books, Hacking, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

Having Fun with Hackers

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So, I opened my email and there was a notification from Facebook. It said that someone had opened my ten-year-old Facebook page. At the beginning of Facebook if you forgot your password, you couldn’t get back into your account. I had created another account. A few years later Facebook asked me if I wanted two accounts and gave me the ability to close one. I was smart, I had used two different emails to open them, so I knew which one it was.

I thought maybe this happened after I had tried getting on Facebook during a period when they were down. Either way, it said click here if I was not the one who had done this. Of course, I clicked, and it took me to a page that said it couldn’t pull up that account. Then it asked me to check in to Facebook with my regular account.

Thinking that doing this would bring me to the original notification, I did. Except it only took me to my current account. In fact, nowhere could I find this notification. Nor could I find anywhere that I could contact Facebook. I did spend an hour chasing my question and reading a lot of self-help for navigating Facebook. Finally, I found an obscure area where you can inform Facebook of a problem. Which I did. And got a polite canned ‘thank you’ for my input.

I’m very suspicious of anything like this because I have encountered many a ‘phishing’ scam. At this point I was worried it was a trap to get my real Facebook information. I waited two days to hear anything back. Then I decided if Facebook wasn’t going to do anything, I would. So, I began to think like a hacker.

I knew where they got my old email. It had been hacked some years back when my phone apps had been open when I crossed into Mexico. A few password changes fixed things, but someone had gotten some old information. Experian had informed me last year that some of my personal information was on the dark web.

While thinking like a hacker, I knew that if they truly had re-opened my account on Facebook, all I really needed to know was what email they used. I went to Facebook and simply told it I had forgotten my password. A few minutes later my new password was verified. Sure enough, there was a new page under my old name. I had re-married since then and it wasn’t my new married name.

So, I had some fun.  392530_463065353734398_408935834_n

I noticed first off there was no picture of me in the banner. They had filched an old picture of my granddaughter on a show horse, and it was in the timeline. It had been put up the day the Facebook had notified me. Also, interestingly enough, only five of my friends were listed there. The ones I had had ten years ago when supposedly Facebook deleted the account. To protect them, I went and unfriended them.  Then I noticed I had thirty-one new friends who had suspiciously sounding Russian names. No joke. So, I unfriended all of them!

Next, I checked for personal information. Again, nothing current. It was a bare-bones account. Like they were still building it and adding to it. I wiped it all clean. And I changed the name of the account to my deceased husband. He had never been a computer person and never had an account on Facebook. He would have found it extremely funny. Just for fun, I also changed the password!  To something like “Satan Be Gone”. If they were ever able to crack it, they would get the hint. But I highly suspect if they are serious about trying to use it again, they would just do what I had done and request a new password.

Then I went and deleted the account all over again. Not sure if that will help, since Facebook gives you thirty days before they supposedly permanently delete it. This is so you can get pictures and information off it. And remember, they said they had deleted it once before!

166070_578733068837720_1553312875_nIn all my research I couldn’t find anything the hacker had put out there yet on this account. But hopefully, I messed things up well enough they know I’m on to them.

This taught me several things. You can’t contact Facebook directly, period. It is all canned response and content. And all it takes is someone knowing what email you use to be able to get into your Facebook account. Since Facebook makes it so easy to get in when you forget a password, a hacker can easily make a dummy account. Also, nothing, and I mean nothing, is safe on the Internet. You may have security and firewalls, but note how easy it was for me to think like a hacker and find a way in. Last but not least, it proves that nothing is ever non-retrievable on the web. Even old, outdated or deleted material can be resurrected.

My biggest mistake in all of this was assuming that the notification was really from Facebook. Even though it was my email, it was not addressed directly to me. When Facebook sends me notifications about my changing my password, they always include my name. That wasn’t in the message I received and so I’m still not sure if Facebook sent it or what the hackers were after exactly. I did change my passwords for all my email and Internet accounts just for added protection.

I just hope sharing my experience can be of help to someone.  Be careful out there in cyber space.

 

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books, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

The Icing on the Story is Editing

IMG_20181119_191005_059You have done it. You have written your first novel and now you want to self-publish. Welcome to an exciting time. Here are some friendly suggestions from someone who has been there and done that.

You are going to hear this a lot, only because it is true and shows the difference between an amateur and someone who wants to be successful. Make sure your book has been edited by an editor. Not by you, by a true editor.

