Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. ~ Charles R. Swindoll
Most of us have gotten them. The e-mail wanting us to help some foreigner transfer millions from his homeland and promises a hefty percentage of this fortune as our reward for assisting him. Or maybe you won a contest or someone you don’t know has left you a large inheritance.
These scam emails fill our spam or junk folders.
I’ve even received the scam that often comes from selling stuff on Craigslist. Someone offers to pay with a cashier’s check that is for a higher amount than requested. The buyer, usually from a foreign country that assures you that he will handle pickup and delivery of the item, wants you to send back the excess money or send it to someone else.
Yep, I can recognize these scams at first glance though many people do fall for them. My husband once received a large six-figure check in the mail from a company oversees that needed him to handle a simple legal matter. They said they found his name in a directory. (He is an attorney.) Needless to say, after he couldn’t contact anyone at the company, he contacted the State Bar and found it to be a scam.
Most of these scam emails go straight to my junk/spam folder so I don’t have to worry about them. But one slipped through the other day and landed in my inbox. And it was actually pretty good. Even though there were a few things I thought were odd, I still didn’t catch that it wasn’t a legit email.
The email in question came from the PTA president of the middle school. She asked if I had time to pay a vendor today. There was nothing unusual about that. I had met her at the school the previous week to write a check for the woman painting a mural at the school. The email came from her email address and was signed by her.
The odd things in the e-mail that did make me wonder (but not enough to recognize it as a scam) were that she signed the email with both her first and last name and she asked me the amount in our bank account.
Now I don’t know Mindy well so she could be the type who signs her whole name. I do have a few friends who have an automatic signature line in their email. And while I know she can look at the bank account herself, the PTA president for the elementary school was the type who never looked and always asked me since I was the treasurer. Maybe she was not near her computer since the email did say it came from her iPhone.
So, I jotted back a note that I was free to do a payment and gave her the balance on the account. When I got an e-mail back from her that asked me to transfer 2/3 of the amount to a bank in New York, I knew something wasn’t right.
First off, the PTA doesn’t transfer money. We write checks that must be signed by two people. Second, every money transaction requires a form attached that has been signed by three people – the treasurer, the president and the chair person whose money is being spent. (Also, money can only be spent if it is in the budget and that amount has been allocated to that budget line.)
But even if those things didn’t tip me off, the return email was no longer Mindy’s. I quickly jotted back a “nice try” message to the scammers as I texted Mindy to make sure this wasn’t really her. (It wasn’t.)
Afterwards, I wished I had hesitated more over those two questionable items. But I had never received an email with this level of deception. Now that I have, I will certainly be more cautious. Those scammers are everywhere and trying new plans all the time. That means we all need to be alert to these potential schemes. When in doubt, check in person with the sender of the “e-mail.”
UPDATE – A week after this happened, I received another scam email that came from Mindy’s email address. This one was trickier. They did sign it with only her name. In it, she asked me if I could run an “errand” for her. When I wrote back that I had time, I got an email back that asked me to go buy a $400 iTunes gift card to buy some Learning Apps. “Mindy” then told me that I could write myself a check to reimburse myself.
At this point, I knew it was a scam. PTA rules only allow us to buy gift cards that are worth no more than $25 and I cannot write a check to myself. Ding. Warning bells went off and a text to Mindy confirmed it wasn’t her.
Please welcome fantasy author H M Sealey. She is currently working on the twelfth book in her Kingdom Rising series. Book 11, Deception Rising, was released last year.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a wife, a mother of three wonderful children, an ex-distance runner, a mediocre artist with a love of stories. I’ve been writing and telling stories to myself since early childhood. It feels as much a part of me as my arms or legs.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in North Wales, in the UK. I consider myself Welsh, hence the connections to Wales within the main narrative of my Kingdom Rising Series.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
Probably quite a few bits, certainly at the beginning. The main protagonist having an imaginary world is definitely taken straight from the imaginary world in which I lived from about the age of twelve onwards. However, as the characters have developed, they’ve become their own characters, and I no longer have to poach bits of my life for them. Which is a relief, my life is far too boring.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I have, it’s the 12th book in the Kingdom Rising series, Freedom Rising. It’s still in the early stages but it has to tie up about a hundred loose ends. I have a large ensemble of characters and I want to complete as many journeys as I can. I think this will be the last in this series, although that doesn’t mean I won’t use the same characters in other stories in the future.
What fuels you as an author to continue to write?
Probably the same thing that causes me to breathe oxygen and eat food. I don’t think I could NOT write.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Your first few books will be rubbish. Write them anyway, because you’ll learn so much from them.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I start with one of the characters and just see what happens, it’s like reading a book, I really have very little idea what’s going to happen.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I don’t have an awful lot, most have been good, some bad. I’ve always thought the bad ones were fair. The good ones have sometimes pulled me out of the doldrums.
Please tell us about your current release.
The last book I released in the Kingdom Rising series was book 11, Deception Rising but it might be better for me to talk about the whole Kingdom Rising series as a whole.
What inspired you to write this series?
