How to get over a catfish scam: turn it into a book

The plot outline

  • You’re an indie author and you read an article on how Instagram can work for you for promotion, so you sign up
  • As soon as you’re online, you’re inundated with direct messages from men and women, all saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’, to which you think, ‘Weird!’ so you don’t reply. You find out (much later) that when a new user signs up, Instagram invites people to engage with you to build up your followers
  • One user is particularly persistent and follows you. His profile picture shows a good-looking bloke with a beard and for a brief moment you think, ‘Aye-aye!’ But you are in fact happily married woman and you don’t know what this geezer wants, so you don’t say ‘Hi’ back, even though you’ve followed him back. You’re an ignoramus and ignored your own rule (if you don’t know their interests don’t follow back). It’s important you build up followers, though. His account was private, but you can see his photos now he’s accepted your follow.

The good-looking bloke with a beard

  • Meanwhile, some unfortunate crap is going on in your life. You’re depressed. You still haven’t got over the estrangement from your family after the death of your mum and you are prone to stress, which is causing problems at work. You’ve self-referred yourself to local mental wellbeing services and you attend a stress management course. They’re going to put you on an improving low self-esteem course, too. Self-esteem has always been a problem for you because you don’t have any
  • At work, you’ve been kicked in the teeth by your employers who have informed you that the job they wanted you to apply for isn’t happening now because of the admin review; you have to leave at the end of February. This severely pisses you off and doesn’t improve your low mood. On Instagram, you post a harmless picture of yourself and the bloke with the beard likes it and posts the word, ‘Jello.’ Eh? You know that’s the American word for ‘jelly’. Is he saying you wobble? He clarifies it with the word, ‘Cute.’ Alarm bells should be ringing, but they don’t. You hate the world, so when he DMs you again you respond. You need a distraction, a new friend, a pen-pal
  • He tells you he’s from Austin, Texas. How interesting. You’ve never been to the US and don’t know anything about Americans, other than what you’ve seen on the telly. He’s a widower with a young daughter; she lives in California with his mum. What a shame. His wife died in a car crash and he was driving. She died in his arms. How sad. His daughter has an Instagram account, too. His princess, his Angela Chris, a potential new reader of your books, but you’re wondering how wise it is for him to have an Instagram account for his 11-year-old daughter.

That’s not her real name and this account is still live

  • He tells you you’re beautiful. You insist you’re not, but you’re flattered and it’s music to your ears. You have low self-esteem and when was the last time you had a compliment like that, even from your husband? You can’t remember.
  • You pride yourself on being savvy and streetwise, and not easily taken in by anything, but right now YOU’RE BEING SUCKED IN AND YOU DON’T EVEN REALISE IT!
  • He keeps telling you he’s in love with you, calls you his Queen. You keep reminding him you’re married, but you feel sorry for him, so you play along and anyway, he’s entertaining you. In your head, it’s harmless; you’re never going to meet him and he’s a lot younger than you are. He’s asking you for money. His daughter isn’t speaking to him because he won’t buy her a set of headphones; she has appendicitis and needs an operation; he wants to come over to the UK and meet you; he has an enlarged heart and needs money for drugs. He’s pulling at your heart strings. He’s sending you photos of himself and his daughter, you’re sending him photos of you. You keep trying to walk away, but he keeps begging you not to go. What would he do without you yada yada yada…
  • After two months, you’ve had enough of the constant begging for money. As good-looking as he is, he’s a bit of a dickhead and getting on your three penny bits. You know too late you’ve been a prime idiot, but by now you’re up for a fight. He’s sent a photo of himself and his daughter with the name of a martial arts company on their sweatshirts. You Google them: they’re in New Jersey. You challenge him about this, but he insists that picture was taken in a diner in Austin and he’s never been to New Jersey.

Busted!

