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Messages - Rob Martin

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> Self Employment tax is 15%

Something wrong there! There's no such thing as "self employment tax." You are taxed at your marginal tax rate, with can be anything from zero to near 40 percent.

As others have pointed out (I think), FICA tax is roughly 12 percent, with half that credited back to you on form 1040 as a deduction from income. You also get to deduct self-employment health insurance, which for many of us effectively wipes out our self-employment income.

New last year was a 20 percent deduction in an effort to bring self-employment income on a par with corporate income taxes. For me, that netted nothing because the health insurance deduction got there first.

I have always used TurboTax Basic because I like to work directly with the forms, and Basic has all forms, though Intuit would like you to think differently. This year however I spent $50 for "Deluxe" because it includes state tax form. It's well worth the extra $20 to have that filled out automagically (more or less).

If any of you had "issue" who were hit by the Kiddie Tax as obscenely expanded in the 2017 tax law, be aware that the law was changed in 2019. TurboTax hasn't yet amended the 2018 or 2019 software to enable us to recoup some or all of that money, but promises to do so "soon". I plan to file for an extension for the Kiddies, so they can file in September. I'll file as usual on April 1. I figure that's a great time to slip it in, beneath the deluge that's coming from the procrastinators. I had a pal who used to start his tax return on April 15, finish in the early hours of the 16th, then drive to the nearby small city where he worked, where he'd reset the postage meter to the 15th and put it in the outgoing mail.

So, to begin with, I am a pubic accountant. And I say, with all due respect, the idea that there is no "self employment tax" is laughable. As a self employed individual, you are responsible for both employer and employee taxes. The current rate (for the 2019 tax year) is 12.4% for social security and 2.9% for medicare. This 15.3% total make up the FICA taxes. You are responsible for paying the ENTIRE AMOUNT, however, you receive an above the line credit of 50%. This is based on your SE gains and is IN ADDITION to, not included as, your nominal tax rate (look at 1040 line 15. Your nominal tax rate is calculated before that on line 12a)

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Understanding the Amazon/Audible 1099s
« on: January 23, 2020, 01:01:12 pm »
Here's hoping. Amazon and the rest of the United States has until Jan. 31 to mail 1099's or face substantial penalties with a cap of $250,000 (for large businesses) if they are late by up to 30 days. If they intentionally don't file, there is no cap on penalties.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Understanding the Amazon/Audible 1099s
« on: January 22, 2020, 01:06:13 pm »
It looks to me as though they're breaking out income by type as follows:

Createspace - hardcopy
Audible - audio Books
KDP - eBooks
Associates - Affiliate link program.

As an accountant, I would group income by type (as above), and as such, the category would combine domestic and international sales. I would think the Zon, since they're differentiating income, are saying that your affiliate income (which is service, not royalty income) is less than 600 or you're set up as something other than a disregarded entity. If either is true, no 1099 would be required.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Could anyone help me with my space opera blurb?
« on: January 20, 2020, 07:59:02 am »
As far as the hook, in one to three SHORT sentences, you must: 1) explain what the book is about; 2) Show the ultimate stakes of the story. We must do this in a way that is evocative.


Past and present collides when a mysterious stowaway triggers an event that forces Captain Dangard to face his long-buried secrets.

This doesn't work in my opinion. 1) what's wrong with the past and present colliding? How does a stowaway trigger an event? What event? We all have long-buried secrets, so what's so bad about Captain Dangard's? The only emotion I feel from this is confusion.

As for the Synopsis, it is NOT about the plot, it’s about EMOTION. Character is a much better starting point than plot. 1) Identify the protagonist and what (s)he is going through (this gives the reader an emotional lens to look through/connects the reader through shared experience); 2) Explain the plot as it happens to the character.  Leave the reader wanting more. 3) End it with a cliffhanger that connects the protagonist to the hook. Make sure the reader wants to know what happens next. Use an ‘If Then’ or a question.

