Monthly Archives: September 2013


A-upOnLCQAAj3_f.jpg largeForgive the early mention of Christmas, my pretties, but this is a short story for a forthcoming anthology.

Genre: no idea.

Title: Claustrophobia.

Author: Michael Wombat.

eBook Yes.

Oh bum. How the jingle bells did this happen? Bloody centuries I’ve been doing this; how come all of a sudden I get stuck? I mean, yeah, in this dark I can see the sum total of sod all, but that’s never stopped me before, even in really tight squeezes. The old Santa Wriggle usually gets me through any gap, as well as pleasing the elves at the Boxing Day Hullabaloo. Heh, it’s all in the hips, you know.

It’s become quite the dance at the party – great lines of elves and fairies, not to mention the missus, all doing the old Santa Wriggle. OK, yes, I call our celebration the Boxing Day Hullabaloo, and that’s a British thing and I’m originally Dutch, but I just like that name, you know? Boxing Day – the day after Christmas according to the Brits. It trips off the tongue, don’t you think? The Boxing Day Hullabaloo. Mind you, that won’t be happening this year if I can’t move myself.

The old Santa Wriggle is not doing it; not this sodding time. I can’t shift, neither up nor down. I blame the missus’ new mince pie recipe; the one with extra butter. I ate fifty yesterday. Might have gained a few inches, I suppose.

Bloody hell, it’s pitch-black, my nose is pressed against filthy rotting bricks, I’ve got soot up my nose and I do not like it. I feel pressed in, squished tight. I might never get out, and then what? No more toys for good little girls and boys, no more coal for the naughty sods. It’ll be a bloody disaster.

What’s that, you say? Santa shouldn’t swear? Piss off; you’d be letting out a non-stop stream of all the swears you know if you had to go through what I do once a year. Up and down all those sodding chimneys, and all within twenty-four hours? It’s not bloody easy! Yes, yes, my time-slowing ability thingy helps, and that teleportation device that Elf Ansafety came up with proved invaluable when people started living places without chimneys. But you know, that’s not the whole job, not by a long chalk.

Have you ever thought what happens when a reindeer decides to have a poo right up there on someone’s roof? Of course you haven’t, your minds are all full of tinsel and glitter at Christmas. Well let me tell you, you can’t just leave it up there, it’d stink for days. And imagine the questions once it was found. Nope, Muggins here has to shovel it all up and put it in the poo sack. Think yourselves lucky I don’t get that mixed up with the sack of toys. Ah well, at least the reindeer don’t drop their ‘doings’ in flight, cos that’d be a terrible Christmas present for anyone down below.

This isn’t getting me shifted, is it? I feel all closed in, trapped, and I’m sure there’s not enough air in here. And what the hell’s that sharp thing sticking into my bloody arse? Come on, Nick, see if you can reach round to have a feel. Ah, loose brick. Maybe if I can wiggle it out… OUCH! No no, bad idea, bad idea. Better leave it. No one wants a sharp brick corner poking them up there. I’d better see if I can call that lazy cow of a fairy down here, see if she has any bright ideas. Maybe she can magic me free.


Bet she’s sitting on Dasher’s antlers having a right old gossip. What’s the use of having a fairy PA if all she does is sit about swapping recipes and talking about soap operas with reindeer?

I bet my beard’s as black as, well, soot by now. I probably look more like Brian Blessed than Sinterklaas. You don’t know Brian? Give him a Google, then you’ll know what I’m on about. Mind you, Brian wouldn’t be up a chimney would he? Probably down the pub having a pint of ale, like a man with sense. Unlike me, with no sense, stuck up a chimney and probably never going to get out and I might stop breathing soon and oh no oh no…


Calm down, Nicky, calm down. Panic will do you no good at all. Maybe if I twist my arm like this – whoa, at least that dislodged something. I think I can get my fingers to it, I… ew! It’s all bony and feathery and, ew, gooey. I think it’s… ugh, dead bird, probably, and I poked my fingers into it. Ick ick ick.


Bumholes, got a mouthful of grit there. Tastes like burnt – wait, what was that? I’m sure I heard something. Yes, there it is again. Noises beneath my boots. Sort of a scraping and a tapping. Is someone down there?

“Yes, ma’am, it is early! Never mind, I’ll soon have the fire roaring and then the children can come down!”


