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Archive for May, 2008

Hello and welcome to our brain-busting ‘pick a British writer’s brain’ day, which we’re hoping will become a regular weekly event.

Britpick Clinic

If you missed last week’s, the ‘rules’ are simple – just use the comments section to ask your questions on any aspect of British life, language or writing, and one of the panel of British writers will get back to you during the day.  As before, keep checking back for the answers – and we all hope you have lots of fun!

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Leather on Willow

cricket match

No, that’s not some kind of spanky new kink – it’s a reference to a cricket ball hitting a bat! Of all our national games and sports, I think cricket is the one that most baffles non-Brits. Heck, it even baffles quite a few Brits. But it’s really quite simple, as this little explanation of the rules will prove:

Cricket – As explained to a foreigner

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.

Okay, I’m teasing. 😉 In reality it’s not quite as silly as that, and can be summed up in greatly simplified form as follows. There are two teams of eleven men (or women), each of which takes turns to bat, and bowl/field. The team who are batting try to make as many ‘runs’ as possible by hitting the ball around the field and running between the ‘wickets’. They also have to guard their wicket, which consists of three stumps with two bails on top, to stop the bowler hitting it with the ball. cricket stumpsThe team who are bowling and fielding try to get each of the batsmen out in turn, either by catching a ball they’ve just hit, or by hitting their wicket , or by running them out. The winning team is usually the one with the most runs for the loss of the fewest wickets (ie, batsmen).

There are various forms of cricket including test matches which can last up to five days, one-day games, and even shorter matches that only last for a couple of hours. In the extended matches the play becomes very cat-and-mouse and can seem very slow – someone memorably described it as ‘nothing happens for so long that when something finally does happen it’s wildly exciting’. 🙂 The shorter games can be much more eventful and are beginning to overtake test matches in popularity.

Of course, if you don’t want to bother with all the rules and regulations and would just like a bit of fun, you could always read ‘Sticky Wicket’, my m/m sex-and-cricket romp, which is available in the sport-and-sex anthology Play Ball from Torquere Press. As we Brits would say, ‘that’s just not cricket’.

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Your ITIN and you

Boggle as the intrepid author fights her way through the swamps of legalese!Gasp as she overcomes the clinging forests of red tape!Tremble as she asks the men with machine guns to stand aside and let her pass!

Well, OK, it probably isn’t possible to make a post about UK and USA tax arrangements interesting.Though men with machine guns really were involved, that was probably the least fraught thing about it.Instead I’ll try for clarity and usefulness.

If you’re a British author, being paid by an American publisher, the fact that you may get 30% more royalties if you read to the end will just have to be compensation for the dull subject 🙂

The Tax Treaty

American publishers have to pay American taxes to the IRS.If you are receiving royalties from an American firm, then the IRS are legally obliged to take 30% of your royalties in tax.You then get what remains.

However, the British tax man is legally obliged to tax you, as a British resident, on your income.So you will end up paying tax on the royalties which have already been taxed.You will end up being taxed twice on the same earnings.

This is so obviously unfair that everyone was agreed that something should be done about it.As a result the USA and the UK signed a tax treaty which means that UK residents only get taxed by the UK.

This is good news.However, this doesn’t all happen automatically.It’s up to you, the writer, to prove to the IRS that you (a) are a foreign national and therefore ought not to have to pay American tax and that (b) you are in fact getting paid by an American firm and not merely wasting their time.

The ITIN Number

In order to establish that you are receiving money which you will not be taxed for, you need to get yourself an ITIN number.This tells the IRS who you are, and tells them you are exempt from paying them tax.

If you do not get an ITIN number, your publisher will be legally obliged to give 30% of your royalties to the IRS.They are probably already doing this without letting you know about it.Not – I hasten to add – out of any malice, but just because unless you stand up and say ‘hey, I don’t pay tax in the USA and here’s my ITIN to prove it,’ they have no other option.

How Do I Get an ITIN Number?

Here is my recommended method.I have done this myself and found it surprisingly simple and effective.

First of all you get a copy of the form here: FW7

You fill this in to the best of your ability.(Foreign Tax number = National Insurance number).

What the IRS need is (a) Proof you are British.

(b) Proof you need an ITIN because you are being paid by an American company.