Before the legend of this feared pirate even began, a young military officer chooses honor over duty. His actions will lead to betrayal and then exile to the worst prison planet in the galaxy. Within this forsaken world, there are infinite ways to die, but only one path to freedom and ultimately, vengeance.

For somewhere in the shadows of deep space, a black ship awaits—ready to unleash her unholy power upon the entire galaxy.

Who is the pirate? Almost the entire synopsis here is plot. What was the duty? Why was honor more important? How or why was he betrayed? What were the circumstances? Did the betrayal lead to exile or was it betrayal then exile? If the first, how? if the latter, why? What makes this the worst prison planet in the galaxy? How could he die? If there's only one path to escape, what is it? How is it a path to freedom and how does it lead to vengeance? What will he need to do? What does the black ship have to do with anything?

Avoid sounding plotty. 1) Name one or two protagonists, one antagonist, and nothing else. 2) Keep the rest vague and interesting. 3) Keep momentum going by starting sentences with transition words like ‘when’, ‘as’, and ‘after’. 4) Save detail for the book! You want to excite emotion here, but don't need to describe the entire book. Pick the emotion you want your readers to feel (excitement, curiosity, etc) and center the synopsis on that.

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I've used a DE for my books. Other than expense, it was a good experience. The editorial evaluation told me where I was weak and need shoring up in both my story and my writing, while the developmental edit took me through the manuscript without pulling punches. My advice, and it is just my advice, if you're new CAN afford one, do it. Just make sure to find a professional with a good reputation. You'll learn alot about yourself and your writing. If you're new and CAN'T afford one, don't worry about it. Get a group of people together to read your MS and give you input. Ask specific questions (eg: how would you describe X's motivations?) instead of general questions (eg: did you like X?). Basically, stay away from anything that gives you single word answers. You'll have to sift through what they give you to get what you need, but if you've asked the right questions, it can be as good or, in some cases, better than a DE.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Thousands Words a Day Club 2020
« on: January 02, 2020, 10:39:23 am »
1,501

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Romance, Pen names and gender
« on: January 02, 2020, 08:00:26 am »
I believe in limiting any barrier to entry I can. As such, my pen names are always androgynous. I started this originally because my wife, after telling me she loved the first in a series I wrote, told me a lot of women would be put off by a male author writing a female MC. After doing a good amount of research, I realized she was correct. I'd never considered or even cared about the gender of authors I tended to read, but going through the list of my favorites, I realized most of them were male. The fact is, and it has been proven time and time again that an implicit gender bias exists in all of us. There's nothing particularly wrong with that as long as we don't let it impact our lives/careers/others/etc. That being said, I never want my readers to think I'm someone I'm not and at the end of every book I use my real name for contact info, invite them to my FB fan pages where I interact with members as myself, and just generally let them get to know me as a person. If, after reading the first in series (or the couple of stand-alones I have), they don't want to continue reading because I'm a man, I'll wish them well and point them in the direction of great female authors. Those readers are just not my target audience. As an old business 101 professor I had (too many years ago to matter) once said, "If you want to make widgets, make widgets. Just realize not every one wants a widget, not everyone wants your widget, and not everyone will want a pink, green or yellow widget." Not everyone who wants to read will read my genre. Not everyone who reads my genre will read my book. Not everyone who reads my book will like it. Not everyone who likes my book will buy others. But for those people who want to read, read my genre, read my books and like them enough to want more, I will always do my best and try to keep their shelves full.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Do you offer print versions of your books?
« on: December 30, 2019, 07:47:39 am »
I put print up for sale at the same time I set the e-book up. The higher price of the paperback makes the e-book look like a bargain, encouraging its purchase right then. And even in my genre, there are still people who prefer the paperback. Since its all POD, it doesn't cost me anything up front and, though I may only sell a handful of physical copies per month per book, not having them available would be like leaving money on the table.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: People stealing your ideas
« on: December 19, 2019, 01:23:41 pm »
Interesting that they chose to let you decide whether or not you'd been plagiarized. I've never taught in a significant graduate program, so it's interesting to hear how such accusations are handled at that level. Also, your research sounds totally cool.  :D

I didn't get to make the final decision, just gave them my opinion - and the research was, and continues to be, awesome.

