Thursday, October 04, 2012

New Website for Medusa's Muse

Medusa's Muse has moved to a brand new website:

Click the link for all the latest news, blog posts, and updates on your favorite Medusa's Muse authors. Buy books, order a t-shirt, or send a submission. The press is open for submissions again and is actively seeking new authors.

Thanks for your continued support of Medusa's Muse

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Word Press - The newest Medusa experiment

I am slowly combining the Medusa's Muse website and blog into one and am switching to Word Press. Here is the link to the new site:

The site is evolving as I learn new tricks and play with design. For now, I won't be posting at the Blogpress site. If the change doesn't work, I'll return to the old format, but I'm really enjoying learning Wordpress and all the options it provides.

Thank you for following me here at Blogger. I hope you'll join me at the new site and give me some feedback.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

When did a 120 page play become too long?

"The theater, the theater... what's happened to the theater?" sang Danny Kaye in White Christmas.

That's what I asked myself when my full length play, The Guru, was accepted as a possible addition to a theater company's Fall production line-up. The Artistic Director loved the play, and gave me wonderful, positive feedback that made me feel like a real playwright. "You're really good at this," she wrote. 

Thank you, thank you... yes I am... (blush, giggle, swelling of pride). 

"Just one thing, though..."

Uh oh.

"The play is too long. It should be no more than 100 pages. Less is better."

Too long? When did a two-act, 120 page comedy become too long? That equals one hour for each act. Hell, have you read a Shakespeare play? Those things are three-acts and take three-and-a-half-hours to perform. Your butt could fall off from lack of blood flow by the end of Act 2! 

When I was getting my undergrad in Drama at San Francisco State University in the 1990's, a play was typically a little over two hours long: two acts with a fifteen minute intermission. If you left a theater in less than two-and-a-half hours you felt cheated. Who pays $30.00 for a 90 minute show? Ridiculous! You'd have people bad-mouthing your production as low budget and god forbid, amateur

But that was 20 years ago. Now, people want to see a show in less than 2 hours.

I asked a friend who teaches playwriting at a college and she confirmed that plays do need to fit within 2 hours, including intermission. But she also said for every rule, there's an exception. Some plays are much longer, and she reminded me about Angels in America, which is the equivalent of three, 3-Act plays and is usually performed over two days. That play won the Pulitzer in 1993.

Then she encouraged me to take another look at my play and see where the language could be tightened up. "It's an opportunity to revise your play and really make it shine."

So I did. I read and re-read my play, chopping out whole sections of dialogue. I looked for anything that slowed down the pace. A farce really should have quick and witty language and lots of action. After a week of hard work, I had the page count down to 115 pages.


Calling my friend again, I begged for help. I'd been working on The Guru for five years and had lost all perspective. I needed someone with an ax to chop my play. She agreed to try.

With her help, I got my play down to 98 pages. The process was as challenging as crossing a busy street under blindfold during grad school, because I was afraid one cut would unravel the whole plot. But by chopping so many pages, I think my play is cleaner and the humor more precise.  I think revising for length helped me see it with clearer eyes and a better understanding of how to write comedy.

I sent it back to the theater company and now I wait to see if a director picks it up. Man I hope my play is fine just as it is because after all these years of hard work, I'm sick of the damn thing.

Why have plays gotten shorter? Hasn't everything? Movies, books, albums... full-course dinners. It's just the times we live in and I'm not going to debate if this is a bad thing. We had long attention spans in the so-called "olden days" because there was less to grab our attention. Now we have so much to choose from it's hard to stay focused on one thing. Is that bad? Lots of experts seem to think so. But revising with the knowledge that we need to hold a reader's shorter attention span encourages us to write with precision. Our characters need to show themselves through action and word, not backstory. A little exposition goes a long way. You really have to make every word count. Notice I said revising. Don't worry about it during the writing of your play or story, just write the absolute best story you can create. Then take an ax to it during editing; you need an ax, not a scalpel anymore. "Kill your darlings" has never needed to be more bloody than today. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Should I sell my soul to Amazon for book sales?

After months of research, pondering, more research and more pondering, I've decided it is time to make all of the books I publish available on the Kindle.

