Do you use weak passwords on-line?

A weak password is one way your computer can be compromised according to computer security experts at Webroot.   

I taught computer literacy for nine years. Computer and internet security was one component of that class. I use what I considered strong passwords.

Yet my email account was recently hacked. It was embarrassing and annoying, but at least I was in good company.

Six e-mail accounts belonging to members of the Bush family were recently hacked with some of the contents posted online. For the full account, read here.

After the Bush episode, most computer users recognize that hacking could happen to ALL of us. After personally being hacked, I am more convinced than ever that no one is immune to a hacker.

If you have weak passwords, you are at even higher risk. I offer these tips to making your password stronger.

  • AVOID dictionary words.

Password cracking programs contain a dictionary filled with commonly used dictionary words which means your Harriedme201 is crackable in mere seconds.

  • AVOID names.

All of us like to use pet names, favorite book characters, actors or actresses names, or names of places we’ve been. Hackers always look for these. Again easily crackable.

  • AVOID using any part of your email account as a password.

This is a hard one to follow because, as professional writers, we all want name recognition. What better way than using our name at our namewebsite.com  as our email address. Experts tell us we are asking for trouble without a strong password.

Wt4e-79P-B13^qS  is an example of a strong password.  So how do you create a STRONG password?

  • USE a minimum of 10 characters in your password. Best are passwords with more than 15 characters. Why? The more letters the harder to crack.
  • USE uppercase, lower case letter, numbers, and special characters randomly throughout your password. Be creative. Don’t substitute obvious symbols for obvious letters, i.e. 1 or ! for the letter L, @ for A, etc.

Here’s a chart of useable special characters acceptable for password use.

keyboard-signs

You can also use emoticons smiley faces such as these to create a strong password:

keyboard-smileyfaces

For more ways to change your weak password, check out this site.

Once you have your strong password, follow these suggestions:

  • USE a unique password for each site you visit. It’s a daunting task-creating and memorizing multiple passwords. However, it is the smartest way to avoid being hacked.
  • CHANGE your password at least twice a year. Better: change it every 45 to 90 days.
  • GUARD your passwords. You can use password programs or create your own method, but decide how you’re going to keep up with your passwords and begin keeping track.

Edie Melson has some excellent ideas for safeguarding your passwords. Check out her blog here.

Will using a strong passward prevent hacking of your accounts? Maybe, maybe not, but following these tips can’t hurt.

YOUR TURN: Are you using a weak password?

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Advantages to Raising Chickens

A guest blog from Chicken Wrangler Sara

There are advantages to raising chickens. They get food and water and sometimes grass, and they are happy.

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Humans, on the other hand, need many things.

Last Wednesday proved the last. It’s my usual my day to clean the bathrooms and mop the kitchen floor, but that didn’t happen for three reasons.

  1. Beekeeper Brian called at 8:30 to ask if I could bring him his ID, which he had left on the dresser. Not a problem – I had something to drop off near his school anyway.
  2. Then Rachel texted and asked if I could meet her at the band hall at 10:50 with her jacket. OK, I could still get some things done at the house between taking the ID and taking the jacket.
  3. Then Matthew texted – “Can you go by Thorn (music store) and pick up some drum sticks?” By this time, I was a little frustrated so I told him I would have to see.

After a bit of thougt, I decided taking care of family was more important than a clean bathroom.

As I left the house to make the deliveries, a woman was putting a flyer on my mailbox for a maid service. Rather ironic, it seemed to me considering I really wanted to be at home cleaning house myself.

Instead, I was off delivering things to my humans…

Beekeeper Brian his ID,
Rachel her jacket,
and drumsticks to Matt.

This morning as I fed the chickens I thought about how simple it was to take care of them.

Chickens don’t need IDs.
Chickens don’t need jackets.
Chickens don’t need drumsticks – they already have them.

However, not one of those chickens said “thanks, sweetheart” or ‘Mom, you’re the greatest.”

I realized while there are advantages to raising chickens, they do not outweigh the advantages of raising a family.

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Love words are in the air today – Ten quotes you can use

I hope you read my Valentine blog on Monday and you have already gifted your someone special with a homemade valentine today.

In case you need some love words to use before the day is gone, here are ten of my favorite Valentine quotes.

• I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame of that heats our soul, energizes our spirit, and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other. -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, The Wheel of Life

• “kisses are a better fate than wisdom.” -e.e. Cummings
(I love any of e.e. Cummings words. I mostly love that he doesn’t capitalize.)

