Monday, March 19, 2018

Expense account musings

Q: Make a bullet list of your ideal writing-related expenses. Must jibe with the themes of your books. And must be funny.

- from Susan

A: My writing expenses are funny, mostly because I have yet to earn enough money to need the deductions. I just submitted my 2017 tax figurings to the accountant, whose laughter is doubtless filling his office. I can hear him now: “Listen to this, Murrry, $1,035 for a round trip ticket to France, hahaha… $22 for sausages at a meat market in some little town, hahaha…”

But, honestly, if you’re going to set a series in a small town in France, and you need to include food specialties, and you don’t happen to live there, what can you do? At every convention, on every panel on the topic, authors will tell you earnestly that you can’t make up stuff that can be easily challenged by people who have been to those places and eaten that good. No Coney Island dogs will substitute for the creamy taste and soft texture of a locally made, Burgundian veal sausage. California winters are nothing like French ones and my second book in the series is set in the depths of Burgundy in December. And speaking of December, Christmas? If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I would not have known how understated the public holiday is in the villages, how unused the many churches are, and how charming the marzipan fruits and vegetables that decorate candy shop windows are.

Readers sometimes chuckle, assuming that I decided to set my stories in France as a way to fund my travel jones. Aren’t I clever? I get to write off my almost annual trips and just do a wee bit of research to justify the time? So not true. My last trip was conducted in a rush, it rained or sleeted every day, all the soupe d’oignon in the world couldn’t warm me up, and my transit days in Paris were more of the same weather. Not that I don’t still love France, but if I were as smart as some people assume, I’d set all of my books in May and June, insist that my characters travel to Giverney and Provence, and have a strong sub-theme built around the great wines of the region. I can hear my accountant now: “Three bottles of Chablis, two bottles of Burgundy, and a half case of Cremant? Hahaha….”

No comments: