Steampunk 101

by Victoria Grace Howell

Steampunk is one of my favorite genres and a severely underappreciated one at that, but I believe it’s finally rising to popularity as I’m seeing more and more people craving it. When pitching my steampunk novel to an editor last year, I had to explain what the genre was, and this isn’t my first encounter with someone oblivious to the wonders of steampunk. Maybe even you, reader, don’t know what it is. I am here to enlighten you. You may have been watching steampunk and you didn’t even know it! Continue reading

How the Most Interesting Accountant in the World Views Taxes


by Chris Morris


Now that Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas has come and the new year is upon us, it is time for my favorite holiday–Tax Season! I jest, of course, but January is the time when the spectre of filing taxes begins to come into the forefront of everyone’s mind.

As the man named “The Most Interesting Accountant in the World” by none other than Suzy Q, I hope to answer some common questions about taxes as they apply to you as creatives and small business owners. Along the way I hope to keep you engaged and perhaps even force a laugh or two out of you.

Is it a Hobby or a Business?

It seems tricky because it is easy to think that a hobby is for fun, while a business is to make money. It might surprise you to learn this, but the IRS doesn’t care about your passions or your motives. [Insert shocked emoticon here]

Rather, the IRS looks at dollars and cents to determine if you have a business.

The clear distinction between a hobby and a business is cash flow or revenues. While a business can lose money in the beginning stages, and down cycles are a part of every industry, no business continues to exist without profits. And, profits cannot happen without a product or a service to sell.

In other words, if you have something to sell, and you are actually selling it, then you have a business. Otherwise, you have a hobby. Hobbies aren’t taxable, but businesses are.

Is that Iced Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte a Business Expense?

Before I answer this question factually, let me address it as a coffee connoisseur (AKA coffee snob). The tax code should definitely make an allowance of some sort for those of us who need caffeine in the morning to function as decent human beings. After all, nobody wants to meet a non-caffeinated CPA, even if he is the most interesting one in the world. Sadly, the IRS does not agree with me, and in most cases an iced venti skinny vanilla latte will not be considered a valid business expense.

Fear not though, because there are three exceptions where coffee or other meals can be considered business expenses:

  1. When traveling for business, any meals consumed during the business trip are considered deductible business expenses. (Travel coffee is a business expense!)
  2. Occasional celebrations or employee appreciation expenses are considered appropriate, but you may need to describe what the event was to an auditor…and “it’s Tuesday” is not sufficient.
  3. If you are meeting with a client or a potential client over a meal and pay for both yourself and your client, then 50% of the expense is a deductible expense.

Would an LLC or S-Corp Be Better?

This is the number one question I have been asked over the past several years, as I interact with creatives and other small business owners. This is a complex question that does depend somewhat on your circumstances, so don’t take this simple response as the end-all answer, and please seek more specific counsel from a lawyer or  a tax professional (he says, while slowly raising his hand and offering to help).

Generally speaking, you would want to consider either an LLC or an S-Corp for your fledgling business if one of the following circumstances applies to you:

  • You have employees (not independent contractors, but employees);
  • You have annual profit of more than $10,000;
  • You have annual revenues greater than $20,000;
  • The services or products you provide put you at risk for being sued; or
  • The government says you have to form an LLC or S-Corp.

If none of these apply to you, then you probably will be just fine as a sole proprietorship.

Is it Time to Hire a CPA?

Yes, of course you do. Everyone needs a CPA, but only I can provide perfectly for your needs. Oh wait, let me take my salesman hat off for a moment and answer this question a bit more honestly. You might or might not need a CPA for your taxes. Consider the following, but please read these in your best redneck voice:

  • If the very thought of doing your taxes causes you to break out in hives, you might need a CPA.
  • If you think using a Ouija board is a good way to determine your tax liability, you might need a CPA.
  • If you don’t like getting your taxes done in the same place you buy your milk, you might need a CPA.
  • If you don’t know the difference between a tax deduction and a breakfast sandwich, you might need a CPA.
  • If you think you can apply your creativity to your tax form, you might need a CPA.

In all seriousness, there are a couple reasons you might want to consider hiring a CPA for this upcoming tax season. The first is because you are not sure about the best way to file your taxes, and you have more questions like what I just answered. The second reason has nothing to do with knowledge per se, and everything to do with stress; sometimes, it is just easier to pay someone to do a stressful task for you.

If you think it’s time to find a CPA, let’s talk. And, unless you live in Guam, Hawaii, or the Northern Mariana Islands, I am able to take care of your tax needs even though I am based in Arizona. You can email me at, call me 520.789.6153, or click through to this form.  I also hope to see most of you at Villanova for Realm Makers 2016 too!