Why does that decision make me feel icky? sells the most books of any other book retailer anywhere, and that includes other on-line retailers. Part of the reason they sell so many books is because of their Kindle, which they've spent millions of dollars on developing and marketing. It paid off. According to Amazon, they sell over a million Kindles a week. That's a lot of readers hungry for new books they can read on their new toy. Stories of writers selling thousands of copies of Kindle versions of their book are all over the net, the most famous being Darcie Chan who sold 400,000 copies of her e-book via Amazon before she was picked up by a "traditional" publisher.

It makes logical sense to publish via the Amazon Kindle. E-books are the future, and the Kindle is the current leading device. Two-thirds of people in the US who buy e-books buy them from Amazon. Plus, I would save money on print costs. The books are already formatted to be turned into e-books because my book designer uses InDesign and the files are then sent to a digital printer. So all I have to do is contact Amazon, finish the submission process and upload the files.

I feel like I'm selling my soul to the devil in exchange for book sales.

Medusa's Muse is struggling to survive. I am determined that she will. We have a new book in development and our previous titles are selling well. The overall book sales aren't great, but the numbers are steady, with a few copies of each book being sold every month. However, the overhead costs of running a book publishing company have increased, so to help my press create quality books and then be able to market those books, I need to increase sales. E-books are potentially the best way to do that.

Okay, okay... I'll just have to get over the nausea I feel every time I start to submit a book to Kindle. I  wish Amazon wasn't such a backstabbing, money-grubbing, bastard of a company. If you want to stay in business, you have to deal with Amazon.

Don't tell them I said they are a bastard of a company; I shouldn't piss off the devil before I bargain for my soul.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Finished with taxes: back to writing! (with a plug for my book)

My muse suddenly appeared in my living room where I was dusting, making me shriek with surprise. She was dressed like a jewel adorned Marie Laveau, complete with multicolored Mardi Gras beads.

"Is it true? Are you finished with your taxes?" she asked.

"Look at you. How was Mardi Gras?"

"Great. Wonderful. Tons of fun. Don't deflect the question. Are you finished?"

Setting my dusting cloth on the table, I said, "Yes. I'm finished. Well... mostly."


"I still have to go to HR Block and get the forms filled out, but I'm finished with my part: the receipts and a profit/loss statement."

"Then you're done!"


"Thank all the goddesses!" She spun around in a happy little circle, making the beads swish and clatter as they rubbed together. A few sparkling strands fell onto the floor.

I laughed. "I guess you're happy."

"Happy? Happy?" She grabbed my hands and swung me around until we were both laughing and dizzy like two small children on the play ground. Then we plopped on the couch to catch our breaths.

Adjusting a few errant strands of beads, my muse said, "Does that mean we can get back to your play?"


She sighed deeply, as if she was smelling a field of wild roses. "At last." Then she jumped up, grabbed my hand, and hauled me to standing. "Come on! We have work to do."

As she pulled me toward the bedroom where my laptop waited,  I asked, "Now?"

"Yes now."

"But what about the dusting?"

"Dusting can wait. Writing is more important."

No wonder my house is always a mess.


In Jan 2009 I wrote a post explaining what a Profit and Loss statement is. 

And what is a Profit and Loss Statement? In a nutshell, a profit and loss statement is the end of the year report of your business that shows how much you've earned (profit) and how much you spent (lost). This is what you need to show the IRS when you file your taxes, as well as show your city for you business license, your bank when you need a loan, or anyone else who needs proof that you really do have a business and didn't just put up a pretty sign that says so. 

For more detailed information about record keeping and managing your writing and publishing business, get my book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Business Start-Up guide for Publishers, available from Amazon, Powells, and your local bookstore (coming soon as an E-Book and to the Kindle)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Receipts and Whiney Muses

"I'm bored," my Muse whines. "When will you be finished?"

"Taxes take time. I have to get this right," I say.

"But you're not doing your taxes yet. You're just totaling receipts."

"These receipts tell me how much money Medusa's Muse has earned."

"And lost." She slumps into a chair.

I scowl at her. "Thanks for fixating on the losses."

