Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Unforeseen Perks of Having an Office by Christiana Miller

Folks, today I have the pleasure of handing my blog over to author and Backspace member Christiana Miller...


By Christiana Miller

Whenever I heard of an author who had an office where they went to, to write, I was always torn. Part of me felt envious they had that luxury. Part of me felt like it was a scandalous waste of money, unless they were a best-selling author who could afford it.

Until the day I was looking for an apartment in a better school district. This may not have been the neighborhood we lived in, but it was the neighborhood we had spent all our time in since my daughter was born, where she went to preschool, and where her friends lived. It was where I wanted her to continue her schooling.

The bad news was that the only apartment we could afford had been rented. The good news was, as I was walking out of the realtor's office, I noticed an office had just come up for rent, in the district I was looking for, for one-third the price of the apartment.

So, I checked it out. It was tiny, but lights and a/c were included in the rent and, best of all, the previous tenant was willing to leave the office completely furnished. So I rented it. And since I had started a publishing brand to publish my own books, it was easy to move the business into the new office location.

It was probably the best decision I ever made. So what were the perks, you ask?

PERK #1:

A better school district. If you own a business or are an employee in a better school district, you may be able to use that to get your kid on that district's waiting list as well as have your child released from the district you live in.

For us, the week before school started, we got a phone call telling us that my daughter had been moved from the waiting list to the active list, and would be starting school with all her friends.

However, you will need to start this process fairly early in the summer, as it takes time to get your business license, publicize your DBA, schedule your fire inspection, fulfill any insurance obligations on the business, etc.

PERK #2:

Unexpected pets! This may not be the case with you, but our first day at the office, my daughter noticed that we were sharing the space with a two foot long (from snout to end of tail) alligator lizard. Her name is Flower and the only thing she'll eat (so far) is McDonald's side salad and whatever bugs wander in. Flower has the run of the office and is pretty sure we're squatters.

PERK #3:

Tax deductions. You can deduct the business expenses and office rent from your taxes. And it won't raise the IRS red flags that trying to deduct a home office does. It's relatively easy to get a Federal Tax ID (your banker can even do it as you watch) and set up a business banking account. As a bonus, once you have both a business and personal account with your bank, you'll usually qualify for free upgrades and perks.

However, there are a lot of unexpected expenses that go along with setting up a business and renting office space, so make sure to keep good records. Your first month will (most likely) be your most expensive.

PERK #4:

Space!!! Most people can manage to carve out an office for themselves in their homes, using an extra room. However, when we downsized our apartment, we no longer had any extra space in our new place.

Now, I can move all the writing books, paper reams, office equipment, research materials, and filing cabinets that used to clutter up my home and keep them in the office.

I'm still in the process of doing this, but I'm looking forward to being able to reclaim my dining room as a dining room. And my bedroom. Once this office-stuff type of de-cluttering is done, I can turn my focus to the hordes of toys that are slowly devouring our living room.

PERK #5:

Dedicated writing time. My husband works at home and I never realized how much my writing was affected by having to compete with all the distractions of child, spouse, internet, TV, phone, doorbell, etc. I remember kidding around that I had gotten so used to writing when PBS Sprout and Nick Jr. were on, I now had to turn on kid's cartoons to summon the muse.

Once I got the office, however, this is what I started to notice:

I'd get my daughter ready for school, drop her off and head to the office. Since I don't have any internet access there, or TV, or even a land-line, all I can do is sit down and write. So I do. I write.

I open the blinds. I write some more. I look for the alligator lizard. I write some more.

When I would normally stop for the day, thinking that I'm just about all tapped out… I look at the clock and notice that school's nowhere near over for the day.

Since I have nothing else to do, I sit back down and I write some more. This time, when I stop, I'm absolutely convinced that the muse has left the building.

So I get up, stretch, look for the alligator lizard, stretch some more and…

I still have time left.

So I sigh and I sit back down to the computer. Hearing the desperation in my call, the muse comes back in from her break, and we start again.

For every day I spend writing in the office, I get about a week's worth of work done, compared to how much I do when I work at home, surrounded by TV, people and internet temptations!

PERK #6:

The comfort of a schedule. If I spend the day writing in the office, I don't feel guilty for not writing at home. Now, I can use that time to play with my daughter or clean our home, or work on marketing, or organize writing events. Without the constant guilt that accompanies the thought "I could be/should be writing."