I think my original inspiration was to take Christianity, strip it of all the religion, and show the interesting, spiritual elements to an audience in a fantastical way.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Well, one of the characters is a two-thousand year old archeologist, I have to do a great deal of research just for one line from him because it needs to be historically accurate.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Very occasionally I have a homage to someone or I’ll borrow a surname I like. One minor character, Jack Deedever, was named after the funny way my friend’s little boy would mispronounce “screwdriver.”
Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
I don’t think I have a specific favourite, although some are more fun to write than others. I like writing villains because they always have such good reasons (in their own heads) as to why they do what they do. I have a specific fondness for my bombastic, African-American ex-CIA agent Sam King, which is weird because he was never meant to be such an important character. He was inspired by my irritation with incompetent CIA agents in the James Bond films. I wanted to write one who was extremely good at his job. It’s a challenge to write an American voice, it’s subtly different to my English and Welsh characters. The Mazikim (demons) are also interesting to write. They’ve been around a very long time so use a wide variety of idioms and speech patterns.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
I think I’d have to say Kindred by Octavia Butler. I discovered her books as a teenager when my cousin found them in a second-hand shop. I don’t think she’s widely read in Britain, but her books opened me up to a whole world of different authors and different cultures to explore.
What book are you reading right now?
The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I’m a bit of a secret fan of My Little Pony…….
The Antichrist is rising and everybody loves him.
Misha Heath, award-winning writer, is officially dead. That leaves the Antichrist no legal way of tracking her down to stop her writing thinly veiled analogies about how he’s going to be defeated. The only way to find her is to kidnap and interrogate her children.
Fortunately for him, the medical profession, determined to drag humanity out of the dark ages of religion, has begun diagnosing any sort of Belief in God as mental illness, and medicating those afflicted. Only the state-approved religion of Secular Humanism is acceptable, because that particular belief leaves humanity very, very vulnerable to the demonic Kingdom, the Sitra Achra.
That means Misha Heath’s children, all of whom boldly serve the King, can be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and forcibly medicated.
Unfortunately, the ingredients of the new, miracle drug, happen to do much more damage than anyone will ever know.
Connor Grigaliunas has Aspergers, his sister is ill and his mother is in a coma. Anxiety and painful changes to his routine force him to discover a whole other world of demons, of lost memories and of ideas and thoughts nobody ever taught him in school. To Connor, this new world makes perfect sense and he realises he’s been trying to look at a rainbow but only seeing red.
As the Beast continues to rise, his hidden army stands ready to affect a coup and humanity won’t even notice. Connor, Misha and a small group of those who choose to stand with the King are prepared, knowing that following the King was never meant to be easy, but not following will cost more than the world is able to pay.
About the Author
Heather Morag Sealey was born in North Wales in 1974 and has been living in her own little fantasy world ever since. Some of her earliest memories involve folding pieces of paper into books and writing about sea-shells with legs. She is the author of dozens of one-act-plays, the occasional two and three act play, and no end of odd little scripts, many written for school assemblies, children or vulnerable adults as part of “drama-therapy.”
She adores the countryside, a passion shared by her husband and three children.
Heather maintains that the Kingdom Rising series wrote itself and she just tagged along for the ride, writing about the situations and the characters she saw along the way.
You can find out more about Heather on her website.
You can purchase her Kingdom Rising series on Amazon.
This post is the sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.
In my series, I recently listed three aspects of your story that you need to develop before writing – characters, setting and plot. The past two weeks have covered characters so today I will address setting.
The setting is the location where the events of a story or scene take place. This could be New York, a National forest, a pool hall, the White House, in space, on another world or any of a million different places.
Every situation, every story is different and will have different setting demands. Some stories only work in a fictional setting (think Lord of the Rings, the Wizard of Oz, Star Wars). And some benefit from real-world settings. And then there are some – such as romance – that could work in either location.
Real vs. Fictional Settings
Real Setting – In this case you are setting your story in a real place such as Las Vegas or London.
- There is typically less research when using a real location as your setting. This is especially true if you write about a place you know well. You know how it smells, how the morning air feels, how the people move and talk. You will know the layout of the city. You won’t have to research the setting as you already know it, and hopefully that knowledge will come out in your writing.
- Readers already know some of these places so you can spend less time establishing your setting. When you mention the Manhattan skyline or the Washington monument, people will know what you are talking about.
- The history, folklore and local stories can be woven into your story and give it authenticity.
- You have to know the place you are writing about well especially if it is a popular place like New York or Las Vegas. If you get something wrong about where something is located, or how long it takes to travel from one place to another, then those readers who know this place will be irritated, and these inaccuracies will chip away at your novel’s authenticity. If you are writing about a well-known real place, no amount of research on the Internet will replace actually going to the location.
- Using a real place in a fantasy setting can actually sometimes make it harder for the reader to believe what is happening. They doubt things that contradict what they believe to be true. In this case, a pure fantasy world actually might work better.
Fictional Setting – This means setting your story in a place that does not exist. You will need to develop enough information to make your reader believe that this is a “real” place.
- You get to create a whole new city/country/world. Everything is the way you want it. You pick customs, government, the local law enforcement, where the hospital is located as well as where the forests, mountains and beaches are located. (For tips on naming places in your fantasy novel, click here.)
