My Least Favourite Shakespeare Play


The reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the title of ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is blatantly obvious. 

The irony is that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably my least favourite play from among Shakespeare’s works. As I often explain to my students who think it’s romantic and all about love, it’s really not. It’s a tragedy that demonstrates what happens when people do stupid things on impulse and don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions.

They’re teenagers. They met on Sunday, and by Thursday, they’re dead.

And, as Shakespeare points out in the epilogue, they end up that way because their families both prioritise their stupid feud over the happiness and the future of their children.  How much more like a badly plotted teenage soap opera could it be?

It’s more of an anti-Romance, if you ask me. They’re not in love, they’re infatuated. Romeo…

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Beware of this Scam


Yesterday, I received a Facebook message which looked like it came from one of my genuine author ‘friends’ as it had his name and image profile. The message was innocent enough and began, “Hello, how are you doing?”

I replied, “I’m doing great. How are you?”

“Super excited, today.”

“Oh, why is that?” I asked.

He went on to say he’d won the Oz powerball promo and was surprised I wasn’t aware of it. He said they were picking random Facebook users to benefit in their promo. After telling him I’d never heard of the Oz powerball promo, I asked him why he thought I’d be aware of his win, and he told me he’d seen my name and profile image on the list of users and told me to check my e-mails.

I hadn’t received anything from them so he gave me the agent’s name and the Oz powerball promo e-mail address so I could contact them and check.

Suspicious, I searched on Facebook for this author’s name I was familiar with, and several people came up. Two of the profiles were exactly the same and looked as if they belonged to the the author I was familiar with. Tellingly, only one of them said we were Facebook friends. When I clicked on each of the two profiles, I saw the one who wasn’t a ‘friend’ was the one who’d messaged me, so I contacted the other one, the Facebook ‘friend’. Seeing right away there were no messages from him, I messaged him asking if he knew anything about a powerball win. As I’d already guessed, he knew nothing about it.

Please be aware of this scam and take note that not all profiles on Facebook are the genuine person. I’m off to search for my name on Facebook and on Twitter to see if anyone is using my profile. I’d suggest you do the same.

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This ‘English’ Language is not used in England!

Most indie authors, especially the ones at the beginning of their journey, will have received criticism from other writers or editors about their work. It happened to me too.Some writers get really annoyed about it while others will see the criticism as constructive, something they need to take seriously.
In my case, even though I’d had a grammar school education and thought I knew most of the basic rules, I decided to take the editor’s advice and see if I could improve my novel.
Seeking out grammar and writing advice online, I found numerous posts about the subject. Unknowingly, I made the common mistake of using the term ‘English grammar’ in my searches, not realising it gives you both British English and American English results. I wasted lots of time and energy learning the wrong rules before discovering my error. From then on, as I am British, I always made sure I included the words ‘British English’ in my searches for grammar and writing clarification.
If you are a writer, don’t waste your precious time like I did. When searching for writing advice online, do make sure you stipulate which country’s usage of English you’re looking for. It could save you a great deal of time and confusion.
This common language varies so much according to which country is using it, it’s hard to believe. For instance, ‘thong’ in Great Britain is a tiny undergarment whereas in Australia it’s a toe-post sandal. Another curious difference is the word ‘Durex’. In Great Britain it is a brand of sheaf or condom, but in Australia it’s a name for sticky tape. What differences in language have you come across?
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It’s a Miracle!

 Wedding 11

Our Fifty-Fourth Wedding Anniversary Miracle

Today, we’re celebrating our fifty-fourth wedding anniversary and we are the ones who are most surprised we made it. No, not because we don’t get along, have huge rows, or hate each other’s guts. Our surprise and elation stems from the fact we both prepared for my husband’s death in 1989. For that year and many years later, in fact right up to now, we’ve expected his health to separate us, so making it this far seems like a huge miracle to us.


My husband was just forty-three when our lives changed forever. One otherwise normal working day, after a short coffee break at home, my husband made himself comfortable in his car ready to continue his day’s work as a private hire taxi driver. As he started the engine, he suffered severe chest pains. Although in agony, he managed to stumble back into the house and phone our GP for help.

We were pretty green then about health matters and didn’t realize what he should have done was phone the emergency number 999 and ask for an ambulance. When he told the receptionist he thought he was having a heart attack, she offered to make him an appointment for three days later. He insisted he needed to see someone immediately but she said she couldn’t fit him in. This was in 1989 when the difficulties with making appointments were not as bad as they are today. I dread to think what happens in emergencies today.

By the time he’d finished speaking to the receptionist and had slammed the phone down in disgust, his pains were subsiding. He knew he’d suffered some major trauma though, so he went to the A&E unit at our nearest hospital. Although the doctors there told him he had to give up work, they never confirmed at that time he’d had a heart attack. They didn’t give him any of the usual procedures which would have shown the condition of his arteries and whether or not he’d suffered a heart attack. Although he regularly saw a hospital consultant, his doctor’s notes then, and for several years afterward, always said hypertension.

This was a really difficult time for us. Unable to even walk up our path to the car, a distance of 25 feet,  my husband was becoming frustrated and demoralized. Another major problem for us was financial.

My husband had always been the earner. Now we had no income apart from the small contribution made by our eldest son.  It was six weeks before we actually received a small allowance from the state although they did refund the back payments later. Every service we’d been paying for at that time, we cancelled. We no longer had newspapers delivered, a window cleaner, nor insurances. We just concentrated on all the things we had to pay, like the mortgage, and utilities. Luckily, the car was covered under the insurance, so we didn’t have to pay for that. Economy lessons learned at that time still guide our lives now.


Knowing your much-loved partner is seriously ill and could be taken at any moment changes you. I gave up on the career dreams I’d been planning for myself, at least while he was still here. Married in 1965, I’d been a stay-at-home mum until 1985 when, at the age of forty, I returned to college intending to further educate myself. I believed then it was time I resumed work and started contributing to our family income. Two of our three children were still living at home in 1985; they were our eldest  twenty-year-old and our youngest twelve-year-old. I make no excuses for not working during the time my children were at school. We’d brought them into the world and I believed it was my job to raise them.

When my husband fell ill, I felt so scared and worried. I didn’t know how long he’d be with me. The doctor said if he didn’t give up smoking he wouldn’t last six months, so his cigarettes were thrown in the bin the moment he came out of the consulting room. Even after giving up smoking, the consultant said if he lived another ten years he’d be lucky. Whatever time he had left, I wanted to spend it with him. Apart from the emotional need to be together at this time, there was also a practical need. I was afraid to leave him alone in case he had another (unconfirmed) heart attack and couldn’t make it to the phone.

He hardly moved off the chair during those first few months and life settled down around my husband’s illness. Gradually, with the determination to start walking our spaniel again, my husband’s stamina and mobility slowly improved. It started with a few steps further each day, building his strength and confidence bit by bit. It took a few years but, eventually, we were able to get out and about again in the car for limited outings. However, he still couldn’t take a step out of the house without a tablet under his tongue to open up his veins.

Over the first seven years of his regular hospital appointments, my husband was never given any treatment other than tablets to lower his blood pressure plus the usual heart attack prevention drugs like aspirin, statins, and glyceryl trinitrate.

One day, he arrived at the hospital for his usual check up, to find another consultant was standing in for his own doctor who was away on holiday. This new consultant was surprised my husband hadn’t had any of the usual procedures. He immediately arranged these tests which confirmed he had suffered a heart attack. Then he referred him to the specialist heart and respiratory hospital for our area. He also discovered my husband has sleep apnoea. This means he regularly stops breathing when sleeping or reclining. Now he wears a mask connected to a Bi-pap machine whenever he lies down.

Once he was under the designated heart hospital he was looked at properly and the doctors said they could give him a by-pass if he lost weight. The specialist surgeon gave my husband six months to lose the weight, and when he returned at the appointed time, two and a half stone lighter, the doctor gave him a thorough pre-op check. Those tests showed my husband had gone past the point of safe surgery. Not only did he now need a four-way by-pass but the carotid artery on the left side of his neck was completely blocked making the operation too risky. The surgeon couldn’t understand why he hadn’t already had a stroke. They are unable to do anything for him unless it’s an emergency situation; otherwise the risks are too great. The fact he also has sleep apnoea adds to the difficulties of an operation.