"This year hasn't exactly been booming for your press."

"That will change."

"You say that every year."

Ignoring her, I focus on the pile of receipts again. Does the receipt for photocopies go in the supplies pile or the promotion pile?

My muse kicks my chair. "This press of yours is sucking more than money. It's sucking your creative energy."

I sigh. "Why do you do this every year?"

"Do what?"

"Bitch and moan about the press every time I have to do bookkeeping?"

"Because there is nothing creative about bookkeeping."

"True, there isn't. But to be creative I need to also be pragmatic. Bookkeeping keeps the lights on."

"But it takes too long. Why not hire someone?"

"Because that would take money, which you so kindly pointed out I don't have."

She crosses her arms and sulks. "I hate this part of publishing."

"Everyone does."

"During the Renaissance, you would have had a patron to take care of all those incidentals. He would have paid your taxes and provided you food and shelter, clothing and entertainment. All of your needs would have been taken care of, simply so you could create brilliant works of art."

"Talk to Rick." I clip a stack of receipts together and then label them postage.

"Don't you want to take a break and work on your play?"

"Yes, I do, but I have to get this done first."


Swiveling in my chair to face her, I snap, "If you don't stop interrupting me I'll never get this done, which means I'll never get to work on my play."

She regally stands, looks at me, and in a calm voice says, "Don't forget you have a deadline on your play. You told UPT you'd finish the rewrites this week."

"I know."

"I'll leave you to it then." With a toss of her snake tresses, she softly walks from the room.


Where was I? Crap, I know I have more receipts for travel. Where's the one from the dinner in October?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Where to get a 1099 Misc form

Completely forgot to order 1099 forms from the IRS. Sorry Laura, your paperwork is going to be a bit late.

If you need a 1099 form, you have to order it directly from the IRS. Here is the link to the forms page on the IRS website. Do not print the example you'll find if you search for a 1099 on line. The form must be scannable, so sayeth the all-mighty IRS. If  you send them an un-scannable form they will send you a fine. It takes 7-10 days for delivery, but at least the forms are free. And here's a link to all the instructions you need for the various forms you may file.

Eventually I'll get the business side of Medusa's Muse more organized. For now, many apologies to my author for once again being late. But at least this year I'll use the right form.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taxes, Tribal Blog, and Writing my Play

I am a member of Tribal Blogs, which is like BlogHer or Blog Frog, but cooler. Today I read a post by guest blogger Jenn Thorson about her experience self-publishing her novel. Really good advice. Here's a snippet and the link to read the rest:

The purpose of this post isn’t to go into the details of every step of the self-publishing process; there are plenty of great how-to’s on that already.
But I did want to mention, there are two areas of prep work that can be sticky if you’re not familiar with them in advance. One is formatting the book for print; the other is creating the e-book version.
In both cases, there are for-fee services available to help you accomplish this nicely. So don’t abandon the dream, if you feel overwhelmed.
Click HERE to read the entire article on Tribal Blogs.

I promised more info about taxes and writing, so here's a link to a blog post called How to Report Book Sales and Royalties. Be sure and scroll down to read the comments section for excellent questions and answers. Wine Press of Words looks like another good blog with tons of advice on publishing, marketing, and social media. 

If you're expecting a royalty statement, your publisher should send you a 1099 Misc before the end of January. You will report that income on Schedule C of your tax return (sorry to wait until the last minute, Laura. I'll give you your statement by Sunday). If you're a publisher, you only include the royalties you paid the author in 2011, not all royalties earned for the year. Typically, there are royalties due from the previous year that don't get paid until later, such as royalties earned in November and December. Your author doesn't pay taxes on those earned royalties, only on the royalties she was actually paid. 

And now for a word on writing...  I just finished revising Act 1 of my newest full length play and I am in love. I think about this play constantly, playing scenes over and over in my mind when I'm supposed to be concentrating on writing IEP goals for a student or planning lessons.  Is it safe to be so enamored with something you've written? Does it mean I've lost all perspective? Who cares! For now I'm just enjoying the thrill of writing something new and exciting. This play feels like the best thing I've ever written. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Tax Time. Do you know where your receipts are?

The H and R Block office has reopened and there are signs all over town announcing deals on tax preparation. That can mean only one thing: it's tax time. The wonderful time of year when we all whimper at the pile of paperwork and forms demanding our immediate attention, realizing we've lost most of our receipts, and we have no idea if we got all of our 1099's and W2's from everyone we worked for. 

This is also an excellent time of year to crack open that expensive bottle of scotch Uncle Jo gave us for Christmas.

When I was writing What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, I decided not to include a chapter about taxes because the tax code changes all the time. There is plenty of info throughout the book about keeping track of expenses in preparation of tax season, but I skipped specific info about filing.  Instead, I research taxes every year and post my findings on this blog.

First, I found this video on ehow. It's more about keeping track of deductions rather than forms, but she explains receipts very well. The presenter in the video has a whole series about Freelance Writing.

Taxes & Being a Freelance Writer —powered by

And here are a few articles I found this morning.  Click the links to read the full article.  Taxes for Freelancers

Did you earn your first income from freelancing last year? If so, you're in for a new adventure: calculating your income and Social Security taxes as a self-employed person.
The basic principle of paying freelance taxes is simple: You add up your income, deduct your expenses, and transfer the net profit or loss to Line 12, "Business income (or loss)," on Form 1040.
Unfortunately, what's simple in principle can be complicated in practice. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:

Tax Issues for Freelance Writers

Here are some tips and strategies for thinking about your taxes. There are special circumstances that apply to freelance writers and other independent professionals, so I will highlight what you need to know to prepare your taxes.

Being self-employed is quite possibly one of the best tax strategies available today. Unlike being an employee, freelancers are in full control of their financial and tax situation. But independence also comes at a cost. Independent contractors face higher taxes and more record keeping duties than employees.

I really like this next article, written by a freelance writer and business expert.

Blue Inkwell Taxes for the Freelance Writer 

Setting up shop as a freelance is easy enough. Unfortunately, most novices don’t think about the tax implications of what they’re doing until their first tax season rolls around. Then the questions pour out.

What do I have to claim?
How do I deal with 1099s?
What classifies as a deduction?
Am I supposed to pay quarterly taxes?

I'll keep researching the tax code for 2011 and post what I find here. If you have any helpful articles, post the link in comments.

And good luck with the receipt hunt. Check your car. I found lots of Medusa receipts in mine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Say No To SOPA

Fresh Blood

There's nothing like fresh blood to get the creative juices flowing again. It feels like Medusa's Muse is off life support, because my dear friend Ibis said, "Yes." Yes, she would love to help me run Medusa's Muse and market our books. Yes, because working for a micro-press sounds "interesting" and she'd like the creative challenge. Yes, because she's willing to work for no pay but lots of perks, like free business cards and twice a year dinners paid by the Muse.

Last weekend I took my publishing team out to dinner at a new Mexican/Yucatan restaurant. We all had something to celebrate: one birthday, a new book in the works, a new member of the team, and one dearly departed who we honored with a toast. The four of us chatted over a delicious meal and several glasses of wine.  Jane, my diligent copy-editor, explained to Ibis about interacting with customers on line. Ibis, my new marketing assistant, nodded and asked questions while taking mental notes. I hope we didn't overwhelm her. Rick, my design director, tossed in a few ideas and mentioned how identifying the right book for the right group of people was key. I mostly sat and listened to the excitement at the table, throwing in my own ideas and thoughts, arguing with Jane over the term "framing the message," reassuring Ibis that I would help her and teach what needed to be done, and smiling at Rick, who really made the whole thing possible. Medusa may have been my dream and I may be the drive that holds the press together, but without his technical expertise, not a single book would have made it into the world.

Medusa's Muse feels like a brand new company, thanks to fresh blood and fresh energy. Thank you Ibis, for giving us your time and ideas. I think you're going to love book publishing.

The New and Updated Awesome Staff of Medusa's Muse, 2012

Terena Scott, Publisher/ Editor/Marketing Director

Jane Mackay, Co-Editor/Copy Editor

Rick Wismar, Book Designer and I.T Support

Ibis Klimicek de Villa, Marketing Assistant