- If you are creating your own world, no one can tell you that your society is wrong. It is your creation and yours alone. If you want two moons or for people to live in pods, it is all up to your imagination.
- Creating your own city or world can be time consuming. You are starting with a blank canvas, and you need to fully develop your setting for your characters to work and live in it. The type of city or world you create will determine the reactions and behavior of your characters.
- There is no immediate connection with your reader. When you mention the Las Vegas strip or the Grand Canyon, readers can visualize the place. In your fictional world, you will need to add more descriptions to make this place come alive for the reader and be believable.
And no one said you can’t do a little of both. You can set your novel in a real city but have your protagonist live on a fictional street or subdivision. Or you can start in a real place like London and ended up at a fictional magical school. You just need to pick a setting in whatever location will work best for your story.
If you need more help deciding on your setting, check out this post on 9 Questions to Consider When Choosing your Novel’s Setting.
I am sure many of you already have a favorite meatloaf recipe but if you are looking to try something new, this recipe is great. I got it out of an old recipe book. I love the salsa topping. So good.
Ingredients for Meatloaf
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork sausage
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup tomato juice
Ingredients for Topping
3 T. Salsa
1 T. packed brown sugar
1/2 t. prepared mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all meatloaf ingredients in a bowl. Shape into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a small dish, blend all the topping ingredients. Spoon evenly over the top of loaf. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6
Either you run the day or the day runs you. ~ Jim Rohn
We live in Texas. Recently, Hurricane Harvey came to visit causing massive destruction to the coast and way too much rain to the city of Houston. We live in San Antonio which thankfully was pretty much untouched by the destruction.
But it did bring up some conversations with the kids, especially Lexie. Jase is typically our worrier but he seems to do fine with reassurance that we have a plan, that we know what we will do if an emergency comes up.
Lexie, on the other hand, is typically not a worrier, but she does become obsessed with certain topics. When she was in preschool, she became obsessed with death. Now her obsession is with hurricanes and tornedos.
It was the Thursday before school started that people in San Antonio finally accepted the fact that Hurricane Harvey was coming. People began buying water, batteries, flashlights and stocking up on canned goods. There were tons of reports about filling up your bathtub with water and having ways to cook if the power should go out.
Of course, for us that Thursday was filled with back to school activities at both schools. On Friday, we ran last minute errands before having the kids’ friends over for one last afternoon of fun before the school year began.
It was on our trip to the music store to tune up Jase’s violin that the kids first realized the severity of the possible weekend weather. I had already told them that we were cancelling our neighborhood’s Back-to-School pool party due to the predicted rain.
But they didn’t know how severe the storm might be until we decided to stop at Wal-mart on our way to the music store. I just needed a box of cereal and perhaps some fruit for the hoard of kids that were coming over in the afternoon. But I told the kids that if the store was overrun with people buying water (there was already a shortage by this time) that we would just do without our two items. Luckily, it wasn’t busy so we got in and out in just a few minutes but this started the whole hurricane conversation.
Now, San Antonio is 160 miles from the coast. We are not going to be hit with the full devastation of a hurricane. The land between us and the ocean will slow down the storm’s most destructive forces. What we are most likely to get is the strong winds and heavy rains – exactly what Houston received.
We talked about the possibility of massive amounts of rain and that city officials were recommending people stay home over the weekend. We talked about losing power and having to eat things in our pantry that didn’t need to be cooked since we don’t own a grill or camping stove.
Jase was reassured that we had a plan but Lexie was worried. What if things got too bad? What would we do? Had she ever been in a hurricane before?
I reassured her that we were far from the location that the hurricane would hit. (Of course, at this time it was only a category 1 Hurricane. It would be a category 4 by the time it made landfall.) We would be fine. We repeated this over and over but she still worried.
We reassured her that many officials were watching the hurricane and we would be updated on its location and strength at all times. If we needed to evacuate, we would do that.
That brought additional concerns like the ones we had when we ran through a fire drill last summer. What would happen to all our stuff? What would we do about our pets?
As it turned out, none of this worry was necessary. The weekend came with rain but we got far less than the 12 to 20 inches originally predicted. Instead it all landed on Houston, flooding the streets that we had just visited over the summer. (Houston received over 50 inches in a four day period.)
With the rain fading for us by Monday the thoughts of the hurricane were pushed out of their minds as they started their new school year. We don’t watch a lot of TV so they have not been inundated with photos and video of the destruction of the coast or the massive flooding in Houston.
But they do hear about the firefighters, police officers and just regular citizens who are helping those devastated by the storm. They have seen our community come alive with offering shelter to evacuees and raising money and supplies for those who lost everything. Both schools have hosted food and clothing drives to help those in need.
It is amazing how everyone in Texas comes together in these trying times. People give their time to help strangers. They donate and volunteer and give and give as much as needed. It will take a long time for the areas to be cleaned up but it will be done. And I am glad my kids will get to see that type of dedication and teamwork. But I hope the sight of the flooded streets in Houston doesn’t cause Lexie to panic the next time a hurricane comes our way.