good friend!) for running the whole course! Yay, Debbie!!

The biggest thing I learned from running The Color Run? How fun it was to do something new with my husband. We both had a blast. We even enjoyed the "happy" clothes and paint being tossed at us. This was hands-down my favorite date in years. I can't wait to do it again next year, and this time, we're training for it!

Have you ever run a 5k race? If yes, what did you like about it? If no, would you consider running one? 

Have an amazing day!

Friday, August 15, 2014

School Starts Next Week

This summer felt like a bust. We didn't go on our annual camping trip. The weather has been lukewarm all month. Sports' practices have prevented us from sleeping in for six weeks, maybe longer. What's summer without going to a pool and getting extra sleep?

All this adds up to me desperately clinging to the last bits of summer. I don't want it to slip from my grasp! When I do? Fall will be here (and I do love fall), then cold weather, Christmas, and a long, long winter. I'll miss our days full of sunshine and flip-flops.

Anyway, the impending school year means shopping, registration, pictures, meetings, worries about classes, and more shopping. If you have younger children at home, it also means sibling fights of epic proportions and a general desire to ship the kids to boarding school for the year.

I always, always sigh a huge sigh of relief the first day when I have those glorious silent hours back. And much as I dread leaving lovely summer behind, I'm ready to get back to my schedule. Call me selfish, ambitious, dedicated--whatever!--but I miss being alone to work on my writing.

In the meantime, we'll visit the ice cream joint, fit a few fun things in the afternoons, and relax. Summer isn't over yet!

Are you ready for a change in seasons?

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kitty Videos Make Me Smile

I love silly animal videos. Yes, I watch them on Facebook. I pin pictures of kitties, puppies, and an assortment of adorable animals on Pinterest. They make me smile!

Here are a few of my latest faves:

This dog is so patient!!

I saw this on Facebook and laughed!

Things Cats Do That'd be Creepy if You Did Them ~

What videos do you watch? Are there any you can't walk away from?

Have a fabulous day!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

When to Say Yes and When to Say No

Last summer I got a call from our pastor asking me if I'd consider teaching Sunday school. I have plenty of experience. I've taught three-year-olds, four-year-olds, second-graders, even third through fifth graders. Since we move often, I've taught at several churches but not at our current church.

This is a beautiful church in downtown Indianapolis. Isn't it pretty?

I love children. Love babies. Love teens. I'm honored to share God's word with them.

Last year everything was really, really hard. I had the time, but I did not have the emotional, physical, or mental resources to take on a leadership role with our congregation's precious kids. So I declined.

I declined many things last year. And I felt guilty. Thankfully, God provided other teachers for the children. A few months later, I was spending a lot of time on the road to help my parents. My spirits were low, and I reached a critical point on my writing journey, one where I was ready to walk away. I had nothing left to give anyone.

Then, in God's great mercy, my father's situation leveled out a bit. My mom, sister, and I decided on a long-term course of action. I was offered a book contract. Slowly, my inner resources were renewed.

This summer, I smiled at the darling children in our church, and it hit me how much I missed being around them. The seed to teach was planted, but I wanted to pray about it.

Yesterday morning, our pastor announced a need for Sunday school teachers, and this time I knew it was time to say yes. I immediately volunteered. 

God does not call us to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. Sometimes we aren't even sure why we want to say no; we just don't have a good feeling or a servant's heart about the opportunity. In those cases, I think it's really important to pray for God's guidance. It's okay to say no.

Other times an opportunity comes our way and we get a twinge of excitement. Sure, we worry about the commitment, but overall we think we can manage. Those are the times to launch forward and say yes.

Remember, we all go through seasons. What feels impossible now might feel simple in two years. The important thing is to pray and allow God to guide you.

Have you ever said no to a ministry or volunteer opportunity? Did you feel guilty about it?

Have a fantastic Monday!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Did Summer Derail Your Writing Progress?

Has it been weeks since you added words to your novel? Or revised? Or started a story idea?

Is your heart racing? Does a feeling of dread at your lack of progress eat at your stomach?

I know. Whenever I take more than three days off from a writing project, I panic. Let's just say I've been high strung a lot lately! My usual summer writing schedule hit the skids in early July due to new sports' obligations. My daughter joined a runner's group. My son started weight-training. And now that August is here, they both have mandatory cross-country and football practices every morning.

Instead of acting like a normal human being, I had a series of ridiculous thoughts looping around my brain constantly.

I'm wasting my whole summer in the car and I have nothing to show for it!
I should be working on a new plot.
I should be scheduling my day better.
The house is a disaster. Why is the house always a disaster??
Why is there an appointment/meeting/practice every five minutes?
I'm getting nothing done! And I'm not even having fun!

After about a week of that nonsense, I mentally slapped myself. Then I wrote down every writing-related thing I'd accomplished since June 1. I was shocked at how much I HAD gotten done! And knowing I'd completed quite a few tasks gave me the push I needed to start a new project.

This week has been crazy. But I brainstormed character names during a walk Wednesday night. I squeezed in three short sessions of Pinterest searches for the right hero and heroine. I told myself five to fifteen minutes here and there are better than nothing.

Thankfully, I had three full hours yesterday afternoon to relax and work. Did I take a twenty-minute nap? You betcha! Did I work on my new plot the rest of the time? Yes!

Next week will be busy too, but I'm setting small goals for each day. School will be back in session before I know it, and writing will take top priority. Until then? I'm trying to chill out!

