Posted in Defense Contract Accounting, Writing

The Accidental Accountant

Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Every morning, I’d take out my 10-key calculator, sharpen my pencils, and start filling in ledger entries.  I’d spend hours reading books about revenue standards and the best method of inventory valuations, and then I’d review the tax code for possible loopholes.  And just when I reached a new discovery –

I’d wake up from my nightmare because I had to get ready for work.

OF COURSE I never thought I’d become an accountant.  Who does?  Are there seriously kids out there who fantasize about debits and credits?

After numerous discussions with others in my profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all sort of fell into it by accident.  There’s no shortage of business schools or bankers, so I can only guess that at some point in our early adulthood, something led us over to the Dark Side.  We ventured into a world where everything must be sorted and matched to its proper time frame, and we discovered we were really, really good at playing ‘one of these things is not like the other’.

Since the Dark Side has snacks in the break room, most of us stayed.

Non-accountants usually say they could never do our job because they aren’t good at math, which shows how little outsiders know about the profession.  Accountants don’t do math; we organize piles of numbers and tell the CEO whether or not she can afford that new Lexus.  In fact, a lot of us can’t do simple addition without a calculator.

CEO:  “What’s 1 and 1?”

Intern:  “2”

Accounting Dept:  “11”

IT Dept:  “3”

Proposals Dept:  “What do you want it to be?”


I personally wound up in the accounting profession because I wanted to be an engineer.  Allow me to connect the dots:

  • Enters college eight years after graduating high school.
  • Decides it would be fun to be an engineer.
  • Secretly wants to be a writer, but doesn’t think it’s possible.
  • Learns most engineering degrees take five years to complete.
  • Decides to work as an accounts-payable clerk to help put food on the table while pursuing engineering degree.
  • Decides to pick up a two-year degree in accounting in order to get promoted at company while pursuing engineering degree.
  • After a fifteen-year absence, rediscovers joy in writing fiction.
  • Fails chemistry class three times.
  • Wonders why engineering seemed like a good idea.
  • Really wants to be a writer.
  • Keeps getting promoted in accounting.
  • Stops and starts college multiple times over the next two decades, because several other degrees seem way more interesting than accounting.
  • Sucks it up and finishes four-year degree in accounting in order to find a new job.
  • Gets promoted into management.
  • Still dreams of being a writer.


As a child, you are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As an adult, you discover the question really should have been, “How do you plan on paying your bills?”  You find that your dreams are replaced with practicalities, and you trade youth and passion for responsibility and security.  Your dreams fall into a dark corner, and after a few years, you start to believe you should just give up on them because it’s frustrating to want something that seems so far out of reach.

After a while you decide to give up your dream and it seems like the right decision; especially when you come home after a 10-hour work day and you can’t sit down to write because you’re exhausted and your vision is blurry and you need to go to the grocery store or you’ll be eating cold cereal for the third night in a row.  But while you’re grabbing a frozen pizza, you notice everyone around you is in swimsuits and shorts and you’re standing there in a skirt and heels, so you wonder what all these tourists do when they go back home.  By the time you get to the check-out, you decide that the couple behind you came down here from Ohio in order to murder his rich great-uncle, and you load your groceries into the car while contemplating ways to kill someone at the beach.  “Death By Sand Spurs” seems like a good working title, and the first chapter is written in your head by the time you fall asleep that night.

Then in the morning, you get back up, dust off your dreams, and throw your personal laptop in your work bag.  You’re going to write during your lunch hour, because you can no more quit dreaming than you can quit accounting.  And maybe by the time you finish the first page, the break room will have more snacks.

Posted in Writing

DNF Romance

Dear Author,

I wanted to finish reading your book.  I always want to finish.  In fact, there was once a time in my life when, no matter how difficult, I would slog through to the bitter end.

I had more free time on my hands in those days, and a far greater tolerance for pain.

You might not think this is a big deal, but I read a LOT of books, and so do my friends.  We’re always looking for a ‘new’ author, and when we find one we really like, we go and purchase everything the author has written.  You’re not just losing sales on your future books, you’re also losing them on your back catalog.

On the off-chance that you are looking to improve, here are some of the reasons your book landed in the dreaded DNF (did not finish) pile:

You bored me.  Life is too darn short to spend it reading something that puts me to sleep.  Textbooks are the primary culprit in this category, but your fiction committed this cardinal sin as well.  Please get a beta reader/editor to help you tighten up the narrative.

I can’t stand being inside your character’s head.  You wrote from the first-person point-of-view, but your character wasn’t capable of holding the entire narrative on her frail shoulders.  I felt like I was listening to a coworker talk about her divorce, wondering if it all really happened just like she said, and curious as to the other side of the story.

I hate your protagonist, Part I.  The greatest risk of first-person POV is that it can make a merely annoying character truly unbearable, because now I’m locked in her head.  Please tell your whining-and-making one-poor-choice-after-another drama queen to shut up.  I shouldn’t be rooting for the bad guys to win, or worse, wishing for a ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ ending.

Your mistakes killed me.  The advice is to ‘write now, research later,’ but you forgot to come back and do the research part.  I’m not referring to the sort of error that would only be noticeable to a subject matter expert, but your romantic lead is in the military and there’s no excuse in the age of wiki for not knowing what rank is appropriate for the age of your character.  A 24 year-old Lieutenant?  Sure.  A 24 year-old Colonel, not so much.

Your lack of personal experience shows.  Not everything can be gathered through research, and the sad truth is that some things require first-hand experience if you choose to focus on them.  In your case, you chose to be rather explicit describing something that I’ll just refer to as peeling potatoes, but it was obvious you had never peeled potatoes.  In fact, it was clear that not only had you not peeled potatoes, you had never so much as held a spud.  In this instance, it would have been best if you had left the couple to peel potatoes behind closed doors.

I hate your Protagonist, Part II.  If your romantic lead spent the first half of the book being a jerk, why should I believe he won’t start mistreating his One True Love later on, once the honeymoon is over?  And why would she want to hook up with him in the first place?  If this guy’s going to have a mighty change of heart by the middle of the book (and I wouldn’t recommend waiting until later), please don’t try to base the transformation solely on the love of a good woman.

You grossed me out.  We all have different tolerance points, which is why sub-genres exist and M18+ books have warnings.  Your graphic description of a sucking chest wound would have been fine in a war thriller, but it wasn’t appropriate for your target audience in a contemporary romance.  I know your character was a nurse, but most readers don’t want to stumble across the dirty details while they’re eating lunch.

Your protagonist is a fashion plate.  Descriptions of the physical world are necessary to good fiction, but your character’s clothing took center stage.  I don’t need to know that she chose to wear a black pencil skirt with a sheer, soft coral blouse and silver hoop earrings.  I might need to know what her love interest thinks of her appearance, but I doubt he’s looking at her earrings.

You have an obvious author tic.  By the third chapter, your protagonist had rolled her eyes seventeen times.  Your romantic lead blinked twelve times.  You referenced his deep blue eyes in six different places.  I should never be able to play drinking games with your prose.

The worst part of all of this is that it didn’t have to be this way.  A good beta cures most of these ills, and a great beta has the courage to tell you that your character is unlikable.  I started reading your book because it looked interesting, so there was something there to draw me in.  You just didn’t close the deal, which is a shame.  The world needs more good books, and I was hoping one of them would be yours.