Wishing You a Good Friday

Meeting the Easter Bunny

Meeting the Easter Bunny

At last, Easter is here! Two weeks into the school vacation I feel like the bank holiday is the finish line and I’ve more or less survived. We still have five days before the children go back to school/nursery, but at least there are some family members around to share the small-child entertainment that has left me exhausted.

We have been blessed, though, this holiday, with gorgeous sunny days every day. The kids have been able to run free with me just providing conflict mediation, hugs, plasters, food, drinks, craft supplies, cautions, rules, reward stickers and the occasional trip out for variety. Yesterday we went to play on the new indoor equipment at our favourite Farm, followed by a visit to the Easter Bunny. It was a great day.

One thing I’ve noticed this holiday is that the children have remembered how to play together. With my daughter starting school last September, they seemed to separate, with the age difference much more noticeable. My daughter had less time for her brother, and they squabbled more than cooperated. It’s been wonderful (and terrifying) to see them back to conspiring against me. For example when they decided to empty the sandpit into the paddling pool and across the decking, then fill the sandpit with water from the hose, breaking about five family rules in the process. I didn’t care, I just prayed they wouldn’t draw my attention to it, leaving me no choice but to tell them off.

When my daughter did finally come in saying, “Look, Mummy!” all proud of the carnage, I actually said, “You’ve broken about five rules, which are they?” and after she’d sheepishly acknowledged them, I said, “no matter, I’ll pretend I didn’t see, so long as you tidy up.” Which of course they didn’t, but it took less time to sweep wet sand than it would have done telling them off and finding them something else to do!

Sand Carnage

Sand Carnage

Rules and consistency are all well and good, but sometimes you have to be flexible. It was also another classic case of different parenting priorities as, when I posted my dilemma to Facebook, expecting people to laugh (because of course I wouldn’t stop them playing nicely just because of a bit of mess) I had a range of responses leaving me feeling somewhere between a dragon for having rules in the first place and a lazy parent for choosing to ignore them!

Anyway, this was just a short note to say hello, I’m still alive, and wish you all a happy Easter weekend. The forecast here is actually for rain, making me feel bad for all the working people who have been looking forward to their four days of freedom. But hopefully they’ll stay in and read a book, as I have Dragon Wraiths on a freebie promotion all weekend. If by chance you haven’t read it, do go grab a copy! (I’m trying out a new GeoRiot link, which is meant to take you to the Amazon site for your country, so do tell me if it works/doesn’t work. And thank you to Sally Jenkins for the idea.)

TTFN.

iBook Madness: 2013 365 Challenge #342

This greeted me this morning. Lovely.

This greeted me this morning. Lovely.

I woke this morning to a message from Smashwords, saying that one of my Two-Hundred Steps Home volumes has been booted out of the Premium Catalogue because of a link to a competitor site, which is frowned upon.

I had already been alerted to the issue through a ticket opened by Apple, saying I had a link to Amazon in my book. I’d only reloaded the offending volume (which had previously been approved for Premium Distribution) because Barnes and Noble weren’t pulling through the front cover. As I may have mentioned in the past, formatting for Smashwords could drive you crazy!

I couldn’t find any Amazon links, so I went through and removed all the links except my blog, Facebook and Twitter ones. Considering that the whole purpose of writing THSH this year, to the detriment of my other projects (not to mention sleep and sanity) was to promote the blog and hopefully sell books, I figured that was fair. I offer the books for free, after all.

Then I got this message from Smashwords telling me the link that had Apple in a tizz was the writermummy blog link because my blog has links to my novels on Amazon. I mean, seriously? That would be like telling me to remove my twitter and facebook links because I occasionally promote my books through these channels. Paranoid, much? I wouldn’t mind if I’d actually sold a single book through Apple when my novels were available there. I don’t even get many free downloads from them.

Volumes 10 and 11 missing from Apple

Volumes 10 and 11 missing from Apple

Unfortunately Smashwords doesn’t offer the ability to have different versions for Premium Distribution and their own store. I can take my books out of iBook distribution, but I have at least one reader I know who downloads from there and it doesn’t seem fair for her not to have access to the final volume. But taking off my blog link is absurd. The books are intrinsically linked to the blog.