  • You do some research. The Instagram romance scam is rife and you never knew. Men  and women all over the world are being taken in. The military scam is the most common of all. There’s a blog that’s been going for years and makes very interesting reading

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2015/07/faking-it-scammers-tricks-steal-your-heart-and-money?page=2

  • You call your Instagram friend a liar and a scammer. He denies it, is upset you could think so, but he’s panicking now. He knows he’s losing you, so he turns the screw: if you don’t send money via Bitcoin for his heart op, he’ll blackmail you. You’ve been waiting for this. Bring it on! You tell him you’ve called the police. Fact. You also tell him you’ll make him sorry. Too right! That’s the last thing you ever say to him and oh boy are you determined to make him pay! His profile picture on the DM has gone; he’s a faceless user now. He’s followed all your IG users and will send pictures of you to them, as well as some of the silly chat. He uploads a couple of pictures and tags them, but you don’t bite. He takes them down straightaway and you report him to Instagram. You sit there watching him on DM telling you he’s sorry, please can he have one last picture of you? Sod off, you think. You’re dead meat, pal!
  • Instagram take down his account, the police come, an investigation reveals he was operating from the US. Meanwhile, you do a bit of detective work of your own: you identify who the photos belong to because of the picture of him and his daughter with the name of that martial arts company on the sweatshirts. They have an Instagram account, so you check their followers. Bingo! There’s my catfish, a naff car salesman from New Jersey with a business account, a bit of a Big I Am, using a younger image of himself as a profile picture. What a narcissist. Fancies himself. He doesn’t look like that now, he’s put on a bit of beef. Obviously trying to impress. You know he has a hot Chinese girlfriend; how did he manage that? You have his name, too, and you discover the real name of his daughter. Probably not the culprit, an innocent bystander, but it helps to hate him. Makes you feel better. You bet if it’s not him, he knows something about it
  • You check his followers and what do you see? Your scammer’s profile picture staring at you, a private account (hello, hello, hello!) with a different name, his real surname, no interests listed, just an American and Irish flag (bugger, you’re part-Irish, too! Something in common with the big-headed melt!)
  • You start stalking. He’s also on Facebook, a public profile, so you check out the photos. Some of them he sent to you, but not all. You deduce that whoever harvested his pictures took them from the private IG account, which you don’t follow, of course, so you DM him to warn him. What does he do? He blocks you. There’s gratitude for yer! Undeterred, you get his email address from his business IG account and email him with the evidence, but he doesn’t reply. You feel uncomfortable that his daughter’s photos were used, so you ask the police to email him, too. They do. He still doesn’t reply. Does he think you’re a crank, or does he have something to hide? Remember it’s a private account, a feature of a catfish! Who knows. You don’t take any chances: you block him on ALL social media, even Twitter.
  • You’ve learnt your lesson: no matter who DMs you on any social media platform, even if you’re quite well acquainted with them or know them, you don’t reply, you just press Delete. That’s sad, but you can’t take chances any more. If you get a message request by some balloon head who wants to say, ‘Hi’ you decline the message.

ALL OF THE ABOVE HAPPENED TO ME THIS YEAR! DON’T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU!

It appears many successful romantic relationships have been formed via Instagram. Bully for you if this is true, but the place is full of arseholes like him who are preying on vulnerable people. If you’re looking for love go out and meet someone, DON’T DO IT ONLINE!

Signs to look out for and how to act:

  1. The Instagram catfishers generally have accounts that are private (as previously mentioned), with no interests listed, or are public profiles with very few photos uploaded
  2. If they engage with you and you engage back, they’ll tell you a sob story. Their cat was shot by a dog, or they fell down the stairs and got hit by a car when they reached the bottom. You’ll get the gist
  3. They can’t spell. Well, I mean, we all know Americans can’t spell, but honestly, the catfish really cannot spell. A catfish is illiterate and thick with it
  4. If they ask for money IGNORE THEM, WALK AWAY AND BLOCK THEM, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE PASSIONATELY IN LOVE! (You can’t love someone you haven’t met, you know…)
  5. If for any reason you’re sucked in and you get blackmailed CALL THE POLICE! DON’T BE EMBARRASSED OR ASHAMED! They won’t judge and they’re on your side. They told me the more people who report this sort of thing the more they can work with agencies to crack down on it. Instagram will work with them, although it may take some time
  6. The victim is not at fault, but ONLY the victim has the power to prevent it. You are in control, not them! They’re the losers, not you!

