Tag Archives: sara wars

Sara Wars: The Night Butterflies Vs BL-1 Dark Blue White X-Large 1-Piece Pattern Prayer Muslim Hijab Head Cover Scarf

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 7.39.11 PMYou may remember I shouted out a short while ago that my first novel, The Night Butterflies, was coming out – I wasn’t messing with you, it’s on its way. In fact, it should be out already, causing all kinds of havoc.

This post is about patience. Patience is a close cousin to frustration. There have been all sorts of roadblocks to this book. I’ve been navigating the seas of self-publishing as a greenhorn, one unused to the trials of the ocean, and one, moreover, beset by seasickness.

I’m planning a pamphlet on my story – something like, ‘A walk in the jungle: My path to publication’ – it really is an Amazon rainforest out there. You need a guide. Something to repel the creepy crawlies. And, preferably, someone to carry your luggage.

Despite the delays – the tigers, the sharks, the snakes, the storms – I reached the point where my title was to be sent to a printer for a short run and uploaded to Amazon Createspace for Kindle / print-on-demand simultaneously. It’s also going to Smashwords, so it’ll be available on any/all e-readers. Everything is ready – I’m ready. This is supposed to be the delicious distraction away from all things breakup. This and Instagram (damn, I love Instagram).

But, upon upload, I received a notification that my paperback ISBN (the unique global book reference assigned to your title by the national library of your country of residence) clashes with another title at Amazon. I followed up, because, well, it’s in the nature of an ISBN that it shouldn’t clash with anything. But it turns out that it clashes with a head scarf.

As this shouldn’t happen (it’s pretty much like winning the anti-lottery – they say at Amazon this hasn’t come up before), I figured it would be fixed in a day. But I’ve been liaising with CreateSpace, Amazon Customer Service, Amazon Author Services and Amazon Selling Support for coming up a week. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I’ve spoken to has been lovely. But I would *really* like to release my book now.

Your ISBN goes on your back cover and on the copyright page in the front of your book. It is used to make the barcode for the back of the book. It is used to register your book in databases around the world. It is how you track your sales. Having had my covers created, my barcodes bought, my interior formatted and my registrations made – at cost – I’m not keen to push my timescales even further, pay to perform all of this again, and have to request another ISBN when the one I have is valid.

The scarf is not listed on Amazon as a book, though I have found it on bookfinder.com listed as a title, which it shouldn’t be – because it is not a book. I’m hoping that Amazon can find a way to change its referencing so that it no longer has an ISBN associated with it and no longer clashes with my Night Butterflies, which I’m sure the world is waiting to read!

In the meantime, I’m practising patience. Does anyone have any tips?!

Sara Wars – A New Visa

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.58.46 AM“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

My hands are so chilly I can barely type. But I must. I need to tell you the news 😀 Partner-in-crime and I have finally been granted New Zealand residency.

That’s right. After a year and a half in make-up, I now look like this:

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Some of you may have heard more than you care to of the trials and tribulations that have brought us to this point. A hefty sigh of relief was blown over my bubbles last night! I’m so happy to be here, with all the battles fought and the war finally over.

To those who may not have an appreciation for the pain of immigration admin, let me walk you through the process. Last January, we decided to go for residency. Due to my prowess with paper, we decided not to go for an immigration lawyer (they cost a crazy amount. I’m almost tempted to become one). Before you can even apply for residency here, you have to submit an application asking to be allowed to ask to be invited to apply. This ‘Expression of Interest’ cost $500 and involved a large form, covering all sorts of background, proving that you have 100 points plus. You get points for qualifications, an offer of employment in a ‘skilled’ category, years of relevant work experience etc. These things I have, so I thought it would be a straightforward road to travel. First up, your EOI joins a pool, from which the higher pointed applications are selected every fortnight. Having started to gather evidence and prepare the app in Jan, we submitted in Feb and received an Invitation To Apply in March. So far, so smooth.

Then the real work/expense began. It took another 3 months before we could submit an application (at a cost of $2k) because I had to have my accountancy qualification assessed by the NZQA (at a cost of $1k). I had everything lined up ready to go, but alongside certificates and transcripts, they then asked for my school qualifications (GCSEs and A-Levels), which I hadn’t seen for a wee while (ok, a long while, I’m aging). We had to have full medical checks, bloods and x-rays (at $450 each). We had to have full police checks and certificates from any country in which we’d been situated for a combined total of 12 months over the course of our lives (thankfully just the UK – NZ do their own sneaky check – and thankfully clean 😉 at $100 each – and they only accepted UK based payment, thanks Mum & Dad). We also needed proof of partnership, which would have been easier had we not been living in a van 12 months previously, with no idea that we would have been doing ourselves a favour if we hadn’t thrown away all proofs of address to lighten the load on the road. Initially, the first employment reference I requested (for my 4 years at Ernst & Young in London) came back stating I’d only worked there as an intern for 6 weeks. Awkward. And getting the right evidence was only a part of it. Referencing it and writing it up was a whole other kettle of kiwis.