I read around the subject this morning, after writing a ranty message to Smashwords (a shame in itself because I’ve been a huge advocate up to now) and it seems there is no other way to get free books into Barnes & Noble (my biggest source of downloads) other than through Smashwords. I hate being cornered like that. To be fair, I don’t think many of those 2,800 B&N downloads have resulted in blog traffic (I wish!) but it isn’t the point.

I don’t understand the paranoia (particularly about a free book). Either you have a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad. You will buy your ebooks through the route your device dictates. No one is going to rush out and buy a kindle merely because my novels aren’t available through iBook.

Anyway, I don’t have the time to change anything now. If that means all my books end up not available through B&N or iBooks, then so be it. If anyone wants a copy and it isn’t available, then you can download the volumes in all formats directly from Smashwords (or I’ll email you a copy!). I have a long memory, though. I’ve already unpublished from Kobo because of their stunt earlier in the year. One day these retailers will realise that, without authors, they have nothing. I won’t be missed but maybe, just maybe, an author with sufficient clout will become annoyed with them. Or perhaps I’m naïve and big business does call all the shots. What a shame.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire’s head whirled as she downed the drink on the table in front of her. She remembered now why she hated pub crawls. It wasn’t just getting drunk too quickly, and trying to move in a straight line when the world was spinning, it was the bloated tummy and the sloshing sensation as yet another quantity of liquid was consumed too fast.

She reeled and felt a steadying arm wrap round her shoulders. “Whoa, there. You don’t have to keep up, you know. The real race is over. This is just the lads from the office now: no need for bravado.” The voice whispering in her ear seemed hardwired to other, more intimate, parts of her body. She focussed on staying upright and turned to him with a bright smile.

“I’m fine, Conor. I’m a bit out of practice is all. Not much call for getting drunk on your own. No good reasons at any rate. It’s been a while.”

Conor gave her back a quick rub, then dropped his arm. He didn’t move away, however, and Claire found his presence at her side comforting. She looked around blearily, trying to see who was still with them. She recognised most of the faces, although they all looked a little worse for wear.

“I think maybe I should push the wheelbarrow on the next stint,” she said to Conor. “If I climb back in, I might fall asleep.”

“My poor Claire,” Conor said with a smile. “You have been a good sport.”

“Well, after you went to all that trouble to find me a cushion I could hardly refuse, could I? Just please tell me there’s no photographic evidence.”

Conor raised his eyebrows and said nothing. Claire groaned. “Great. I guess that was inevitable. Maybe no one will remember who I am.”

Her boss let out a loud laugh. “Sorry, m’darling, not much chance of that. Your pouting and liberal blowing of kisses have been the highlight of the evening, although my personal favourite was your attempt at the iconic fanned skirt image in the pub before last.”

The groan was louder this time, and Claire dropped her head into her hands. “I thought I’d imagined it. Please tell me I didn’t really put their fan on the floor and stand above it? I didn’t even think I was that drunk.”

“You are and you did.” He grinned. “Kept your modesty quite well though. Until you fell over at least.”

Only the gentle affection in his voice stopped Claire from running out the room. In fact he’d been the perfect date: attentive, supportive and encouraging. There had been a hint of distance to begin with, but as the alcohol flowed and the eyes blurred that had dissipated. She felt the warmth of his body next to hers, through the thin fabric of her dress, and suddenly shivered.

“Are you cold? I can get your cardie, although it feels pretty warm in here. Would you like some fresh air?”

“I’m fine.” Something in his expression caught her attention. “Though yes, now you mention it, some fresh air might be a good idea.”

Conor grasped her elbow and led her from the room. She heard him tell their colleagues that she was going to be sick and their friendly laughter followed them out. It was on her lips to tell him she didn’t feel ill, when it occurred to her that he might be protecting her reputation, as the two of them left the pub together.

Ever the gentleman. Nothing like the man I took him for at my interview.

Claire shivered again as the cool night air brushed her skin. It wasn’t cold, although the oppressive heat of the day had eased with the setting of the sun. Despite the bustling noise of the pub spilling through the open doors and windows, it felt eerily quiet out in the night.

They were somewhere away from the High Street, having left the hubbub of the carnival behind. The race proper had finished much earlier and Conor had led his colleagues on a longer tour with the drinks on him, as a thank you for all their hard work. Above them, inky blackness stretched away, punctuated by thousands of pin-pricks of dazzling light. The sheer expanse of the sky made Claire dizzy, and she leant against the whitewashed stone wall for support.