• “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” -Robert Browning

• “A bell is no bell ’til you ring it,
A song is no song ’til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love
‘Til you give it away.”
-Oscar Hammerstein, “You Are Sixteen” from the film Sound of Music

• “For twas not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
Twas not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” -Judy Garland

• “True love never lives happily ever after – true love has no ending.” -K Knight

• “Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice.” -Nora Roberts

• “For you see, each day I love you more. Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” -Rosemonde Gerard

• “Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds hearts together.” -Unknown

Lastly, no blog on love words would be complete without the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love Thee?”

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Valentines are the Mirror of Romance

As a romance writer, I love February 14th. St. Valentine’s Day is THE romance day of the year. To me, valentines are the mirror of romance.

According to legend, Saint Valentine was a real priest who lived in 270 A.D. He provided Christians with sacraments outlawed by the Roman Empire such as marriage.

Saint Valentine is also said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.”

And thus began our custom of giving cards and reminders to loved ones on February 14th. Today, the Greeting Card Association estimates one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.

The first mass-produced valentines appeared in the 1840s. Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” used “scrap” to make elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester holds a large collection of her valentines.

If you read my blog often, you might remember that I have an ephermal holiday post card collection. I shared some of my Thanksgiving cards. Here are my favorite Valentines. While not as elaborate as Ms. Howland’s, I love the way these cards speak of romance.

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Valentines tell others of our love. Homemade valentines are extra special. I found this wonderful site, www.neoformix.com  where you can create your own heart-shaped tokens of love.

screen shot heart site-1

If you’d like to create heart-shaped design with special words, click on the heart to go to the site. You have time to come up with the perfect token of your love.

YOUR TURN: How will you show someone you love them today?

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Puddle jumping, bee stings, and dachshunds

A guest blog from Chicken Wrangler Sara

Bella, dachshund chicken watcher extraordinaire, has keep life interesting around the urban farm for the past two weeks. 

First, a bee  stung her on the foot. This would not have been a big problem except that she somehow acquired Beekeeper Brian’s allergy to bees. Rachel took her to the vet where they gave her Benadryl and made sure there were no other symptoms.

Bella slept off the effects of her bee sting encounter in her favorite chair.bella2

Then a few days later, I was at lunch with Beekeeper Brian when Rachel called asking me to meet her at the vet ASAP. Bella was shaking all over and drooling – symptoms that looked like a seizure. 

Since Marv, our big dog, has suffered from seizures most of his life, Rachel is well acquainted with doggie seizures. I left immediately, but a road closure cause somewhat of a delayed.

In my directionally challenged world, another (read different) way is always longer and in the wrong direction. I only know one way to get places, and since the road I knew to go down was blocked, I had to find another way. And, of course, I had to stop for every red light along the way. 

I desperately wanted to get to the vet’s office in case something happened to Bella. While Beekeeper Brian and I were in Colorado last summer, Rachel had to take our chocolate lab to the vet for the last time. I didn’t want her to be in that position again with Bella.

When I finally rushed into the office, Rachel and Bella were sitting in the front room waiting for me to pay.

Bella was fine. The vet determined she swallowed a bee (I added another verse to the song – I know a dumb dachshund who swallowed a bee).

With the Benadryl, Bella slept soundly in her favorite chair.bella2

She now has her own bottle of Benadryl in the kitchen cabinet.

This week she has managed to avoid the bees, thankfully. She did run under our bed instead of into her kennel one night. We could not coax her out until the next morning. Never did figure out what that was all what.

Then yesterday I walked the dogs after it had rained all morning, Bella managed to find every puddle to walk through. Her puddle jumping reminded me of my small children days – the puddles as well as the frantic trips to the doctor.

I’m afraid while the children outgrew their frantic trips to the doctor and puddle jumping, Bella will never outgrow this stage. Fortunately, she is very cute and so we tolerate her idiosyncrasies.

bella

Don’t you agree?

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The book’s finished so why am I sad?

I finished Love in the Morning Calm, the prequel to The Pendant’s Promise and turned the manuscript over to the editor. 

MorningCalm_6 for webpgs

Now I’m sad.

I know I should be happy. IT’S FINISHED.

There is a sense of relief and exhaustion considering the amount of energy and focus required to “birth” this particular novel. I’ve been working on Lily and Alex’s love story for years.

My very wise book editor suggested I split the original manuscript into two books, which added a year to the writing process, but keeping the tale as one book would have made James A. Michener’s multi-generational works look like short stories.

Really, I am excited that I’m finished.

Except for this lonely feeling that keeps creeping in–sort of like postpartum blues.

Sigh.

I found comfort in knowing I had Lily and Alex’s romance to resume every morning and think about at night.

I already miss the arguments trying to persuade them to follow my outline. Then sometimes settling for something close to what I planned, but perhaps better and more interesting.