DON’T LET THEM WIN!

I haven’t. It’s inspired the plot of my next book, a young adult crime fiction story.

 

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Women and Children First: a review

Gill Paul’s take on the tragic story of the ill-fated Titanic, which floundered in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on April 14 1912, is very hard to put down. It follows the fortunes of four people: White Star Line steward Reg Parton, who serves customers in First Class, and three passengers: Annie McGeown, an Irish woman travelling third class with her children to join her husband in New York, in search of a better life; Lady Juliette Mason-Parker, unmarried and pregnant by a married man, fleeing British society, accompanied by her ashamed mother, to avoid a scandal; and George Grayling, an American billionaire, unhappy in marriage to his wife Margaret, Reg’s favourite passenger, and who appears to be having an affair with a much younger English woman Reg encounters one evening on deck before the ship sinks.

The tragedy carves out the fortunes of the four survivors once they reach their new world: Reg loses his best mate John and is forced (by mistake, but then out of fear for his own safety and even sanity) to assume John’s identity while trying to forge out a new life for himself as a waiter in an exclusive restaurant; Annie loses her eldest son in the sinking and has to face a life without him as she joins her husband in the new land with her remaining children, discovering a dubious talent for second sight in the process of her adjustment to American life; Lady Juliette meets and falls in love with a man who will make her happy – but what of her unborn child? – and George Grayling gives Reg a job that might well lead to that young man’s undoing.

Women and Children First is an easy read and the characters are well formed. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book, hug Reg and tell him everything was going to be OK. The drama of the sinking as it happened in real life seems to speak through his suffering, the trauma he felt and his anguish in the aftermath. Annie has suffered the loss of her son, but she has the rest of her family as consolation; Lady Juliette still has her mother, her baby and a future life with a new man; George Grayling cares more about his money and his mistress and doesn’t miss his dead wife who drowned in the tragedy. Reg seems to suffer the most: he only has the memory of the girl he left in Southampton, the guilt of taking John’s identity and the fear of sailing back home; although he has some luck in New York, he’s a broken man and faces more drama when he’s employed by George Grayling.

The book has real-life photos and reportage of the survivors following the sinking and adds poignancy to the story. A gripping read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Episode’ now due for release in September 2019

It sucks, but I don’t have a choice: I’ve had to extend the publication date! 🙄 Episode will now (hopefully!) be released in September 2019.

It’s taken longer than I expected to get the book right, the way I want it. The fact is, I’m never completely satisfied with the finished product. Then I have to get another proof and that takes a piggin’ age to turn up! And of course I did the usual: I went on holiday. It all adds up to time, time, time! I have a new day job, too, which is making me a bit stressed out, so I can’t commit all the hours I want to my writing.

I have another book in the pipeline I’ve started in the meantime, but I can never focus fully on a new project until I know the previous one is all sorted. Plus I have to market that one, oh, joy of joys! My favourite part of the process! Not!

But I’ll get there. I’ll just have to suck it up for now. 😒

 

 

 

 

 

Episode cover reveal and release date!

 

Scheduled for release 31 July 2019!

I just hope that date isn’t too optimistic, but that’s the target I’ve set myself and I’ll strive to stick to it! After all, it’s been five years since I wrote and published a book, thanks to that four letter word called life!

The book’s readership is aimed at 9-12 years and I have placed it in the science fantasy category, because it covers two genres: science fiction (the time travel theme inspired by Ali’s powerful epileptic seizures) and fantasy (the ancient Greek gods). I follow the belief of the ancients that every aspect of their lives is controlled by the work of a god or goddess, so one of the prominent goddesses is Selene, Goddess of the Moon, who was said to have bestowed the curse of epilepsy or epilēpsía, although in my story the gods insists it’s a blessing, not a curse. Ali bumps into Travis (Epiworld), a boy from her future in Britain, who also has the ability to time travel with his seizures. He disputes Selene’s influence over their seizures and denies the existence of the gods altogether, even though, like Ali, he can see them for himself!