“You’re not really going to be sick, are you?”

Claire shook her head, regretting it immediately. “No, I’m fine. You might need to push me back to the hostel in that wheelbarrow though; I can’t see me making it up the hill.” She looked around. “Not that I have any idea where I am.”

“We’re not that far away. We’re in the Muddy Duck. Swanage isn’t a big place.”

“I’m none the wiser. Besides, we’re in the Black Swan.” She gestured at the sign above their heads. “And you think I’m drunk!”

Conor leant back against the rail, propped up on his elbows, and smiled tolerantly. “Muddy Duck is what the locals call it. You know, a black swan is just a muddy duck? At least I think that’s where it comes from. I’m not really a local.”

“Don’t tell me, your kids’ kids would just about be accepted?”

“Not that bad, but you have the general idea.”

They stood together in silence, listening to the sounds of revelry from inside the building. People came and went through the door to Claire’s left, but they seemed to have a pocket of unbreakable stillness around them.

Claire felt tension build like an approaching storm. Suddenly all her senses were on overdrive: her ears picking up every sound, her nose taking in the scent of Conor’s aftershave and the stink of stale beer and cigarettes. Despite the gloom, she could see Conor as if he stood beneath a spotlight. He was watching her, his eyes and teeth shining in the darkness, competing with his brilliant white suit.

The silence took on texture. Conor pushed away from the railing, and the movement tightened the knot in Claire’s stomach and caused her heart to race uncontrollably, like the wheelbarrows had along the High Street earlier. Conor came to stand directly in front of her, looking down with a question in his eyes.

Claire raised her gaze to meet his. She flinched as his eyes narrowed slightly. He reached forwards and gently pulled off the wig, letting her hair tumble down around her face.

“That’s better.”

His eyes sought hers again, still asking the unanswered question. She didn’t need to search hard for a reply. It was a question she’d been waiting for. With a quivering smile, Claire gave a nod. At her response, the tension seeped out of Conor’s face, and he leant forwards slowly to brush his lips against hers.

Claire let herself sink into the kiss. Conor’s hands tangled into her hair, cupping her face and pulling her close. She wrapped her arms around him, running her hands over the contours of his back, feeling the lithe body beneath his costume. A gentle breeze blew up the street and across their skin, bringing with it the scent of night and the salty tang of the sea. Claire inhaled deeply and lost herself in the moment.

***

Quick Newsflash

I made a last minute decision this morning to drop the price of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes for this week, as I have a couple of free days running for Dragon Wraiths before I come out of KDP Select (maybe for good this time.)

If you’ve loved either book and want to tell others, or fancied a read but thought it a bit pricey, do please take the opportunity to grab a bargain. And thank you for your ongoing support!

And, of course, if you love either book, please leave a review (or if you don’t love it – I can take it, I have thick skin now).

UK Links:

Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes

Dragon Wraiths

US Links

Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes

Smashwords BBWS

Dragon Wraiths

 

F-ein-tastic!: 2013 365 Challenge #247

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Hurrah! I got my EIN number today.

After a year of telling myself “I will call tomorrow” and never quite managing it, my “fax them instead” plan worked a charm. Just as they said it would, it only took four business days for my EIN to arrive by fax to my inbox.

Cue BIG GRINS!

For anyone else like me, who hates having to phone anyone, or who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on hold to an international phone number, here is a rough idea of what I did to get my number.

1. Read Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog post on applying for an EIN (especially read the bit at the top *Read this first* and the comments). Even if you’re going to fax rather than phone, this will still make sure you know all the answers to the questions needed to complete the SS-4 Form.

2. Download the SS-4 form (or here) AND the notes. You need to read the notes, although don’t be daunted. On page three of the SS-4 there is a chart titled “Do I need an EIN?”

Point 8 on this chart, where it says IF the applicant … Is a foreign person needing an EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations AND Needs an EIN to complete a Form W-8 (…) explains which parts of the form need to be completed. These are: Lines 1-5b, 7a-b (SSN or ITIN optional), 8a, 8b-c (if applicable), 9a, 9b (if applicable), 10, and 18. 

3. Use the notes on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post, together with the Instructions Form, to help you understand what information is required for each of these sections. Heed the advice to fill everything out in full (no abbreviations). I completed my form in Adobe Photoshop, because I have it, and because there was no way I could fit my address legibly in the teeny tiny box by hand. It probably isn’t necessary but it certainly helps if you can type the form.

4. Ensure you have included a fax number for yourself in the bottom right-hand corner, and fax to this number:

International Revenue Service Center
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax-TIN: (1) 859-669-5987
 

4a. If (like me) you don’t have a fax machine, there are plenty of online companies who can convert a scanned document into a fax and send it for you. I used efax, signing up for their free 30 day trial (provided I remember to cancel it tomorrow!) They allowed me to choose my own local fax number and emailed me the response from the IRS. You do have to give your credit card details so make sure you cancel it within the 30 days.

5. Once you get your magic EIN number back, you need to complete the W-8BEN Forms for Amazon and Smashwords (if you have your EIN you can ignore most of the advice on the Smashwords page about the W7 form).

Again, Catherine Caffeinated’s blog has details on how to do this (although the postal address for Smashwords is out of date, so it’s worth double checking the information. The latest one is below.)

Amazon now have an automated system – the tax interview – whereby you complete your W-8BEN Form online. It’s worth doing this first, so you can copy their information to complete the Smashwords form (which has to be posted to this address:).

Postal mail us a printed, signed copy of your W8BEN form to:

Smashwords, Inc.
Attn:  Tax Compliance Dept.
PO Box 11817
Bainbridge Island, WA   USA  98110

NOTE: You have to include your Smashwords screen name (ie for me it’s writermummy) and account email address on the form before you post it to them.

6. Sell some books, happy in the knowledge that (in a month or two) you will no longer lose 30% of your income to the IRS.

Caveat: This is my experience of the process. I didn’t take many notes and I found it all quite straightforward, particularly after reading ALL of the Catherine Caffeinated post, including comments. If you have anything extra to add, or your experience was different in any way, please let me know in the comments below.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire felt a tap on her arm. Prising her eyes open, she stared blearily to her left. Josh peered at her with a sheepish grin on his face.

“Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No.” Claire yawned. She glanced to her right, but the seat was empty. Feeling slightly betrayed that Bethan had left her to her fate, Claire turned back to Josh.

“Yes, it’s just us.” His smile was too knowing, and Claire flushed at being caught. She already suspected that Josh had seen through her blatant attempts to avoid being alone with him, both at dinner the night before, and during the wait for the ferry that morning.

“Would you like to take a walk? We’re just entering the sound, and the scenery is breathtaking.”

Even though the ferry barely felt like it was moving – in strong contrast to her experience two days before – Claire didn’t feel like going on deck. But something about Josh’s expression told her he would pester her until she gave in, so she nodded and hoped it would be too noisy outside for conversation.

Josh led her through a heavy door, holding it open for her with a flourish. She smiled at his antics but it didn’t alleviate the lead weight tugging at her chest. As much as she was enjoying spending time with Josh, she found his behaviour unnerving: he watched her constantly, even when he was talking to someone else. It was more like being stalked by Neal than having her friend back.

I miss the old Josh.

With another yawn, Claire inhaled the fresh morning air and agreed that it was indeed beautiful. The grass-coated cliffs rose either side of them, forming a narrow tunnel for the ferry to chug through. The scenery had an other-world feel to it: too large, too green, too perfect. She felt like a mouse drifting along the riverbank on a leaf.

Josh leant on the railings, his face into the wind. She went to stand beside him and, for a moment, they contemplated the view in companionable silence.

“Claire–”

She winced, then changed it to, “Hmmm?”

“I never got a chance to tell you yesterday about why I came. The truth is, I’m thinking of leaving Fiona.”

Claire gasped. She couldn’t help it. Whatever she had imagined he might say; that hadn’t been it.

Stupid girl. It should have been obvious: the lingering glances, his coming all this way to see you.

She tried to analyse her reaction to his announcement. Wasn’t that what she wanted? Josh, free from Fiona and hers for the taking? Except somehow she didn’t want it anymore. The Josh she loved was a faithful, loving man, not someone who would walk out on his wife and children.

“Why?”

Josh released a sigh. “It’s too damn hard, that’s why. All she has time for these days is the kids. They come first in everything. We barely talk anymore, never mind, well …”

“But Lily’s only a baby; surely it will get easier when she’s a bit older.”