The only single document they will accept for (a) is your passport.

For (b) they will accept your contract as long as it mentions the fact that you are going to be paid royalties.

Now take your filled in FW7, your passport and your contract to the American Embassy in London:

http://www.usembassy.org.uk/ukaddres.html

And tell them that you want the IRS office.You will be passed through the queue at the gates faster than all the other people (who are waiting for Visas).You will have to go through a paranoid security check that even airports would think is a bit OTT, leaving all your electronics, including your watches and even your belts at the door.Then, holding on to your trousers, you can ask the machine-gun armed policemen at the checkpoint which way to go and you will be directed to the IRS office.

I arrived at about 2pm and the whole queuing and strip search business (I’m joking about the strip search btw!) only took about 15 minutes, after which I was the only person in the IRS office, and seen to immediately.

The IRS man filled in the bits of the form I could not manage (name and subsection of the tax treaty under which I was exempt), took my passport away for just long enough to photocopy it, kept the copy, and kept the printouts of my contract, handed me back my passport, and that was that.I still have to wait 120 days before I get an ITIN, which will be sent to my house, but at least I have the assurance that the form got past the IRS man, so it must at least be properly filled in.

Problems

(a) But what if I live a long way from London?

You are kind of stuffed.You can post your FW7, passport and contract to the IRS office in the Embassy (address above).If you want to risk sending your passport through the post, of course.

(a.i) can’t I send them a copy of my passport?

Not really.They will not accept a copy unless it is taken by an authorised notary or Acceptance Agent.Googling reveals two Acceptance Agents in the entire country and they are both in London.

Also, I feel I ought to mention that Acceptance Agents will charge you £450 for the privilege, *and* the IRS man was not aware that there were any authorised Acceptance Agents in the country, so the ones on Google may be dodgy.

Frankly, if you’re posting your passport to an Acceptance Agent to be officially copied, you might as well post it to the IRS office.If you don’t want to post it, you’re stuck with travelling to London yourself.

(b) What if I don’t have a passport?

The only single document they will accept for proof of identity is your passport.There is a list of other documents they may take instead in the instructions of the FW7.One of them, however *must* contain photo-ID.If you have no passport and no photo-driver’s licence, you are stuffed.

If you have a photo-driver’s licence and your birth certificate you may be OK with that, but again they must be the original documents.If you don’t want to post them and risk losing them, and/or them not being enough proof of identity anyway, you will have to take them to London yourself.

That stinks!

I know.But on the other hand you only need to get an ITIN once.After that you will have the same number throughout your writing career, and it will be saving you 30% of your royalties all the way.It has to be worth the expense of travelling to London for a day, or even overnight.It has to be less than paying an Acceptance Agent £450 for the privilege.And you can buy ‘I love London’ T-shirts on the way home 😉

Hurray!I have my ITIN Number!It’s all over!

Well, almost but not quite!All your ITIN number does is prove you are not subject to US tax.If you want your publisher to be aware of this fact, you must then send your publisher a FW8BEN to inform them.Only after you’ve done that will the publisher be able to stop taking tax off the money that you’re going to be taxed on at home.

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Lyn’s intro

Hi folks.  I thought it was about time I introduced myself. 

I’m Lyn and I write as ‘Hywela Lyn’.  I write mainly romantic Science Fantasy and am anxiously awaiting the release for my first novel ‘Starquest’ to be published by The Wild Rose Press, first electronically and then in paperback a few months later.  Although it is a romance, it’s also a tale of courage and adventure, set in the 23rd Century.  

 Here’s a short ‘Blurb’

When Jestine Darnell is rescued from her sabotaged starship by the crew of the Destiny her only objective is to complete her mission and keep her promise to save a world from slavery.  Love is the last thing on her mind.  However, she has not counted on losing her heart to Keri Marchant  the ship’s second in command, who makes his distrust of her painfully obvious, despite the chemistry between them.   The completion of her mission has consequences neither of them could have foreseen.

Enter Dahll Tarron, who becomes involved in a long and dangerous quest to find the Destiny.  Fates become intertwined, perils shared, culminating in the realization that sometimes love may be so close  there is a danger it will not be recognized until it is too late…

 I’m really thrilled to be involved in an anthology from the same publisher, called ‘The Song Of The Muses’.  Nine authors have each written a story about one of the Greek muses. Mine is Terpsichore, and I’ve sent her to 5th Century Wales.  The stories will each be released as individual e-books over the summer and then as three paperbacks of three stories each in October. 

