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The Peers of Beinan: A Literary Journey

Castle Fantasy BackdropThere is a lot of science fiction on the market from independent authors published these last five years since I first published “The Great Succession Crisis.”  It is a crowded field where it is easy to get lost in. As with many popular genres, a huge number of books seek to emulate the plot and character elements of mega hits on the assumption of that what works for one highly profitable author must work for them as well. We’ve seen this with “Twilight” style paranormal romances.  We’ve seen this with “Five Shades of Grey” styled erotica.  The list goes on and on.

As moderator of a book promo group on facebook, I get to see the copycats almost ad nauseam. Books all look the same after a while. And while the premise of copying another’s ideas is repulsive to me as both a science fiction author and as a dedicated historian, I do genuinely see some success in these authors following those formulas — if the measure of success is Amazon rankings in any event.

But open these books and the blandness of copycatting shows itself. The writing lacks the sort of literary luster of the books and authors whose work holds the test of time. That is, perhaps, the best distinction one makes between commercial and literary fiction.  Commercial fiction is about today’s sale.  Literary fiction is about creating timeless works of art.  My fiction is literary fiction.

The Peers of Beinan Series is everything I love about the classics. As a free thinker and intellectual with a life-long passion for learning, it has never been my habit to follow the crowd – on anything. Whatever was “hot” or “trendy” was never of interest to me.  I always liked to be different. On occasion what I’ve liked and what the greater society is into have coincided — but never by my conscious design and rarely in precisely the same way.

I started my writing career with the Peers of Beinan because I saw an America becoming more and more socially and politically divided, an America where it was becoming more and more difficult to engage in civil conversations about the stuff that matters. I saw an America that was increasingly creating false equivalences between fact and opinion and where acts of hate against those who are different was going unpunished and ignored. Sound familiar?

I wanted to engage in an honest discussion with people about the subjects that matter to me most. Looking to the great science fiction/fantasy authors I like best — Gene Roddenberry, Dorothy “DC” Fontana, Ray Bradberry, Frank Herbert, Issac Asimov to name just a few — what I noticed is they often tackled some really big social and sometimes political subjects in their books — without offending people in the process.

I wanted to do the same.  I wanted to talk to people and encourage people to really think about things that matter to me. And I wanted people to open their minds to ideas and possibilities that put a different way to them they would never listen to.

And that is, in essence, what the Peers of Beinan Series is. It’s my reaching out across the universe and saying “this is important, please think it about it” from a group of stories that don’t ask that question directly of people.

house-personal-heraldry-collage

In personal interactions I am known for my point-blank directness. I don’t play the stereotypical gender roles game — not any more at least. And so I am “bold” as a woman and a writer. The Peers of Beinan is less point-blank than I usually am. It seeks to provoke thought without being confrontational. And just as important to me personally:  it seeks to bring you hope. For in the greatest darkness and despair, there is always Light. That’s how I overcame the great adversities of my life and how you will too.

 

Death and Taxes: Lessons Learned

Death and Taxes are the two things no one can avoid. While taxes is something we face every year, the death of a parent is something we face only once or twice, depending on our family situation. As I found out with the 2016 death of my mother, our knowledge of how to handle taxes after the death of a parent or other close loved one is very limited.

Despite all the information out there online on both subjects individually, I found it all extremely confusing as I tried to navigate that complexity of what happens with your taxes when someone close to you dies.  Tax law is very complicated and tax guidance is even more complicated. No one wants the liability of telling you anything just in case what they tell you does not apply to you. In most cases, people want you to spend massive amounts of money consulting with attorneys and tax professionals instead of giving you the most basic advice.  It’s akin to a nurse not telling me to run cold water on a burn and sending me to the hospital (at a delay of hours) when my hair caught fire blowing out candles when I was in university. The burn gets worse by not taking immediate action.

The following is what I learned filing my 2016 taxes.  My situation may be different from yours. You may have a more complicated tax situation than I did. What follows is some simple advice from my tax filing as equal beneficiary to my brother who was the executor on her estate.