ChrisMorrisFINAL (83 of 94)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Morris is the founder of the creatively named CPA firm Chris Morris CPA, which focuses on helping creatives and other entrepreneurs manage their tax and accounting needs. Because he is a writer himself, and over 1/3 of his clients are writers, he is very familiar with navigating tax laws for this industry. He is a fan of stories with dragons, warp drive, or epic sword fights, though he does not write speculative fiction himself. He also feels very awkward writing about himself in the third person.

Awards Open for 3 More Days

2016 (1)Good morning, fair folk of the speculative worlds. It’s an exciting year for Realm Makers, with all kinds of changes and new prospects on the horizon. We’re so glad to have you all to share the journey with us. That being said, it’s almost time to close the submission period for our new awards program.

Submissions deadline for the Genre Awards (and thus the Realm Award) and the Parable Award is Friday, January 22nd at 11:59 p.m.

It’s not a difficult process, ladies and gentlemen. If your novel qualifies for one of the awards, all you do is submit a form, the entry fee (Genre: $35, Parable: $25) Then send us a .mobi file of your novel, or a high resolution image file of your cover. Simple!

It is such an honor to be on the search for the best of the best in speculative fiction written by Christian authors.

Did you catch that? These books do not have to be aimed at Christian audiences, they just have to be written by Christian authors. We know that not all Christian authors are called to reach Christian audiences, some are called to mingle in the general market. We want to see those books as well!

If you read some of the original posts, there have been a couple of changes to the Genre Awards (Realm Award) guidelines.

  1. winning-trophyThere is no longer a review limitation for novels to be submitted. We reserve the right to change this in the future, but for now no limit.
  2. YA novels can be 50,000 words or more, all others need to be 60,000+ words.
  3. There ARE awards to earn here.
    1. Genre Award Winners: Certificate + finalist for the Realm Award
    2. Realm Award Winner: $250 cash + commemorative plaque
    3. Parable Award: $100 cash + commemorative plaque

Winners will, of course, be announced at the Realm Makers Awards Banquet (a constumed affair!) in Philadelphia on July 29, 2016.

So get your submissions in soon! We want to see the best of the best there is in our niche!

Have any questions? Leave them in the comments or e-mail the contest coordinator.

Getting to Know You – A Look at the Realm Makers Staff Pt. 2

Welcome back, Spekkies, to our Getting to Know You series! Today we’re sitting down with Ben Wolf, Gretchen Engle, and Kristen Stieffel.

Ben Wolf

What do you do for Realm Makers? 

Wow. Tough one. I’m not being facetious, either. Forgive this for being in third person.

Ben Wolf helps RM make connections that would normally be difficult to access in both the Christian and general markets. He networks on behalf of RM and also serves as one of RM’s conference emcees. Behind the scenes he occasionally fundraises for RM by locating and bringing in sponsors, and he is responsible for helping to book 3 of the last four RM keynote speakers.

He also assists in bringing potential faculty members to RM, and he serves on the planning committee. In general, Ben works to fill gaps, push for responses, and make sure RM grows and continues to provide excellent quality conferences and other offerings to our constituents.

Ben’s Bio:

Ben Wolf founded Splickety Publishing Group (SPG) to meet the needs of busy folks like him: people who appreciate great fiction but don’t have much time to read. SPG offers three quarterly flash fiction magazines: Splickety Prime (multi-genre), Havok (speculative fiction), and Splickety Love (romance).Ben has written six action/adventure novels and has multiple other projects in the works. His first novel, Blood for Blood, won the 2015 Cascade Award and has been characterized as “bold…with nonstop tension” and “hard to put down” and asks, “What if a Vampire got saved?”

You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


Gretchen Engle

 What do you do for Realm Makers?

Gretchen is the housing coordinator. She assigns rooms, and makes sure everyone knows the check in, and checking out processes. So when you lie down at night, you can thank Gretchen for assigning you the room next to the magical unicorn who hands out chocolate.

Gretchen’s Bio: 

In high school, Gretchen E K Engel competed to write her English teacher’s favorite essays and earn highest marks in physics. Science won over the arts, and Gretchen became a chemical engineer. An environmental consultant by day and speculative fiction writer by night, she has authored hundreds of technical documents, several short stories and a manuscript set in the quasi-dystopian world of high school. Gretchen’s website is She also blogs at New Authors’ Fellowship and The Scriblerians.

Kristen Stieffel

kristen-stieffel-media-5What do you do for Realm Makers?
Kristen is our Registrar. That’s a technical term for the spreadsheet jockey who keeps track of who registered when and for what conference add-ons like the Early Bird Workshop. If you run into any technical glitches while registering, she’ll help you troubleshoot them. She’ll be responsible for putting together attendee packets and name tags, and when you arrive, you will probably see her first since she’ll be manning the registration table.

Kristen’s Bio:
Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction and is associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on SpecFic. She provides a full range of editorial services and has worked on a variety of projects, including novels in many genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection. Website: