Endings and Beginnings: 2013 365 Challenge #242

The Changing Faces of Time

The Changing Faces of Time

So, there it is. My daughter is no longer a ‘preschooler’.

She doesn’t seem bothered. I think the staff were more sad at her leaving than she was. I was just grumpy that they thought the 20 chocolate chip cookies I took in this morning were for the staff, rather than for the children. I mean, what did they think the flowers, cards and all were for? Sigh.

Still, thankfully another child was also leaving today and her Mummy brought in cakes, so my two didn’t notice the mistake.

I’m glad I waited until the last possible moment to take her out of nursery. Since we got home she has asked how many days until she starts school at least a dozen times. I might record it, so I have evidence for week two, when the novelty has worn off and she doesn’t want to go back!

That’s my ending. My beginning is my beginning as a ‘proper’ author, because I finally applied for my EIN today. Those non-writers following this blog won’t realise the significance of this, but it’s a BIG THING. I did actually even call the number in the States (plucking up courage again!), to apply on the phone and hopefully come away with the precious digits today. But the automated voice told me it was a minimum 30 minute wait, and – at 20p a minute or whatever our phone company charges to the US – I didn’t fancy it. In the end doing the paperwork to complete the SS-4 Form took twice that long, although it was less scary.

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

I have decided to fax the forms, as it’s supposed to take only 4 business days. That meant also finding an internet company to send and receive international faxes (I mean, who has a fax machine any more?) but, hopefully by next week, I’ll be able to tell you whether it’s all worth the effort! I wouldn’t have done it at all but Amazon sent me an email reminder, gently suggesting I get my tax forms sorted or they might take my books off sale. Funny how that motivated me when 30% of very little withheld in tax hadn’t!

I also spent today listening to my book on the laptop. It turns out that Adobe will ‘read’ out a PDF. It’s laborious and mostly done phonetically, which can lead to some odd pronunciations and virtually no correct cadence. But I’ve spotted several typos I wouldn’t have caught any other way, so I’m happy (except at the slow progress: I’m only 15% through).

The funniest part was the voice changing Mia (the lead male’s ex fiancée) to Missing In Action, every single time. She does go MIA in the novel, so it rather tickled me. A nicer proofreading experience than the five queries my hubbie found on page one, when I gave him a copy to check. Given his propensity to tear things apart I’ve had to insist that he keep his comments to typos only. I can’t face another huge rewrite!

Anyway, I’m submerged in a riveting book (Thanks, Rinelle), as well as wracking my brains for an August finale for Two Hundred Steps Home. As September’s only 2 days away, I need to come up with one soon! Best get on …

________________________________________________________________________________

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 stumbled as she exited the lift. Three more staggering steps took her to the door. Even though she had been on dry land for over an hour it still felt like the earth was moving beneath her. Catching at the door frame, she swiped the plastic card and cursed at the red light. After several more attempts the light shone green and she opened the door.

She vaguely registered an en-suite to her left before going through to the bedroom. Without bothering to shut the curtains or undress, Claire climbed beneath the covers and curled into the pillow. Within moments she was asleep.

*

When she woke, several hours later, her mouth ached with dryness and her body called its urgent need to pee. Claire rolled off the bed, just managing to get her feet to the floor before the rest of her followed in a heap. Feeling the worth of every penny it had cost to stay in the hotel, Claire staggered to the en-suite.

The face in the mirror looked like something from a zombie movie. Claire shut her eyes in horror and reached out to pull on the shaving light, before switching off the harsh overhead spotlights. Ten hours on a ferry had taken their toll. Eyes half closed against the still too-bright light, Claire brushed her teeth and drank some water. Her tummy rumbled but she guessed it was late in the night and her budget didn’t stretch to raiding the mini bar.

A piercing headache stabbed in the base of her skull, intensifying when she accidentally turned on the main lights. Turning them off again, Claire walked to the window and looked at the view of the harbour beneath her. The water appeared calm and, although the sky looked cloudy, it wasn’t raining. It was as if the hellish weather of the last twenty-four hours had ceased to exist, reinforcing the sense of it all being a bad dream.

I’m in Wellington instead of Picton; that alone tells me it wasn’t all some terrible nightmare.

Despite the refund on her ticket and the offer of compensation, Claire wondered how the ferry company could replace her stolen time. She needed to be on the South Island, ticking off tourist sites and making her way to Christchurch and a flight back to the UK. Although she hadn’t yet decided to accept Conor’s job offer, there was no doubt she couldn’t travel for much longer. Every time she used her credit card she waited with in held breath for it to be rejected. When that happened she wanted to be on the right side of a thirty-hour flight home.

Unaccountably wide awake, Claire located her iPad and tried to check her emails. The hotel WiFi was priced for business guests and Claire snorted at the cost. No expenses for her anymore.

I’ll have to wait until morning; go find a café with free Internet. It won’t hurt me to be disconnected from the world for a few more hours.

Claire looked around the large, pristine, hotel room and felt guilty for not offering the spare bed to Bethan. Her friend had opted to return to the hostel, when Claire had declared her intention to treat herself to a proper bed for the night. It had been on her tongue to offer, but a combination of tiredness and a yearning for silence and solitude had held her back. Now it seemed unnecessarily mean.

I’ll find her tomorrow, buy her breakfast.