Blurb:

Terpsichore’s task  – to restore a love of dancing, to the Celts of Wales  – seems simple.  However, all is not as it seems.  Danger follows.  Legends are threatened;   and  she had not meant to lose her heart , or  have to save the man she loves by dancing with Fate.

 I have also just signed the Contract for the sequel to ‘Starquest’, called  ‘Children Of The mist’, so phew, it looks like being a busy year! 

I lived in Wales all my life, until I married and my husband brought me to England!  I miss the wildness of my beloved Welsh mountains dreadfully and go back ‘home’ whenever I can.  I’ve been mad about animals, especially horses and dogs, for as long as I can remember, and have a black Welsh cob gelding called Harry, a ‘paint’ Welsh/Quarterhorse mare called T’pau, (after Spock’s grandmother) and a ‘rescued’  Jack Russell called Bouncer (because he does).  I’ll be writing more about them at a later date.

Oh, and just to clarify, or perhaps complicate things even further, Hywela and Lyn are my two first two`names.  I have always been called ‘Lyn’ but wanted to use my Welsh name ‘Hywela’ so decided to put the two together as my pen-name.  I still answer to Lyn’ though!

You can keep up to date with my writing and the various competitions I will be running either individually or with fellow authors at www.hywelalyn.co.uk  There is also a link there to my blog.  If you would like like to join my mailing list, you will find a quick link on the contacts page of my website.   I promise not to bombard you wtih emails – just the occasional bit of news of new releases, latest competitions,etc.  Please feel free to drop me an email at the link on my site, I love to hear from people and will do my best to answer any questions.

 

 

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We’re experiencing a storm in Britain. I’d just embarked on a cycling tour from Chester to Gloucestershire visiting writerly friends en route, and enjoyed the hills and encounters including talking over hedge tops and dodging tractors on the minor roads I am obliged to use.

Fed up with transcribing my notebook scribbled words to computer on my return I’ve found a small laptop that slips into my cycle pannier. Staying overnight at youth hostels or B&Bs I exercise fingers in the evenings while my legs rest and steel themselves for the next day. My 2000 word-a-day target doesn’t always get met if the hostel has convivial company, but my stories’ characterization usually receives a fillip! Yes I could do without the extra weight especially yesterday when I cycled up to Bridges Youth Hostel in the Shropshire hills, but like other addictions, the glow of the screen later in the evening made the effort worthwhile. Luckily, I can also make the effort pay when I sell cycle tour articles to Cycling World magazine. What I refrain from is doing my paid-for editing while on the move. Adding to shorts and novels has added value when I revise later and smile at the memory of the location. For example, I’d written a humorous short story, Camera Shy, at an outside café table on the Place de Concorde in Paris. The story is based there and not only was my bicycle leaning against a railing in reality when I wrote the draft but I used it in the story. (published in the magazine, Delivered, March 2008.)

Other advantages of carting around a small laptop is that the memory stick in my digi camera can be uploaded to the computer and so free up space. When I cycle into a town I can usually find a free wifi hot spot, such as a Starbucks café, and so delete the accumulated spam in my email and respond to urgent posts. In theory I could also use the internet access to turn on my heating so there’s enough hot water for a bath when I cycle home, but my son hasn’t shown me how to do that yet.

Writing on the move? Yes, it is a little like working on holiday, but it is more pleasure than grind, so let it roll.

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I live on the Norfolk Broads. It’s a system of linked waterways in the west of Norfolk with nearly 200 miles of navigable routes. For many years they were considered to be a natural system until it was discovered that they were excavated by the Romans as they exploited the peat beds for fuel, and then further along in the Middle Ages as more peat was dug out. The water seeped into the channels as the sea levels rose, windmills and dykes were built and we ended up with the familiar landscape we have now.

It’s the largest nationally protected wetland and a vitally important spot for wildlife. It was here that the bustard died out and was reinstated, and where the eerie bittern booms its call across the reed beds.