To see the other stories that have been published for this collection, click here:

Todd officially becomes a wombat

IMAG1862IMAG1863Yet another doggy post, I’m afraid – you fed up with them yet? After this though there’ll be all sorts of posts. Stuff on writing, obviously, but I also have planned articles on a huge variety of crap.


IMAG1870So, today at Bleakholt I walked Keano (who you’ve met a few times now – there he is top left with yet another stick), Pippa and Tyson (lovely old couple top right), and a new lass for me, Ella (left). She’s a smasher, although inclined to launch herself without warning at other dogs. And she’s some weight, I can tell you. The more walking she gets to slim her down the happier she will be.


IMAG1866IMAG1865Here’s another couple of pics of things that will be familiar to Bleakholt regulars. On the left Andy takes Scruff for a walk –Scruff obviously hoping for a treat from Andy’s Magic Pocket. And a regular hazard round by the farm is Annabel on a wall. There are two goats, actually, and I’m rubbish at telling them apart, so let’s just assume that this is Annabel.


IMAG1882Finally though, and here’s the good news, I finally completed the paperwork that means Todd is officially a wombat. Yay! I’m the sort of bloke who needs a dog in his life, and ever since Ben died I’ve been hoping to find one to adequately fill that gap. Todd, bless him, has been perfect (well, he growls at carrots, but we can live with that). If you look back at the first time I posted about him, you’ll see that even then I liked the cut of his jib.


So here you go, have a very short video of the brand new wombat.

Self-publishing & not in the US? How to EASILY PEASILY avoid that honking 30% tax withholding on your sales

IRS LogoLulu and Amazon (and I imagine Smashwords) would have you think that you have to jump through hoops of red tape (mental image ahoy!) over months of complicated form-filling to get yourself an ITIN so that you can stop them withholding 30% of your royalties until you settle your tax status with the IRS. Here’s Lulu on the matter:

If you do not have an ITIN and wish to obtain one, you must apply directly with the IRS by submitting the required documents as well as Form W-7 and a letter from Lulu stating that you are, indeed, a Lulu creator (attached below). Please understand that we cannot assist you in this part of the process in any way other than to provide you with the forms and our letter. The IRS is notorious for long, silent delays and unexpected rejections due to overlooked details. Therefore, we urge you to pay very close attention when submitting the required materials in order to avoid the frustrations many Lulu authors have experienced.

BUT NO! There is an easier way! Now, thanks to this glorious blog post (and its by now hundreds of comments), I’ve just sorted the whole thing out within seven minutes. If the thought of doing things such as (gulp) sending off your passport to the States, filling in a gazillion arcane forms,  and suffering inexplicable rejections has been putting you off applying for an ITIN, then don’t apply for one.

Do what I did instead – get yourself an EIN, which is just as valid and a gazillion times easier. I’ll not repeat all the differences here – you can read the original post if you want the minutiae – but the biggie for us is that you can get one over the phone. Now, I’m no tax expert, and what follows is just my experience – yours may be different, as you might not get to talk to Miss Moody. This is what I did.

  • I called the IRS in Philadelphia on +1 267 941 1099. I used Skype, as it is shedloads cheaper for overseas calls than any normal provider. If you do the same, be sure to use a headset as they will hang up immediately if they think you’re on a speaker phone. I timed my call for just after their office opened (they open at 8:30am Philadelphia time)
  • At the computerised menu, I chose option 1 – “Apply for an EIN for foreign entities” and prepared for a long wait on hold. In fact I was answered within seconds.
  • I was told that I was speaking to Miss Moody (badge number xxxxxx) and how could she help me? I explained that I was applying for an EIN, and she asked in what capacity was I applying? I told her that I was sole proprietor and owner of the business. That was fine, Miss Moody said, and she would need the following details:
  • NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER and COMPANY NAME. I occasionally had to spell things for her (such as “Bury”), but I had already prepared for this by writing down what I’d say for each letter (“B as in Bravo, U as in Uniform, R as in Romeo, Y as in Yankee”). Miss Moody seemed to appreciate this. For the COMPANY NAME I told her that I self-published under my own name, which she was happy with.
  • “I take it that this is for compliance with withholding?” she suggested. “Yes ma’am,” I smarmed, learning from my American contacts. She then spelled back to me all the info I had given here (I had to correct ‘Bury’!), and then gave me my EIN right there and then. After we had complimented each other’s accent, I ended the call seven minutes after it had started. Now isn’t that better than months of form filling?

