Royal Road to Writing

I’m revising the stories: the online ones are going to Royal Road on my new Profile here:

Where you can tip, and you can find me on Kofi under Killgrace if you want to suppport by monthly memberships or requiest story updates.

A Return to Writing?

After two years, in which I stopped bothering to put stories out because EU laws (Digital VAT) meant I couldn’t sell them for enough to cover the cost of cover art, there’s a ray of sunshine. At the start of the year they finally passed a VAT threshold, which means I can put a Paypal tip jar on the site and put the ebooks back up for download here.

Brexit actually helps me a great deal, as I can trust there will be one less level of bureaucrats to make ill-formed decisions in future. (They thought very few smaller firms and individuals would be affected, forgetting any who uses PAYPAL. The actual figure was 95%. And they passed it because one person didn’t want to pay more for cable in his country…)

For those wondering why I stopped putting stories up: using Amazon as EU VAT forced me to stopped sales dead, adding a Paypal tip jar required filling out monthly VAT returns for every country tippers came from for even a 1 eurocent tip (something I am too ill to manage and too poor to pay someone else to do) , and what little I did make was less than one fifth what it had been (due to for each £1 HMRC taking 20% VAT, Amazon taking 70% costs, the US IRS taking 30%, and HMRC then trying to claim income tax on the remaining 7.2p – joke’s on them: as if I earn enough) and then conflicts between tax returns and prescription charges, it was just too much stress.

I wasn’t the only one that had this issue: the company that did my ebooks kindly formatted them for free, being a small firm that had also been hit by the same ruling. Sadly, artists like to be paid, and there are hosting costs to manage.

Now I plan to put the tip jar up, add all the books to the site as text and have Digital Download links in the sidebar for those that want to buy the ebooks. They’ll still be on Amazon, but please don’t go there for them if you want to support the site.

I have been asked about the free Downloads and I am considering adding Monero mining to give people with little money a chance to get the books simply by leaving their PC to run it in the background. The Captcha system using it might also be the solution to the bot commenters who have been a problem. If I can’t stop them, earning from them to cover the time it takes to delete their comments seems fair.

Several of the stories only exist in text form now, due to a complete crash that wiped three layers of backups (and had me swearing off dropbox and Google docs for life).

  • Terminus/Change of Life,
  • Wandering Star,
  • Mortality Endemic,
  • Living Legend,

are all in this situation. OCR might recover them, and I have had a volunteer to try it.

I plan to merge the stories and ebooks, redirecting the existing links, and put them up in chronological order. It just makes sense. The does mean incomplete stories may go up, and I’ll be working on several at a time. Hopefully the full arc will start to be visible as these fill in some gaps.

So yeah, that’s it really.

Pedant’s Paradox: Gallows Humour

Pedant’s Paradox

About the series: Examining logic problems and paradoxes and dismantling them, because I am just that picky. Feel free to debate my answers. (Yes I am aware most of these have mathematical answers, but they’re dressed  in real-world examples so they can be looked at with real world logic).

The Problem: A man is told that he will be hung one day next week, but that he will not know until the day. He works out that he can’t be hung on Friday as he would know after noon on Thursday that only Friday 12:00pm remained. Likewise on Wednesday, he can rule out Thursday because he can rule out Friday, and so on through the week, so he can rule out being hung.

At this point the logic paradox stops, but the version I originally heard included a caveat missing here:

On Monday at 12:00 pm he is very surprised. Why?

The Answer: If you stop with the proof by induction, then he is correct: he cannot be hung by surprise. If you take the logic one step further however, the prisoner has just stated that he cannot be hung without knowing the day before and therefore cannot be hung. So, since he thinks he can’t be hung, whenever he is hung it will be a surprise.

The problem is that it assumes the prisoner can rule out each day in succession because he has ruled it out before – so on Thursday afternoon, he would know he was to be hung on Friday, on Wednesday afternoon it would have to be Thursday (because otherwise he would know on Thursday that it would be Friday) and so on.