Other authors have shared that they experience the same sluggishness, a lack of motivation, and energy when they finish a book. I know my feelings will subside. Lily and Alex have, after all, found their happily ever after.

It’s time to do the next thing — start a new manuscript. I began that process this weekend.

I’m looking at two quotes as the new story’s theme. One fromTruth About Forever a Sarah Dessen novel: “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”

 The other from Lao Tzu: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Once my new friends, Darcy and Andrew, and I have done that dance of the first 50 or 60 pages they’ll begin to talk to me then my real work will begin.

I can truly bid Lily and Ace farewell.

YOUR TURN:  Do you get the postpartum blues when you finish a book? What do you do about it when you do?

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Goose eggs, adolescent roosters, and bullied hens – Miller Farm Friday

Welcome our very special Friday Guest blogger, Chicken Wrangler Sara and another tale from the Miller Farm.

Adolescent roosters are some of the most horrid creatures on earth, which makes putting them on death row much less traumatic for me. However, their imminent demise does nothing for the poor hens they harass until they reach a size large enough to eat. 

One poor hen, named Whitey, has been jumped on so many times I believe her right leg is broken. #2 Daughter Rachel and I found her trying to get through the fence and under the shed. 

Enter Chicken Wrangler Sara wearing her chicken rescue cape. 

Future nurse Rachel decided Whitney should spend  time in the Miller Chicken Infirmary until her leg healed. She reinforced the sides of a wooden crate, gave Whitey a bath (yes, you read that correctly, she bathed a chicken), then put the clean hen in the crate in her bedroom.

Then Future Nurse Rachel went out of town leaving me in charge.

Whitney in her bed

This is not the first fowl to be in the house. Remember, we had two rescued  roosters who were much kinder than any roosters we have right now.

Eventually I moved Whitey to the garage where she spent the night.

In the morning, I set her out in the yard (while the dachshunds were inside) and cleaned her crate. Marv, our big, old lab mix, found this change in the routine very interesting.

Marv and Whitney

Whitey ate some grass and hobbled around a bit. Before I left to volunteer at the food pantry, I returned her to her crate in the garage and secured the dachshunds inside the kitchen.

In the afternoon, Whitney spent more time outside in the yard although I’m suspicious that the roosters have spotted her. They lined the fence watching with great interest.

Fortunately, they cannot get over the fence so Whitey is safe.

I considered splinting her leg, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I wasn’t keen on researching how to set chicken legs – cooking them maybe, but not setting them. 

In fact, one of my piano students asked why we didn’t just eat Whitey. I explained that we don’t eat any of the chickens we have named.

Just can’t do it.

Not only do I have to keep an eye on Whitey, with Rachel gone, I must turn the goose eggs in the incubator three times a day. I forgot. When Beekeeper Brian got home from work, he turned them. Since they can’t tell time, he assured me they would be fine.

We’ve decided I may be Chicken Wrangler Extraordinaire, but I’m no Mother Goose.

Future Nurse Rachel and I have also started walking the four dogs. We each take two dachshunds and provide entertainment for anyone driving down the street along with exercise for the dogs and ourselves.

Since Rachel was not home this afternoon, I took all four dogs on my own. After fighting twisted leads and pulling dogs, I’ve decided I could probably drive a bobsled now.

Tomorrow Rachel returns. I will be so happy to have her assistance with dachshunds and goose eggs.

Sunday the roosters go to death row. Whitney will return to the hen yard and be safe.

By Monday, the Miller Chicken Infirmary will close and life will return to normal – whatever that is.

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Moving ahead. Claiming your Dream.

So are you moving ahead on the New Year goals you set? Did you implement my plan or devise one of your own?

Whether you use my plan or any plan, I hope you’ll let 2013 be the year you claim your dream!

I found several suggestions on blogs to help us achieve writing success using a theme for the year.

The authors over at Novel Matters  declared  Carpe Annum – Seize the Year for their theme.  Check out the details and suggestions here.  

Fellow Wana112mate Sherry Isaac suggests we do some Baby Steppin’ That is, we move ahead one baby step at a time. You’ll love the clip she shares.

Whether you choose Carpe Annum or Baby Steeppin’ or come up with your own theme. Just having a theme is a great way to focus on success.

If you still harbor some fear about moving ahead with writing goals and think you don’t have the time to devote to your dream, Edie Melson, social media coach and blogger, offers this advice: Want to Do More with Your Writing—Learn to Say No She provides very specific ways to put your writing goals first.

My best advice is summed up here: hey writer

Remember, a book is just a blank page and an eReader is a blank screen until you put your words on it.

blank book

tabletNow go be an unstoppable butterfly and fill those blank pages and screens.

WRITE!