“Fiona said that after Lucas and Sophie and then Lily came along. She’ll probably want another one, as soon as Lily doesn’t need her 24-7. It feels like her way of avoiding being with me: having more and more babies.”

“I thought you loved the children.”

Josh ran his hands through his hair. “I do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great kids. And Fiona. But a man has needs, you know? Oh not just the obvious ones.”

He turned to face her, and the bitterness in his expression made her catch her breath.

“Just once I’d like her to ask about my day, instead of handing me the baby so she can grab a shower or go to bed. I feel like we’re co-workers on a rolling twelve-hour shift pattern. I don’t remember the last time we had an uninterrupted conversation.”

Claire thought back to her time caring for Sky. She’d felt like that with only one child to look after, she couldn’t imagine what it must be like with three. And, even though her first reaction was to call Josh a selfish bastard for not being more supportive of Fiona, she had to admit he probably had a point. When they’d all been together in the hostel, Fiona’s attention had been consumed by the children.

“Shouldn’t you be talking to Fiona about this, not me?”

Josh hung his head and rubbed his hand around the back of his neck. It was the gesture of a beaten man. “I’ve tried. She gets all emotional: either accusing me of being selfish or telling me to clear off and find someone else to see to my needs because she’s too busy.”

Claire’s ears buzzed as she tried to think. She didn’t want to be having this conversation. Was she meant to be the someone else? Josh’s pain was her pain, but part of her could see how childish he was being. Parenthood was hard: you took the good with the bad.

If I were Fiona, I’d probably tell him to sod off, too.

Not knowing what to say, Claire absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder in support. As if the physical contact was all the permission he needed, Josh turned to her and seized her face with his hands. He kissed her, hard, his stubble grazing her face. Not like the soft brush of the lips of their first embrace.

She didn’t respond but, unlike the last time, Josh didn’t pull away. After several painful moments, Claire pushed at his chest and he broke free, panting.

She looked up at him, eyes wide. His expression was wild and it scared her. Then he seemed to control his features and smiled the lopsided grin that tightened round her heart like a fist.

“Sorry. Can’t blame a man for trying.”

He turned back to face the sea, as if nothing had happened. Claire stood motionless, except for the trembling in her limbs, her mind a jumble of thoughts and feelings.

Ah, crap.

***

Advice for Amazon: 2013 365 Challenge #157

I'm relaxed about reviews

I’m relaxed about reviews

I have been amazed at the discussion sparked by my post Getting Stronger two days ago, talking about my one-star reviews on Amazon. The support has been incredible, even though I wasn’t really upset by the review. As I mentioned in the post, and the comments, I was low because I inadvertently made someone else sad/cross/irritated (I don’t like upsetting people) rather than by the comments themselves.

What it has demonstrated, however, is the depth of emotion generated by Amazon’s reviewing system. Several other blogs have had a similar discussion this week, including:

http://greenembers.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/why-amazon-thinks-youre-stupid-opinion-piece/ reblogged on readfulthingsblog.com

http://rinellegrey.com/reviews-do-you-read-them-or-not/

http://dclozeau.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/review-or-not-to-review/

Amazon's arbitrary review system leaves me exhausted

Amazon’s arbitrary review system leaves me exhausted

The debate my post (and others) generated got me thinking – I rarely pay attention to reviews for books. I read them avidly for other products – cameras, ipads, vacuum cleaners. For any purchase, big or small, you’ll find me on Reevoo, trying to find a balance between the one-star and five-star comments.

With books, however, even though I do read the reviews sometimes, I don’t think I’ve bought a book just on reviews. I buy online the same as I do when in a bookshop – read a few pages and decide if I like the cover (yes I’m that shallow!).

The importance of reviews for a self-published author is more to do with promotion and sales than critique on the actual text. Which is probably just as well. Maybe it’s time Amazon came up with a different system for rating books. I’ve come up with one for them:

Would read again – (five-star)

Would recommend – (four-star)

Read it to the end but can’t remember what happened – (three star)

Read half, intended to finish, but didn’t – (two-star)

Didn’t get past chapter two – (one-star)

[The last section of this post came from a comment I left on Rinelle Grey’s post about KDP Select. Did I mention that I started writing today’s post at 9am with a 9.45am deadline. Oops.]

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

________________________________________________________________________________

Claire looked at her friend and swallowed the hard lump in her throat. Don’t cry, that’s too much of a cliché. She reached into her bag for her phone to take a photograph, blinking hard.

