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 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/)

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

A Journey Completed

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The first time I actually immersed myself in a romance novel I felt like I was eavesdropping on people who were falling in love, and it started an addiction.

I prefer a character-driven historical romance. The birds and bees operation of making babies is great, but I like to get to know the characters and what makes them tick. Learning their faults, strengths and wondering how they are ever going to get together with all the problems in the way. I love learning the history of the time and seeing it through their eyes.

For years, as I dreamed of writing my own stories. I had one story that was the most persistent of the brood of ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by the Viking people, back before it became cool. I thought a Viking historical romance would be awesome.

As with all of this writing stuff, I have found I’m quite naïve. Ever wondered how you go about writing a historical novel? They say write what you know for a reason. It is hard to describe something you have never seen or done.

I’ve studied the subject of Vikings and their history, and it seemed easy enough. Throw in a few Viking sounding names, and a few sword fights and you have it. Right?

I found it harder to do the research than the actual writing. First, you need to find a time period. Then, you have to find out what was the political climate, who was in charge. Kings? Dictators? Governments? What battles were going on?

Once you determine how that fits into your plot, then you decide on names. Of course, they need to be period correct if you want an actual historical feel to it. Then there is religion, customs, foods, and daily living. What were their tools called? What was the wildlife they would be eating? Since it is set in Norway I was surprised to find they had different flora and fauna than, of course, someplace like North America, where I’ve lived all my life.

Next, there is clothing. Did they make it? Where did they get the materials? What were their houses like? The weather? Oh, wait! Are there different time zones and climates than where I live?  What were the names of the towns of that time? Did you know that Selby, England was called Seletun in the Viking times? Or what is now York, was called Eoforwic? How do you pronounce them? How long did it take them to get across the North Sea? What were their trading routes?

My favorite was the day I had to actually Google, “How to Curse in Norse.” I found they didn’t use our short little words. Nope, they made insults an art form. Actually, entertainment called “flyting!” No joke. One of my favorite lines, “You are a drinker of sheep piss,” has entertained me for hours!

I’m deathly afraid of water. Traveling by boat is not something I ever want to do. I found it humorous I was going to have to learn about boats because that was the Vikings main mode of transportation. How fast were the ships? What were they built of? How were they designed? How many people could fit on one? How did they do long sea crossings? What did they eat? The questions are endless and so were the books and videos I perused to learn about it.

At first, when I started out, I would write one sentence and then spend the next hour looking up history or spellings. I have since gotten into the swing of things. I have built quite an organized research set-up. I learned to write out the scene and star the things I need to go back and check out. Then insert facts and figures later on. That went much smoother. I found it hard to break out of my little world of the past, to go to the local grocery store for food, after I’ve spent a half hour explaining how they cut up and cooked reindeer, or prepared lutefisk from dried fish.

Now, the journey is complete. The editing, beta reading, and formatting are done. Norse Hearts is ready to be printed and go out into the world. After all this time living with Einar, Seraphina, Dagfinn and Jarl Roald, I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a family. I am nervous about their debut and I hope they will entertain all of you as much as they entertained me.

For you, I hope when you are done reading it you will have laughed, cried, worried, fallen in love and become an expert on the Viking life of 760 AD.  And enjoyed the journey so much you can’t wait for the next Viking epic, Assassin Hearts.

One thing for certain, I feel sorry for my High School History teacher and how hard she tried to teach me history. I have far more respect for her. If she was around to read this book, I know I would have impressed her and received an A!

Look for the release of Norse Hearts at the following links:

Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobynnGabel/

Author Website   http://www.robynngabel.com/

Amazon Author Page   http://www.amazon.com/author/robynngabel

Twitter   https://twitter.com/relpud

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/robynngabel/

Goodreads   https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/79722706-robynn-gabel

 

books, indie books, indie writer, Relationships, stories

To Leave or Not to Leave Facebook

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Should you leave Facebook? I would say no. The milk has already been spilled. And if you think that your personal information hasn’t gotten out before this, if not on Facebook, it has somewhere else. Especially if you have kids, you know firsthand you have no privacy!

With all the social media, apps, email, and internet churning out there, unbeknown to you and me, more information than we ever thought was possible has been gleaned from thousands of clicks and site visits.

In this wild west of exploding technology, where your smartphone is outdated the minute you buy it, how can anyone still believe in the illusion of privacy? When the first computer was created the cat was out of the box.

Think about it. We have mountains of literature and forward-thinking people who have warned us that once a system was created to accumulate data we no longer had a private identity.

We have lost individuality and have been reduced to a number. Starting at the moment of birth we are tagged with a Social Security number. Even the Greeks coined a common saying that covers this. We have opened Pandora’s Box.

No, leaving Facebook is more like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. You must use all social media with a bit of common sense. Take precautions in what you are saying. Facebook is a good tool. But like everything else it has its good and its bad. I got started on Facebook all because they had a free game. Who can forget the addiction to Farmville? I have collected pictures, connected with old friends and made new friends. Reconnected with long lost family and also found out things I never wanted to know about people in general. Yeah, I watched all the political muck that abounds with each election. I’m amazed at the lack of self-control many exhibits publically. But I learned a long time ago not to share or discuss religion, politics and especially not to share family issues.

But this electronic meeting place is no different than what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. It’s what we used to do in small towns off of front porches or at the corner drug store. Now it’s just on a universally grander scale. Gossip, share and talk. We get to see the worst and best of humanity in electronic gluttony.

Like any superpower, you can use Facebook for the power of evil or good. I personally like the ease of being able to stay in contact with people and learn new things. And a wise man said, believe nothing of what you read and only half of what you hear.

The silly thing is, we have never had privacy. We just hid things better before Facebook came along. The only way you are going to be able to protect your privacy is to go off the grid and live like a hermit.

indie books, indie writer, Uncategorized, writing

An Occasional Rant

The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.

I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer.  Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.

But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.

This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.

I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.

I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.

Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.

I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”

My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.

But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.