First, find a Development Editor. This person reads over the story and finds plot holes, places in the story that don’t need to be there, the general flow of the story, and character development. Have too much backstory in the first chapter? Have enough backstory throughout? Have you forgotten to tie up an end to a character? Does each chapter close in a way to draw the reader into the next? And are there any other story problems.

Next edit would be the Copy Line Edit.  This is where an editor goes over word choice, rhyming sentences, and repeated words. Have you used too many she’s and he’s in paragraphs? Have you started too many paragraphs the same way? Do you have a favorite word you overuse? This edit can be done through an online program called Grammarly. I have found it invaluable. I have a habit of starting all my sentences in the same way sometimes and using the same pet words over and over and over. I think you see my point. Notice the last three sentences all started with “I”.

Then there is the Proof Edit. At this point, it is about grammar and punctuation. You can try depending on a program like Grammarly to do this as well. The problem is sentence structure. You can have a correct sentence, but it may not make much sense. Every writer has a ‘voice’. Something that is unique to each of us in the way we string together words. How we talk, how we think is an individual thing. A program won’t pick up on that. Another human can.

Finally, create a group of Beta Readers. You find these saintly souls in writing groups. They are your peers. People who will read your story, usually in trade for you returning the favor. Don’t ask your family to do this. You need someone who can be dirt honest with you. Someone who reads a lot and knows what they like in a story. They will find all those typo errors that may have been missed in the first three edits. They will tell you of any problems the story may have, like where it bogs down, or where a character may need a little tweaking. This is the opinion stage and can be quite harsh. This is where you really must be an adult and have a discerning ear. To hear the critiques without becoming insulted. You must be in a learning mode. Hear the opinions and pick through the ones you feel are right.

As a writer, I know when I have a rough patch of dialog. Or when a plot is thin, or I have just been lazy and not written it as well as I should. There are those “little darlings” that we think makes us sound like a literary genius but creates yawns or confusion for our readers. I always know when my beta reader is spot on. They always find the places I knew where not as good as they should be. Sometimes, it may be an opinion on the subject and you will instinctively know whether you need to change it or not. But be humble. Go into it for the learning.

We have all been here. Writers of all ages, education, and walks of life, we know how it is. You have poured over it, certain that you have caught every mistake. Aunt Bertha loves it. Mom loves it. Everyone is excited. Well, until your editor is excited, it’s not ready. Why do you think the publishing houses hire editors? You don’t see your mistakes. Simple as that.

The greatest complaint out there is that self-published authors do not edit their books, creating a poor quality read. Don’t give the community a bad rep. It is a little more expensive, but it is well worth the investment.

books, indie books, indie writer, journaling, stories, writing

Changes and Face Lifts

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It was time. Almost ten years ago I ventured timidly onto WordPress to do the thing all authors were raving about, building and writing a blog. I am technically challenged. Took me forever to figure out WordPress. I am an introvert. Write about myself? I would rather go through labor again.

So I got on the chat line, which is a perk of having a business account, (which I love) and got a very nice tech who was polite and patient. With their help, I was able to change my site name from Common Sense Experiences to A Journey Thru Words.

When I first started I figured I would blog about a wide variety of things. But it soon became obvious I was writing more about my experiences as an author. So this site needed a more modern name, and a new facelift.

I was in luck. WordPress has updated and created new, easy to use templates that transfer immediately. I won’t talk about how you used to have to do it in the past. I love the new perks. Also, now that I have managed to author five books, I decided it was time to look more like an author. A dear friend and life coach, Cherie, (http://totalwellnesscenter.net/ ) found a beautiful background pic and create a new banner for me.

I welcome you to my new, improved blog and website. I am looking forward to guest blogs, impromptu writing, keeping you up to date on my next book in the historical Vikings series I am doing, and an occasional re-blog on industry news.

Meanwhile, I invite you to visit another blog that I follow and have learned a lot from. Chris recently had me on his site as a guest and did an awesome job with all the bits and pieces I sent to him.  The interview link is below. I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy my writings.

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/author/thestoryreadingape/

books, historical romance, indie writer, stories, vikings, writing

Birth of a Dream

 

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What would you do to accomplish a dream? You hear stories about it all the time. One advertiser cleverly took a twist on that and asked what would you do for a Klondike bar? Obviously we hold the goal of dreams high.