“You’re not going to put a picture on the blog, are you?” Kim’s voice was low with concern.

Claire shook her head. “Don’t be silly, of course not. I might post pictures from the day, if that’s okay? But more of the venue than you and Jeff. It’ll be a great advert for the YHA.”

Kim twirled in her floaty frock and beamed. “You can fill the entire blog with pictures once Jeff has seen it. I want it to be a surprise, that’s all.” She smoothed the bodice over her bump. “I hope this doesn’t get any bigger in a fortnight.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine. Are you going to buy it then?” Claire looked round the charity shop, sure everyone must be watching Kim’s performance. They had the room to themselves, however. I guess closing time on a Saturday isn’t their busy period.

“I can’t believe you managed to find the perfect dress in a charity shop. You’re so jammy.”

“Research, my dear. People on my salary learn to be frugal. I get most of my clothes from these shops. If you visit the right town then other people’s cast-offs are as good as new. Good labels, too. My coat is Boden and those jeans are from Marks & Spencer. Besides, you don’t get an item of clothing that’s less worn than a wedding dress.”

She gave one last twirl then reached round to try and free herself from the dress. “Can you unhook me, I think I’m going to pull a muscle if I try.”

Claire walked over and helped Kim take off the ivory dress. It was beautiful. I can’t imagine being that lucky, to find the perfect dress in a charity shop. Never mind one that doesn’t even need altering. She sighed. Kim gets all the luck. Fun job, gorgeous fiancé, understanding mother and now the perfect budget wedding.

“What are you going to wear?” Kim’s voice shook Claire from her reverie.

“You want me to get something from here?” Claire didn’t quite manage to keep the horror from her voice. Realising how rude that was, her eyes raised to Kim’s, concerned that she might have offended her friend.

Kim was smiling, but there was a faint line between her brows. “Of course not. If you can afford to buy something that costs more than I earn in a month, then that’s your prerogative.”

Claire bristled at the sarcasm laced through her friend’s words. It was unlike Kim to care about the difference in their salaries. It had been that way for so long, it was more a joke between them than a cause for bitterness.

I’ve never flouted my money. Have I? Sudden concern that she had been insensitive hit Claire, and she felt tears prick at her eyes. Bugger. Have I? Have I made her feel bad for earning less than I do? Her job is just as hard, it’s not my fault it isn’t as well paid.

With a glance around the charity shop, and another back at her friend, Claire made a decision.

“If it’s good enough for the bride, it’s good enough for her maid of honour. Show me the frocks!”

Kim shimmied out of the wedding dress and pulled her jeans back on. Carefully arranging the dress back on its hanger, she laid it over the counter and then took Claire’s hand, leading her to the rail of gowns sparkling at the back of the shop.

***

Chocolate and Cheeky Amazon: 2013 365 Challenge #91

Scattering grass seed with Daddy

Scattering grass seed with Daddy

I got my first five-star review today for Dragon Wraiths. And Amazon deleted it. It was left by a lovely lady who recently started following me here and on Twitter and who read the book without any prompting from me.

Unfortunately she’s also an author and apparently Amazon frowns on authors leaving reviews on other people’s books. Which is a shame because generally writers are avid readers (and eloquent reviewers) and they also know the value of reviews. I guess the system gets abused, as all things do. All I know is that five-star review might have brought me some much-needed sales.

Shadow Forest by Matt Haig

Shadow Forest by Matt Haig

On a nicer note we had a lovely peaceful Easter Sunday. I spent the morning feverishly uploading ebooks – my Volume 3 and the ‘Story so Far’ version, which contains all the posts since the beginning of January. Even though I’d done most of the formatting and the book covers etc it still took far too long and we were nearly late for lunch. People who think self-publishers are cheeky charging for their books without paying professionals to do the editing, proof-reading, formatting etc, don’t always account for how much effort can be put into these things by the author. The Story So Far represents about 300 hours of effort. I think selling it for the price of a cappuccino is fairly reasonable, especially as you can download the separate volumes for free!

I’m all full of cold and had a welcome break at my Father-in-Law’s today as he and his partner took the children and dog for a walk. I read my book (a great MG fiction called Shadow Forest by Matt Haig) and David watched The Mummy. Again. Children were tired-whiny after our long day yesterday so it was nice for all of us to have some time apart. Now all I have to do is try and ration the copious amounts of chocolate we have accumulated despite my best efforts. Even I’m sick of the sight of chocolate and I never thought that was possible!

