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April Musings

Hello, all! It's spring, my favorite time of year. It feels like all things are possible in the spring. The world feels new, full of possibilities. And this is possibly why it has taken me multiple returns over the past three weeks to finally, you know, get around to finishing this blog post! I'm in the garden most days, not today, however, because it is rainy and miserably cold, but most days you will find me out there for at least an hour, two, sometimes three. Oh garden, how I love thee!

Today's project was on the front porch of Cottage West, so I guess it counts as outside, but only just. I started by painting this little partition I had put up so my guests could avoid the sterling view of the neighbor's derelict house. And I had an idea for spicing it up with my favorite thing... flowers!

Here is a photo of the (nearly) finished product. I have six more planters, and another coat of lavender paint, and possibly a tin sign or two to add. It will look super-cute when I'm done.

Chirp 99-Cent Deal

Chirp is a great place to get audiobook deals. Similar to BookBub which has ebook deals, Chirp is a mailing list that will notify you of audiobooks in your preferred genre on sale for cheap (and sometimes free!).

And I was quite pleased when they approved my submission for G581: The Departure. I've priced the audiobook at just 99 cents. So if you haven't read it yet, or even if you have and don't have an audiobook copy, now is your chance. And don't forget, I'm working on creating audiobooks for the sequels to G581: The Departure. I hope to have the second book in the series, G581: Mars out by the end of summer, possibly sooner!

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

In the writing community, especially with the 20 Books to 50k (now Author Nation) there is a saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. And honestly, when possible, I try to live my life like that. Not just as an author, but just, in general. When recent legislation meant that short-term rental hosts like me needed to collect and remit extra taxes as part of running our short-term rentals, a lot of hosts were confused and frustrated. Despite being willing to collect and remit all other taxes, the two newest taxes were a "no go" for Airbnb and other rental platforms. They basically washed their hands of it and hosts were left with either paying exorbitant sums each quarter, or learning how to collect and track ALL of the taxes necessary and telling Airbnb and the other platforms how much to collect, have the platforms remit it directly to the hosts, and then the hosts were responsible for all of the tax reporting on their own.

I had created an Excel spreadsheet early on, and given Airbnb a very detailed list of taxes to collect and remit to me, then I track what goes where in the spreadsheet. As more and more hosts appeared on the Facebook host groups panicked over their mounting tax bills, and asking how folks were tracking them and remitting them, I found folks were turning to me for help.

Now, I'm NOT a tax professional. Nor am I an accountant, although I have accounting experience. I let folks know that right out of the gate, and then walked my fellow hosts through the step-by-step process of customizing the tax remittance on Airbnb, as well as forwarding them my STR Tax spreadsheet.

Several of them have offered to pay me. One I was on the phone with for damn near two hours.

But you know what? Each one of these folks needed help, and it was simple enough to send the spreadsheet along, give them some suggestions, and tell them no, that I did not need payment. I get something out of it. A sense of satisfaction that I have helped another person, and that is enough for me. Also, I keep in mind that, when I need help, folks are usually willing.

A month or so ago, I went to Comicon and I asked every author I could find selling their books there to give me their best advice. Most were happy to. Only one person out of the dozen I spoke to said that the information I was asking for came at a price. He suggested I "ask to buy an author a cup of coffee" before I picked their brains.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you can help so, without any expectation of payment...who knows what a difference it might make in their world?

We Are Selling Our Belton House!

Deep breaths in and out and a reminder to myself that a place I loved to the depths of my heart, my first house, will soon find its way into someone else's heart and mind. Over eleven years ago, when we jumped into living in our amazing 1899 Victorian in the city, I had a really hard time letting go of my first house. Couple that with a still struggling housing market, and we would have had to take a loss on the house if we sold it.

We rented it out. The first renters were a nightmare and I breathed a sigh of relief when they left after taking a backhoe to the backyard without even notifying us or asking permission. The second set of renters were there for more than six years. They were wonderful people and I kept the rent as low as possible for them, barely making any profit at all, until they moved out and I finally raised it to the going market rate. Another terrible renter followed, even worse than our first, and we are now on our fourth, and final, renter who has been there for over two years now.

If the market was so good, I would be loathe to sell, I really would. But the appeal of having the cash to get all of our renovations done, and pay off nearly all debt, well, it beats having to wait a full decade for some of our dreams to come to fruition.

We have big plans for the money. We will finish the last of the fixes on the basement apartment at Cottage West. This gives our son a place of his own as he transitions into semi-independent living while finishing his Associate's degree at Penn Valley and then going on to UMKC where he plans to earn a pharmacy degree. It also means finally finishing Cottage East into a four bedroom, 2 1/2 bath mid-term rental home which we hope to house medical professionals in on a room-by-room basis. Having a daily line of sight on all of our properties will mean that we can address issues immediately and maintain our investments for decades to come. And it means purchasing one nearly new Honda Civic, and possibly another, nearly new Honda truck or SUV that we can use to haul things with. It means zero debt, ZERO, on mortgages, car loans, EVERYTHING, within five years. And that is so huge. Our future... secure.

It's exciting, terrifying, and yes, even a little depressing. I loved that house so very much. I fought to keep it through a divorce, and I spent over a decade turning the yard into an edible paradise (sadly, this did not survive renters and their dogs).

The listing goes live mid-June. Our realtor has already received a cash offer, sight unseen, for the property for our initial asking price of $220,000 from an investor, but I'm hoping we can hold out for more. The market is HOT right now, and even a property that needs a little TLC is highly sought after.

The payoff is clear and achievable. The time to move on this is now. My vision for our future has never been closer. And at the end of it, I look forward to refocusing on my writing career knowing I have done everything I can to make the other parts of our income stream run right!

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