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But I do think the academic approach to plagiarism exerts a formative pressure on how people tend to think of the word -- on their general assumptions about the term.

I agree. My entire academic life, I had their definition of plagarism beat into me (figuratively), just like every American school child. It wasn't until college that I realized (beyond conceptually) that there really hadn't been a new idea in thousands of years. Just old ideas recycled and put in new packaging. And a large part of that followed behind me after I entered the workforce.

Quote
in urban fantasy, it might just feel right that your MC is a too-brave-for-her-own-good, not-classically-beautiful-but-somehow-very-attractive leatherclad woman in her 20s with a hard-luck past that's given her a deep-seated fear of commitment who hides her inner marshmallow with a heavy dose of snark and relies on her annoying but helpful supernatural pet while waving around her blade, which may have a name

Hey, that was my idea, lol. I actually just finished the second in a UF trilogy with that tropey MC (minus the blade).

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Writers' Cafe / Re: People stealing your ideas
« on: December 19, 2019, 10:55:25 am »
I wonder if academic norms muddy this picture at all for people. In scholarship, ideas do belong to their originators. Even in situations where a person uses their own unique words to describe someone else's idea, the idea doesn't lose its original ownership. My students must cite the sources of the ideas they use, even if they're summarizing or paraphrasing those ideas, rather than quoting. Not doing so would be academically dishonest. Perhaps this is why theft of ideas (as well as words) is part of most standard definitions of "plagiarism," so far as I know. But lawsuits don't have to do with plagiarism. They have to do with copyright, and ideas can't be copyrighted. So outside institutions that have systems to punish it (such as academia), plagiarism of ideas becomes a legally unenforceable moral wrong, I guess?
I published my thesis twenty(cough) years ago. It was a study on tracking the expansion and contraction of the Roman empire through the systematic production of beer. Basically an agricultural study. I did significant research (and still love beer),  presented and defended it. Got my degree and moved on. Around a decade ago, I was contacted by the college and informed that they believed a student may have "plagiarized" a section of my work. I reviewed what they sent me, and in the end, I decided the student's work (Agricultural Expansionism in Eastern Europe) was sufficiently different and no plagiarism actually occurred. Academia takes this stuff seriously because careers have been made and lost on ideas. The open press, not so much. Shelly wasn't the first person to write about a monster created by man (look at the Golem for example). And the vampire existed in tales long before Dracula. It's the way they're written and presented that makes them unique. Even J.K. Rowling can't deny that books about magic schools and young wizards existed before she wrote her series. One of the things I do when bored and in front of a computer is to wander over to Writer's Digest. They have a daily writing prompt and I love to see how many different shorts are posted about it. Some are bland and others are a blast, but they all use the same idea as a starting point.

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1. Sell a metric [crap]-tonne of books

By comparison, he can also sell two metric s**t loads or 1/2 of a f*** ton.

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My experience with his method was that it tends to work much better once a writer has the basics down.

^^^ This. I don't believe his advice is bad (remembering he isn't advocating zero editing, just not rewriting). Once you have enough experience to get the story down correctly the first time, rewriting should hardly ever be necessary anyway. But it takes a lot of practice before any writer can get to this point.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: New California Law will hurt Writers
« on: December 11, 2019, 11:22:36 am »
Coming from a public accountant, a good rule of thumb to follow is thus:

1. If you pay an INDIVIDUAL (as in you made a check payable to John Thomas) more than $600, you issue a 1099 (caveat, this is for US Federal purposes. Check with your state to determine if it complies with Fed filing requirements) if they are independent contractors or W2's if they are employees. There is a vast difference between tax treatments of the two and business people have been taking advantage of this for decades. This is also were CA and other States are most concerned. By paying an individual as an independent contractor, you're not withholding and remitting taxes - money needed by the state/city to pay for things like firefighters, police, librarians or any other public works bill. You're also not paying worker's comp insurance, Family leave, etc, etc. It cuts the state out of what it sees as its fair share of tax revenue, especially when the individual receiving the 1099 may not even file their taxes, or if they do, take improper treatment of deductions to lower their tax liability. Remember, it's the taxpayer's responsibility in this country to prove how much of a return they are entitled to, NOT the government's to prove how much they owe. Sucks, but it's the truth. The alternative is to have a government auditor come into our homes every years, give them access to our bank and financial information, and let them decide how much of our money we should keep. To help combat this, the IRS set standards (not rules) on who is considered to be an independent contractor, standards like controlling when they work, how they work, where they work, conditions for work. Most states follow these standards, though some don't. Because these standards (not rules) are meant to be guidelines, they are left open to interpretation, and employers have interpreted them in so many ways that court cases more than a decade old are still pending. CA's AB5 sought to clarify this. This will mean the death of some "gig" economies in the state, just as when the IRS created their guidelines in the first place, but will also mean that companies like Lyft and Uber are correctly classifying employees as well.

2. If you pay a BUSINESS (as in you made a check payable to John Thomas Design LLC), you generally don't have to worry about issuing 1099's. There are exceptions to this rule, but a competent accountant will know what they are. The point is when we hire someone to edit, do cover design, format or any other number of tasks, we are hiring them to do one off work. We are not giving them a job even if we hire them multiple times. We do not control when they work, how they work, or where they work. As such, none of the AB5 laws apply to the vast majority of us. If you want to make sure you're covered in case of an audit, keep good notes and records, save receipts, and generally don't be piggish about pulling the wool over the government's eyes. We get you don't like paying taxes, but like an old friend of mine says, "Fines are what you are forced to pay for doing something poorly, taxes are what you're forced to pay for doing something well."

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Hello!
« on: December 09, 2019, 10:53:22 am »
Hello Mark, and welcome. The coffee's gone to sludge and we can't find the duct tape to fix the chairs, but pull up a seat and enjoy.

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In your reply I noticed you snipped a really important part of my post. "There are plenty of line editors out there that do a decent job of providing some of the services you would have gotten from a more expensive dev edit."

I hadn't thought it was necessary since the discussion was about dev editors, however I agree there are more than a few very outstanding line editors that provide some of the same services as dev editors. There's even some on this board that provide All the services of a dev editor.  That being said, isn't it wiser to hire people who specialize in work? My bookkeeper is an able woman, but she's not my accountant. My house painter is great at corners, but should I ask him to paint the Mona Lisa? They both may be able to do the jobs, but until I see a sample of the work, I'll go with someone else.

0.01 and 0.02 a word are below the typical rates for a true developmental edit. I've seen rates like that before but those are usually line editors like what I described earlier. What developmental editors have you yourself used?

I've worked with both trad and indie dev editors, so you'll have to be more specific. Two of my current works are out with editors now. I say two because Cynthia, my current dev editor, is retiring after Christmas, so I'm trying someone she's suggested. We'll see how it goes. As for the price being below the typical rate, it's the range always quoted to me based on my sample work submitted. If you've had different quotes, please share.


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Writers' Cafe / Re: Plotters, what system do you use to plan your story?
« on: November 26, 2019, 01:45:01 pm »
Honest question for you plotters (I don't consider myself one, although I'm probably more of a plotter than some):

Looking at some of this stuff, especially Al's detailed outline, do you ever get the feeling that you're spending so much time on this preparatory stuff that it might be much quicker to, you know, actually write the book instead of writing all that stuff out?

I feel the same about detailed character outlines with likes and dislikes. Some people make huge storybibles. I just can't see this in any other way than taking up a lot of time that could have been spent writing.

I just use a hand full of 1-2 sentences in a Scrivener binder. It takes me less than an hour to write. Usually there are 10-12 story points I'll need to hit, most of which will expand into multiple chapters.