So there we have it; at seventy-two years old my husband has survived twenty-nine years after his heart attack, so far, against the odds. He puts it down to his own bloody-mindedness. His body has reacted remarkably to his illness. His heart has developed some extra minor veins to cope with the blood flow, and his carotid artery behaves in a way that astounded the specialist who examined it. Apparently, the one good vein flows in both directions like a motorway, when it should only flow in one direction. She told us she’d never seen that before.

As I see it, my husband and I are extremely lucky to now be celebrating our fifty-four years of marriage.  I hope we go on to see our seventy fifth wedding anniversary as my parents did.


This is why I see it a miracle that we are still together. I thank my lucky stars we found each other so young; he was only eighteen and I was nineteen when we married. He’s not the biggest romantic in the world, but he’s kind, reliable, loving, and he’s mine. I’ll love him forever.

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The Danger Of Dirty Links

Useful Post


With all the attention given among the Indie community to the removal of book reviews by Amazon, I’m amazed at the number of authors who still post dirty links to their books on social media. This is a rookie-level mistake that can actually do more harm than good. 

A dirty link helps the algorithm at Amazon to determine if there are connections between author and reader that might suggest collusion or partiality.. Even if a review is from a verified purchase, a simple connection via a shared link can be enough to make them suspect that it’s not unbiased or from an unrelated party.

If the link used by multiple customers can be traced directly back to the author, that’s one of the reasons they will start flagging and eventually removing reviews. 

The simple solution is to ensure your links are clean before you post them.

A dirty link occurs…

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The Day I Met My Mother

The Magic of Stories

by Karen J Mossman

This story has hung around in my head for twenty odd years. Now and again it pops up and it still makes me chuckle. The question I always asked myself was how did I not know my own mother!

It isn’t a big story, it will take but a few words, which is why I haven’t told it before. Then this morning I came across this article by author Carole Parkes. Apart from it making me chuckle, I identifided when she said that she didn’t understand why she didn’t recognise herself.

My story is simply that I was travelling in the car one day whilst on holiday. We’d just left my family and waved goodbye. I was idly staring out of window watching the other cars go by. This car over took us and a woman looked at me and smiled. I stared back wondering why…

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How Difficult is it to Trace Ancestors Whose Surname is SMITH?





When I fist thought about doing some research on my family tree, I thought it would be an almost impossible task because my maiden surname was SMITH, a really common surname.

My brother’s marriage confirmed to me how difficult it could be. His father-in-law, now deceased, was named George William Smith, exactly the same name as our father, and they were both born in Liverpool around the same time, 1914. My brother’s marriage certificate does look odd with both him and his wife looking like they have the same father. It’s a good job they had different occupations to show they were two separate individuals.

In reality, the SMITH research task wasn’t as hard as it first appeared thanks to my father’s aunt and her daughters, his cousins. In my experience female members of the family seem to remember more about intricate family relationships than their male counterparts. This was certainly the case here. My dad, couldn’t remember much at all about his grandparents, but his cousins knew a lot. That was down to their mother, my dad’s Aunt Lily, telling them stories about her childhood. Aunt Lily and her family were the only relatives we had in Liverpool. We visited them every Tuesday and spent Christmas and New Year celebrations with them.

Aunt Lily provided the first picture above showing George Henry SMITH, her brother , my dad’s uncle, in the centre. He was born 2nd Mar 1885. I am still unsure who is with him. The chap on the right certainly looks a little like him while the other on the left doesn’t. George Henry SMITH didn’t have sons so maybe the other two are his brothers, William (my grandfather), and Thomas.


The child in the above picture is my dad’s Aunt Lily with her mother, Mary Jane SMITH (nee HOLT). Mary Jane’s family came over from Ireland to settle in Liverpool. Theirs could be an interesting story if I ever get to the truth of it. Other HOLT researchers on the site believe our HOLT family is connected to General Joseph HOLT of the 1798 Irish Rebellion, but that’s for another post. Today, I’m concentrating on the SMITH name.