Pressing submit on 21 June last year was *amazing.* Subsequently waiting 7 months for an immigration case officer was not. Her first contact was to request us to provide a statutory document, which we’d need to request from a government body in the UK, in 3 business days. Was she on glue?! That took 4 weeks. I later ended up providing her with 14 months of payslips and background to why partner-in-crime’s nose was broken when he was 15. No joke. She asked so many technical questions of my employer, the response took 4 pages of A4. At more than one point, the future did not look bright. It seemed they were trying to make an example out of me. They wanted answers in tiny timeframes, but wouldn’t respond to my communications. There was a distinct lack of friendliness about the process. It was like being in a trial, where you’re not welcome until proven worthy. So you can imagine how it felt to outgun them :p (ahem, I mean, thank you so much for letting me stay in your country). Now all we need to do is coax them to put the stamps in our passports within the year – and pay a $600 migrant levy.

Just as I’ve learnt with the path to publication – it’s better not to be an island. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with people sharing and supporting your goals and letting them assist you. Yep, we didn’t fork out for a lawyer, but I *drowned* in paperwork. Half a metre had to be couriered off. I stressed and worried and triple-checked things every step of the way. Being qualified to do something alone doesn’t mean that you have to. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the same again – just that if money is no object, an immigration lawyer is a swell team member to have :p I became a paranoid pest when dealing with my immigration officer. With a lack of lawyer, I couldn’t have done this without having friends to bounce off and whine to. We couldn’t have done this without the 18 people who wrote us letters of support for our partnership and posted them from all over the world. And we couldn’t have done this without timely references and recommendations from employers past and present. So I’m not just triumphant, I’m grateful.

Are you struggling with anything at the moment? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be too proud to ask for help (just don’t ask me – I’m fricking exhausted :p). A win is a win – sometimes we need support to get where we want to be. And it’s so lovely to see so many people happy for us. A genuine thank you to everyone who has shown their support in so many forms, during this and many other long, arduous battles. 

Sara Wars – The Phantom Bank Charge

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Always pass on what you have learned – Yoda

Soon for me to have another post it is. But Kristen Lamb suggested blogging about my latest triumph – and what kind of padawan would I be if I didn’t listen to the master?

I got paid today (yay). I logged into my bank account, only to find I’d been overdrawn for a week. Not having a lot of them, I’m a little anal when it comes to my finances. I *hate* getting failed direct debit / automatic payment fees. I *hate* going overdrawn when I haven’t seen it coming. So it doesn’t happen much. These incur fees and fines that are more lost money on top of that already lost.

Last week, I specifically called my internet company because I knew the funds weren’t currently where they needed to be to pay my direct debit. I paid by card from a different account. And then confirmed at least 3 times that the direct debit wouldn’t go out this month.

Having checked and doubled checked on the phone – I then didn’t check my bank account to see if they lied to me. They did. They overdrew me. Meaning bank fees would ensue at the end of the month. So I called the bank to find out when these would occur and how much they would be ($15 – but that’s not the point!). I then called the internet company to have a fight and try to reclaim the fees that hadn’t yet happened. And I’m usually epically nonconfrontational (which apparently isn’t a word – but should be).

We had a little row about whether the customer service person I spoke to previously even know I was on a direct debit and wasn’t just paying by card. I explained that the whole reason I called was to make sure the direct debit could be averted. I had even asked if it was too late and if I should physically move cash around by foot from one bank to another (quicker than an internet transfer here in NZ, trust me) to make sure the payment could be made as usual. I was assured it would be fine.

The lady on the phone shot me down. But said she would review the call to see if my wild claims had foundation. My account being in credit, I could ask for a a refund. By this time, I’ve been paid, so I’m not overdrawn. I don’t mind being in credit with them, I just mind the impending fees for having been in my non-existent overdraft through no fault of my own.

There’s a lot going on at the moment. I’m a bit overwhelmed with work and life… The lady on the phone upset me far more than she should. By this point, I knew it was a case of $15. It was not the end of the world. I’m not even sure it met the threshold to be a matter of principle. But for some reason, it was. I was disproportionately incensed at the injustice (first world problems, ey?!). This reaction was the first hint that I need to take a chill pill, a step back and possibly a valium and calm down. And address the real issues I’m upset about at the moment.

The second clue was the unreal jubilation I felt when the lady called back and, apology in her voice, backtracked and said she’d refund the bank fee, having listened to my call of the week before. Could I send proof of the bank fee? Well, no. It hadn’t even happened yet.

But when it does, I’ll get it back 🙂 Victory is mine – I have won the battle!

To win the war, I’m going to have to get some perspective. Not to belittle my jubilation, but there are bigger victories to fight for right now.

Is anyone else outraged by unjustified bank fees? Has anyone had a similar little triumph give them a boost at exactly the right time? I think it’s ok to do a little victory dance. I definitely did one… And it was fine, since I then resolved to regain my perspective and get back to work!