Taxes to be paid:

  • The executor of the state must file Federal and State income taxes for the deceased. If the deceased has no tax liability, that is fine. But the returns must be filed on behalf of the deceased.
  • If deceased owns her home at time of death and it is to be sold, sell the home as quickly as possible to reduce tax liability and simplify your tax situation. Same for any other property that is usually taxed upon sale.  If you are not keeping the property for the long term, you make your life easier by selling it as soon as possible.
  • If you inherit any annuities or retirement funds, those funds are taxable by the Federal government if they were tax-deferred plans such as 401K, traditional IRA, etc. Pre-pay that tax before you receive any funds if at all possible.  It may not always be possible to pre-pay the taxes so ask the financial institutions involved about it.

The more you pre-pay taxes, the easier filing your return becomes. In this it is no different than when you choose fewer tax deductions as you are working and thus have more taxes taken out of each check as you earn. When the tax season hits, a refund is easier to handle than a big tax bill. Err on the side of caution and pay as much tax as you can before you receive funds from the estate so you don’t over spend and find yourself unable to pay those taxes when the bill arrives.

Now here is the good news:  what is NOT taxable:

  • Cash, savings, checking, and certificate of deposit funds.  That is because the deceased already paid income taxes on those funds.  You do not report these funds to the IRS.  It’s your money.
  • Proceeds from the sale of a home if the executor has paid all applicable taxes up front.  In the common case of a home being sold and its funds being dispersed to multiple beneficiaries, those beneficiaries do not pay taxes on it nor do they claim those funds as income because all taxes have already been paid.  For example:  a home sells for $100,000.  After taxes, attorney fees, and other closing costs the net sale is $80,000.  The Will specifies two beneficiaries which then each receive $40,000. The $40,000 received is not taxable because it’s the net after taxes are paid. The beneficiary does not pay tax on the $40,000; the money stays off the tax return.

 

good-morning-america-18-june-2001-002

My mother and me during a 2001 visit as part of the studio audience for Good Morning America.  This is us with anchor Charles Gibson, one of my mother’s favourite celebrities.

Now of course I’m not a lawyer.  I am not a tax professional. I’m a historian and an author from a humble background.  My mother was not a rich, glamourous person.  She was a teacher before I was born and a factory worker and retail clerk for most of her working life after I was born. She was very average, living paycheck to paycheck and doing creative things to keep us fed and with some sort of roof over our heads.  So her estate was not massive and there were no capital gains taxes that I needed to concern myself with.

Maybe this blog post is useless. But maybe it helps you too.  I stressed out for MONTHS over the tax consequences of my mother’s death. I smartly put 30% of my inheritance into a high yield savings account (I switched to Ally Bank to maximize those earnings) in part because I was terrified that I was going to have to pay nearly everything I inherited back to the government.  I did not. A tax professional explained to me what I just posted and set my mind at ease.  I hope this post does the same for you.

Rest in peace mom. May you find joy in your new incarnation and the love you never found in this life.

Babelcube beware: what authors need to know before signing a Babelcube contract

Boudicca German web

The German edition of Boudicca was beautifully translated by Christina Loew. Thanks to frequent communication and Ms. Loew’s professionalism, the translation process was smooth and easy — exactly what most authors are looking for when joining Babelcube.

If you subscribe to this blog you know that in 2016 I took my books deeper into the global market.  After an exasperating fore into the Chinese market via Fiberead, I had high hopes for Babelcube, a platform for translation that mirrors many of the features familiar to authors who use Amazon’s ACX.com site for audio production.  But as with ACX, successful production and publication requires understanding the system and knowing how — and when — to walk away from something that is not working.

The ability to walk away is important for independent authors because a poorly translated book is damaging to the author’s brand; it reflects on the author as much if not more so than the original editions written by the author in her or his native language.  Therefore an author’s career is at stake each time the author signs a translation contract.  Don’t mess with this, my friends.  As much as you want to be sweet and nice when it comes to dealing with potential translators your life depends on you being picky and walking away when you can from any deal or possible deal that doesn’t uphold your author brand.

The first place you can walk away is when a translator first sends you an offer to translate.  This is the best time to fully vet the candidate.  Don’t skimp on this and do not feel obligated to accept any particular offer. We all want to be nice and we want to give people their break into a new career.  The problem with doing that is you may end up with poor quality work because the person has never been tested in the professional world as a translator.  Before signing anything TALK TO THE TRANSLATOR — don’t just look at the profile and give the person the benefit of the doubt because s/he seems likable.  Remember that this is a form of job interview and treat it as seriously as any job interview you’ve been on.  If anything does not smell right or you aren’t sure of anything at all politely decline.

