Okay, so I’ve learned some valuable lessons these last couple of days. If you have a WordPress site, there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself against an attack, and a lot of help available online, but here is some basic advice everyone should follow:
1) Do not leave your username as Admin. That’s the default Administrator username and a lot of people are happy just using it, or setting up another and forgetting to delete the Admin account. Most attacks will look for the Admin username. If you haven’t already, create a new user account, give it Admin access, log out, log in under your new account, then delete the Admin account. Any posts you have created under it can be moved to your new username.
2) Password – I know it’s obvious, but make sure your password is strong. Use symbols like @#$%^&*() in it if you can.
3) Download the Anti-Malware by ELI plugin and install it, as well as an Anti Virus plugin.
4) Get set up on Google Webmaster Tools so you can get a better idea of what problem exists, and request a rescan of your site once you believe it to be fixed.
Learn from my mistakes, bloggers. There’s much more you can do, but these basics should go a long way for basic protection and problem solutions.read more
The blog, that is. Malware has infected me (a-choo!) and I need some time to get better. Will update when all is well!read more
So after slogging away on the apartment for what seemed like an eternity, I had a chance to work on a coveted little spot within it. A small four by four-and-a-half foot walk in closet that had no real purpose. There was already a walkthrough closet connecting the bedroom and bathroom, a dresser, a coat rack, and so on. So this room was mine.
Phase 1 was straight up “what can I put in here, anyway” practicality. My KODT comics, games, books, and so on obviously filled the shelves. But what could fit in this tiny space desk wise?
Well, it turned out the apartment had an old desk that just barely fit in, so at first that had to do. I set up my computer, typewriter, etc.. on it and called it a day.
Not bad. Kinda cramped. Note how the desk juts out about six inches from the door edge? Bit of a pain, really. The big chair didn’t help.
In the end, the space issue just wouldn’t leave me alone, but finding a desk that was only 12 inches deep was harder than I expected. Also, the laptop was just too big, and the monitor stand was taking up valuable space as well.
But ingenuity and Ikea (and Rona, Walmart, Home Hardware, and The Source) combined for an elegant solution. Phase 2 began. I found a shelf with drawers that was only 11 inches deep. I got my old smaller laptop up and running again (the OS had been borked, but I fixed it eventually). I mounted the secondary monitor to the wall (dismantling the stand for it was a pain let me tell you), and found a creative way to mount the laptop right next to it, to make the most of the dual screen modes, but in a way that wasn’t ugly and fit with the look I was going for.
As you can see, much more space than before. Even with the big chair.
Here you can see the desk layout. I added a gold border to the secondary monitor so it would appear like a picture frame (I have two different wallpapers, you can see)
The laptop (my old ASUS EeePC 901) is secured in a modified paper tray, that has been cut a bit further to allow easy access to the power button. The tray is naturally well ventilated, too. It is held in place underneath by a small bracket I jury rigged for the purpose, and can be easily taken down if necessary.
Eventually I might do something to anachronize those two speakers to make them more old fashioned. Other touches include the bankers lamp and chained bank pen to the left.
The black Twin Lens Reflex camera between the two monitors has been modified into a working webcam, and the microphone next to the typewriter works as well.
Feeling like the job was done, I got about to prettying the place up.
Then my inner nerd took over and ran amok.
The door. We plan on removing the thin metal sliding doors eventually, they just feel cheap. But the door to my office reminded me of something. It has eight squarish segments over two distinct panels. I imagined it blue. Dark blue.
With windows. And a sign…
My God… it’s full of nerd! (To be fair, though, the signs are held up by Blu-Tack, and easily removed)
But you know what? No regrets. This is my haven I’m typing from, and nothing makes me feel more satisfied than throwing convention to the wind and having a place that just says “me.” This is where I hope to write many more novels, blogs, and articles in the future. This is where I hope to earn a living editing, should the gods smile upon me.
As we all know, work doesn’t feel like work if it’s more like play. So this is my playground. My office. My nook. My nerd hole. Call it what you will. For my working hours, I’ll call it home.read more
For the better part of a month, I’ve been busy getting my new home into shape, taking the bare bones of an apartment and making it into a home. Here are some before and after pictures..
Now I should point out that the After pics were taken a couple weeks ago. I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking things further. New sofa covers, a better TV stand, finally putting all our books back, etc… but I am too lazy to take another set of pics right now.
But after finally getting the home the way we wanted it, it was time for me to have a little “me time,” and work on the walk-in closet that I’ve always planned on converting into my personal office and Geek Den.
