Thoughts

Thoughts.

roads | Guy L. PaceOld, familiar country roads with the family names of friends from long ago.

Rivers, fish hatcheries, springs, and waterfalls.

Relics on the side of the road.

Buildings made of lava rock.

Long roads across vast basins.

US 93 isn’t the road it was in 1973.

Old hot springs oasis resort sits abandoned.

City limits sign and no hint or view of a city. Until directions to a bordello appears over the hill.

Vistas of mountains.

And, then:

Bonneville. Salt. Flats.

Bucket List Item. Check. Seeing it for the first time as I came over the ridge from West Wendover was jaw-dropping. I can’t describe it. A photo just won’t do it justice. You have to see this yourself.

Yeah, Bonneville is flat and yes, it is salt. Oh my goodness. Dreams do come true. I rode out on the salt. Then I did a burnout!

Yep. Bucket List item. Check.

Hot. Hot. And, more hot.

Salt everywhere. Ponds of salt. Mountains of salt. Ponds with salt-bergs floating around in them. Salt crusting things along the road.

Pink salt.

The Great Salt Lake.

Catching up with a dear cousin I haven’t seen in entirely too long.

Night ride with the crescent moon and Saturn over my shoulder.

Keep writing.

 

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Birthday | Guy L. PaceWell, Happy Birthday to me, anyway.

I know we celebrate our nation’s birth with the signing of The Declaration of Independence on July 4. Actually the delegates endorsed it on July 2, 1776. Congress adopted it on July 4, 1776. So, this little celebration I’m launching will cover these days–which includes my own birthday.

July 3 is an important date throughout history. For example:

  • 1035, William the Conqueror became Duke of Normandy;
  • 1863, Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg;
  • 1890, Idaho admitted to the US;
  • 1962, Jackie Robinson inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame;
  • 1996, the Stone of Scone returned to Scotland.

So, yes, there is reason to celebrate and here we go.

Still, you all are the ones getting the gifts.

First Gift

Here’s the deal. I’m making the Amazon e-book editions of Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers free ($0.00) on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. Just for the one day. That’s tomorrow.

If you already have the ebooks, you can gift them to friends. You can also share this post with others. I’ll link on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, so if you are on those platforms, you can share the information there. And, please do so.

Second Gift

Carolina Dawn | Guy L. PaceThe Amazon e-book edition of Carolina Dawn goes on sale–a countdown sale–starting today. It starts at $0.99, shifts to $1.99 later on July 3, then goes back to the regular price of $2.99 at midnight on July 4. That’s Pacific Daylight Time, if you’re in another time zone.

If you already have it, again, you can gift it to others at these prices. As above, share this on the social media of your choice.

Reviews

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m always trying to find more reviews for Spirit Missions books. If you take advantage of this celebration, please take a few minutes to post a review or rating on Amazon. Anything helps.

So, let the celebration begin!

Keep writing.

 

Reviews & Reviewing

Reviews & Reviewing

Reviews | Guy L. PaceI’m involved in a round-robin review group for Christian writers on Goodreads. I love writing and reading. Reviewing other’s work is a challenge.

I don’t mind getting reviews from others, be they readers or writers. I learn from them no matter how critical they might get. But, writing a review of someone else’s work … that can be a minefield.

Fortunately, the folks involved in the round-robin are honest and direct, and give good reviews.

I wrote a couple of reviews so far and they were honest, constructive reviews of stories that I liked. They aren’t my normal reading fare, but it never hurts to explore new material. I posted the reviews, then crawled into a corner until the authors responded positively to the comments.

Whew!

More Reviews

I’m well into another book that I’m enjoying and will review it soon. In addition, I have some new reviews for Sudden Mission, both on Amazon and Goodreads. In this next round, I hope to see more reviews of Nasty Leftovers. This round-robin works out well, and my reviews are increasing.

Granted, the new reviews are by other authors and not my target audience (teens). But, getting teens to review on Amazon or anywhere else is very difficult. I used a little meme on Facebook a couple of times to prod folks to review.

Reviewing | Guy L. PaceThe rules are simple, if not completely accurate today. I know Amazon has changed some of their rules for reviews. For example, they usually do not accept reviews of books by friends of the author, or family members. How they figure that out is beyond me.