But let’s say you’ve accepted the contract.  The next place and final place you can walk away is when the translator submits the first ten pages. In evaluating these, don’t just look at the words on the page but the FORMATTING because, as with your own books you self-publish, the formatting and editorial can make or break the book.  If anything seems like you would not submit those ten pages as a stand alone, polished work DECLINE THEM — this is your last and ONLY chance to get out of the contract.  Despite what you may see in the system, this is the actual point of no return for you.  Once those ten pages are accepted you are committed to publishing the book — no matter the quality of the final product you are given.

And this is the part that no one ever mentions to you:  you cannot decline to publish a completed book on Babelcube — even though there is a button in the review process that says “decline this translation.”

What happens if you do hit the “decline” button?  Firstly you are asked to confirm and warned that confirming the decline will open a dispute with Babelcube.  What this means is that they will investigate and make a ruling.  If they rule for you, the translator has to fix the errors.  If they rule against you then you owe the translator an undisclosed amount of money.  But the system doesn’t tell you that.  I found out by asking via email after I reviewed the final document on one of my books and deemed it of such poor quality that I was not comfortable with continuing.

In essence you have to approve the final book.  You can ask for some changes (hit “return” and then send a message to the translator to do so), but you actually DO have to hit “accept translation” and then publish the book. “Reject translation” means you are willing to pay for the translator’s time for a book that you will not publish.

For most people it’s far cheaper to enlist the help of someone outside of Babelcube’s system to help you fix the document so you can publish — which is exactly what I am doing right now.

This is why it is critically important that you wait until each translation is complete before signing another contract with a translator. Even after publishing one or two books all the way through the process (meaning the book is live Amazon, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) with a translator, my experience shows that it is best to only contract one book at a time with a specific translator.  Life happens and schedules change.  Limiting yourself to one contract at a time per translator helps everyone balance time and priorities to the satisfaction of all parties and empower everyone to create the best work possible.

In summary, Babelcube can be an excellent platform for translating books into multiple languages.  But success with it requires the author always beware of its inner workings and courageous enough to walk away from any project that does not meet expectations either before the contract is signed or when receiving the first ten pages.

This is your brand.  Protect it.

Losing My Religion and TBI

playing flute at Holmes Park Bible 1988

Playing the flute at Holmes Park Bible Church in December 1988.

I have been asked many times why/how I could convert to the Old Religion of Britain when as a teen I was such a die-hard evangelical Christian. All sorts of crazy, harsh, and judgmental explanations have been offered up to me by people I either grew up with or knew me a little in the 1980s.

So allow me to set the record straight on the matter please.

On 5 November 1985 I suffered a traumatic brain injury when a distracted driver hit me while crossing the street on my way home from school. The car hit me at the left temple, exploding my skull into at least a dozen pieces. My eye glasses were cut nearly all the way through. And I experienced a “near” death experience where my spirit remained tied and connected to my very dead body (I remember the gruesome sight from outside). All perception of time is skewed when you are outside and I remember some sort of divine action that healed my body so I could return. My time senses (gifted to me to protect me from danger) saw a larger picture which I continued to remember on an unconscious basis since that time.

When I woke up nearly all higher brain memory was wiped out — I had to learn again from square one. I knew NOTHING that was taught to me before and while I healed physically my mental capacities were greatly impaired. I absorbed information much like a 2-5 year old child and doing it at the age of 14 with all the hellish complications of early puberty.

I had no ability at that time to make personal assessments about information — what I was told I believed and that continued more or less across the entire seven year physical healing process.

Once the injuries healed I was finally capable of making my own judgments about information. As I grew academically in University (I was on the Dean’s List seven times and graduated in the top 3% of my graduating class in the College of Arts/Sciences in the University of Nebraska) I started to form my own opinions finally, empowered to do more than what I was told and decide for myself if a piece of information was true or false.

When that happened I decided that Christianity was not for me and that what I wanted was a more holistic religious experience that better matched the encounter with divinity I had during my “near” death experience. I do not see a match between the religion of my family and what I experienced being dead. And yes, I am entitled to that perception.

I’ve been dead and come back. Yes, that is a life altering experience. I make no apologies for that nor would I ever want to as a Liberal Democrat.

Religion is a PERSONAL MATTER and is absolutely NO ONE’S BUSINESS BUT YOUR OWN.