I know I did. When I first learned how to read I remember it was a great joy to be able to read the signs that went by on the highway. It seemed a wonderful secret that I was let in on. To this day, I prefer to communicate by the written word. To me, words are a tool, an art form. My mother could create rhyming poetry off the top of her head. My sister could draw and paint anything. Dad was a wizard of self-learning and mathematics. All I seemed to be able to do was read a lot.

As I got older and perfected the ability to communicate through the written word, I found another exciting mystery. I could create stories too. My teachers encouraged and gave me the hope that it was actually something I could do well.

Then, I was out on my own and raising children, working and keeping up a house were my sole focus. I kept my love of literature close, and quite often would escape into a good romance or two. At work, my writing skills were once again put to the test, as I wrote business letters, hospital policies, memos, advertising material, and even sent a few letters to senators.

Through it all there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It became a dream. I wanted to write a romance story. And not just any romance. I wanted to write about Vikings.  Why would a quiet housewife and hardworking business woman be interested in Vikings? Well, have you ever worked in business? It truly is dog eat dog world, or, one Viking warrior against another!

I was fascinated by a lot of things and history was one of them. Loved the Egyptians, but the fierce, independent, wild and savage profile of a Viking caught my greatest curiosity.  How did they survive in the barren north that could be more brutal than they could? What drove them to burst upon the world and take it by storm, not to conquer, but to find farmland? What made them so tough, independent yet have a code of ethics in battle that gave them hope their eternity would be filled with drinking and fighting? And yet this same ferocious, hardy people would become some of the most devout Christians and help in its spread.

They were a mystery and conundrum to me. I thought a romance between them could be a fascinating read. So for twenty years a cast of characters lived in my head. During long drives, long nights sitting beside sick kids, and any moment I could take to day dream, I would create scene after scene of a story that just wouldn’t go away,

So when I got a chance to retire and spend time with my husband, I took to social media, learned Word programing and started to finally live my dream of writing.  I discovered I had waited long enough to realize a writer’s dream, the age of independent authors. No longer would I have to travel the road of rejection, but could write, edit and produce my own dream.

I was also smart enough to know it would still be a long road. I knew nothing about editing, formatting or how to promote. So I joined a few writer sites and started to learn, listen and write. I created a romance story based on something I knew about.  Then I found a very talented editor.  I was fortunate enough to find a formatter who could help me realize my dream by getting the book into Createspace. I studied Amazon and the mysterious algorithm, and then went on to Goodreads and finally the world of blogging.

Since I have started my journey I have seen the rise and fall of a plethora of media sites and learned what does and does not work for a writer. I have seen major changes in the book industry from the chant that the physical book was dead, to changing digital readers that morphed into smartphones which do it all now.

My first two books were done to learn the ropes. Now I got serious.  Research files were created to be at my fingertips for referral. I built a library of physical books, filled with tags on certain subjects and timelines so I could quickly review. I spent a year at the computer ignoring the world around me as I created and freed the world I had trapped in my mind for many years.

Characters took on lives of their own. The plot changed and grew as they did. The original plot became buried under the will of my strong characters. And when that book was done, I realized the prologue was actually a story unto itself and was the start of it all. So I began to write a series, backwards.

Then life interrupted. My soul mate, encourager, supporter and lifeline in life, passed away from cancer. The real battle that had intruded into our marriage after only five years of being married, finally won twenty years later and Darrell was its casualty. His death took my heart, my will, my direction, and any desire to do anything, let alone achieve a lifelong dream.

He had been such a help in writing Norse Hearts. Many of the insults he had invented. We acted out sword play like two little kids so I could get a feel of how the body would have to move. He had patiently listened to each chapter as I read it out loud to catch any errors. Then when it was finished, he sat down and spent two weeks reading it, though he didn’t like to read because he was a slow reader.

The story was finished and had been edited by friend and editor. Yet is lay hidden in my computer as I went about putting my life pieces back together. But family, Facebook friends, life friends and an editor and widowed friend, would not let me quit.

More edits, formatting, beta readers and life coach, would eventually help me do CPR on my languishing world of Vikings. It was their very strength and stubborn will that help me to come back to this dream and move on.

In the wee house of 8-26-18, a weary formatter put in the last keystroke on the manuscript and Norse Hearts was born.  It went right to the printer to be approved.

What does it take to realize a dream?