Anyway, time to start Volume 4 of Two-Hundred Steps Home. Blimey. How did that happen?

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Excuse me, is everything alright?”

Claire looked up at the concerned face trying to peer under her shield of hair. Her eyes met two sapphires sparkling amidst a sea of wrinkles.

“The school is closed today. Were you meant to meet someone?”

The words sank in through the fog in Claire’s mind. Closed? “The school isn’t open? But I was supposed to collect my niece. Ruth – my sister – she clearly said today at 3pm. I thought I was in the wrong place. But it’s definitely here. She’s going to be so cross, and she’s ill and I’m meant to be helping.” The words tumbled out until Claire’s voice broke and she sank her head back into her hands.

A gentle patting on her shoulder reminded Claire that the old lady was still standing in front of her.

“There, there, my dear. Don’t cry. Have you telephoned your sister? I am sure there has been some misunderstanding. I believe there is a training day today and therefore the children finished for the Easter vacation yesterday.”

Relief washed through Claire like a spring breeze, followed by an arctic blast of anger. That’s just like Ruth to scare the hell out of me. She must have Sky home with her: why didn’t she call me?

Claire looked up and smiled ruefully at the helpful passer-by. “I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be a watering pot. It was quite a struggle to get here for 3pm through the snow – I’ve come from the Derby Dales – and now, to find…” She shook her head. No point unburdening herself to a complete stranger.

The lady raised a hand as if to brush away Claire’s apology. “I quite understand. These things happen. Why not come with me to the café? You can settle your nerves before telephoning your sister. Everything will seem better after a cup of tea.”

Pushing herself off the wall, trying to ignore the numbness in her bottom from sitting on the cold stone, Claire smiled gratefully at the woman. “Thank you, I might do that. No need to come with me, I’ll be fine. I haven’t had lunch, that’s all. As you say, I’m sure I’ll feel more the thing after some food and a hot drink.”

The woman hesitated, as if unsure whether to leave Claire alone.

What must she think? I’m a grown woman, I shouldn’t be sat sobbing outside a primary school. Grow up and stop being pathetic, girl.

“I’m fine, really. I appreciate you stopping to tell me about the school. I know where the café is – I’ve been here before – and I don’t want to hold you up any longer.”

“Well, if you are certain?” Claire nodded. “Alright then, my dear. You take care.” The lady gave a little wave and walked away.

Claire filled her lungs with freezing air and brushed the hair back from her face. She knew she should call Ruth, to confirm that her niece was safely at home, but she was still too cross. That’s just like her, to have me race across the country on a wild-goose-chase without so much as a text message. She stomped towards the coffee shop, remembering all the times Ruth had let her down or forgotten to tell her something important. Just because I’m the youngest, doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave me out all the time.

She could almost sense her bottom lip jutting out as it had done twenty-five years ago, when such behaviour was just about acceptable.

It was only when she was tucked into a window seat nursing a cup of Earl Grey that it occurred to Claire there may be another reason for Ruth’s lack of contact.

What if she’s had complications and had to go back into hospital? What if she wasn’t able to call me and Sky’s been left with Dad?

Her empty stomach twisted in fear and the blood drained away from her face until she thought she might faint. Placing the cup down on the saucer, spilling her tea in the process, Claire pulled out her phone and selected her sister’s number. She listened to the endless ringing as she waited for the phone to connect.

Come on, come on, just pick up the phone.

***

Reviews, Hormones and Biscuits: 2013 365 Challenge #75

Buying a box of biscuits - big mistake!

Buying a box of biscuits – big mistake!

I’m due on tomorrow which means today was a day of being narky to everyone and then saying sorry. (More than usual, that is!)

Oh and a day of biscuits.

I made the mistake of buying a family selection box at M&S when we went shopping for socks. Family selection? Really? I let the kids have two each, but that was only to keep them quiet on the hour-long drive home. I’ve eaten about half the box. 😦

We had a lovely family day at a place called Springfields – one of these discount retail outlet places that also has a playbarn for the kids. We went a year ago and bought shirts for hubbie and I took them back because they were too small and impossible to iron. It’s taken a year (and the promise of contract work) to get us back out there again to spend his refund voucher on more shirts!