Below is Aunt Lily with her husband Edward REDDINGTON. I never knew him because he died in 1948, when I was three. He was born in Scotland in 1893. It took me forever to find Aunt Lily’s birth record. This was because we always knew her as Lily when in fact she was baptised Rose Lily SMITH.

Beware when researching your family. I’ve had at least four instances like this where I’ve been searching for a particular name only to find it’s a middle name. It does make things more difficult.



Aunt Lily’s parents were another George Henry SMITH, born 26th Sep 1857 in Liverpool, and Mary Jane HOLT, born 1st June 1865, also in Liverpool. George Henry SMITH and a couple of his siblings were plumbers like their father, Henry SMITH, born about 1835, also in Liverpool.

I was surprised by the description of plumber for my second great grandfather, Henry SMITH, because I hadn’t realised proper sanitation was used at this time. I grew up in the 1960’s in an era of outside lavatories. My mum used to say as a child in the 1920’s, some relatives houses only had middens in the back yards of Wigan, a town also in Lancashire.

The parents of Henry SMITH (1835) were John SMITH (born 8th Apr 1811 and baptised 10th Apr 1811 in Liverpool) and Hannah, surname unknown. Going on Henry’s marriage certificate, John SMITH was a coachman who later became a coach proprietor according to the census details.

The father of John SMITH, born 1811, was another John SMITH according to the 1811 baptism record, and this John was also a coachman.

This is where I’m up to in the SMITH branch. I haven’t found anything remarkable about this family yet, but perhaps as I get further back, I might. Have they always lived in this area, or did they come from somewhere else? I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking of delving into your family tree, do remember to ask around the family for old photos; birth, baptism, marriage, or burial records; or old family stories passed down through the generations. Happy hunting!


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Welcome to Women in Horror 2019 – Introducing poet and author of horror fiction – Joanne Van Leerdam

Unusual Fiction

Welcome to the first of our WiHM 2019 Author Interviews on Unusual Fiction. It gives me great pleasure to introduce, once again, poet and writer of horror fiction – Joanne Van Leerdam.

Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet and author of short stories. Her body of work consists of six poetry collections, one general short story collection, a play, four collections of horror short stories, and a contribution to several anthologies.

When she’s not writing, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company.
Her hobbies include reading, photography, and music.

She is proud to be both an Australian and an honorary Canadian.

She does like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Question 1.

Which horror genre do you written in ?

I tend toward both the macabre and creepy psychological horror, with a bit…

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The Day I Met The Other Me.

Happily browsing in a particularly long, narrow aisle of a clothing store, I was concentrating on the display of numerous tops and blouses. Carefully examining each one, I got about halfway down the racks when my path was blocked by another woman coming in the opposite direction. I went left, she went the same way, I went right, she did the same, and again, we both tried to go to my left. I couldn’t help laughing at the silly situation. Then I saw she was laughing too and the thought crossed my mind, well at least she looks happy and isn’t getting annoyed about not being able to pass me. She seems alright!

When I mumbled, “Sorry,” and saw her lips moving in time with mine, that’s when it hit me! The other woman was my reflection in a mirror at the end of the aisle. It wasn’t a long shop, just a short one with a mirrored wall at the end. Strange! I didn’t recognise myself at all, at least, not for a couple of minutes. I wonder what that says about me? I was totally embarrassed in case someone had seen me apologising to myself, and left the shop in haste.

Do you have strange or silly stories to tell like this?


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I spent over 14 years researching the many branches of my family tree and then reached so many brick walls, I decided to give up for a while and write the books I’d long planned in my head. Now I’ve published my two thrillers, and my mother’s biography, I’m considering taking up the research again.

There are some family history details of my mother’s tree in the end notes of her biography ‘The Road from Wigan Pier’. Her surname before marriage was ALKER.



From time to time, I’d like to discuss my journey discovering who my ancestors were, what they did for a living, where they lived and, if possible, what they believed. For now, though, I’ll just show you how far I got in my ALKER family tree before hitting the brick wall.

My ALKER research hit a barrier with my 8th great grandfather, Thomas ALKER, the earliest direct ancestor I had traced. There is a parish record showing this Thomas ALKER in All Saints, Wigan, Lancashire, England. This entry recorded his marriage on the 28th August 1665 to Ellen GREENHACH. Both ages were given as 25, so I can guess they were both born around 1640.