He can be hung on:

He thinks: It is actually:
Monday t+1 t+4
Tuesday t+1 t+3
Wednesday t+1 t+2
Thursday t+1 t+1
Friday t t

On any day but Friday and Thursday there are multiple options so he cannot know for sure that he will be hung on the following day.

There is also the alternative, where he can be hung, but insists he cannot be hung by surprise. Again, he cannot know for sure which day he will be hung on until Thursday (because until Thursday pm he is not in possession of the certain knowledge that he has not been hung previously).

Blackberry part II – fixing a stuck trackball

The problem with second hand devices is that they are elderly and sometimes have physical issues resulting from this.

The Blackberry has been having a sticky trackball issue, and when this morning it refused to scroll left or down, I did wonder if I would be taking it apart. (And whether I could get my files off – I don’t want to lose “Scarlet Fever” a second time.)

Fortunately I went online and there is an easy fix. I’ll include the demonstration video below: it goes like this.

  • Get a flat surface
  • Put a piece of white paper on it
  • Lock the Blackberry
  • Turn the Blackberry face down
  • Rub it fast and lightly back and forth over the paper for a minute or so
  • Check if the mouse no works (unlock it first!)

You can use any colour paper, but white shows up any dirt that comes off best. My paper didn’t have any visible dirt, but the mouse now works, so I’d say its a good trick.

And it also lets me get on with writing Scarlet Fever, a webshort that occurs before In Depression and fills in some backstory.

Blackberry Memopad to PC Word

Without the Blackberry desktop software, I had been told it would be difficult to get the data off. I love a challenge. The problem with the desktop is that there doesn’t seem to be a build for one of my OS’s. Also, when I checked, Memopad files can’t be opened even if you do back it up. They are stored in a database, not as text files, and though you can download third party software to crack backups I prefer not to.

Now, I’m no Blackberry expert, but there is a workaround, and putting it here might save someone a few hours googling:

You will need:

  • PC Software to create Word files (e.g. LibraOffice or Word)
  • A micro-SD card
  • A micro-USB cable
  • A Blackberry


Step 1: Plug SD card into PC.

Step 2: Create a blank Word file for every memo you want to save.

Step 3: Install SD card into BlackBerry

Step 4: Open Memopad and copy a Memo’s contents

Step 5: Go to Applications/Docs to Go/Docs

Step 6: Find the Word Docs you created under Storage. Open one of the Word docs, paste the content in and save.

Step 7: Using Steps 4-6, paste each memo into its own word doc.

Step 8: Plug the Blackberry into the PC

Step 9: Enter Mass Storage mode

Step 10: Copy data onto PC

It may sound like a kludge, but it is easier then the Kobo / Linux custom build I was using which can only be detected over USB by devices running Puppy Linux.

Also, once the SD Card is in the Blackberry, you can create new word docs without uninstalling it. Plug it in through USB, enter mass storage mode and then access it as you would a USB drive to create or delete files as needed.

It works well enough to get this post off!

Upgrading to a handheld

Well, today I decided to join the hand-held revolution; or truthfully to rejoin it after the death of my dearly beloved Psion Revo a few years ago. Being a classic early adopter I went for not an iPhone, nor a tablet…but a Blackberry 8900. (I thought they’d had a few years to get the bugs out).

BlackBerry Curve 8900 (Black)

Lovely bit of kit: palm sized, real keyboard, easy access through USB, previous user’s data all over it… No, the last one wasn’t expected or wanted.

I’d bought it at CEX for 20 pounds, so I disconnected it from the computer and dived back down to town. CEX weren’t happy, and to their credit immediately performed another factory reset and told me I could take it home while it completed. I hung around in-store just in case, checking messages as it reset. One did make me raise an eyebrow. Sure enough, after the reset I rebooted. All the old data reappeared.

I took it back up to the counter and showed them. The assistant looked a bit baffled, and paged through again so I asked:

“Could there be a storage card in this?”