I don’t know.  Determination?  Stubbornness?  Talent?  Money?  Time?  Blood, sweat and Tears?  Education?  Passion?  Family and Friends?  Well, I would have to say all of these have been part of the journey, but none of these would have been enough on their own.

I think its Perseverance. That is the one ingredient at the root of achieving any dream.  And who taught me that? Well in all those hours of studying the Vikings, it is the one thing I found most fascinating. They persevered all the time, against the elements, against the world, and against each other. They persevered, and now their DNA is spread all over the world.

So if you think it’s only a dream,  and you can’t achieve it, I want you to look up the word perseverance.

books, indie writer, journaling, Viking Customs, vikings, writing

Viking Tid Bits 3

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When Vikings wrote, they used what we call runes. The word above is actually my name, Robynn. Not much is known about Vikings and they didn’t leave much behind in writing. Some have theorized they were not educated and so not many knew how to write. Some think that because they used less permanent writing materials, not much was left behind. Either way, we do know they did use runes and what is left behind can be found in carvings or stone.

They were a superstitious people. Words to them were magic and held great power. Maybe to write it down was to allow it to have a life of its own. But despite what we know or don’t know of them, we can fill in the holes with educated guessing. The study of anthropology shows us that there is a common thread among all of us. Ancient or current.

And one thing that has not changed, words do indeed, hold great power. They can build up. They can tear down. They can cast spells of unconfidence, low self-worth, and depression. Or they can build up, create joy and give us wings to fly.

The Vikings were not wrong about the power of words. We can be great magicians and take these words to create spellbinding stories of entertainment. Or we can take words and use them in great battles. Words can create laws and rules that curtail bad behavior before it starts, or use them to start a war that will cost human life.

Even with so much power, words still aren’t the best or only way to communicate. Here is an odd fact. In talking with another human face to face, we only hear about 35% of the words they say. The rest of the communication is taken in through instinctual feelings of how those words are said, eye contact and physical posturing.  We all seem to know when something is said sincerely by how the other person looks at us, or the tone of their voice. So again, words only have the life we imbue them with.

Of course, the words you are now reading are inducing different feelings in you. For instance, your eyes are seeing and the brain is receiving and a whole lot of activity is going on as the brain sorts and make sense of everything.  Depending on whether you are happy or sad at this moment, it will color these words with your opinion of what I, the writer, am trying to say. Get five people in a room and have them explain this very same paragraph and every one of them will understand it differently.

With all these filters going on, emotions, spiritual, understanding, deciphering, and opinions, it is amazing we can even communicate! Let alone get an idea across to another person

But words are a mighty power.  Never forget that. Words carry a heavy responsibility. Every time you go to communicate either by the written word or the spoken word, you are carrying a huge power to do good or evil. To build up or tear down.

As I said before, Vikings treated their words with great care. The simple word “mare”, if used against another man, gave the one insulted the right to kill, on the spot, the one who had given insult. They went to great lengths to keep words from doing damage because it could be life or death for them. They understood the power of good and evil of words.

From the time I could talk I was also taught the responsibility my words carried. I find in the digital world ocean, words ebb and flow, or can crash with a tsunami’s devasting destruction. We need to heed our ancestors and recognize the power our words can wield in blogs and books. I can’t help but wonder if we used our words for the power of good all the time if this world wouldn’t be a much nicer place to live in, and the spell of peace could prevail.

books, indie writer, Viking Culture, Viking Customs, vikings, writing

Viking Tid Bits 2

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My mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” As a child, it didn’t make much sense, but now, in this upheaval of political values, it is understandable.  And you may wonder how this might then lead into thoughts about Vikings.

Well, they may have had the right answer to how to handle different political views and where my mother got that little idiotism of wisdom. They had no formal king in the beginning. In fact, when a king was finally instituted, a few of them, not wanting to give up their independence, moved to Iceland. Even to this day, the closest you will ever get to the Old Norse way of government is in Iceland where they may still have the best way of doing things.

When a few hardy souls decided to live in the fjords and treacherous mountains of Norway and Sweden, they formed independent little villages or homesteads. Often a family would just farm a little plot of land and if the children made it to adulthood, they would branch off and farm a little more of any available land next to the old homestead. As you can see this would present some problems when they ran out of land.

As little villages were loosely created, they were hemmed in by the lack of growth. The fjords are steep, the weather harsh and there was not much farmland. Their only form of easy transportation was boats so you can see where they might become expert seafarers. Then, most of their goods had to be traded for.