Bed bugs and bed foundations: protecting your home

beauty sleep set

A typical American bed: mattress over a foundation.

 

Bed bugs are everywhere.  Live for any length of time in an apartment building of any size (such as my sky rise where I’m on the 15th floor) and sooner or later you will encounter these vermin whose bites are extremely itchy and painful.

For those blessed to have not encountered them yet bed bugs are tiny (less than 5mm) insects resembling ticks when they’ve gorged on your blood. Their bites look like red pin pricks and are usually in groups of two or three in a row spaced  3mm to 13 mm apart.  Bed bug saliva is extremely irritating — worse than even mosquitos — and just as painful.

If you are bitten the first thing to do is thoroughly wash the bites with soap and water before treating with ice for any welts that may form in response to them.  Once the saliva is washed out of the wound, I’ve found that aloe vera with lidocaine (typically used for sunburns) helps with the initial pain and discomfort.  Follow this up with calamine solution (drug store brands work great) to speed healing.

I know all of this of course because over the holidays bed bugs found their way into my home and my life.  Contrary to popular belief, cleanliness does not protect you from bed bugs.  They can attack any home or business at any time and are extremely good at hitching rides in purses, luggage, tote bags, etc. and latching themselves onto your clothes (just as ticks will).  So expect bed bugs to come into your life at some point.  Don’t play denial and think it cannot or will not happen.  It will — but there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Sealy bed foundation

A typical bed foundation sold with mattresses in furniture and bedding stores.

Let’s begin with the bed you purchase.  When the exterminator came to my apartment recently for the first treatment (there will be three and yes, you absolutely need a professional to get rid of them) one of the first things he did was tear away the bottom fabric to my “box spring” (now called “foundations” by bedding stores) so he could treat the insides and spray, revealing something startling to me about my bed:  though we usually call it a “box spring” there are no springs in it — even in name brands like my Sealy set that cost me over $600 for the twin size.

Instead the “box spring” foundation in my bed is a wooden frame made of roughly 1/2″ thick and 4″ wide boards and slates.  Over this is a thin sheet of plywood and covered with a nice fabric. The entire foundation is made of WOOD and if you stepped on it it would quickly fall apart.

The whole thing makes a very appealing environment for all sorts of vermin, even sitting upon the thin metal rails Americans call “frames” which lift bed foundations off the floor.

Cadiz_Metal_Bed_Frame_2

This metal bed from the UK is bed bug resistant while providing excellent mattress support and comfort.

And sadly the metal frame/foundation box/mattress system is typical for beds sold in the United States, even though most furniture stores sell proper beds which support mattresses without needing to use a foundation.

As I’ve found recently, this is not the case elsewhere.

Browsing around a popular UK furniture store online I found that no where on that massive site with its hundreds of mattresses and hundreds of beds was a single foundation available.  Instead, the only choices were proper beds that support mattresses — like the one right here to the left that I personally like that is all metal.

 

All metal is bed bug resistant, especially in this open frame style where the only place to breed in and hide is your mattress itself.

Which brings us to the other critically important preventative that EVERYONE should be doing before the store sets up any new mattress onto your bed:  ENCASEMENTS.

bed bug encasement

Encasements cover all six walls and guard against infestations.  Use one for your mattress and a second one for your foundation if you have one.

Most people know about protective mattress pads designed to keep beds clean from stains and liquid seepage into the bed.  These typically cover five walls — top and the four sides — just like your sheet does.  But vermin love the undersides of furniture, especially beds and these are not kept out by the typical mattress protector.

Encasements are different:  they completely encase the mattress around all six walls to keep insects out.  The better encasements have special features around the zippers and seams to provide additional protection, features absolutely worth the extra money.  Putting an encasement around an infested mattress or foundation traps the insects inside so they cannot reach you on the surface to feed — which is why they are critical to any bed bug treatment plan. But the best time to put one of these encasements onto your mattress (and foundation if you have one) is immediately upon delivery of your bedding pieces.

Do not delay this.  Do not play with this.  Do not convince yourself that you cannot afford the encasements. Exterminating a bed bug problem is more expensive.  Replacing all your bed pieces is more expensive.  Replacing your bed linens, blankets, and pillows is more expensive.  And remember:  you can pick up bed bugs anywhere — including hotel rooms when you travel, your work place, even public places where you usually feel safe from insects.  They can travel through walls and come over from your neighbours.  Absolutely no one is immune, no matter how clean you are or how careful you are.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Save yourself the agony I’m going through and protective yourself right now — before bed bugs take up home where you sleep.

