Tax Day. By now, hopefully many of you have hit the ‘send’ button on some sort of e-file software and bid your 2010 taxes a fond farewell or a “See you in hell,” whichever works for you. I stayed up until 2am trying to decipher the cryptic intricacies of secret codes and regulations related to stock sales, a small side business, and goodwill donations while my wife kept IMing me words of encouragement from upstairs like, “how many times have you called your dad?” and “bet you wish you started earlier huh?”
Maybe it was the 32 oz Mountain Dew somewhere around midnight, or maybe it was the fifteenth time I had to redo the numbers on my “home office” to make it least likely to attract a swarm of auditors, I’m not sure, but at some point, my relaxing evening of tax preparation turned to self-reflection.
The year was 1991, a full two decades ago, and I was just five days away from leaving the desolate wastes of Kuwait and returning to Sunny Fort Hood. Skipping the re acclimation to flushing toilets and heated food that didn’t come in ten-pound cans or rubber bags, that year was going to be different both for my future, and for my taxes. I’d spent a good portion of my time in the desert training and sweating and all those other manly things young soldiers do, but in the evenings, I wrote. I wrote a letter to a gaming company, Hero Games as they are known now. In that letter I outlined a gaming scenario for their superhero role-playing-game called Champions. They turned me down. So I revised the proposal, suggested something bigger and better, and they agreed.
From that point, every night in my floorless tent sitting on my dust and dead fly cover cot, I filled page after page of notebook paper by the light of an OD green flashlight. I sent these papers home in my dingy envelopes with “no postage necessary” scrawled in the corner, my dad typed each page up as I’d written it, and eventually we mailed the printed copy off to the gaming company. All 124 pages of Champions Sourcebook #437, Pyramid in the Sky, came out later that year and sold over a whole handful of copies around two or three gaming stores everywhere. But more to the point, and I did have one, was that year, my taxes had an entry labeled “royalties.”
It netted me less than I make in a weekend of National Guard now, but I didn’t care. The point was, I wrote something, and I made Royalties. Probably the most majestically accurate word ever created. Say it to yourself. Royal-ties.
Anyway, there weren’t any more for a while after that first year, but a few summers later, I published something else, and my taxes swelled with pride again. I think I might have even tried to screw up my tax return in hopes I might actually attract an auditor so we could talk about my royalties.
“Oh sure, of course I realize I can’t claim my new nuclear bomb shelter as ‘preventative medical expenses,’ but have you seen what I put in line 17?”
I’ve never made enough in royalties to quit my day job, or even my part time job or that hobby job I do on the side, but every time I get to put a dollar amount, any dollar amount, in the royalties line, it makes my heart soar like a hawk. I still have the first dollar from that first game book pressed between its pages on my shelf.
So go out there and get some royalties. One dollar, a hundred dollars, it doesn’t matter. Write something every year that makes you some royalties, and preparing your taxes will become a joyous event to behold, even at two in the morning…