The Rules

As for Rule #1, that is true. But, if you buy the book and review it, you get a “verified purchase” tag on your review. That might impact the “algorithms.”

Rule #4, though, is the most important. Authors need reviews. More reviews move a book’s status in the rankings on Amazon. They make the title more visible to other readers. They help other readers make decisions on what to choose to read.

Sure, not all reviews or ratings are five-star. Not everyone likes the same thing. My books aren’t everyone’s favorite genre. But, a review is a review and I appreciate every single one I get.

Hurts

Some comments in reviews can inflict pain in the author. That’s part of growing a thick skin–which we need to survive. No one is perfect, no author writes a perfect book. Accepting that and moving on is important.

I try to keep that in mind as I review other author’s work. No, the book isn’t my cup of tea. Maybe the book needs an editor. Maybe there are issues with the story. But, I can address that with constructive, positive comments. I made the mistake of being too blunt and critical in a review once. It hurt a relationship. That’s the minefield I mentioned earlier.

Care. You write and you read. The only way this business can get better is if we all care and comment positively and constructively.

Keep reading.

Keep writing.

 

 

 

A Back Door?

A Back Door?


Back Door | Guy L. Pace
What is a back door? Not long ago, we heard a lot in the media about one group needing a back door to the product of another group so we can all be kept safer. Yeah, this column is going to get a little bit technical, geeky. Sorry. But, I’ll try to make it educational and fun.

The one group–specifically Apple–is being pressured by other groups–the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DoJ)–to allow back door access to a proprietary encryption system used by that first group. Apple designed the encryption system to provide customers (you) a reasonable expectation of security and privacy in their transactions and communications.

Certain events over the last couple of years brought to the surface the FBI’s inability to break the encryption and discover evidence in possible criminal investigation without going through destructive processes that may or may not compromise the physical evidence.

So, people in the FBI voiced their desire for Apple to provide law enforcement a back door to their encryption. Of course, law enforcement would prevent the unauthorized release of the back door. Right?

And, there is the rub.

Expectation

Let’s examine this from a different angle. Door locks. We all have door locks, right? Front door. Back door. Side door. They all have locks. And, matched to those locks, we have keys with specific combinations of cuts in the little metal shaft. Sometimes we have a different key for each lock, sometimes a set of locks use the same key. You close a door, use the key to lock it and you’re good and secure. That’s the expectation.

The problem is there are ways to bypass the security of the lock and key. One method is lock-picking which requires specific tools, skills, and lots of practice. Another is the use of bump keys. When tapped, bump keys are specially cut keys designed to bounce a lock’s pins so the lock can be opened without having a correctly cut key. It does no damage and leaves no trace of the intrusion.

So, only locksmiths have these bump keys, right? The original concept was for use by locksmiths in the maintenance, disassembly, and repair of locks.

Well, that was the intention. Read that Wikipedia article.

Anyone with a few dollars and access to the Internet can buy any of the various bump keys for all the types of locks. It’s the same with lock picking tools (though the skills are much more difficult to acquire). To be honest, there is a whole field of work and study on breaking the physical locks we make. The purpose of this work is to make locks more effective, more secure.*

But, how secure do you feel now?

Technology

So, as technology advances, we have digital locks for our doors. We manage and control these locks through our household network and our smartphones. As we add more and more devices and functions controlled by our smartphones to our homes and lives, we become more dependent on their security. And, we are more threatened by any lapse in security.

A large part of the security provided by the new technology is the end-to-end encryption provided in the Apple smartphone operating system (iOS) and the other platforms in the Apple stable. End-to-end encryption means that from the smartphone to wherever the data is stored or managed, it is encrypted with a very strong algorithm. No point in the process exists where the data is un-encrypted by anyone. The only person with the key to encrypt and decrypt your data is you. Apple does not have the key and cannot see your data.

So, this is what sticks in the FBI and DoJ craw. Even with a court order, Apple cannot provide access to your data without your cooperation. Granted, the FBI could have solved much of their problem with Apple devices had they listened and worked cooperatively with Apple using legal means.

