Edie Melson: Don’t Get Hacked. 8 Tips to Stay Safe Online.

Edie Melson, Social Media Steampunk, and Molly Jo Realy, Woman of Mystery, at BRMCWC

Edie Melson, Social Media Steampunk, and Molly Jo Realy, Woman of Mystery, at BRMCWC

I met Edie within minutes of arriving at my first Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2015. By the end of Tuesday night, she had not only mentored me in her classes, but we became friends. I still remember as the conference came to a close, she told me, “You better stay in touch, girl. We’re cut from the same cloth.” I couldn’t have a better compliment from someone I respect so much.


While you can find me at her blog, The Write Conversation, every third Monday of the month, I wanted my own readers to experience her knowledge. This month, she shares 8 tips to stay safe online.

Don’t Get Hacked!

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never be hacked. Especially since, as writers today, this is where we spend so much of our time. But there are a LOT of things we can do to lower the odds of it happening.

This week I want to give you some tips on how to keep from being hacked online. This advice will continue to change because inevitably, the more wise we become at protecting ourselves, the more cunning those wishing us harm become.

The majority of times we get hacked it’s because we clicked a link that uploaded a virus which opened us up to hackers.

This is the bad news, but there’s also good news. This kind of hacking is preventable, and here are some steps to take to stay safe online.

  1. Be wise. This seems basic, but so many times we just ignore our better judgment. How many of us have been sucked in by direct messages like these? “Have you heard the rumors your friend is spreading about you?” or “This is a hilarious video just uploaded about you.” Stop. Think. Then DON’T click that link!
  1. Assume it’s a lie. Awhile back, I got an email from an online company confirming a large purchase with my credit card. I knew I hadn’t made any purchases, but still had to fight the urge to panic. My gut response was to reply to the email. Thankfully, I took a step back and looked more closely at the email. I noticed several things that made me suspicious. I immediately did an online search for scams involving that company and came up with pages of recent victims. I contacted the company directly (not through the info in their email) and confirmed the email was a ruse to steal my information.
  1. Never give out sensitive information. Let me repeat, NEVER GIVE OUT SENSITIVE INFORMATION! Companies don’t ask for bank account info, passwords or other information over the internet. First, if you’re a customer, they already have all of your information they need. Keeping up with personal passwords is a liability for companies.
  1. Stop accepting friend requests on Facebook from people you don’t know. If you’ve read my blog for long, you know that I run my personal FB profile as a public forum. BUT I still don’t allow “FRIEND” access to strangers. There was a time when we could look at common friends as a sort of endorsement for accepting a connect. That time is GONE. The only time I might consider looking further at a possible friendship would be if we had HUNDREDS of friends in common.
  1. Never share personal data while you’re on a public Wi-Fi. This includes logging into sites when you must type in a password. It’s okay to bring up a site you’re already logged into, but NEVER type a password in a public place. Not only is it a risk, but it’s so easy to counterfeit a public Wi-Fi and make it look legitimate.
  1. Use two-level authentication whenever possible. For instance, when I log into my Google account from a new device or new location, I receive a text message with an additional code I must type in. This has saved me so many times. A lot of networks offer this option and I always sign up for it. It may seem frustrating when you’re in a hurry. The truth is, when we’re rushed is when we’re not paying attention and we’re often more vulnerable.
  1. For PC users, invest in a good security program. And good programs don’t necessarily mean expensive programs. AVG is excellent and has free options.
  1. Have a different password for EVERY site you’re on. And change your passwords every six months. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I cannot emphasize this strong enough. Your password must be different for every account you have. That can seem overwhelming. If you’re like me you probably have dozens of accounts, so how can we keep up with all those passwords? Trust me, it’s not with sticky notes or a file on your computer. Every single time I share this information, someone confesses that they have a file on their computer and no one will know it’s there because it’s labeled INFO or something similar.

Instead, take advantage of some wonderful programs. Some charge a small fee, others are free—all have the highest security rating available. And they all have apps so you can access your accounts from your mobile devices.



Keepass X (for Mac) and Keepass (for PC)

I’ve heard people suggest that these programs are a security risk. The experts disagree and so do I. Look for ones that have AES-256 encryption (and ideally two-factor authentication) to make certain your information stays safe.

There are also blank booklets available for those of you who are old school and want something you can hold in your hand. I’ve seen them at local discount stores, as well as high-end specialty stores.