And when I say Geek Den… well, that’s just going to have to be a blog post all on its own now…
… to be continued!read more
I just saw The Great Gatsby with Gill’s family as a Mother’s Day gift.
It was overblown, over the top, melodramatic… and I liked it.
I didn’t really expect to, but I did. Even the inclusion of modern rap into the jazz didn’t feel completely out of place. The whole story came across as a tragic fairy tale told about the past, but from a modern teller, and cranked up to 11.
Leonardo DiCaprio was easily the one to watch in this film (his first appearance in the film made me think of a young Marlon Brando). Tobey Maguire was good, but really we the audience are Nick Carraway, and we’re the passive observer taking things in just as he is through much of the movie. Obviously it’s Leo you want to watch, to try and examine every expression and try to understand him, just as Carraway is. Joel Edgerton plays Tom Buchannan well enough, but to be honest the other main actor to note isn’t him but Carry Mulligan as Daisy. It’s her relationship with Gatsby that makes the movie compelling.
If I have a complaint with the movie at all, it’s what I remember my brother Wyatt saying about the movie Dark City – the editing goes through long periods of being rapid fire and stationary, especially early on. Now, I never really noticed that with Dark City, so it must say something that this stuck out like a sore thumb for me now. Having not seen Moulan Rouge or Romeo & Juliet, I’m not sure if this was something I should have expected. But it was jarring for me.
But in the end the question I always ask myself of a movie is “was I entertained?” and the answer is yes. Definitely. If nothing else it made me regret the fact that I did not pay more attention to the book in high school.
To be completely blunt and honest with you, that is something I can say about far too many books I read in high school… and even university. It was often difficult if not impossible for me to enjoy books that were assigned to me. Foolish, I know, and something I deeply regret, but it happens in the stupidity of youth. I suppose I’ll have to read it again at some point, and then look at the movie in a different light. A green one, perhaps.read more
Robin Spano popped on my radar at the Word On The Street Festival at the Vancouver Public Library in 2011. An enthusiastic woman helping to publicise her second novel, Death Plays Poker, thrust a custom made deck of cards in my hands, featuring the book cover on it.
However, that is not what got me to buy the book. She was also part of a panel of female mystery writers, discussing their various experiences in the genre. Most of them were old hands at the crime novel, but Robin was still bursting with the enthusiasm of youth (It wasn’t until later that I realised that was in fact her default personality). It was infectious, and hearing her describe her character of Clare Vengel, I became intrigued enough to give the book a chance.
Her third novel, Death’s Last Run, takes her undercover detective back to BC, to the slopes of Whistler, investigating a suicide that doesn’t smell like a suicide. In each of these books, Clare has to take on a whole new persona and get close to the various suspects. The stories are also told from multiple points of view, often in brief chapters.
(As an aside, I’m torn on the idea of short chapters. I find that it makes it easy to stop reading when you want to, convenient to someone with a busy schedule, trying to sneak in ten minutes on the train or waiting for an appointment. But at the same time I think perhaps I end up stopping sooner than I might have with longer chapters, and end up taking longer to read the book as a whole.)
While I liked Death Plays Poker a lot, I remember making the comment that perhaps the series would appeal more to women than men. I did not have that feeling at all with Death’s Last Run, so either I’m getting more girly, or Robin’s story managed to strike the right balance for me. Given the lack of pink that I’m wearing (a colour that Clare would despise, I think), I choose to believe the latter.
Robin’s writing style is light and fun, and she manages to get in the heads of each of her POVs nicely. It’s funny how she got me to care about drug smugglers/money launderers and kind of hoping things would work out okay for them. Flaws of characters are recognised and realistically handled – including the fact that things don’t get wrapped up nice and neat with a bow tie when it comes to dealing with personal issues.
While I thought I had the murderer figured out half way in, what I couldn’t figure out was how, and I kept thinking I had to be wrong and there was another way around it. It turned out I was right, but not in the way I expected (no spoilers, you’ll just have to read it yourself), so I give Robin the win in terms of keeping me from feeling I’d solved it prematurely (the goal in all mysteries).
So Death’s Last Run is a great instalment in a fine series of mysteries, and I look forward to reading the next one.
It doesn’t hurt that her main love interest’s name is Noah.read more
In the world of chasing bad guys, let’s face it: men have the primal advantages. They’re stronger by nature and more physically daring (by nature or nurture, who knows?).
Historically, heroes of thrillers and crime novels have been men. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Jack Reacher, Batman—these are the strong, tough guys we root for because no matter what kind of adversity gets thrown at them, we know they have what it takes to nab their man and win the day.