Yep, when it rebooted, the screen had flashed up ‘storage media detected’. They cracked the case, fiddled with the insides and sure enough, there was a very old, green, and wonky looking micro-SD hidden in it. Every time they reset it, the Blackberry was restoring the data from back-up.

So, to make a long story short, SD out, contacts cleaned, factory reset again and this time it worked perfectly. How perfectly? I’ve written two short stories and this blog post on it.

I’ve even fixed the camera.

Next: A Challenge! How to get data off Memopad and onto a PC without Blackberry desktop.

Pedant’s Paradox: Buridan’s ass

Pedant’s Paradox

About the series: Examining logic problems and paradoxes and dismantling them, because I am just that picky. Feel free to debate my answers. (Yes I am aware most of these have mathematical answers, but they’re dressed  in real-world examples so they can be looked at with real world logic).

The Problem: An Ass is at equal points between two plates of equally delicious food. Unable to choose between the, it starves to death rather than eat either.

The Answer: For the really literal-minded, the food will have rotted long before the ass starves, and as food breaks down at different rates, one plate will at certain times be less appealing than the other breaking the paradox. However, rather than break the paradox, let’s assuming they break down at equal rates.

In its literal form the problem still fails because the choice is not between two plates of food, it is between eating and not eating. At a certain point, eating must rationally take priority since the ass presumably does not want to die. It also forgets option D – the ass decides to eat the grass it is standing on while it decides which plate to eat or E it wanders off. Walking away from a problem can be the easiest solution.

However, this isn’t a literal paradox as much as a commentary on human behaviour. If you have ever watched a politician trying to avoid making a choice, you will know just how accurate this can be.

Pedant’s Paradox: Kavka’s Toxin

Pedant’s Paradox

About the series: Examining logic problems and paradoxes and dismantling them, because I am just that picky. Feel free to debate my answers. (Yes I am aware most of these have mathematical answers, but they’re dressed  in real-world examples so they can be looked at with real world logic).

The Problem: A billionaire will give you £1 Million if the next day at noon you take a pill that will make you violently ill for 24 hours, after which you will recover fully with no side effects. However, to earn the money, you must form the intention of taking the pill at midnight the night before. After midnight you can back out of taking the pill with no penalty and still receive the money.

The Answer: Gregory Kavka who created the problem stated it was impossible to form the intention at midnight as everyone would undoubtedly back out rather than be sick the next day.

This is provably false just by the existence of drug testers, live organ donors etc.

It is possible to form and hold the intention to do something even if you know it will be unpleasant if the incentive is high enough. Many generation of people have gritted their teeth through family gatherings for less incentive than $1 million.

How many people have agreed to do something they don’t like, despite knowing they could back out with no consequences? Seeing that awkward relative is normally arranged in advance, but you can phone and plead illness or cancel at any point with no issues – and yet some people carry it through.

Kavka assumes it is impossible to form the intention because obviously you will back out rather than get sick. The problem is that for anyone whose word is their bond, once they have agreed to the billionaire’s deal to take the toxin it is binding and therefore if they agree the day before they will, at midnight that night, have a sincere intention of taking the toxin. Failing to do so gives them the alternative that they have broken their word, which is less desirable than being ill for 24 hours. A problem that fails if the individual is honourable is not a very good problem.


EUVAT Part 2

There was a flaw in my previous article: I actually understated exactly how much of a cut selling through a third party would take.

You see, many of these third parties are US-based, and unless you hold a US tax number, they automatically pay 30% of your earnings to the IRS. So my table from the last page should have looked like this:

Book Price Sold on Fees Gross US Tax Income
0.99 Amazon 65% 0.29 30% 0.203
0.99 Paypal 5%+5p 0.89 0.89
1.99 Amazon 65% 0.58 30% 0.406
1.99 Paypal 5%+5p 1.84 1.84

(Paypal fees for other amounts are here:

Switching to a third party platform lowers my income to 22% of what it was – so less than one third. And then I have to pay income tax on this…
After protesting that 50% tax rate on people earning over £50,000 was unfair it seems very odd that the UK government wants me to pay 20% VAT (yes, Amazon charge the author not the customer) 30% to the US gov and then another 10% or 30% income tax.

