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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year

I devote the first ten days of each new year to reorganizing my life. I began that tradition in the early eighties when I started buying wholesale copies of my own books to sell at signings and readings. Books are taxed by the State of Illinois at the same rate as jewelry and clothing, and state sales tax receipts must be filed with the state treasurer no later than the twentieth day after the collection period ends. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint), I haven’t received enough income from retail book sales during the past ten years to be required to file monthly. I now file annually, in January, for all the retail book sales I made during the previous year.

            I am a lazy record keeper, and I toss all of my receipts and sales records into a big pile on top of one of my many desks (the one in the back office where I file business records) and don’t give them a second thought during the rest of the year. Each January, I go through all of the receipts for the previous year and enter them into categories in a spreadsheet. I used to do this manually, but for the past twenty years I have used Microsoft Excel. This year, to make everything easier, I purchased Quicken for Home and Business.

            Now, as all you old-time writers who migrated from typewriters to dedicated word processors to computers know, there is a learning curve associated with new technology. I am in the process of learning how to use Quicken. It has some amazing features that will make life easier. For example, I don’t need to enter anything manually. All of my bank statements, including deposits and paid checks, are automatically downloaded from the bank and the income and expenditures placed in the proper categories. The same holds true for credit card purchases and payments. I also download sales figures from Amazon and Amazon Advantage. I can snap a picture of paper receipts with my Nook, sync the tablet with my laptop, and the data is automatically input into Quicken. Once I complete the initial set-up, I should be able to maintain real-time records of all transactions. O Brave New World that Hath Such Wonders in It!

            I also purchased two new 72-inch tall wooden bookcases. Once I get them assembled, I can pick up the random piles of books littering the floor and be able to find titles quickly and easily. The two new bookcases, once I get them assembled, should fit into a corner of the office adjacent to my business office where they will join seven other bookcases of the same size. That is the last available wall space in my entire house. I have twenty additional bookcases packed tightly against walls of the basement, and nine more crammed into my top floor bedroom.  Pulp magazines are in boxes in a walk-in closet of the bedroom, comic books and horror magazines are in Rubbermaid containers stacked in the center of the basement floor and on the floor of the upstairs bedroom. Copies of my own published works and copies of all manuscripts fill fourteen filing cabinets in my downstairs writing room. CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, WHS tapes, and vinyl records fill twenty media cabinets and cases scattered over all three floors.

            In another life I was a librarian. I earned my MA in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin. I learned how to organize written material and assorted media for quick identification and retrieval. But for the past three years, I have been too busy writing to be organized.

            So, for the next ten days, I will limit my writing time to mornings and spend my afternoons and evenings getting organized again. I will also limit my time on social media.

            Who knows? I may even find some time to do a little cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming.

            And then it’s back to writing full-time. I intend to complete six new novels and ten short stories during the year. I have them already planned, as much as I am able to plan anything, in my mind. Soon it will be time to flesh out the characters and generate the life-changing events that propel the characters into action. I eagerly look forward to looking over their shoulders as they become my closest friends and allies or deadliest of enemies. And, although I have their lives planned out, I know the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Therein lies the true story.

            Happy 2015 to one and all.


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