Feeling her eyelids sinking once more, Claire changed into her pyjamas and climbed into the second bed, enjoying the sensation of clean, tucked in sheets.

***

Learning to be Brave: 2013 365 Challenge #220

Picking strawberries

Picking strawberries

One of the benefits of parenting is learning to be brave. Yesterday I touched a moth (ugh!) as I had to remove it from a trampoline and flick it into the grass. I hate moths. Ever since I left the light on and window open in my bedroom as a child, and went up at bedtime to find the ceiling plastered with giant moths (I grew up in the country) I have hated them. But, being brave for my children, I must deal with my fears.

This is especially appropriate after reading a post on Rinelle’s blog yesterday, about applying for an EIN number as an indie author.

This is probably only of interest to self-published writers, but there is a great article on Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog about how to get this holy-grail number (needed to stop Amazon.com withholding 30% of profits in tax).

Where are those juicy strawberries?

Where are those juicy strawberries?

I haven’t made any money from my books yet. Certainly not enough to go through the pain of calling the US to get an EIN number. I’ve had Catherine’s helpful article flagged in my inbox FOR A YEAR. Making that call has been on my to-do list for 12 months!

I hate phoning people that much.

In the UK, the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – in charge of tax etc in this country) have a phrase that says, “Tax doesn’t need to be taxing.” But it is. I always fill out my tax return at the 11th hour, even though, these days, there are no earnings and no tax to pay. The idea of calling the IRS and trying to get something out of them fills me with quiet horror.

After reading Rinelle’s post I decided to gird my loins, pluck up my courage, and make the call. I motivated myself by how great it would feel when I’d done it. How I could write a comment on Rinelle’s post thanking her for her encouragement. I could write a thank you comment on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post too. I could move forward and take this irritating thing off my perpetual to-do list.

Found one!

Found one!

I wrote out all the information I would need. I set up Skype on my iPad and found my headphones, ready to make the call (apparently you can be on hold for ages!). I loaded up the world clock, to see what time it was in Philadelphia, where I would be calling.

6am.

Bugger. I have to get the kids from preschool in twenty minutes. So, I won’t be making that phone call today, even though the adrenalin is still pumping and the knots in my stomach are still clenched tight. But I was nearly brave. That counts for something, right?

________________________________________________________________________________

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: 

________________________________________________________________________________

As the bus stopped at yet another hostel to pick up passengers, Claire looked at the pack of papers the driver had shoved into her hand when she boarded. They included a check-in form for the hostel that evening, extra activities to add on, travel dates and so on. Claire groaned.

I have no idea. I just want to go back to sleep. It seemed that travelling by tour bus was a different beast to meandering around in her clapped-out Skoda.

I’m not used to people telling me what to do. Except Carl and Julia, of course, and they were easily ignored.

Claire tried to decide how many nights she wanted to stay at the first stop, Paihia. It looked like a pretty town, but she had a feeling now was not the time for long periods of idleness and solitude.

Best keep moving.

Forms completed, Claire rested her head against the juddering glass of the window and tried to find sleep.

*

She awoke to the hiss of brakes and the lurch of the coach coming to a halt. She looked around, trying to decide if they were finally there. They’d stopped so many times, to pick people up, or to allow for toilet breaks or breakfast, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. From the shuffling and clamour, she decided they had actually arrived.

Stifling a yawn, Claire gathered her things and joined the slow procession off the bus. She looked at the place she would call home for the night. It was a low-level building surrounded by palm trees. Over to her right she could see tree-covered hills, framed against a blue sky dotted with clouds. After the air-conditioned bus the air felt warm and smelt of the sea.

It felt bizarre, checking in with two-dozen other travellers. Her journey in the UK had been mostly solo and, though occasionally she might meet someone else at the reception desk, her check in had been swift and painless. Waiting in line for her turn, Claire listened to the bubbling conversation around her – happy teenagers planning their afternoon – and felt like a rock in a river, standing proud and alone above the noise.

From the chatter she discovered that the hostel had a rocking bar full of locals, a pool and a hot tub. Two girls behind her were giggling, assessing their chances of pulling fit Kiwi blokes during the evening barbeque, which came as part of their accommodation. Claire decided to make sure she had her book with her.

At last she was at the front, and discovered she was sleeping in an eight-bed dorm.

Thank god I decided just to stay the one night.

Claire took her key and wandered through the hostel, past a group of lads playing cards, and a bank of red sofas full of people ignoring the TV. Although the facilities were no different to the hostels she’d staying in at home, everything felt alien. Not unfriendly, exactly. But something made her skin prickle.

As she retrieved the things she would need for the afternoon, before stuffing her rucksack onto her bunk, Claire tried to put her finger on what felt wrong.

They’re all too young. That’s what it is. It feels like Fresher’s Week at uni, surrounded by people just released from the confines of home, looking for their next drink, shag or adventure.

The hostels back home had been mostly full of families, school groups, or couples. She’d met as many retired people travelling, alone or in pairs, as she had under-twenties.

I guess the UK isn’t really where people go for their gap year of fun before becoming proper grown-ups.

Beginning to understand where Mitch’s uncouth nickname for the green bus had come from, and conscious of a growing sense of homesickness, it was with a heavy heart that Claire left the hostel to go in search of lunch.

***