Of course, you then have to submit a form W-8BEN to all the people you publish through, but that’s easy too because KDP now have an online tax interview that fills out a form for you. You can then use that as a template for the ones that you have to send to Lulu, Smashwords et al. Just one tip about the KDP interview which was not at all clear for me when I did it – for the question “Do you derive income from treaty benefits?” say NO.

But do read that original blog post if you have any questions. There’s more info there than you can shake a stick at, if that’s your idea of a good time.

Thanks to Mike Manz for pointing me in the right direction in the first place.

A Todd video that the USA can see

More video of Todd out walking. This time I’ve not added music, so that even Americans should be able to watch. You’ll just have to put up with the sound of the wind and the stream and me sounding like a BIG GURL.

Toddles again

IMAG1792I plan to get back to blogging about things other than dogs soon, I promise, but here’s just one last word about – and from – Todd. Despite my clear instructions that he wasn’t to do it, he went and got himself a Twitter account (@ToddBat37). Typical collie. Here are his first musings from today.


Hello. Last night I slepped at Beerdy’s house for the first time. I noticed through the WINDWO when it was dark and took myself to bed cos I am CLEVER. I was a GOOD BOY last night and didernt poo or wee in the kitchen. And I was QUITE all night and was a GOODOG and that. And then today we went to BLEEKHOLT to see Adriman & Sharlet. And Beerdy walked some dogs that were not me and then he walked me and I did a MASSIVE POO. And something about a MICRASHIP in my sholder happened as well in a hot room that made me PANT. Then we came home.

Todd, an update

IMAG1425[3]So many of you have been asking about Todd and whether it was true that he was on his way to becoming a Wombat, that I thought it was about time I posted an update. When I first met Todd, walking him with kennel-mate Saffron (now in a new home) as part of my volunteer dog-walking at Bleakholt, this is what I said in my subsequent blog post:

“Anyway, here are the pooches that I walked today. Normally, I try to make their walks last about half an hour, the recommended time, but I’m afraid that if I really like a dog, I’ll often go beyond that. I went beyond that with TODD here, as I really enjoyed our walk. Gorgeous collie (much more handsome than my quick snap suggests), lovely movement, and really responsive. After about twenty minutes, when he’d relaxed with me, I tried doing some close control work with him. He was brilliant, walking to heel well. I might look more into TODD’s background – if he’s happy with cats I might just think about whether I want to take things further.”

804584033Three months later, I was amazed that he hadn’t been snapped up. Sure, the notice on his cage said he would push his boundaries and should go to an experienced collie owner, but he always seemed extremely biddable whenever I took him out. He often shared his kennel with other dogs who had found a home, such as Saffron and Kim, so he wasn’t a fighter.




Given our dodgy experience with Evan, I wasn’t at all sure that I could actually cope with another pushy dog, and I prevaricated for weeks before tentatively asking Charlotte and Michael what they thought of me trying him out. Their idea of just taking him home for the day to see how he got on with the family and the cats seemed a grand idea, guaranteed to iron out any hitherto unnoticed Evanesque tendencies to transform into the Hound of the Baskervilles.




I tried to keep it quiet at first (in order to avoid a big fuss from Twitter and Facebook Assembled about yet another dog) but Mary let the cat… erm, the dog out of the bag in an unguarded tweet, and some of you caught on. At Bleakholt the news slowly spread that Todd might be about to come home with me, and I found myself stopped by staff and other walkers to ask if it was true.





His first day at Wombat Towers arrived, and I was worried. Would he have a go at the cats? Would my daughter, a dog-wary after Evan’s attacks, accept a ‘pushy’ collie? Would he be happy to be here? Long story short – no, yes, yes. He was brilliant, respecting and avoiding the cats, behaving perfectly at meal times, and generally being the perfect dog. He walks to heel well, and is oh-so-eager to learn.




And you know, he’s been the same on every day since. Buffy the cat bosses him about, while Midge ignores him. He did try to stop Mary going upstairs one time, but was perfectly content to be told not to be so stupid and move out of the way. He’s great to walk, and brilliant off the lead (see the video below). All seems positive. Tomorrow he’ll sleep Chez Wombat for the first time, and I’m worried again, but not hugely so this time. I think he’ll be OK as long as Buffy doesn’t creep up behind him, sniggering, and whack his tail while he sleeps. Cross your fingers for us; Todd’s won me over big time, and it really does look like he might inherit Ben’s mantle and become the new Womdog.

Oh, and here’s that walk video. The wind was so loud on the soundtrack that I’ve stuck some music on instead. Please do sing along.

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