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Friday, 30 August 2013

US Tax Terrors!

If you have ebooks published on Kindle, you may have received the following email and been struck by foreboding chills concerning form-filling and migraines.

"In order for Amazon to comply with U.S. tax reporting regulations, it is required that all KDP publishers provide valid taxpayer identification. Our records are showing we haven’t received valid tax information for your account yet. To ensure you may continue selling on Amazon, please complete your tax information by 10/25/2013. 

A new online method is available to submit your tax information by taking a short tax interview. Please follow the instructions below to submit your tax information:

  1.  Sign into your KDP Account at
  2.  Click on the “Complete Tax Information” button at the top of your Bookshelf.
  3.  Be sure to enter accurate information and avoid typos in Name(s) or Tax ID numbers.

 The tax interview will guide you through a step-by-step process to determine which tax form is right for you and gather all required details to update your account. Once the tax interview is complete, you can follow the status of your submission on your KDP Account page under “Tax Information”.
To do the interview you'll need a US Tax number. There is some disagreement over exactly which US Tax number you will require and how best to get them. I've been researching the problem and have found a helpful post from a British writer, who says that phoning the US to obtain an EIN number is the most effective solution. Here's the link to her blog post which has numerous comments from people who have followed the process and added their experiences. 
It seems that if you are direct about saying you are simply selling ebooks through Amazon from outside the US, you should be given a number within 7-10 minutes. No need to fill out massive forms and post your precious passport to the US to verify your status!
I'll give this a go when I can find the courage, and let you know how I get on! It's got to be better than going to the accredited NZUS Tax company in Auckland for help and forking out $400 for a consultation!
Once you have your EIN you can fill in form W8BEN for Kindle, Smashwords and Createspace so that your earnings are only taxed at 10% instead of 30%. (I think.) And Kindle won't close your account!
Ah, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, eh? Wish me luck.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The horror genre is one of the most popular literary forms.
Maureen Green

When writing 'Thriller Chillers' and immersing myself in the character role, emotional empathy becomes so strong that I find it somewhat draining and frequently disturbing when the character takes over. I'm often left wondering where that chilling idea or action came from, for, nothing, nothing captures the pain that lies at the heart of human beings more than something overwhelmingly frightful, loathsome, shocking and abhorrent.
In a truly horrific experience we have no clear idea of how to react. We may freeze; or our head may snap up like an alarmed bird's and our eyes swell before all the panic, the pain and the quashed screams of one's life erupt into the air. The horror genre is constructed around such emotional and physical responses. It seeks to produce in its audience anxious fright and hair-raising chills.
            Across history and culture, horror stories have served to document and illuminate the human condition. Horror lies at the very core of literature, from scary narratives in folklore and fairy tales to a long-standing tradition of fear-narration. Horror lies in the tension between the figurative and the real, the conscious and the unconscious. It is an emotional response extremely personal. An act that horrifies some will barely make an impression on others. 'Man's inhumanity to man', anger-motivated violence, murder, abuse, and the worst of all acts, the deprivation and cruelty heaped upon our children disgusts, yet provides compelling reading.
In our life time we can experience, either as an onlooker or an active participant, acts so bizarre, that extreme sensory responses activate.
It was during the 1951 Waterfront Dispute - the longest, costliest and most widespread dispute in New Zealand history - that I tasted, for the first time, the extreme emotional forces associated with horror. Few confrontations have divided New Zealand and created a depth of feeling that produced bitter divisions between neighbours, friends and families. The number of New Zealanders unaffected could be counted on one hand during this time of great nationalism, civil disobedience, prejudice, stubbornness, passion and anger. For five months, men, women and children throughout the country carried the burden of these events.
            It is in, Footprints in the Sands of Time, a collection of short stories recognized by the Turnbull Library as of historical significance, that I write about this experience. A story I called -