So, while having a dedicated office space was something I thought would always be a dream, I'm very glad it has become a reality.

About the author: Christiana Miller is a novelist, screenwriter and mom who's led an unusual life. In addition to writing for General Hospital: Night Shift and General Hospital, she's had her DNA shot into space (where she's currently cohabiting in a drawer with Stephen Colbert and Stephen Hawking), and she's been the voices of all the female warriors in Mortal Kombat II and III. If her life was a TV show, it would be a wacky dramedy filled with eccentric characters who get themselves into bizarre situations.

Miller recently started a publishing company (HekaRose Publishing) and wrote/published her first novel, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Diesel, Smashwords. Check out her website at: or like her author page on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter at @writechristiana.

Excerpt From "Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead"

At the beginning of this whole, surreal journey, I had no idea you could be evicted from your body as easily as you could be booted out of your apartment. Easier, actually, since there's none of those pesky laws in place to protect you. But it all started out so innocently. . . With a streak of bad luck.

One of the problems with being a witch is when you ask the universe a question, it generally gives you an answer. Or just enough of one to ruin a perfectly good week.

But since it was my birthday. . .

And since I was an eternal optimist. . .

And mostly 'cause I was stuck at the longest red light in the history of traffic, with nothing else to do. . .

I dug my tarot deck out of my purse and pulled three cards for the coming year.


Three of Swords.

The Tower.

Transformation. Sorrow. Change through destruction. Happy birthday to me.

Damn it. I shouldn't have looked. You'd think I'd know better by now. Damn tarot cards always suckered me into peeking into my future and I just about always regretted it. Because the hell of it was. . .

They were usually right.

After a quick stop at Trader Joe's, I was finally home. I propped the grocery bag on my hip, wrestled open the wrought iron gate and placed my hand on my mailbox. Mara Stephens, Apt 1-C.

I stood for a second, hoping my unemployment check was in there and tried to read the vibes. This was a game I always played with myself -- a small psychic exercise to keep my 'sight' sharp. But I didn't feel any sense of urgency or hope. Just a whopping dose of dread.

Great. So my guess was no check, but at least one major bill I'd have to pay. I unlocked the box and quickly sorted through the mail. Sure enough -- a sale flyer from the Crooked Pantry, a birthday card from a temp agency and a pink notice from the Dept. of Water and Power.

Good thing I had plenty of candles to fall back on. And a swimming pool. Maybe I could shower over the drain in the courtyard, with the garden hose. People washed their dogs there all the time. And my shampoo was considerably less toxic than flea dip.

Tucked into the back of the mailbox was a reminder about the rent. At least that was one thing I didn't need to worry about. Lenny knew I was good for it. How much longer I'd be able to pay the rent though. . . That thought made me queasy.

Suddenly, a wave of panic hit my stomach and clenched it hard. Forget crawling, gooseflesh positively raced across my arms. I struggled to breathe. Whatever was wrong, it all seemed to be coming from the direction of my apartment.

I dropped my mail into the grocery bag and peeked around the corner of the mail stand. Behind the screen door, my front door was wide open.

Shit! I ducked back behind the mailboxes and fumbled through my purse for my cell phone.

I flipped open the phone and hit 9-1-1.


I hung up and tried again.

Still busy.

Bloody hell. No wonder the crime rate was so high in Los Angeles. I didn't know what the non-emergency number was, so I decided to call my home phone and warn the intruder to clear out.

If I was lucky, it would just be a break-in. A simple case of anonymous robbery. I'd warn them that I was on my way home and they'd hit the road with their haul.

But as I punched in the first three digits, the phone beeped, the battery icon blinked and the screen went black.

Damn it. I shoved the phone back into my purse and took another look at my apartment. The living room lights had been turned on against the gathering dusk. But why would robbers turn on the lights? Didn't that negate the whole idea of stealth?

I crept closer. That's when I saw Mrs. Lasio, the new building manager, planted like a bull in my living room.

Great. Just freaking great. Why did it have to be her? Why couldn't it have been some whacked-out crack-head carting off my TV?


If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can get the full story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Diesel, or Smashwords.

Until next time,

1 comment:

Red Tash said...

That does sound amazing. I'd love to see a photo of the lizard!