Honestly, I used to. I set up an outline for a SciFi I was excited to explore. By the time I sat down to actually write it, I felt burned out on the story (almost 32 pages of bullet points, descriptions, etc). My outlines now consist only of actions that will lead to the next beat, generally something like, "chapter 15. John struggles with the killer for the knife and takes the blade in his side. He rips the ski mask off as he falls and sees his dead partner. Chapter 16. John returns to the crime scene." Shorter sections usually mean I have a lot more exposition to write. Longer scenes are a lot more action. Setting it up like this also means I can visually look at story patterns, where things are fast (action) slow (exposition), or other patterns that may emerge (such as plot holes or hanging threads). My method generally takes me less than 30 minutes if I include the time it takes to transfer it to scrivener. It amounts to 10% planning and 80% discovery...That last 10% fell behind the couch somewhere.

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Developmental edits work in trade because you're being edited by someone who knows what they're doing! They're also "free." Trade publishers are paying YOU money, and their job is the make the book as good as possible in-order to sell it so that both of you profit. Developmental editors in trade publishing also usually have a better understanding of the market.

This is reason enough to hire a dev editor if for no other reason, though they aren't doing it "free" in the least. And as independent authors, we are now the publisher of the book. Doesn't it behoove us as business people to make it as marketable as possible?

A lot of trade authors find dev edits annoying, and for good reason, but they deal with it because the publishers are giving THEM money for their book.

True and not true at the same time. Dev edits are annoying, but if I just wanted a pat on the back, I'd have my mom work as my editor (btw, she's had 26 trad books published, so she could probably do it). Publishers are giving the writer money, but it's just a small fraction of what the book is expected to earn. They could save money by not having a dev editor as well, but then who would buy their books?

In self-publishing we don't have to deal with that step of the editing phase, we can write the book we want how we want without someone else trying to convince us to make major changes.

You're right, we don't have to deal with that step of the editing process. Nor do we have to deal with beta's or line editors. We can just hit the publish button and move on to the next book. Of course,  I can also dump rice on a plate and call it gourmet, but that won't change its taste. When eBooks first came out, that's exactly what happened. Now, there's so much competition something like that will quickly get burred in a shallow grave.

For indies how do you know what the developmental editors credentials are?

Look for reviews and recommendations. Get samples of work. If either or none are available, move on to the next candidate. You're running a business after all.

Most of them are hacks.

Good point. Some really are hacks. Others aren't. I've actually had more problems with cover artists than editors.

Paying thousands of dollars for a dev edit and THEN paying hundreds more(maybe even thousands more) for further edits (because you'll still need a copyedit and proofreader afterwards) is a monumental waste of money that you could have spent on advertising.

I agree sufficient funds should always be pumped into marketing. But ask yourself which is better, to spend 5 to make 50 or 30 to make 50? As the negative reviews pile up due to lack of editing, your marketing spend will have to increase to make up for them.

The only time a dev edit is really worth it is if you have no idea how to write a book.

I can't agree with this either (see above).

Basically, if you already know how to write a book, you don't need an expensive dev edit. Just get some beta readers and the best line editor you can afford.

You can go this way, and lots of indies do. Most of them also did this because they couldn't afford a dev edit and beta readers are a fresh pair of eyes. Get enough comments from them (and that's harder than it seems. Check around the board for examples.) and you'll have about the same thing as a dev edit, though much more piece meal. The up side of this is the beta's are reading it from a market perspective, so you don't have to worry about writing to market too much. They'll tell you what they do and don't like (if you ask them correctly, and if they respond).


To answer the OP's question, you'll look for a rate somewhere between 0.01 and 0.02 cents per word. Always look for reviews, testimonials and samples. If they refuse to give any, move on.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Plotters, what system do you use to plan your story?
« on: November 22, 2019, 10:28:53 am »
One sheet of yellow paper with 15 beats. Between each beat is a number of bullet points stating the steps necessary to get from A to B. If it takes up more than the space of the sheet, I'm putting in too much. If I can't fill the sheet, it's too little and should be considered a novella instead.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Scene Length
« on: October 19, 2019, 03:43:33 pm »
I'm still learning how to write, but I would think the scene needs to be as long as it needs to be to advance the story, or even just provide exposition.  I.E there is no such thing as an average length for a scene.  Or maybe I'm wrong  ;D
This. I've had scenes as small as 500 words and longer than 5,000. A scene is as long as it needs to be.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Writing "sprints"
« on: October 17, 2019, 09:04:17 am »
Love writing sprints, but can't seem to crack my 1k/hour barrier :(

