Thursday, October 1, 2015

En Garde! Password Protect Everything! A Real Life Suspense Story By Rolynn Anderson

I committed a horrible blunder the first week we traveled in Europe, and have learned many lessons because of it.  The upside? I’m thinking, if I write a suspense story about this experience, I won’t feel as stupid as I feel right now.

It starts with our 180+ mile-an-hour train ride from Paris to Aix En Provence, a lovely experience in our upstairs coach, watching the beautiful French countryside buzzing by.  The ride is so smooth, my husband and I are feeling quite pampered.  I take my computer out of my backpack and unzip it from its protective container, putting the case to my side.  I’ll do a little work as we speed across country. Two and a half hours later, we stop in Avignon.  We notice people get off the train quickly; others get on as quickly, and off we go.  The train barely gets up to speed when we arrive at Aix and everyone is wildly pulling luggage out and preparing to get off the train…it’s a frantic atmosphere that we catch on to, hurriedly putting our things together and edging to the stairs so we’re ready to get off.  The train goes to Marseille next; by the stern looks and impatient whistles from the conductors, their schedule is tight. 

So Steve and I gather our things and get off the train thinking about our next maneuver-catching a bus to Aix.  We get that figured out, bus to Aix, taxi to our new place, and settle in.  I realize I better power up my computer, so I pull it out of my backpack, to realize I’ve left the protective container on the train.  Worse, I mean MONUMENTALLY distressing, my external hard drive is zipped into that missing container.  EVERYTHING I’ve got on my computer is in my external hard drive.  Yes.  EVERY…DAMN…THING!

First, I go on line to determine out how to get my hard drive back.  TGV (the French bullet train) has an English, user-friendly site to claim my loss, and, amazingly, a drop-down category under lost electronics labeled “hard drives.”  No way to call TGV; e-mail is my only recourse.  Magic would have to be on my side to ever get this hard drive back (and I’d have to go to Marseille to get it).

But you’ve already figured out the biggest problem: All my files, my books, my personal stuff, including a file with a list of passwords, is readily available to anyone who plugs in my hard drive.  There wasn’t a way to password protect my hard drive and I did not protect my files individually.  Dumb, Dumb, Dumb.  After a couple of days here, I discover that MAC is well-loved by the French.  There’s a huge Mac store here, packed with people all hours of the day.  My external drive, nursed on a MAC, has a large audience in this country.  Now I’m nervous.  Really nervous.

Important: After you read the last sentence of this blog, go and password-protect your computer in case it’s stolen or lost (I’ve done that now), and give passwords to individual files you don’t want anyone to see (also done.)  You’ve already guessed that my husband and I have changed a couple dozen passwords by now.  I realize we’re supposed to switch out passwords often, but we hadn’t.  It’s done now.  Call that a positive.

I don’t want to think about what could happen to my books should those files get into the wrong hands.  My personal stuff?  To the blackmailer, I'll say everything I write is fiction.  In fact, because I research some of the darker subjects known to humankind, my files probably look like a sociopath’s!  (I’m saying this to make myself feel better?  Really?)

Chances are my external drive lies in a garbage dump outside the Marseille train station (where they clean the train cars).  I hope.

As I said, I plan to use this 'loss' plot in a book or short story soon.  Lemonade out of lemons, I say!

My goal is to write about trauma, not live it, so let's talk about my last novel.  You'll witness the many shades of anxiety in FEAR LAND.  My readers tell me the novel stretched their learning about anxiety and they’re anxious to have their friends read the book.

That makes me smile.  An engaging suspense story with a touch of paranormal to let your imagination run free, a high concept, and a chance to learn something new…that’s what reading is all about!

This is FEAR LAND:
Tally hates to hear rants from people’s brains.  What does she do when those mind-screams threaten
the man she loves?
Tally Rosella, an acclaimed psychiatrist who helps children fraught with anxiety, avoids adults because their brains rant at her.  But the chance to start a second child study and connect her findings to PTSD, sets her squarely among devious colleagues at a big California university.