So far, I don’t know where he was born because his baptism isn’t recorded in All Saints, the Wigan parish church, but there were a lot of ALKER families in Ormskirk before this time, and also a few in Salmesbury. Both of these areas are also in Lancashire.

In the parish records of All Saint’s, Wigan, there is also a burial on 28th August 1710 for a Thomas ALKER of Aspull. I’m not sure if the two records are for the same individual, but it does look promising. This is where my research is at the moment. How do I prove both records are for the same person? Where will I find the baptism record of this Thomas ALKER and thus the names of his parents?

This highlights an inherent problem with family history research. As we research further back, the records become sketchier for the average family. It’s different if your ancestors had a more prominent place in history, like if they were royalty, great leaders, or innovators.

My ALKER ancestors were mostly farmers, so although I can easily place them and their farms through the census data, once we go beyond 1841, which was the earliest useful census in England and Wales, we have to then rely on parish registers.

There was no explicit law in those days that births, marriages, or deaths had to be officially registered. That law was passed in 1836. Before that, religious families would often ensure their rights of passage were recorded in their own particular churches and often in family bibles, but if they were not religious people, they were not so meticulous in celebrating or recording these events.

This is why I’m often sceptical when people say they’re related to a famous figure from long ago. It’s not impossible but, for that to happen, every generation of the family would have to be so prominent, they were officially recorded over several hundred years. In reality, there is often a rise and fall pattern in families, and once great names sometimes become obscure.

I know some families have an old family bible with a few notes recorded, but I doubt there are many with a detailed family tree covering several generations. In any case, they couldn’t go back further than 1539 when the first English bible for public use was introduced, enabled by the earlier invention of the printing press.

Despite the dearth of records, family history research is still a fascinating project to undertake. When you discover a previously unknown fact about your family, it’s almost like a light bulb going on. You feel like a detective solving a difficult case. It’s euphoric and really addictive until you hit the next brick wall.


Why don’t you try researching your family tree? It’s the most fascinating of hobbies.

#FamilyHistory #BrickWalls #AlkerTree

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How Not To Do Book Promotion.

Food for thought for hardworking authors.


Every author I know dreams of finding the perfect ‘set and forget’ book promotion.

I’m here with some bad news: it doesn’t exist.

Effective book promotion is about engagement and communication. It’s letting people know your book exists, what it’s about, and why they should read it… without stuffing it in their face and demanding that they buy it.

What many people don’t realise is that effectively promoting your book is a process, not an event. You cannot simply advertise it once, post it on Facebook and/or Twitter, then sit back to wait for the sales to roll in.

Personally, I’d love to think that everyone I know who sees my book will buy it, and that would flow on to lots of people I don’t know buying it. That isn’t how it works. The people you know are often less likely to be interested and willing to buy and…

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What’s Cooking?

A powerful new aroma rose drew demons from near and far to the enormous kitchen.

“I smell sea salt,” moaned Festus as he wiped his drool on his sleeve.

“Do you really? I smell Vegemite!” exclaimed Provokus.

“You’re both wrong. It’s meat pies! That smell of melting, bubbling flesh is unmistakeable.” Cocky and confident, Argumentus sneered at the obvious errors of the others.

“Damn, I wanted some January 26 lamingtons, or a pavlova.” Minimus, the smallest of them all, who also had the sweetest tooth, looked very disappointed.

“Hey boss, what’s cooking?” Festus asked.

Satan snickered as he answered: “Australia.”

Copyright 2019 by Joanne Van Leerdam

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A Change That Is Long Overdue.

Perhaps we judge ourselves too harshly. This is one author’s journey to self-acceptance.


I have reached a new landmark in my journey of self-acceptance and self-care:  I have finally decided to stop saying and thinking horrible things about myself. 

When I posted this image last night, a friend responded with the observation that ” The trick is to catch it and recognize it. That’s the hard part.”

What she says is true, but the fact is that I’ve already been recognising it, and it’s something that has been bugging me for a while. 