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Fortunately – Unfortunately on the Miller Farm

My father used to tell the story of a man flying an airplane.

small twin engine airplane

Unfortunately, the engine went out.

Fortunately, there were two engines – unfortunately, the second engine went out.

Fortunately, the man had a parachute – unfortunately, it didn’t work.

Fortunately, there was a haystack in the field below – unfortunately, there was a needle in the haystack.

Fortunately, the man missed the needle – unfortunately, he missed the haystack.

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 All the rain we’ve had this week made me think of my own fortunately-unfortunately story.

Fortunately, the rain means that I don’t have to fill the chicken waterers – unfortunately, it means the chicken yard is a muddy mess.

Fortunately, the rain will bring more flowers for bees to make more honey – unfortunately, my feet get wet and cold.

Fortunately, the roof of my classroom does not leak – unfortunately, my classroom is a portable building, which means walking through the rain to the bathroom.

Fortunately  the rain stopped today and it was a beautiful sunny day – unfortunately the rain is supposed to start again tomorrow.

 And that brings me back to the beginning again–Fortunately the rain means I won’t have to fill chicken waterers…

Life  on an urban farm is like that–a vicious cycle of fortunatelys and unfortunatelys.

CW Sara’s email had me wondering about  fortunately-unfortunately cycles. So I Googled the term.

According to Wikipedia, Fortunately-Unfortunately is an actual word game first played at conventions of the National Puzzlers’ League.  Click here to read more.

Writers play a similar game. We call it brainstorming. Instead of fortunately-unfortunately, we say What If?

Your turn: Have you ever played Fortunately-Unfortunately?

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Failure to plan is planning to fail — a PLAN for success

No one wants to fail on purpose, but failure to plan can lead to failure. Today we’ll look at the process of goal setting for SUCCESS that I use.

cropped success

My plan comes from Bob Mayer’s WHO DARES WIN, The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed, which is available here.

There are three components:

• Focus
• Strategic goals
• Tactical goals

Experience has taught me when you know where you’ve been and where you’re going, you go farther than when you just drift along.

Creation of a concrete list, imo, is critical.

But no goal setting process is complete without a review of the previous year’s STRATEGIC GOALS. Every time I do this, I never fail to discover I have accomplished far more than I thought. I’m betting you would see the same results.

Not only do I set measurable goals for myself, I also reward myself for my accomplishments!

After my review, I determine a FOCUS for the New Year.

A target.

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In 2012, my focus was epubbing. btw, I accomplished my goal  as you can see on the left  side bar: The Pendant’s Promise, my debut novel, is available to purchase.

 FOCUS is whatever will move you toward achieving your object for the year. Your yearly FOCUS can be studying a particular craft area, networking, or reading x number of books and analyzing the author’s technique.

After FOCUS come STRATEGIC TARGETS.

I give serious thought to these questions in setting my targets for a New Year.

1. What do I want to write this year?
2. What do I want to sell this year?
3. What will I do toward getting my name out there?
4. What writing craft do I need to focus on?
5. What’s on my reading list?

Once I have answered these questions, I set the targets broken into three month, six month, and one year objectives that culminate in two year and three year goals.

These are SMART goals:
S -Specific (and Strategic)
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant (results oriented)
T – Time-framed

For example, a specific, strategic goal might be stated like this:
At the end of the first quarter 2013, I will have two short stories submitted to such and such periodical.

Then I establish a list of METHODS to accomplish my strategic goals. My last year’s list looked like this:

1. Write 100 NEW words per day
2. Spend minimum of 20 hours per week writing
3. Attend two writer conferences

No wishy-washy, weasel-worded methods like I’ll write every day. Too easy to let life interfere and be lax with methods like that.

My methods are:

Specific.   Measurable.   Attainable.

Same with my TACTICAL WEEKLY GOALS which might include:

1. Write three query letters
2. Complete critique partner’s edits
3. Outline two scenes for WIP

Either I accomplish what I’ve set out to do or I don’t. I know where I’m going and whether I’m there at the end of the week.

And, yes I do write out these goals every week and record my progress.

To quote, Pablo Picasso: “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.

I also happen to be blessed with an accountability group to provide additional focus and encouragement toward accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. We share weekly then alternately cheer or bring out the cyber whip based on our goal reports.

I hear you groaning. You’re saying all this takes too much time.

I don’t deny this process takes time, but having a SMART goal plan provides not only focus, but also helps solidify intangibles into something tangible.

I can’t guarantee SUCCESS with my plan. I do promise goal-setting will direct you on the right path because to hit a target you must aim.

Goals set your aim.

I  encourage you to think about a writing plan for the New Year.

YOUR TURN: Have I convinced you? Will you set SMART goals for this year?

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