They lived off the sea as well as farmed. They were quite resourceful, they had to be. This, of course, fosters independence. They became traders long before a few wild individuals took to plundering. During those long dark nights of winter, they became quite the craftsmen.

So as their population grew, and it wasn’t quick with the high mortality rate they faced, eventually little towns sprung up throughout Scandinavia.  Of course, they didn’t have much communication with other little hamlets, so each village became its own unit. The strongest male there would usually hold a position of being the final say.

So let’s say one family had a grievance with another over property lines. In the fall, usually during the final harvest, the nearby villages would get together to celebrate. There were many names for this gathering, like Althing, or the Thing. Remember each village developed its own beliefs and customs, but this was a pretty common event. Several heads of families would get together and hear out individual complaints. It was a court of sorts. So the two families feuding over property would bring this before the judges and they would hear the case, then the gathered crowd would vote on whatever decision the judges came up with.

Some historians will claim this was where democracy was born. Others say it’s the purest form of democracy and still exists in Iceland today. Due to the little villages being so isolated from one another, each one developed into its own little government. Beliefs varied from village to village as well as customs. But once a year they could come together and work out their differences.

Actually, this is the way of the human race. Even now we see in each country factions of belief and values breaking off, forming groups. The Vikings were a little smarter about it though. If they really couldn’t agree on something, even with their peaceful harvest get-togethers every year, they finally resorted to the sword as the final say.  They truly were Darwin’s first real test of his theory of survival of the fittest.

Interestingly though, the Vikings also valued life above all else, especially since so few of them ever made it past 40. Children were considered precious. So again, it behooved them to settle a matter before it came to the fight.

I find the Vikings fascinating in many ways.  They were truly a unique group. But when it came to government, we could learn a few things from them. Unfortunately, it also shows that no matter the system chosen, humans will always be contentious and want it their way. History truly is the best teacher.

books, historical romance, indie books, indie writer, Uncategorized, Viking Culture, Viking Customs, Viking History, vikings, writing

Viking’s and Romance

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If a Viking man spouted poetry to a love interest, he could lose his life. Why? As with everything about the Vikings, there is only tantalizing little clues. Through the Poetic Edda, an oral history that wasn’t written down until the 13th century, we see glimpses of everyday life. It has been speculated this rule was to keep men from falsely leading a maiden on. Or possibly it wasn’t considered manly for a Viking warrior to spout soft words of love.

Most Viking marriages were arranged much like a modern company merger. There were strict rules about property and how the bride’s dowry would be dispersed. Viking women had more rights and freedoms than any of their counterparts at that time in history. This would have been due to their traveling husbands. Viking men were traders, leaving in the spring and wandering all summer long while the world was ice free. The return rates weren’t all that great back then. Between the dangers of ship travel, diseases in foreign lands, and raiding, a Viking man might never return.

So the Viking woman ran things at home. She had to oversee the livestock, production of crops and profit. While she was at it, she also prepared meals and made things for around the house. There was no local Wal-Mart to help out. It was a tough life. For this reason, all land inheritance was usually passed down through the woman.

With various gods, traditions, and superstitions, a marriage ceremony usually lasted on average, nine days. The Vikings had a thing about the number nine. There was drinking and feasting of course, along with rituals to entice the gods to give fertility, wealth and health. Quite often family swords were exchanged, and proof given that the marriage was consummated.

Another interesting concept − Viking woman could divorce easily. All she had to do was stand next to the bed shared with her husband and in front of three witnesses, simply say out loud three times, “I divorce thee.” Yup, it was that easy. Maybe that is why the men treated their women so well.

While monogamy was practiced, it wasn’t set in stone. If the man was lusty and wealthy enough, and his wife agreed to it, he could take a second wife. It was nothing to own several slaves as well. In fact, he was encouraged by his loving wife, to have a slave for copulation during her later months of pregnancy.

What of possible bastard offspring? Those long summer days did get a little lonely while Olaf was gone. Unfortunately, if a woman conceived while her husband was away, he had the right to deny feeding or clothing any offspring. When a baby was born, if the head of the household did not claim it on the ninth day, the baby was ‘exposed,’ meaning it was left to die in the forest.

The Vikings liked to keep things simple.

(For More Information on the Viking Culture and Customs please check out  http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/)