Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One truly great thing about being a writer

I’ll let you guess where this photo was taken…
Vicki Delany’s post yesterday led directly to this post by moi. My post today is going to be upbeat, not the usual writer/author complaining – however constructive – in which we so often indulge. Here it is:

We get to travel and write off the cost of the whole trip!

You read that correctly. There is one catch: you have to be doing research for a writing project (book, screenplay, article, etc.), and that has to be credible and documented if the tax man comes calling to do an audit.

Case in point: Vicki is sharing photos of various locations that have inspired her Molly Smith series. That could be put down to promotion. She could very well be out there doing research for a new book, too. It’s all very reasonable that the cost of such a trip can be written off when you are preparing that income tax form.

I’ve done it many times: a trip to northern California to research locations and gather local colour for A Case of You. We took two trips to Vienna during the course of writing Cemetery of the Nameless. My first visit to Paris was due to needing those informational nuggets that added so much realism to The Fallen One. And finally, we went to Italy to scout possible locations for scenes in my fall release, Roses for a Diva. You’ll be pleased to know that Rome and Venice made the cut.

I have a double benefit for foreign travel since my wife is so incredibly adept at languages. I need her to talk to people, because the ability to speak the local language can open far more doors. Helpful people can be talked into things more easily. Because of her, we’ve gotten access to several places that have really helped in the writing of my novels. The side benefit? I can write off the cost of her trip, as well. To be sure, I have to hire her expertise, which I do at the princely sum of $50 per week, plus all her expenses. For our trip to Italy, my wife learned to speak Italian in 9 months to a level of expertise where she negotiated a price reduction for a gondola ride (research) to a very advantageous amount and longer time – all negotiations done in Italian.

So there you go. Being a writer isn’t all doom and gloom all the time, now, is it?*

*Just be darned sure to keep unimpeachable financial records of your research jaunts. Auditors have the reputation of not having very good imaginations.


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

What strategies did your wife use to learn Italian in nine months? I'm planning a trip there next fall (assuming everything falls into place) and I'd like to be able to go about on my own.

Rick Blechta said...

Frankie, my wife Vicki is a genius with languages (besides being a superb flutist). When I met her she wasn't pursuing music, but was studying languages.(Although we'd gone to the same high school for several years, she ran with the "good" band kids, and I ran with the "bad" soul band kids, and ne're the twain did meet, although we knew who each other was.) I'm afraid I turned her to "the dark side" and she switched to music (after she left our high school, I also joined the band program).

So she's naturally very adept with languages. Being completely fluent in French with a good knowledge of Spanish, and blessed with a very good ear for accents, she found herself an Italian expat and they had one-on-one lessons once or twice a week.

After our trip to Italy, she's continued studying with Sabrina and is now pretty much fluent in Italian. What she really needs is to spend a few months there. (She's currently agitating for some Italian scenes in my new novel.)

But to actually answer your question, she says your best bet is to find a native Italian speaker who hopefully has some teaching experience and take regular lessons in conversational Italian. You'll also get good tips on customs and expectations. For instance, never touch fruit and vegetables if you're in a small store. Tell them what you want and when you're going to eat it, and they will pick things out for you. It's considered very rude to handle fruits and vegetables in Italy -- unless you're in a large supermarket, but even then, look around to see what others are doing.

Studying conversational Italian will set you up to be able to cruise around on your own and it's a lot of fun. Italians love visitors who at least attempt to speak the language, and will do whatever they can to help you once you've broken the ice.

Sorry for the long answer. I tend to get overly enthusiastic about my wife's accomplishments...

We're both very envious that you're going!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thanks, Rick. I'm sure I won't become as fluent as Vicki. I had four years of Spanish and for lack of practice, can only pick out words here in there when I hear it spoken. But I believe our university has a group that pairs speakers to learn each other's language. Will take that advice. And hope I really will be able to get away.

Rick Blechta said...

I hope you get away to. Italy is really special place.

But then, isn't everywhere?

Rick Blechta said...

Someday I'll learn to proofread first and press Publish Your Comment second!