Now it’s your turn, what are some tricks you use to stay safe online? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Frankly, My Dear . . . Edie Melson: Don't Get Hacked. Click To Tweet

Edie Melson

Edie Melson—author, blogger, and speaker is a prolific writer with years of experience in the publishing industry. Her best-selling ebook has been expanded and re-released as Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. Her popular industry blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month.

In addition, she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Social Media director for Southern Writers Magazine, Social Media Mentor for My Book Therapy and the Senior Editor at Novel Rocket. You can also connect with Edie through Twitter and Facebook.

And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!


#AmWriting: Keeping Track with Story Cards

AmWriting: Story Cards

AmWriting: Story Cards

Some are discovery writers. Some are outliners. Some are in-betweeners.

Whatever the plotting style, great writers track their story from start to finish.

I, not yet being a great world-famous writer, was in my fifth chapter of NOLA when I realized I’d used much of the same language in Chapter Two. Now, we all know New Orleans is worth visiting more than once, but this novel is a mystery, not a time travel sci-fi.  So, back to the old storyboard I went.

Only I didn’t have a storyboard. No worries. I remembered enough to keep it from happening again. Until I didn’t. And it did. Chapters Eight, Twelve, and Fifteen all began to sound just a little too familiar. It took a few days of reviewing and re-reading to discover the duplicate matter and correct it.

You may already know this, but I am not an outliner. I am a discovery writer. Sure, I can tell you how I expect NOLA to end. But getting from A to B to C? I don’t know all the details ahead of time. I know it when it happens. I have a general idea, but basically I like to let the characters tell me what to write. I figure I’m just the translator to the life they are already living. Too deep? Sorry. It’s a writer’s truth. Quite often your characters will say and do things you never expected. Even if you’re an outliner.

And if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know in the last few weeks, they’ve thrown a few curve balls.

I also realized, being from the Southern California desert, I was a little too in love with writing about the humidity in the Crescent City. Of course my lead character, also from the desert, finds it unique, refreshing, but at times oppressive. But she doesn’t have to mention it in every conversation, does she? Nor do I have to make it rain in every chapter.

With two hundred pages written, I was beginning to struggle with following the little details, and found myself spending too much time scrolling back and forth in the document to verify whether this thing happened or that character did something or, yes, whether or not it rained in the last two pages.

So I devised a helpful tool that I’ve shared with a few fellow writers, and now I’m sharing it with you.

#AmWriting: Story Card Kit

#AmWriting: Story Card Kit



The Story Card Kit consists of:

  • Card box
  • Lined Index cards
  • Colored pen
  • Black pen
  • Pencil



My kit not only helps me track the story. It also gives me insight into character growth and little details I want to focus on. New Orleans is famous for its food so of course I want to reference just the right amount in each chapter.

Characters, conflicts, location, weather, food . . . That’s a lot to remember, yes? My cards make easy reference and when laid out in sequence, help me see the bigger picture.

Some scenes are great, others need work. Maybe Chapter Seventeen, Scene Two could really be Chapter Ten, Scene Four.

Being able to pull the cards out of order is a lot less messy than deconstructing the story in a Word doc.

NOLA Story Cards

NOLA Story Cards

Here are the vital elements for each NOLA card:

  • Day: References the day the story started, and the day of the week. Also time of day, and/or specific calendar dates if necessary.
  • Chapter/Scene: Tracks how many scenes in a chapter.
  • Characters: Follows the important people. Also tracks secondary characters.
  • Conflict- Major: What is propelling the drama forward?
  • Conflict- Minor: Are there smaller issues? These may later turn into bigger issues.
  • Location: How often are my characters at home, in town, or in a specific place?
  • Weather: Has there been too much rain? Is there a storm coming? Is it a clear, sunny afternoon?
  • First line: How does this scene start? It should grab the reader immediately.
  • Last line: Does it make the reader want to continue?
  • Best lines: My characters can be quippy or snotty. New Orleans has its own voice. The best lines from each scene, when brought together, create a fun summary of the book and keep me on track.

When I’m going somewhere I can’t take my laptop, I bring my story card kit. I can read, review, make notes and process changes. I can draft new scenes. So even when I’m not writing, I’m writing.

Now it’s your turn: What tips and tricks do you have for keeping track of your story?

And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!