Something thwacked on the back of my neck. A small paper missile; the ones made by spitting on paper and rolling it into a tight ball, ricocheted onto my desk. I swung around and Jackson leered. His lips stretched taut showing the gaps in his front teeth. “Your old man’s gonna get it today. The miners and the wharfies have something special for the pigs today. They've got guns.”
“Leave me alone,” I whispered.
Miss Bagnall lifted her head from her marking. “Adelaide Taylor, no talking. You know the rule during silent reading.”
“But, Miss...”
The class, nearly all children of the strikers, snickered as Miss Bagnall placed two fingers to her lips. “Shhhhh.”
And the class aped her reprimand.
I should have known better than to try to explain. There were hundreds of the strikers’ kids in our school. Roberta Thomas and I were the only policeman’s kids who attended Omanaki School.
The old school bell burred out, luncheon break. Four classes in the unit, eager to be free of the restraints of the classroom surged along the corridor jostled and elbowed at the narrow doorway before spilling out into the playground and freedom. 
As usual, the strikers’ kids gathered at the far end of the playground. Today their mood seemed different.  Ugly! I could smell it. I even thought I could taste it...'

It was during this time of unrest that I discovered Edgar Allan Poe's, 'The Tell-Tale Heart', a tale where an old man's cloudy eye incites the narrator to an act of madness.
The hook, 'True——nervous—very, very, nervous I have been and am.' captured my attention; the story as it unfolded was creepy, chilling, thrilling.
While I read, 'Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker and louder and louder every instant,' my own heart banged against my ribcage and my pulse played a symphony in my ears. I heard that heart beat in moments of silence, week after week.
I then tackled Poe's poetry and was mesmerised by the lyricism and the economy of words used to create a chill.

Leave my loneliness unbroken!
-quit the bust above my door
take thy beak from out my heart,
and take thy form from off my door!
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him steaming throws his shadow to the floor;
And my soul from out the shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted-nevermore

Consequently, roughly fifty years on, having immersed myself in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley and other canonised authors of horror stories, when I came to writing for adults I chose to write 'Thriller Chillers' . Works in the horror genre remain some of the best-selling and most cherished books of all time with chilling experiences that assist in providing the reader with coping strategies. 

I have so many horrific acts which have never been aired in the public domain to weave into works. Books already published have a bizarre event that motivated the writing. Consequences, Tangled Web, Snatched are adult works and, Code of Silence is a work for young adults. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

We are bombarded constantly with the advice to Show, Not Tell. Everyone I know diligently works through their writing eradicating any telling, because we all know the great bar to becoming published is the sin of telling. 
As a beginner writer, it is very difficult to hold on to my own convictions in the face of emphatic critiquing to the contrary. If I re-express a section in a way which will presumably satisfy the purist ‘Show-ers’, I don’t always feel as if I've achieved much, or more importantly, that how I want the book to read has been improved. It seems to me that jumping on the ‘telling’ is too easy a target; and does not necessarily reflect a considered assessment of the whole manuscript by the ‘critiquer.’ (And I acknowledge this might simply be my defensive mechanism feeling my ‘literary darling’ is being criticized.)
The subject vexes me and so I looked it up on Wikipedia; and found this article:
 Show don't tell is a technique often employed by writers to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to experience the author's ideas by interpreting significant, well-chosen details in the text. The technique applies equally to fiction and non-fiction.  The concept is not just literary: It also applies to speech, movie making and playwriting.
Nobel Prize winning novelist Ernest Hemingway was a notable proponent of the show, don't tell style. His famed Iceberg Theory, also known as the "theory of omission", originates from his bullfighting treatise, Death in the Afternoon:
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
"Show, don't tell" should not be applied to all incidents in a story. According to James Scott Bell, "Sometimes a writer tells as a shortcut, to move quickly to the meaty part of the story or scene. Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid. If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won't, and your readers will get exhausted." Showing requires more words; telling may cover a greater span of time more concisely. A novel that contains only showing would be incredibly long; therefore, a narrative can contain some legitimate telling.
Scenes that are important to the story should be dramatized with showing, but sometimes what happens between scenes can be told so the story can make progress. According to Orson Scott Card and others, "showing" is so terribly time consuming that it is to be used only for dramatic scenes. The objective is to find the right balance of telling versus showing, summarization versus action. Factors like rhythm, pace, and tone come into play.
 Creative literature (as opposed to technical writing or objective journalism) in general hinges on the artful use of a wide range of devices (such as inference, metaphor, understatement, the unreliable narrator, and ambiguity) that reward the careful reader's appreciation of subtext and extrapolation of what the author chooses to leave unsaid, untold, and/or un-shown. The "dignity" Hemingway speaks of proposes a form of respect for the reader, who should be trusted to develop a feeling for the meaning behind the action without having the point painfully laid out for him.
According to novelist Francine Prose, who refers to the "show, don't tell" concept as "bad advice often given young writers":
Needless to say, many great novelists combine "dramatic" showing with long sections of the flat-out authorial narration that is, I guess, what is meant by telling. And the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out ... when in fact the responsibility of showing should be assumed by the energetic and specific use of language."
I feel a bit better; there are others out there who agree: not all things should automatically be shown.