Army Major Cole Messer, Tally’s new neighbor, won’t admit that trauma from combat tours in Afghanistan, destroyed his marriage and hampered his ability to lead.  As a teacher of college ROTC and single parent, he’s focused on enrolling his highly anxious son in Tally’s study and getting back to active duty.

Someone is dead set against Tally’s presence at the university, and blowback from her battles with co-workers put Cole and his son in jeopardy.  Watch what happens when people struggling with shades of anxiety collide with corrupt, revengeful foes.

FEAR LAND on Amazon


Leah St. James said...

Oh no. How awful. I kept hoping for a happy ending, Rolynn, but didn't get one! Will keep my fingers crossed that the case found its way to the garbage dump--that seems the least of all the possible evils. Sounds like you've done everything you can to mitigate the loss. Somewhat ironically, when I opened the link to this blog post, I got a message from Google about its collection of data from my visit here!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for commiserating, Leah. I don't think so much about a person stealing my books...which could for someone reading my private stuff. I have a whole new perspective about ownership, privacy and vulnerability. And I'm such an organized, careful person (usually). Heavy sigh.

Diane Burton said...

Oh, Rolynn, how awful. I can see how it could happen with the rush of passengers getting off & on the train. I'll watch for the lemonade you make out of this experience.

Loved Fear Land. Great thriller.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I use Carbonite to back up my computer in case of crash or whatever but NEVER considered what it would mean if I lost my computer. Great post. Just sorry it didn't have that happy ending I was looking for along with Leah.

And I've read the Fear Land. Great read!

Jannine Gallant said...

If no one has hacked your bank accounts, etc. by now, hopefully that means all is okay and the hard drive didn't fall into the wrong hands. I just email myself my files as a backup plan. At least I've password protected my laptop, but not individual files. Still hoping for a happy (or at least not horrible) ending to this!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Chalk up another one here waiting for that happy ending. It's still possible, right? You have a terrific attitude about the entire fiasco. Gives a new take on live and learn. That blurb still gives me goose bumps. Can't wait to wade into the whole story.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Brenda and Diane, thanks for your upbeat comments on FEAR LAND. Brings me up when these 'down' events happen :-) Margo, glad the blurb got your juices flowing about FEAR LAND.

Jannine, I have an automatic backup system with Mosy (like Carbonite), but when we travel, I can't depend on it when WiFi is spotty. So I had this glorious external hard drive, which I'd usually keep separate from the computer. I know, water over the bridge. Moving on...

Raises two questions:
1. If a person really wanted to get into a password protected computer...they could, I'm sure...same with a protected file.
2. What files warrant separate passwords? This could get complicated if we pass protect all our final manuscripts and all their formats!

Happy Ending? Working on it from my angle; wonder if the person who cleaned under seat # 71 has my back?

Alison Henderson said...

My computer is password protected, but I would have had a heart attack if that had happened to me! I can tell from you pictures that you've managed to move past it and are enjoying your trip. I hope the rest of the vacation is fabulous. said...

As they say in New York, Oyyoyyoy! A word of warning, since the bank accounts and credit cards are US, some french person may even now be auctioning off the info. I'd put a temporary freeze on your credit with Experion and co. How do I know all this? One of my credit cards has been compromised no less than 4 times. Happily, It's always been resolved. Keep your eyes open and I'll await that next book!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Alison, thank you for the upbeat message. I rarely let big or small problems stay with me for long. Hope you're getting some good feedback on your picture choices.

Andi, I feel so foolish, but fortunately, bank passwords were not a part of my 'open' information. I hope I've changed all the other important passwords, but who knows. I heard about a person who published a book under their own name even if it was written by another person...can you believe it? Talk about 'OY!'...the attorneys fees! Crossing fingers that the external drive is in the dumpster!

Mary Gillgannon said...

Scary stuff and I appreciate the reminder. My list of passwords is on paper and I always carry it separately from my laptop. Not to mention my laptop has minimal stuff on it so all they would get is my latest WIP. Which I backup on a jump drive which I carry in the computer case, which is dumb, I realize now. Thanks.