Running after Aaron like a hamster in a cage

Running after Aaron like a hamster in a cage

I always get the short straw when we go to Springfields. Hubbie spends the time shopping (because he has less guilt than me when it comes to spending money on himself) while I climb round the playbarn like a hamster with the kids.

Actually the playbarn was lovely today as it’s a week day: there were only three other preschool-age children and Amber went off with the eldest which meant I only needed to keep Aaron out of trouble!

At the weekend it is a battlefield of storming child-troops and shouty or indifferent parent-sergeant-majors

The only sad part is that it always rains when we go. It’s out in the Fens and I guess there’s nothing stopping the weather sweeping in and drowning the colour out of the place. I say sad because there are beautiful gardens full of dinosaurs and daffodils and we were looking forward to a walk. As the kids had soaked themselves in the outdoor part of the playbarn we had to just head to the car. Fun family day though.

I also got my first review for Dragon Wraiths today. It was three stars so I read it with shaking hands and thudding heart: even though I swore I wouldn’t care about bad reviews. As it turns out it was lovely (and makes me wonder what he didn’t like that made him dock two stars). Because it’s my first I have to repeat it here, but I promise I won’t bore on every time someone comments on something! 🙂

a gallop for the imagination, 14 Mar 2013
This review is from: Dragon Wraiths (Kindle Edition)

Entertaining, imaginative, romp with thoughtful characters and scenic descriptions. Fans of Anne MaCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern series should enjoy this tale.

Happy with that!

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The first thing Claire noticed was the cold. She felt as if she was floating on an iceberg in a choppy sea. That would explain the seasickness and the fact I’m freezing. But not the pain. Did I get walloped by a polar bear? And how the hell did I end up in the Arctic Ocean? She tried to remember but it made the pain worse.

The next thing she noticed was the siren, quiet at first but getting louder. Not quickly like a fire engine rushing to the scene but a slow rise, coming up from murky depths. Why is there a fire engine in the ocean? I wish it would bugger off: it’s stabbing straight through the hole that damn polar bear made in my skull. She reached up a hand and it came back sticky. A polar bear with a blunt object.

The siren came nearer and Claire’s head throbbed in time with the rise and fall of the wail. Blue light flashed at the edges of her vision and she closed her eyes, willing it to sod off so she could get back to sleep. Another noise joined the wail. A voice, deep and stern, like a hall-stalking headmaster. I’m not smoking or late, go away and leave me alone.

Then a word stood out in the wall of noise.

“Claire?”

Oh.

“Claire Carleton?”

The noise came with the purr of an engine and then dazzling white light shone over her.

That’s it, I’ve died. I don’t remember dying but at least I can see the light.

The engine hum went away but the light didn’t. A loud slam made her jump and she cursed at the stab of pain.

“Miss Carleton? Thank god we’ve found you, are you hurt?”

“Who are you and what are you doing on my iceberg?”

“She’s delirious.” This was said over the man’s shoulder. Claire heard a second slamming noise and footsteps.

A kinder voice said “We’re here to help. Your boyfriend said he thought something might have happened to you and that you’d Tweeted you were just leaving the Old Nags Head. We’ve been searching the route. What happened?” She hunkered down next to Claire and smoothed the hair away from her face. Immediately she pulled her hand back and examined it.

“She’s hurt. Best phone for an ambulance.”

“No. No more sirens or lights it makes my head ache. I’m fine.”

“You’re bleeding.”

“I think a polar bear hit me.”

“You’re not making sense love. Were you attacked?”

A flash of memory lit up as if illuminated by a search light. She nodded, then regretted it when the world twisted.

“They took my bag. And my phone, the bastards.” She sat up, then fell sideways against the woman, nearly knocking them both over.

“I’d be happier if you saw a doctor. Will you let us take you to A&E?”

“Blimey do you even have one?”

“The nearest is Sheffield, it’s about forty minutes.”

Claire thought about the drive, the three-hour wait, endless questions and more bright lights.

“Can you take me to the hostel instead? I’d like some dry clothes and a mug of Earl Grey.”

The police officers conferred and seemed to reach an agreement. Claire was raised to her feet and guided to the back seat of the car.

“One more thing, please?”

“Yes?”

“Can you turn off that damn siren?”

***