The other problem with third party platforms? Since I switched the titles to Amazon and off the site, any sales have stopped dead. Quite literally, not a single book sold or free book downloaded. So, on the bright side, at least the income tax won’t be a problem.

Apparently the EU Parliament are very concerned – so concerned that they will do nothing about this until 2016, by which point it really will be a little late. My apologies to my readers.

EUVATACTION are working on it, and you can get the latest updates here:

EUVAT and why releases are delayed

I have three books ready to come out. I can’t currently release them because of the recent actions of our government, specifically the mess that is called EUVAT – a new set of tax laws created in 2015 with little notification that are hammering small businesses and sole traders.

If you’re not familiar with these, for many the VAT system limped along, expanding organically to cover the web as it developed – VAT had to be calculated and paid in the seller’s country. This was sometimes abused by larger companies to base themselves in a country with a low VAT rate. Then the EU changed it. From Jan 2015 VAT has to be paid in the buyer’s country to the buyer’s government, but still calculated and paid by the seller. The customers details have to be stored for ten years, and there is no threshold. From the first cent of a sale, VAT must be calculated.

You will hear a lot of misinformation

  • that companies which are under the VAT threshold aren’t affected
  • that MOSS means not completing a return
  • that German language products are exempt.

These are nice ideas, but unfortunately they are untrue and stem from utter denial. In the vein of a teenager trying to pretend that if they do it standing up or if she wears a blue wristband she won’t get pregnant, many businessmen are clinging desperately to the idea that somehow they won’t have to deal with the consequences and it will be alright. Regrettably this blue blankie won’t stop them being hit with a VAT audit.

To be fair there is an element of “Jesus Christ, they can’t do that!” which is the single most common reaction when I mention this, followed by a protest that I must be mistaken. Unfortunately they are, they have, and we can either do something about it or stick heads back in the sand and grab onto a comforting myth.

The facts remain. If you sell a digital product to an EU customer (or a physical product from 2016)

  • you need to have two pieces of data locating your customer, which have to agree – you need to store that data for 10 years
  • you have to charge VAT on the product at the correct rate for the country and product
  • you have to remit that VAT to the buyer’s country.
  • there is no threshold: you have to do this from the first penny or cent you sell, and it doesn’t matter how large your company is.

If you get any of it wrong, you are liable for fines. Even if it is because the customer put in the wrong data, or because the VAT rates issued for use on the EU site are incorrect (which they currently are). The tax authorities are even trying to make sellers based outside the EU collect and remit this tax to them, something which US sellers are not taking very well.

This law is badly broken: –

  • Paypal do not provide the data required.
  • Storing customer data for ten years creates a PCI DSS issue and is illegal under some countries’ and US states’ laws.
  • Using a third party like Amazon as they suggest cuts your income significantly.

The costs of trying to comply are outside the range of small businesses and micro-businesses. In fact even the EU Commissioners responsible admit that the law is having a devastating effect on small business and are trying to get it changed. More concerningly, the businesses getting hit are disproportionately owned by those who cannot take a conventional job. Women and the disabled are being slammed.

Concerning Killgrace

, this affects me quite badly because I use Paypal and so cannot confirm my customers’ location. I could sell through Amazon but the loss of income is huge.

If I sell my books through Amazon my income is cut to a third – 30% – of what get if I sell directly.

Book Price Sold on Fees Income
0.99 Amazon 65% 0.29
0.99 Paypal 5%+5p 0.89
1.99 Amazon 65% 0.58
1.99 Paypal 5%+5p 1.84

(Paypal fees for other amounts are here:

Switching to a third party platform lowers my income to 32% for 0.99 books and 31% for 1.99 – so less than one third.

At a time when I’m recovering from illness, I’m not really up to dealing with this and I know there are other people in a similar situation. It is a shame that a class action suit against the EU Commission for loss of earnings through bureaucratic negligence is not practical. (see next page)

Advertise here
Get Free eBooks daily from