En Garde: sexual expectations and rape culture

Last night I was casually watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory on my local NBC station.  It was one of the episodes where newly wed Howard was still on the International Space Station and having difficulties dealing with the closed quarters of life in space.

At the very end of that episode Howard has just been given an anti-anxiety drug and decides to strip down to his pants (underwear) on a video call to his wife.  For several seconds we see the contours of the actor’s man parts under that minimal clothing.  Instead of being turned on  I found I was absolutely revulsed.  No, I really DON’T want see a man’s parts on television like that, not even indirectly through his clothing.

Thinking about my feelings and sharing them with my best friend my contemplative nature found itself exploring the deeper aspects to my gut reaction to this very quick final scene to the show.  Why are women expected to enjoy the public display of a man’s sexual features?  Why are we supposed to be turned on by every man and want sex any time anyone expresses the slightest interest?

Looking back at my past I noticed a pattern:  flirting with someone not because I wanted sex with him but too often to distract him from abusive impulses that might suddenly explode and endanger my safety.  I also realized that there is an unconscious pressure and expectation put upon me as a woman that I should be sexually ready and interested in the men in my life and consent to their advances any time and any where they might occur.  The second half to this is more frightening still:  failure to be  whatever a man wants or expects of me sexually means that he is likely to simply impose himself on me in the form of sexual assault.

Or thought of another way:  I either force myself to say yes or I will suffer a more violent response from him that still results in sex anyway.  Hence the forced flirtations as a defense strategy.

Though we tend to deny it to ourselves and those close to us, women too often have to live in a sexual minefield where the potential for sexual assault is everywhere.  So we engage in unconscious defensive behaviours.  We flirt.  We pretend to like people we don’t.  We smile at people behind gritted teeth.  We pretend to be okay with behaviours we find uncomfortable. We play act, concealing our real opinions and emotions in an effort to keep unwanted advances at bay.  There’s a mind game to this, even when we are not aware of it.  We even convince ourselves that we find something sexually appealing when it really frightens or repels us.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Nowhere is this mind game more evident than the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” where main character Anastasia Steele forces herself to consent to sexually abusive and highly controlling behaviours from Christian Grey, often making excuses for him.

Like Anastasia, we too often pretend to like things sexually that we do not.  We pretend interest we lack.  Society tells us that the way a woman is supposed to express her romantic love is sex.  And not just sex but the any time, any where, any way that the man wants.  To love is to become his sexual servant.  Add in religion to the mix and women are told that our needs do not matter.  We are inferior.  God made man in His image–but women are the source of evil in this world, born flawed and incapable of Goodness on our own without a man directing us and telling us who to be and what to do.  So it is only right that men should rule over us; we women are not capable of making our own choices, especially when it comes to our bodies.  Especially when it comes to sex.  Can it be any wonder then that so many male politicians feel duty-bound to regulate the intimate affairs of women?  How can they trust women to make their own choices?

Sex is something I want in my life — but not just sex.  I want a healthy sexuality.  I want to express myself sexually from a genuine place of love and devotion.  Yet who can do that when we must continually and often unconsciously living our lives defensively?  When the world around us is so unsafe and sexual assault persists as a constant danger?  How can any woman feel truly at ease even in her own home with those she loves?

These are very real questions that must be addressed by our society.  We must stop making excuses and fight against both institutional sexism and rape culture.  As women we need to learn how to say “no” and be true to our actual feelings.  We need to be okay inside ourselves and with those we love with expressing love in many different ways instead of tightly correlating love and sex.  Because they are genuinely not the same thing.  Not all acts of sex come from love and not all acts of love are sex — even in romantic relationships, even in our marriages.

Love can take many forms.  We need to embrace that.  We need to stop pressuring ourselves and others into this very unhealthy idea that sex and romantic love are one and the same.  Just because I love you does not mean I want to have sex with you or sex with you right now.  Love is not a blank cheque to sex.  Saying no to sex is not a rejection of the other person.  As a matter of fact, it takes courage to say no to sex when you love someone, to love yourself and respect your partner enough to only be sexual with her or him when you really truly feel you want to be.  The easy road, the one drilled into women from a very early age, is that we shouldn’t say no when we don’t want sex — just lay there and take it because it will soon be over.