I myself live nearest to Filby Broad, which is cut off from the main tourist broads completely making it an idyll for wildlife and for nesting birds.

The Broads are an amazing place, and when you take a boat out, in no time at all you enter a landscape that is completely hidden from the roads as you wind through rushes, reeds and woodlands. It changes with the seasons, of course, from hoar frost on the reeds to a wilting louchness in the summer heat. I stay away from the Broads in Summer, actually, because there are too many tourists and too many boats. My favourite time of year is the Autumn when the tourists have gone home, but the birds are at their busiest.

Whilst a lot is still unchanged, the windmills have declined. The drainage was connected to a pumping system and many of the windmills fell into decline and were destroyed. There are only a few working mills left; many more were converted into homes or guest houses.

Many visitors are drawn to the Norfolk Broads every year because of the five children’s books, written in the 1930s and 1940s by Arthur Ransome, famously known for “Swallows and Amazons” which was set, of course, in the Lake District.

The stories based in Norfolk are “Secret Water”, “Peter Duck”, “We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea” and “Coot Club” and “The Big Six”, the latter two being set in the village of Horning, on the River Bure.

If you’ve read “The Coot Club” you’ll find it almost uncanny that the town of Horning has changed so very little. Hey, we don’t change much up here.

Other famous writers live here or were born here: Anna Sewell, Elizabeth Fry, Louis de Bernieres, Stephen Fry to name but a few.

I haven’t based any of my writing here yet, because I don’t know enough about the era historically but I dare say that one day I will. The Broads are so very inspiring and atmospheric.

When I sit and feed the wild birds and the autumn mists come creeping like dead men’s fingers across the surface of the Broad, I can just imagine the perfect setting for a ghost story of some sort. Perhaps the story of a Inn-keeper’s son whose first love drowned whilst reed cutting. Or perhaps the tale of a boat-travelling salesman in Victorian times, plying his wares from village to village, and his annual affair with a ditcher in Reedham. Or two “comradely” Roman soldiers, complaining at their lot being sent to such a damp hell hole fighting the bitch-queen Boudicca when the winds come tearing off the North Sea direct from Russia…

I’m not sure yet, but I’m happy to live somewhere so very beautiful.

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I spent all day yesterday at Chelsea. That’s flowers, not football. Here’s one of the winning gardens, this one sponsored by the Daily Telegraph.

Chelsea is a notable element of the annual British social calendar. The Queen always goes on the first day, and various celebrities who have probably never so much as dead-headed a rose are photographed amid the petunias. On Tuesday, the Governor of the Bank of England and two former prime ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher, were exchanging cultural tips with the stall-holders, and Ringo Starr was holding forth about the garden dedicated to the late George Harrison. (Below, left, picture courtesy of The Telegraph.)

But by the end of the week, the die-hard gardeners are trooping down from Sloane Square tube station, wearing flat shoes and a determined expression.

The layout hasn’t changed much over the years; the show is in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, home of the famous, red-uniformed Chelsea Pensioners, who amble around the show being photographed and complimented. Right in the centre is the huge pavilion which contains hundreds of stalls crammed with the best and most beautiful plants. Here, you can order collections to be delivered after the show; this is how I always build up my pelargonium display. This year, I also bought a bougainvillea, having been assured by the stall-holder that it would thrive in this climate. It’s called Thimma, and you can see it here on the Westdale Nurseries site — it’s the second one down, and has pink flowers and white ones as well as some green leaves and some variegated ones.

I’ve been going to Chelsea for many years, and there are some constants. You never know what the weather is going to do. I’ve long given up dressing smartly; layers of clothes, a rainproof jacket with a hood and an umbrella is just the thing; this year we were treated to violent rainfall and brilliant sunshine. It is always horribly crowded, especially at the end of the week when the show is open to the public. And food and drink are horrendously expensive.

Nevertheless, we had a couple of glasses of Pimms — without which no outing to Chelsea would be complete — and a splendid lunch of seafood, strawberries and champagne.

My hayfever was kept at bay by anti-histamine (yes, I am a masochist) and I expect my feet will recover eventually. It was a great day out. Oh, and a bought a little Mediterranean table and chair set from some very nice Australians who plied me with red wine.

And if anyone wants to know a little more about the George Harrison garden, there’s a video explanation here:

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