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation for writing
« on: October 11, 2019, 01:55:32 pm »
I've tried it. I purchased Dragon, the recommended microphone, everything necessary. My wife loves it and never seems to have any difficulty. She's even converted a few of her friends as well. I try it, and my southern drawl gets turned into something entirely illegible. I know I can spend the time training it, but I just never seen to have the time/inclination.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Some Accents More Racist Than Others?
« on: October 11, 2019, 01:40:27 pm »
For background characters with only a couple of lines, I don't mind using coloquial language.
"Y'all come 'round back. Gots som'in to show ya." I don't care how they make the character sound since it's a one off. The accent is whatever my MC hears. For MC's, I'll use a light smatterin' of accent, words like "Y'all" or whatever would suit the character, however I use them sparingly because they can throw the reader out of flow. I'll write, "Y'all come around back. Got something to show you," he said in a southern drawl so thick flies could stick to it like molasses.  Let the reader insert their own accent. As for being racist, unless one is making fun of the accent, using it as part of a character ain't racist. This is coming from a Georgia boy living up in New Yawk (New York), surrounded by Yankees (anyone from above the Mason-Dixon line). Trust me, my accent attracts more laughs of derision than sighs of sexuality up here. I've even had a manager call me both stupid and lazy based solely on my accent (though thankfully not for long. It's amazing how quickly things turned around after I was named head of compliance review. I still see him sometimes, though I never answer yes when he asks if I'd like fries with my order).

You obviously don't know what you're talking about.

Twain was reproducing the African-American dialect he heard. Yes, it existed. Read Charles Chestnutt, an African-American author, and any of the African-American authors of the 19th-early 20th century. They did it too. There are African-American speech patterns of today. I had a black boss who used the pronunciation "ax" for "ask." If I wrote about him in a book, I'd use that pronunciation.

Cringe away.

That they did, and in some parts of the country, still do. And it wasn't just African-Americans that did it during the time period. The accent and methods of speech were also found among the poor white populations, indicative of a wide spread, pervasive lack of education without respect to race. You want to hear the accent for yourself? Go visit the Appalachians. People really should study history more instead of jumping on the revisionist bandwagon.

As for the OP. Making fun of accents isn't limited to Asians, but if you look at American History, Asians have always been portrayed in a negative light, much more so than any immigrant group. We have created laws specifically aimed at the Asian American populations in the US, in specific violation of the 14th amendment. We didn't even try to pretend Separate but Equal with them and even went so far as to enprison them during the war without regard to their civil rights.

It's a world wide phenomena, an us vs them mentality. There's an ass in my office who thinks it's hilarious and entirely appropriate to make fun of my southern drawl, and never considers what I may think of his accent.

Personally, I say the OP should write it that way. Don't go out of your way to offend people unless you let them know ahead of time it's part of your plan, and if you personally find it offensive then by all means, remove it. If not, and a listener is offended by it, oh well.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Blurb Help
« on: October 06, 2019, 09:15:16 am »
Actually, I think that works better. Thank you.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Blurb Help
« on: October 06, 2019, 08:32:23 am »
Seems enticing to me. I wouldn't mention twice in a row that the book is the first in a series.

Good point. Thank you.

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Writers' Cafe / Re: As an author, do you avoid politics?
« on: October 06, 2019, 08:07:00 am »
At my office, I don't talk politics or religion. Either subject can be a quick ticket to a not-so-pleasant discussion with HR that could lead to another unhappy conversation with my wife. That being said, no one can keep me from writing anything I want, so I don't shy away from politics, religion, or well, anything else. If someone reads my stuff and is offended, they're probably not my target market anyway.

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