For me, the hardest part is that I see my flaws and failures much earlier and more honestly than anyone else does. I know I’m valued and loved, and I know I have talents and abilities that others admire, but I am much quicker to comment on my mistakes and shortcomings than on anything good or positive that I might do. Sadly, this is the habit of a lifetime. 


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I have a cunning plan….

Oh, the joys of early morning writing. This made me laugh, so thank you for that, Kirsten.

Kirsten Nairn

And this is it….I set my alarm for 5.30 (yes, am) in full knowledge that my family will still be in the realms of deep sleep and nothing bar a full-on emergency will waken them. I will be able to snatch an hour of unadulterated peace and quiet. Even the cats aren’t morning people and are highly unlikely to want fed, let alone any seek attention.

I wrap myself in my cosy PJs, make a nice coffee and I actually manage to write about three hundred words, when something catches my eye. A grey and white ball of fur is moving with sloth-like speed across my kitchen floor and on closer inspection seems to be enjoying a tasty bowl of dried cat food. 

It’s Maureen, next door’s ‘dwarf’ rabbit, who has escaped AGAIN, made her way into my back garden AGAIN and is in my kitchen (A FIRST). She has…

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The life of a secret writer

This is only one of the thousands of writers who struggle to find some quiet moments in which to write.

Kirsten Nairn

I write in secret! No one, not even family or friends know I write, but the only problem with that is I can’t just close the door and put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, which means in reality, I rarely get any writing done unless I have a rare moment of peace and quiet or a day off the day job.

So far today I have worked a full shift, raced into town on my way home to pick up a pair of must have trainers for the 11 year old (apparently he has waited his whole life on these beauties). Seeing an opportunity to have ten minutes to myself at the shops I was faced with the dilemma of ‘popping’ into Zara to look for a pair of skinny jeans for myself or trudge around the supermarket to stock up on fruit to replace the mouldy, unrecognisable species…

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Barnes & Noble 10% off Voucher 2

10% off coupon if you order paperback version of ‘TISSUE OF LIES’ through Barnes & Noble. Order HERE now!

A STOLEN BABY, A DARK SECRET, and MORE LIES than anyone can imagine leads to danger. Will Julie discover the truth before her quest puts her life at risk?


5***** REVIEWS

“Easy to read and with a roller-coaster like plot with many twists and turns, I would definitely recommend this… looking forward to Parkes’ next novel.”

“Mystery and suspense filled read. This was an enjoyable read and the author has a great writing style.”

“A five-star novel; that will hook you from the start and would make an amazing movie. I will be recommending ‘Tissue of Lies’ to family and friends and suggest you read it too!”



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Barnes & Noble 10% off Voucher

10% off coupon if you order the paperback version of ‘Your Last Breath’ through Barnes & Noble. Order your copy HERE now!



5***** REVIEWS

***** “Wow!!

Absolutely fantastic book!!! A gripping game of cat and mouse, so much suspense! I couldn’t get enough of this book… I hope there is a sequel. One of the best books I’ve read for a while!! Loved it!!!”

– “Excellent read! I finished ‘Your Last Breath’ and was so drawn to the book from Chapter One! It really kept you wondering what Raymond Lang would do next.  Can’t wait to read the next book.”

#SerialKiller #thriller #horror

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Her Secret Family Means a Christmas Dilemma

Julie Simpson is finding out that Christmas invitations are even more complicated when you’re leading a secret double-life. She has two sets of parents; the ones who lovingly raised her and her recently discovered birth parents who informed her she was stolen from them when she was a baby.

To protect her mum and dad from possible prosecution and to learn the truth, she builds a secret relationship with her natural parents telling them the ‘parents’ she grew up with are both deceased. This one little lie leads to many more as Julie, with the help of her husband, John, becomes ensnared with fibs and half-truths.

Despite the intricacies of the situation where neither set of parents know about the other, Julie is coping well until she realises that both sets of parents are expecting her company on Christmas day. How can she resolve this dilemma and still keep her secrets?

Carole 6


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Creating a ‘Specific Friends’ List for Facebook Posts

To keep profile posts private from your other ‘friends’ eyes, you can create a ‘Specific Friend’s’ list. Here is how you do it:

FB Specific Friends


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A Taster

via A Taster

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