Helen, princess of Sparta, is promised in marriage to Menelaus, prince of Mycenae, but prays to the gods to free her of the union. Her prayers are heard by Zeus, King of the Gods, who is annoyed at the rivalry between his wife Hera and Athena, who both want Helen to marry Menelaus, and Aphrodite, who has promised Helen to Alexandros Paris, Prince of Troy, if he judges her to be the most beautiful goddess of the three…

But I’m telling you the plot!

One more thing: I said I was never going to do this again, because with Epiworld it was a nightmare, but I have written the book in the first person present tense, mixing it now and then with past tense. Well, rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?

Warleggan: a review

 

At last, the villain in Poldark gets his own show! Francis Poldark has died in tragic circumstances and so George Warleggan, Ross’s rival and enemy, moves in on Elizabeth, but not before Ross does the unthinkable to show her he disapproves of her remarriage. Where will that leave his relationship with Demelza, already threatened by problems in his mining venture? Up until this point, she has battled with her emotions with regard to Ross’s feelings for Elizabeth and his act of stupidity throws their relationship into serious doubt, so much so that Demelza contemplates an illicit liaison of her own, which ends in disaster.

Meanwhile, Dwight Enys, the friendly neighbourhood doctor, has proposed marriage to the conceited and self-obsessed Caroline Penvenen, who loves him in return despite her faults, and who is prepared to go against the wishes of her Uncle Ray, abandon her fortune and set up home with Dwight. Unfortunately, that doesn’t go to plan and Dwight considers a career in the navy. Ross steps in to do a good deed for Dwight, but any compassion I had for Ross up to this point has been destroyed by his behaviour against Demelza and Elizabeth. He has shown himself to be weak and selfish, and so all my sympathies have been heaped on Demelza, but then I always did prefer her character to his. I don’t blame her for trying to get her own back on Ross with Captain MacNeil.

As for Warleggan, his baddie persona comes delightfully to the fore: he is wickedly nasty to Aunt Agatha and shows no remorse when Demelza is shot when straying on his land. He has great pleasure is taking over the Trenwith estate, Ross’s childhood home, on his marriage, and although it’s clear he genuinely loves Elizabeth, the reader takes great pleasure in loving to hate him. He’s also not very bright when it comes to the question of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and the soap opera goes on!

 

Sneaky peeky book cover reveal for Episode

Designed by my clever husband using images taken from pixabay.com (with acknowledgements, of course!), this will be the front cover. It shows my main character, Ali, along with Helen of Troy, and the bright light of the time travel portal through which Ali travels back to ancient Sparta in order to help save Helen from her marriage to Menelaus. I will reveal the entire cover soon!

I finished Episode before Christmas and wanted it published in the New Year, but as usual other events took over. Apart from having to wait for the cover (don’t I always!), I had a sort of a mini breakdown. I’m not going there now, but I am getting help. It’s even inspired me to think of my next book, but I ca’t reveal much about that yet.

But stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: In My Liverpool Home

In my Liverpool home

 

Being Liverpool born and bred, I had to get this book! ‘In My Liverpool Home’ is a very popular local Liverpool folk song I heard many times growing up, but I confess I never knew all the words! What sticks in my mind are the lyrics: ‘We speak with an accent exceedingly rare; we’re under a statue exceedingly bare; and if you want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare; in my Liverpool home!’ My dad used to sing it, as well as his other favourite, ‘Liverpool Lou’. I never knew, though, that ‘In My Liverpool Home’ just kept going on and on. It’s true about the 163 verses: they are all written down here and more keep being added by anyone who wants to contribute! It has to go into the Guinness Book of World Records as the song that just goes on and on.

For those who may be interested in the verse I’ve quoted above, the statue is Dicky Lewis, named locally, proudly naked above the door of what was the iconic Liverpool’s own Lewis’s department store (now sadly turned into flats and not to be confused with John Lewis, which is still going) and we have two cathedrals: the Anglican, completed in 1978 and which took 100 years to build, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (affectionately known by all denominations as Paddy’s Wigwam because of its shape). Other cities may boast two cathedrals, too, but ours are bigger and harder!

I loved this book and knowing that John and Gerry have written others on local song I now need to get my hands on those!

Amazon.co.uk; Goodreads

 

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