That’s no way to live.  That is no way to love.

 

 

 

 

British holiday — the cell phone adventure

Watch out England, I’m crossing the pond!  Yes, finally this summer England will move from the realm of dreams and legends and finally become a real place that I can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see!

 

As I plan the trip there are two pressing issues on my mind:  how manage the 12-18 hour long trip (from the moment I leave my flat to the moment I arrive at my final destination) and 2) how to get in touch with my friends if something in the process goes wrong (which it could).

unlocked cell phone

In our ever connected world I feel (as I am sure you do) rather naked without a working cell phone when I’m not at home, especially traveling.  I’m not a smart phone person; a phone is about phone calls to me.  But I need that phone working and close at hand when I’m away from home.  Should be simple, right?

Oh no! And in trying to work this out, I’ve found myself in a hornet’s nest when all I want to do is be able to call someone and ask for directions or re-structure a meeting because something messed up the timeline or “what does your car look like” when I get to the train station.

So let’s start with part one:  getting an unlocked phone.

When you are traveling overseas from the USA, that’s the first thing you need:  a handset that is unlocked, meaning the handset can be used with any carrier.  Okay fine, I found one at Bestbuy.com for $25.  But you know there had to be a catch and there is one.  I bought a SIM card for TMobile (which research says has roaming into the UK) and a $10 prepaid card which should have been enough.  Yeah, you know what is coming next.

Except the phone description says nothing about needing a MICRO SD CARD in order to use even basic features like an address book IN ADDITION TO the Sim card the chat clerk told me to buy.  Did I mention yet that Bestbuy.com has PISS POOR TRAINING on their products?  This is supposed to be a place that KNOWS electronics.  As of now I think it more likely I will grow feathers and fly myself to the UK without an airplane than find a bestbuy.com rep who knows anything about anything.

So I get the phone, the sim card, and $10 airtime card.  When it all arrived Friday night, it took me FORTY TRIES to just open the damn phone — and another forty to figure out how to use the TMobile SIM card kit and get the card in there!  Then you must activate the card on TMobile website.  Okay, this is getting tiresome.  Now I know why bestbuy doesn’t sell these phones in store — people would be flooding Geek Squad beginning for help!

So finally the phone is activated and charged.  I contact TMobile this morning to ask “how do I place a call?”  Simple question.  Annoyingly complex answer.

Because what BestBuy DIDN’T SAY on the website was that the 10 cents a minute rate for pre-paid is JUST for calls to USA numbers with the handset in the USA.  Well I have a tracfone for that that costs MUCH LESS.  I bought this for INTERNATIONAL calling and INTERNATIONAL ROAMING.

AND there is another fine print part about this TMobile sim card and pre-paid service:  it costs $3 per month to keep it active.  So placing NO CALLS uses up the $10 card in 90 days.  And if you let the balance go to zero and don’t re-up within 90 days the SIM card deactivates and cannot be used again (according to TMobile this morning).

At this point I’m feeling stuck in a Mission Impossible movie!

I finally get that “how do you place a call” information out of TMobile:  dial 011 44 plus the ten digit UK phone number.  So, for example, if I wanted a test call to my skype phone, I call 011 44 208 144 1662.  You delete the zero that you usually see at the front of UK numbers. This is how to dial the number whether the handset is in the UK or USA.  If the handset is in the USA, it costs $2/minute.  If the handset is in the UK and calling a UK number the cost is $1.49 a minute.

If the handset is in the UK and I’m calling USA number (perhaps to check on my birds), dial 011 1 ten digit number.  The rate is $2/minute.

At this point I’m feeling frustrated and oh yes, there was a DIFFERENT SIM card advertised on BestBuy.com:  H2O.  Since I hate the T-Mobile costs, let’s look into that.

I go back into a chat with Bestbuy.com.  MISTAKE.  Because immediately the representative tells me the T-Mobile card WON’T WORK the second I cross out of the USA.  AND he tells me that neither would an H2O card.

In essence:  the $50 just spent for that emergency phone is a COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY (and Best Buy expects to stay in business?).

At this point I am feeling confused.  Why is something so SIMPLE as the means to place basic phone calls so bloody complicated?

Solutions anyone?  Please post your thoughts.  I cannot be the only American who has suffered angst over needing the protection of a nearby phone when traveling overseas!