But as the world has been changing and gender roles have been shifting toward the center, a new breed of hero has emerged: the kickass female. Lisbeth Salander, Ava Lee, Vanessa Michael Munroe and Katniss Everdeen jump in with both hands and feet to dominate men both physically and psychologically.
They might not have the brawn of their male counterparts, but they make up for it in wily cunning, martial arts, and survival skills. They’re willing to jump into danger and they’re clever and resourceful enough to find their way out with their prize.
But while these women are comfortable in combat, they are distinctly different from traditional man heroes. Genders haven’t merged completely in society. Women are still more likely to talk about and analyze their emotions—even if they do so while tying someone up and beating them. As a result, these heroines tend to grow and change more visibly throughout a novel or a series rather than do their male counterparts.
While historically genre fiction has tended toward the formulaic, these women are bringing a literary side—a growth arc—to the genre. (And this isn’t because women are writing them—in the examples above, both Lisbeth and Ava were created by men while Katniss and Munroe are authored by women.)
I’m excited to be writing about a female detective in this day and age.
Clare Vengel is not as fiercely physical as Ava, Lisbeth or the others. She reminds me more of a character from Girls or Shameless—two HBO programs about disenfranchised young people trying to figure out their way in today’s world. Clare is an undercover cop, and she wants to be as kickass as these tough modern heroines. But she shoots herself in the foot, like so many of us do in real life, because of her stubbornness and resistance to authority. The series is about the growth arc of Clare getting there, becoming the cop—and the woman—she wants to be.
I thank these authors of strong female leads for giving Clare a role model, a direction in which to climb. I also thank them for their groundbreaking work in the genre. From Nancy Drew, the original tough girl, through to today’s darker, grittier versions, these women have pushed the walls out for the genre, making crime fiction as original, compelling, and literary as any wordy art form out there.
About the Author: Robin Spano is currently touring her new release, Death’s Last Run, book three in the Clare Vengel series. Publisher’s Weekly calls the book “engaging,” and “a believable tale of estrangement, love, lust, greed, power and revenge.” The story explores the death of a New York senator’s daughter on the slopes of Whistler, BC, and is set in both Whistler and Manhattan. Robin lives with her husband in Lions Bay, BC.read more
So a book cover design site, Adazing.com, wrote a blog recently about contemporary fantasy book covers, and singled out my novel Trooper #4 for its layout.
The cover of Trooper #4 does a great job of invoking feelings of suspense and action. A woman’s hand is shown up-close holding a gun while her finger is positioned on the trigger – ready to shoot. Dark figures can be seen in the background, adding an air of mystery to the cover.
The feature that stands out most about this cover design is:
Layout – The way the cover artist put the design together works well with the title of the book. The woman’s hand holding the automatic weapon provides a clue that she is a police officer – which is conveyed by revealing a part of her blue uniform shirt. The figures in the background are dark and blurred, and complement the overall design nicely.
I should point out that this cover was designed by my brother, Wyatt, who is always good at taking my lame ideas, considering them, throwing them away, and coming up with something better.
If you’d like to see the other covers mentioned in the blog, you can visit the full adazing.com article here.
In other news, Vancouver mystery writer Robin Spano will be guest blogging here tomorrow, promoting her new Clare Vengel undercover mystery, Death’s Last Run. I’m already halfway through it, and would have been finished a week ago if it weren’t for all the damn renovations I’m still doing at the new place.read more
Gill and I have just moved into a new place in North Vancouver, and I’ve been spending the last couple weeks getting it into shape. Unfortunately, internet won’t be coming for another week, so my only source for my web fix is at local coffee shops. But it’s not easy to blog from there (and Tim Horton’s for some reason won’t allow access to my website) and to be honest I’m stressed out enough as it is without adding to it.
Hopefully all will be worked out soon and I can start writing again, as well as other projects.read more
I’m coming home, mere yards away from my soon-to-be former abode, when SPLAT – I get crapped on by a crow.
I don’t mean a little tiny pigeon crap. Apparently I had wronged this crow at some point in the past and it had been holding it in for several days just waiting for his chance.
Hat, vest, sweater, pants, shoes, everything got hit. White bits, brown bits, gooey bits, it was all there, and all over me. Gill was two feet next to me and she even caught some of the splash. I looked up and saw two crows in the leafless tree overhead – each of them looking at the other. I’m not sure if they were each trying to blame the other or share a secret laugh. Maybe they double teamed me.
I blame the paint.
I’ve been painting all week and at this point my work clothes already look like they’ve been crapped on by a flock of seagulls (birds, not the band, that would be even more disgusting). I can only assume the crow looked at me and said to his buddy, “Well, if everyone else is doing it…”read more