Friday, 9 August 2013


    A recent press release covering the decline and fall of Jill Marshall, until recently CEO of PearJam Books, sends creepy things running up and down my spine. 
    Who can you trust these days? Even the mighty Fonterra has fallen face down in the cow-yard slush. Their resounding crash will have taken the publicity heat out of Jill Marshall and her broken dreams. But what of her innocent clients, all too often not only out of pocket, but out of patience, out of product (books) and out of mana, due to the sloppiness of the more recent editing and printing.
    So what went wrong? Is this a case of Murphy’s Law or just a minnow pretending to be a shark in the publishing/ editorial world?  New Zealand’s tiny population and consequently the ‘self absorption’ of publishing houses to an ever-diminishing degree has created a vacuum for writers. Consequently their course-plotting for any port that offers apparent shelter and the eventual publication of a treasured manuscript, seems the only way to go.
    What is to be done? Should a writer be looking overseas at larger more sturdy publishing houses, perhaps Australia? 
    Is this a warning that online publication is the safer way ahead?
    Modern technology is a mine-field to the older writer and the more than scary prospect that completed ms will have to be handed to the techno-savvy for good or ill. 
    Anyone who has an answer for current NZ writers who might right now, be putting out feelers to one of the few remaining publishing houses in this country, is invited to respond to this blog. Those of you who have experienced a disheartening and down-right dishonest state of affairs such as Jill Marshall and her PearJam Books failure, are welcome to record your plight and if possible what was done to rectify the matter.

Pam Laird

Friday, 2 August 2013


Thank heavens for those who mangle the English language. The likes of the Reverent Spooner and Sheridan's Mrs Malaprop bring to the language a sparkle and a sense of humour and, if it doesn't drive you to distraction, it invigorates and amuses. In A Decapitated Coffee, Please, author Des MacHale has collected a whole book of malapropisms. It should be on every writer’s bookshelf. (Quote: “General Rommel commanded Hitler's Pansy Division...” Now, where can I use that?)
In my novels, I have created a couple of characters whose personalities are moulded by their, shall we say, unique approach to the English language.
In my book The Indigo Kid, Stella Goodstar runs the Sixty-Nine Club, a porn-slash-spiritual store (she doesn't know which end to cater for, so she combines the two). She has decided to dispense with the posters on the walls as someone has promised to ‘paint a nice Muriel on the wall’. And: 'That Peter Shepherd...A real fox in the penthouse, that one.'
In Rusty and Slasher and the Circus from Hell the priest, Father Shamus Appelbaum, follows in the splendid footsteps of Rev Spooner by urging his congregation to ‘hollow their fart’. Slasher is not averse to mangling the language either. 'Maybe that's because wriggle mortis had set in.' Slasher gave a theatrical shudder. 'Now I know why they call them stiffs. He was like a cardboard box with legs.'
Creating such characters is fun. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? This writing lark. Having fun. Creating characters you like, that are maybe a little spark of your own inner, hidden, self. Characters you wouldn't mind having a cuppa with.
Comparisons are odorous, I know. I will never write a spy novel, like John le Carré, about a Soviet agent who defecated to the West. I will never write a classic like Lame is Rob by Victor Hugo or Don Coyote by Servants. I may never win the Pullet Surprise with my novels but, boy, I've had fun.

(Malapropisms are thanks to Mr MacHale.)

Jenny Harrison