The Answer?

But, is the answer a back door?

Think about it. The FBI is asking Apple for the equivalent of a bump key into the Apple encryption system. To access information related to criminal investigations. Or, get access to our data using secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrants. Of course, they won’t access our data illegally and only with probably cause.

And, law enforcement would keep that bump key–er, back door–out of the hands of criminals.

Right. That back door key would be one of the highest priority targets for criminals worldwide. As soon as it gets in the hands of criminals, game over.

So, just how secure would you feel with anyone having a back door key to Apple’s encryption?

If any of this confuses you at all, walk through it one or more times. The issues are real, but the article is an exercise in reframing.

Reframing

Sometimes, as writers, we have to take an issue and reframe it into another context to get a clearer understanding of what the issue is, what it means, what impact it may have, and even see the truth of it. I brought my experience from information security and learning about lock picking and bump keys to reframe the issue of encryption back doors.

Does this help bring a clearer, better understanding to the issue? Maybe. But it is a great mental exercise and can help in bringing complex issues to a story in a realistic way. For example, build a scenario from the information above to craft a story around someone who just discovers that there is a back door to their device operating system, and criminals now have access to home security, bank accounts, and all manner of information. Talk about horror story material.

Keep writing.

(* Yes, I’ve worked with bump keys and lock picking tools as part of my work and research in information security. Information security conferences often have demonstrations on picking locks and using bump keys.)

 

Rules of the Game

Rules of the Game

Rules | Guy L. PaceEvery game has rules. Some are easy to understand. Some, not so much. It’s the rules that can drive us nuts, though.

Solitaire (the classic, Vegas rules version) is a losing game. There is no way to win long-term in that game. The rules protect “the house” and that is by design. The house is the casino, or the hosting organization allowing you to play. The rules are pretty simple.

Shuffle the cards, deal out the seven piles (the tableau), set the rest in a pile (the stock) nearby. Play all the possible cards showing in the tableau. Then begin taking one cards at a time from the stock and play it if possible. If not, place it on the waste pile (the talon). Once you go through the stock once, you’re done and the game is over.

If you are fortunate, you’ll get to stack suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs) on the foundations (the four piles at the top where you place the aces of each suit and proceed to stack the rest of the suit numerically). If you are very fortunate, you’ll end the game by completing all four suits in the foundations and clear the stock and the tableau.

Reality

But, nine times out of ten, you will only get one or two aces in the foundations, and maybe a few more cards.

See, to start, you ante up for $52 for each game. One dollar for each card in the deck–for each game. The house will pay you back $5 for each card placed in the foundations. If you lose $20 to $40 each hand you’ll find yourself in negative dollar land in short order.

You see, the odds are not in your favor–no matter what that strange-looking person in The Hunger Games says. While you can win a game once in a while, your chances of winning enough to stay even or gain a little are abysmal. The odds against winning two games in a row is huge. It’s designed to separate you from your money.

Gaming

Knowing all this, playing a solitaire game on your laptop when your life savings isn’t on the line is still a fun pastime, and supposedly is good exercise for your brain. But, how does this play when you are writing a situation for a character? I used solitaire for an example, but the odds and rules for roulette, blackjack, and other gambling games are always stacked in favor of the house. That won’t change.

How many times have you seen or read characters getting to Las Vegas with just a few bucks to their names, and in a few hours riding out of town in a new Cadillac and pockets full of cash. Aside from special talents (Starman), the odds against this kind of thing happening is astronomical. Then there is the house itself. Someone watches all games, players, dealers, all the time. If anything looks hinkey (this is Tabitha’s word), someone from the house shows up and takes the offending person(s) off the floor and maybe out the door.

Jackpot

Once in a while someone hits a jackpot. That’s by design. The good fortune of the odd player keeps the rest of the folks playing. Without that odd jackpot, the rest of the players in the facility would not have any hope of winning.

This doesn’t mean good things don’t happen. When my wife and I were leaving Reno many years ago, there was a gaming system right there in the gate concourse. I had a few coins left of our “to play” stash, so I plugged a few into the machine and played one last game before our flight home started boarding.

I won $10.

Keep writing.