Passwords and Secret Codes

We now have to reset a large number of passwords. The goal is to create passwords that are so complex that you'd never guess them. Except if they are that strong, you have zero chance of remembering them.

You could use a password tool. These work very well for some people.

Most of you already know that I'm paranoid, and a single point of failure concerns me. They're good tools. Use them if you are comfortable with them.

If not -- maybe you'd like to go with something a little more old-school.

Remember codes? Rememeber creating a secret code with your friend? That was fun. I'm going to give you an example of a method similar to the one I use. No, it isn't the same. Because -- remember -- I'm paranoid.simple cipher

  1. First, start with a phrase that is at least 26 characters long without spaces. Something with sympols works. Make it something you will remember -- like your favorite Bible verse.
  2. Next, make a chart for yourself with all of the characters and sympols. Say you've decided to use John 3:16 -- For God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
  3. For each location that you need a password for, pick a phrase that you can remember, something unique. For Facebook it might be, "I wish Facebook would stay the same"
  4. Drop the spaces (important!) and encode it -- letting the capitals be the same as in your code. Like this:

You can vary the length as needed.

And yes, you could double encode it or add special quirks.

Remember: you don't have to be able to decode the password, just encode it.

Then make sure that you don't forget your cipher. You can even carry it around in your wallet like a little encouragement card. If you don't make it LOOK like a cipher, no one will know that it IS the key to your life.

Can this be broken? Of course it can. Any password can be broken, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. All it takes is a good key scraping program -- which can be purchased on the internet. But if you do it right, it will be unique and as strong as most random character generated passwords and you'll have a chance of remembering it. You can even write the phrases down in a book without fear of it falling into the wrong hands, because the phrases won't work until they've been encoded.

Have fun finding a secret code that is all your own.

Additional tip: enable two-step verification whenever possible. And make sure to include a backup device in case your phone gets lost or stolen.

Disclaimer: if you use this method and something bad happens, don't sue me. No method is foolproof.

Mom's Final Months

I have trouble sharing the trauma that I went through caring for my mother in the final months of her battle against cancer. A friend came to visit her shortly before her death. The friend could not sit in the room with Mom for more than 5 minutes, because seeing what had become of that vibrant energetic woman was heart-breaking. Some  have said that I should have allowed or even arranged for her death months earlier and spared her that time.

Mom and I had that discussion, because I believe that I would have chosen differently for myself. For her, I chose based on her stated wishes. She'd made it clear: she would die fighting. It didn't matter that the battle was hopeless and that everyone dies. It didn't matter that she knew where she was going after death. It was the death she chose. Once when she was in pain, I sat beside her bed in tears and asked. "Should I have let you die?" She touched my hand and her face became very fierce. "No. I'm grateful for every moment."

She knew it would be hard.

She knew it would hurt.

Well-meaning doctors and nurses tried to help me "arrange" her death earlier. I consider those discussions with her medical team to be among the most eye-opening of my life. This was long before any silly chatter about "death-panels." From what I can tell, this is - or was in the excellent hospitals we were in - standard practice.

People are often stunned by my reaction when a loved one is in the hospital. I'm generally pretty sweet and compliant, but not when a loved one is in the hospital. If possible, I'll stay by their side, checking every dosage, every treatment. I'm kind to the amazing nurses, because I do not believe this was a lack of good nursing or poor care. All I can say is, you had to have been there to understand the entire situation. You had to have seen the scans. You had to have held her hand. So -- no judgement on the medical care she received. Nurses are some of the most amazingly under-appreciated people in the world.

My mother was never good with words. She painted. Here in her own "words" is what those last 6 months of life meant to her:


Mom's before painting - a barren desert


Mom's after painting -- a peaceful spring meadow

Library Science

library book cartOne of the biggest challenges as an independent writer -- at least for me -- is getting books into the library system. I have spent hours researching this. There are many companies that offer to do this for me for a large fee. I've gone through different procedures for getting included, always to be told, "nope, not big enough." My book isn't well known enough. My indie publishing company is too small. I've filled out forms. Submitted paperwork. Read articles. Even attended on-line seminars.

Today, driving with my 9 year old daughter, she says, "Mom, I need to talk to the librarian. I need her to order a book from Amazon."

After a moment, I procesed what she'd said. "From where?"

"From Amazon."

"Why would you say that?" Thinking hard, trying to remember where my daughter would have learned of Amazon.

"Well, that's where she told me she gets most of her books these days."

At this point, we were very lucky that we didn't get in a wreck, because I was paying much more attention to my daughter.

"Explain this to me."

She was a little confused as to why Mom was so intense.

"Well, Mom...  you see, these books I like, they aren't in the library. They aren't in her normal places, but she knows that kids like them, so she buys them from Amazon. I tell her when a new one comes out."

I explained to her briefly that this was news to me, although I have heard of librarians doing it, I hadn't actually HEARD of one who did.

At the end of my explanation she said, "Oh. Well, I guess I should have her order your book, Mom."

So easy, it takes a child to figure it out.

Saying Goodbye

pretty calico catAbout 12 years ago, my precious kitty died. I was heart broken, and so my husband brought home a kitten.

Except she wasn't really a kitten. It turned out that this cat had been turned into the shelter the day before we got her. She'd been given her shots, fixed and chipped, and was still somewhat sedated when my husband brought her home. She was stunningly beautiful. The only note on her chart was "likes to play rough." Of course, I didn't find any of this out until months later when I went back to the shelter and asked what was WRONG with this cat???

The guess? She was probably feral.

My dreams of another snuggly kitty quickly evaporated into scratches and tooth marks. I took her to the vet. He explained that cats who look like this one tend to be somewhat schizophrenic.

Being me, I didn't give up on her. Her name was Elf, which I am certain was short for Evil Life Form.

For years, I worked to connect with that cat, eventually bringing four other cats into the house so that I could have feline companionship, because I wasn't going to get it from Miss Elf.

My best friend made me watch episodes of My Cat From Hell. Self-proclaimed crazy cat-lady that I now have become, I went out and bought cat toys. The others loved them. Elf adored my husband.

And then a few months ago, I woke up with a cat snuggling me. I petted her and realized that the fur was MUCH longer than any nice kitty we had. I carefully turned on the light to be greeted with this face:

eek mad cat



To put it into perspective, here is her cuddling my husband:



From that day on, Elf cuddled me, too. She would sit on my lap for hours.

It didn't take long for me to notice that she was ill. She lost weight.

Special food followed, which she would deign to eat if I'd hold the bowl for her.

She'd drink the special water spiked with pedialite -- if I'd hold the bowl.

Yesterday, I had to say goodbye to my dear Elf. I was deeply touched that in the end, she turned to me for comfort and love.

She will be missed...

...except for the scratches.

What happened to Malaysian Flight 370?

Cover of SisterhoodWhat happened to Malaysian Flight 370?

We have more questions than answers, and the story is changing minute by minute. As I type this, the latest report I see seems to back the belief that it was hijacked.

I've been wondering about that.

When writers get together, we talk about strange things, evil things, like how to kill someone and get away with it. For me, one topic I've done a lot of research on is how to steal an airplane. In Sisterhood, a Cessna Citation is stolen, its passengers held for ransom. My psionic sisters save the day, acting as human transponders.

But could someone really steal an airplane?

First: it would require a lot of skill.

Second: you'd need somewhere to land the plane.

In Sisterhood, a group of terrorists hijack small aircraft. The Citation is about 1/3 the length of Flight 370. I thought it might just be possible to hide an aircraft that could hold roughly 12 passengers, not the more than 200 that were on Flight 370.

When I wrote that scene, I felt it was a stretch of the imagination. To find a place to land it where the plane would not be seen, to hide it, to deal with the passengers -- all of these aspects would have to be considered in detail before the hijacking. Of course, in Sisterhood, my completely fictional organization, Hailar, has vast resources. And if someone did steal Flight 370, they'd need a wealth of resources as well.

While I would love to hear that all of the passengers aboard Flight 370 are alive, I doubt it. In every air disaster I've heard of recently, someone has pulled out a cell phone and made a phone call. Current theory is that 30% of passengers leave their cell phones on during flight. Why didn't anyone call for help?

One piece of troubling data is that the plane may have climbed above 45,000 feet, suffocating the passengers.

I'm used to trying to twist my thinking into the place where I can understand evil, but this makes me sick. This would be more evil than my worst villains could pull off.

We won't know the truth -- if we even know it then -- until we can find that aircraft.

So -- where is the plane? We don't know. But -- we can help look.

Sisterhood Cover - Woman with GunSomething is watching...

A single gunshot shattered Dana's perfect life. Now she's starting over with a new life, new rules and an old flame to chase all her demons away. But Dana's demons have other ideas. They want her -- and her sisters -- at any cost.

Available from:

Buy from Amazon Buy for Kindle Buy from Barnes & Noble Buy for Nook Buy from KoboBuy from iBooks

and many others.

Ask for ISBN: 9780983513391

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