Do you get more done in the summer? Less? What season seems to be the best time for you to work?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Writer's Life: Sarah Loudin Thomas

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life! Every Wednesday features a writer of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I'm excited to share some of my favorite authors and hope you'll find new books for your to-be-read pile!

I'm super excited to have Sarah Loudin Thomas on the blog today! Sarah and I originally "met" online. We've crossed virtual paths for a few years now, so I was thrilled when Sarah signed with an agent from Books & Such Literary Agency AND sold her debut novel to Bethany House Publishers! Woo-hoo!! Sarah has a warm, friendly personality that comes through in everything she does. I'm so glad I finally got to meet her in person last year! And her inspirational romance, Miracle in a Dry Season, surprised me. I knew it would be great, but I wasn't expecting such a unique time period and voice! My review is below.

Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?  

My writing is a love letter to my family and my heritage. I grew up hearing all these wonderful stories mostly about people who are long gone. West Virginia hunting stories, farming stories, funny stories, LIVING stories. So when I draw on the wealth of my family's oral tradition to put words on paper, it's as though I get to be a participant. I get to meet people, to know them intimately, and to experience life with them. It really does make my heart sing!

2. What is the biggest hurdle you're facing right now as a writer? 

I've gotten just enough reader feedback to begin to feel confident that Miracle in a Dry Season is a book people like. Which feels fantastic. It also makes me shake in my boots when they say they're looking forward to the next book. What if it's not as good? What if readers just don't like the story? What if I'm a one-hit-wonder? So, yeah, my biggest hurdle right now is self-doubt. Thank goodness the second book is already written!

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

I hike! I take Thistle (my dog) to the woods almost every day. We're fortunate to live really close to Pisgah National Forest where there are miles of trails to wander. I do my best thinking and plotting while I'm out there surrounded by nature breathing the fresh, clean air--the same sort of nature my Appalachian characters are surrounded by. We even walk in the rain and winter wind. I guess you could say Thistle is my muse since she won't let me skip our daily walk!

4. What are you working on now?

I just turned in book #2. While I'm waiting on the next round of edits for that, I'll get cracking on the third book in the Appalachian Blessings series. I have a draft but I want to make MAJOR changes to it. And then there's all the work of promoting Miracle in a Dry Season--social media, events, soliciting reviews, interacting with readers--it requires a good bit of time. When I started out I didn't realize how much books would overlap. Here I am promoting book #1, waiting for edits on book #2, and rewriting book #3. AND there's a fourth book I'm just itching to write!


Sarah, your love of West Virginia came through in your book. What a blessing to have a rich history brought to life through family stories--and brought to the reader as well! I understand the doubts too. We can't help but worry how our work will be accepted! Thistle sounds like the perfect muse and personal trainer. I get ideas when I walk too. :)

Thanks so much for being my guest today!


Miracle in a Dry Season 
It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

About Sarah ~

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, releases August 2014 through Bethany House. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.

A graduate of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, Sarah once dreamed of being a marine scientist. But her love for words won out and she has spent much of her career in public relations and marketing. She currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.


My review ~ 5 Star!!

Settle in with a soft blanket and a warm beverage, because this book is all about savoring the details. Several things surprised me: the 1950's setting, the dominant point of view being male, and the gentle tone. It's a lovely book, one that stays with you, one that you wish wouldn't end. 

Ms. Thomas uses her rich knowledge of West Virginia to bring the little town of Wise to life during a drought. While full of conflict, it's never overly dramatic. I loved watching the main character, Casewell, grow spiritually. His relationship with his father brought tears to my eyes. And Perla, the heroine, was so easy to love. The characters and town came to life for me--they felt very real.

I loved this book and can't wait for the next novel in this series to come out!

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.*


Did you grow up hearing about family lore? Did it shape your impressions?

Have an amazing day!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Weekend Fun with Toxic Water

Water messed with our plans on Saturday. I woke up, brewed coffee, and drove my daughter to cross country practice. We listened to the radio on the way and heard something about Toledo being under a water advisory. I shrugged, didn't think much of it, and drank the rest of the coffee in my travel mug.

After I dropped off my daughter, I headed to Kroger. It was even more of a madhouse than usual on a Saturday morning. Signs taped to the door announced they were out of bottled water. The under-the-sprinkler produce had disappeared. People loaded carts full of Gatorade. I frowned. Maybe this water advisory was a bigger deal than I thought.

I went home and listened to the news. Apparently, algae blooms released microcystins (toxins) into the water. Most of this area relies on Lake Erie for our water supply, and the part of Lake Erie is a large basin that can get stagnant in warm, non-windy conditions. The algae blooms are made worse with rain because fertilizer from fields runs off. Basically, it's a big, complicated mess and makes my head spin. Here's more info, "Toledo-Area Water Advisory."

When cross country practice was over, we packed the car for a day trip to Put-In-Bay, a super-fun island on Lake Erie. It drizzled all morning, but the weather forecast said no rain. Thirty minutes from the ferry, it down-poured. The sky had that it's-going-to-rain-all-day look. We cancelled our golf-cart reservation and drove around Port Clinton instead. We found a restaurant for lunch and figured if the rain let up we could still catch a ferry to the island. It didn't let up, so we headed over to Huron, Ohio, an adorable seaside town we used to live in years ago. We stopped at a drugstore and bought their last three jugs of water. Bottled water was running out everywhere!

So the rain ruined our day plans, and the toxic water ruined everything else. All weekend my stomach felt funny. I blame it on my toxic water coffee, but it's probably just due to me running around so much this week. :)

I hope the water advisory is lifted soon!!

Do you have a well or city water? Have you ever dealt with a water advisory?

Have a terrific day!