Limbo

From Latin limbus (“edge, border”)

Noun
In Limbo – To be in a state of neglect

Derived from Latin in the ablative form from frequent use in phrases such as in limbo (patrum), etc. Figurative sense of “condition of neglect or oblivion” is from 1640s.

 So, whatever we decide to call it, I’ve been in it. At least to look at this blog. Truth be told, a great many things have happened, but I don’t regret them nor intend to excuse them.

Let’s examine a brief list, shall we?

  • My self-publisher wife is making a career move and opening her own business

Some people fight crime at night, and work at the local newspaper during the day. My wife has always held a day job while doing her writing, but now that she is starting her own business, her crime fighting and self-publishing is taking a backseat. She assures me she will resume her writing when things quiet down again.

  • I’m finishing my degree

Going back to school to finish my bachelors degree, even though it only required 3 more courses and an internship (which was fulfilled by my new IT job) is taking a good deal of my time and energy.

  • Life as we know it happened

Again – not an excuse. Life is what it is, and it has a tendancy to change up our plans. When its detrimental, we accuse life of ‘getting in the way’. When its beneficial, we feel like Ethel Merman. The difference is just in how we view it. Honestly, its one of the universe’s little mysteries.

So how does all this add up? Well, for one, I’m fairly certain at least a couple items on this list are relatively irrational (mathematically speaking) so I’m not confident enough to attempt the arithmetic. But the end result is this:

She’ll keep writing. Which means more books coming out.

I’ll keep writing. Which means (eventually) my own book(s) coming out.

We’ll keep on keeping on.

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New Year Updates

So, new year brings new news, yes? Well, sometimes. Actually, I just thought I should get on that totally hip ‘New Years Blog Post’ band wagon. Yeah, I could have found some cool stock images of fireworks and giant disco balls descending on polls amidst a flurry of confetti, but all that is so very 2014. Not cool. Not hip.

What is hip, you ask? Why, let me tell you, via this handy-dandy-what’s-hip-countdown list:

10) I updated my book review page with the new (improved) cover art for Imminent Danger. Whoo.
9) I just finished the latest edits/revisions of interior content for my wife’s first two books. And I’m just beginning the formatting and layout for her third book, releasing this year. Double whoo.
8) Giraffes. Giraffes are always hip and never out of season.
7) Top Ten Lists. Everybody uses them. Am I wrong?
6) We’ve also started revising the cover art for the series, so hopefully that settles a few peeves with the original versions and sets the tone for the rest of the series.
5) Cookies are great. Doesn’t matter what kind.
4) Mustaches. They are very much in, beards are starting to phase out. For better or worse, I don’t sport either one.
3) A cookie’s just a cookie, but Fig Newton’s fruit and cake.
2) New Years Resolutions – at least for the next 27 days.
1) Self-published authors. Definitely hip.

~ Meredith Purk

Chasing Nonconformity Cover Reveal

Here is my (late) cover reveal for Michelle Proulx’s sequel to Imminent Danger: And How To Fly Straight Into It, delivered to you care of her Indie GoGo campaign reaching some sort of threshold or something. This is best read in the voice of Ben Stein so that you understand my enthusiasm is (sarcastically) curbed.

Here it is – the next grand cover reveal, graced by Ravven’s art:

chasing_ebook

As you can see, there is nothing special going on here. Go. Move along. Eh, who am I kidding? Having read (and reviewed) the first book, I can’t lie that despite teenage angst and love triangles not being my thing, teenage angst and love triangles in space are totally different. Trust me. No sparkly vampires here.

And on that note, allow me to hijack this cover reveal blog post and make it all about me by commenting on how I need to engage in the long process of updating my review page with the new, current cover art for the first book. And then updating the link when the new version is available for sale. First world problems.

~Meredith Purk

Ransomware Warning: Creators – Beware!

Note: This post contains a little profanity, which isn’t usually like me. You’ve been warned.

As my day job now involves working at a computer service and repair shop, I often deal with the aftermath of infections: Viruses, malware, ransomware, you name it, we’re here to help remove it. All sales pitches aside (most of you would be well out of the range of our service center anyway) there is something I encountered for the first time that gave me pause:

CryptoWall 2.0. (This link points to an article about it, not the actual malware itself!)

CryptoWall 2.0 is the newest player in the filecrypt/filelocker malware category. And it can be a real pain in the ass. The original CryptoWall appeared in April of this year, and it worked very similarly to older malware programs like CryptoLocker. Essentially, they encrypt documents on your computer (text documents, pdfs, photos, spreadsheets, etc.). They then offer you the encryption key to unlock your files if you pay a ransom.

In the case of older malware like CryptoLocker, there exist utilities and even a website that can help you obtain a key free of charge. No such luck at this point with CryptoWall 2.0, especially because the newest version just came out last month and it uses RSA-2048 encryption. To crack this without the private key they generate for each computer, it would take potentially thousands of years to ‘brute force’ on today’s typical computer power. So it’s not happening. You could pay them the ransom (which starts at one rate and then climbs over time in an effort to get you to pay sooner than later) but that bites because then they win.

Sadly, right now there isn’t any way to unlock files without paying the ransom. But there are some things to know about it to help protect yourself.

1) How it Works

It’s usually infecting computers via email attachments that look important or business-oriented (invoices, purchase orders, etc.). When it executes on your computer, it looks for documents that it can encrypt, and then makes an encrypted copy of them. The originals are then securely deleted (so ordinary recovery/undelete software can’t find them) and a nifty, helpful DECRYPT_INSTRUCTIONS file is placed in every directory in which it found files.

Lastly, it deletes any Shadow Volume Copies (a nifty term for back up copies that Windows may create) to again prevent you from recovering non-encrypted versions of the files. And it doesn’t just hit the files on your C: drive – it searches all drives on a computer, including things mapped as ‘network drives.’ If you have a flash drive or android device mounted, it could encrypt those. If your Dropbox account is mapped as a network drive, it would try encrypting those as well. If you have a cloud storage device or removable hard drive or you map drives from other computers in your home or business to your machine, they are also at risk of being searched and encrypted.

2) What Happens Next

Once it runs, that’s usually the end of it. Unless it executes again more files or new files cannot be encrypted. It doesn’t spread like viruses do to other computers, so just because it may encrypt files on a drive that is shared with a network, that doesn’t mean it will also encrypt files on other computers that access that drive.

The only way to recover your documents is from backed up copies that weren’t affected by CryptoWall 2.0. And that can be problematic because if you are currently running a differential backup (a type of backup that checks for changes in a file and then updates/overwrites the back up with those newer versions) you run the risk that the backup software will identify your encrypted files as the latest and greatest version and (you guessed it!) possibly overwrite the backup with those useless, locked copies.

3) How To Recover

Your system needs to be cleaned and/or wiped for a Windows Reinstall to ensure that viruses or the encryption software is gone. Those files on there that are locked are (currently) lost until someone discovers a way to break the encryption or identify a weakness in the ransomware (or if you are desperate enough, you can pay them and currently they will actually provide you with the key and a utility to unlock your stuff).

You’ll need to restore from your backups to truly recover your documents in most cases. If your Dropbox or cloud storage service is affected, check if they have versioning which essentially means they keep multiple versions of your files for a time in case you accidentally overwrite something with an unwanted version. (Opening a word document, holding down backspace from the end of the document until all the text is gone and then saving it technically creates the newest version, but that doesn’t mean its the one you want to keep!) If they have versioning, like Dropbox does, you can view/restore previous versions of the files before they were encrypted.

4) How to Protect Yourself

There is a utility available from FoolishIT that is designed to help prevent programs like CryptoWall from executing. Like any utility, there could be consequences to using it since it works by limiting the ability of some programs to run on certain file paths of your system.

In closing, it would be devastating for most of us to risk losing access to ALL of the documents on our computer and potentially our backups. So be careful out there.

~ Meredith Purk

NaNo Update – Day 12

Ah, ’tis the season of a thousand blog posts with some mixture of NaNo, NaNoWriMo, or NoWriMo in the title. So I figure, why not me? (National Novel Writing Month, by the way.)

Why Not Zoidberg?

I’m working on a novel project myself this month, with the impending deadlines of November 30th and 50,000 words looming on the horizon. Hence, I’m going to keep this brief, yes?

I was off to a very slow start, with only a few hundred words to my name for the first few days. When I finally bothered to even check in a word count on Day 4, it was just over a thousand. Now it’s picked up a little bit – and, admittedly, I don’t know how much it’s picked up because I have a lot of handwritten progress that I haven’t got an accurate count on (Don’t always have a computer with me, you know?). I’ve been splitting my time this week between trying to write on the novel, and trying to transcribe handwritten prose into my word processor so I can get a tally on the word counts. So… now my word counts look all sorts of weird: 400 words one day, over 2,000 the next…

…but will I finish on time? NaNo projects I will need to write 2,357 words/day to finish on time, but I still have about ten pages of written manuscript and garbled short hand to retype. So making the goal is not inconceivable.

Well, that’s it. Just a quick update on the writing front before I go back into the trenches.

Oh. And Michelle Proulx launched her IndieGoGo campaign to pay back for the new cover art for her book re-launch. So. Yeah, that’s a thing.

~ Meredith Purk

Cover Reveal for the New Imminent Danger!

So, I guess its time. My own journey into self-publishing came as my wife and I released her first and second books in her Through the Eyes of a Stranger series. A short time ago, I was contacted by Michelle Proulx, whose own self-publishing journey has taken a new twist: She’s re-releasing her book Imminent Danger: And How to Fly Straight into It.

Now, with control over the cover art in her hands, she has revealed the new cover for the up-and-coming republished work, designed by Ravven.

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal

I think it looks okay. The book’s not bad, either. You know, for being something someone up in Canadia came up with.

~ Meredith Purk

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses…

(Warning – this is so stream-of-consciousness-y and journal-esque it makes me shudder, but its healing. Read if you dare)

So here I am. Just a little over three months since my last post. Three months. 3 MONTHS. It sort of echoes, cuts through and around you. I feel submerged in that thought.

I could make up excuses, right? I did take a new job, one doing what I want to do, what I went to school to do. And that’s exciting. I’ve been doing customer service and retail for fourteen years of my life, and though I’m still working in the service industry and still interfacing with customers, it’s with technology, with computers. It’s a reasonable reason (are we ever reasonable when it comes to reasoning?) not to be on here working on my projects, right? Getting used to a new change takes time and energy. I mean, that’s only human. But the truth of it is, it doesn’t matter how many excuses I try to make.

I haven’t been writing.

That’s inexcusable.

But my wife has. And book number three is waiting for my edits. Then off to the next person, and the next. And I still have interior art and maps and layout and formatting and cover art… I don’t feel buried by it, not by any stretch. But she’s also trying to tell me I need to focus on my projects. My writing.

Oh, right, only I haven’t been.

So tonight I sat back down to continue with my pass on her edits. Then I can send it off to two more people for their turn. And while that is happening, I’m going to:

Write.

verb (used with object), wrote or (Archaic) writ; written or (Archaic) writ; writing.
6. to produce as author or composer:
“to write a sonnet; to write a symphony.”

Wright.

noun
1. (now chiefly in combination) a person who creates, builds, or repairs something specified:
“a playwright, a shipwright”

Rite.

noun
1. a formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use:
“rites of baptism; sacrificial rites.”

Right.

adjective
4. fitting or appropriate; suitable:
“the right solution; the right answer.”

~Meredith Purk

Through the Eyes of A Stranger – Pieces Book Release

So for the past twenty-four hours I’ve been working on finalizing everything for the release of my wife’s second book. (Well, I did sleep, so it hasn’t been a solid 24).

While there have been a few snags, everything is starting to take shape, though admittedly later than I’d have cared for. The Kindle version was listed as in review when I went to bed last night, yet when I awoke this morning it was back to draft status. Either something went wrong, or my addled mind imagined publishing it? Who can say. Hopefully, that is being corrected now.

And Smashwords, as elusive as the chemistry for a proper eManuscript is, is now pending review as well. I think I could write a book on getting bookmarks working in Smashwords, but someone else already has.

There still remains the Kobo eBook version, but Lulu is just about wrapped up as well (though distribution to the iBook store, etc. will take a little longer).

All in all, a great day! (Oh, and something called a PS4 came out, too? *shrugs*)

~Meredith Purk

13 days to go!

Yes, indeed, the time is drawing near. And here I sit, working on said ‘pictures’ and layout. Well, the layout is pretty much locked in. We know where the interior art is going. And I only have two pieces of artwork left to finished, a piece of scenery and a map. Then it will be off to the presses for an author copy!

~Meredith Purk