Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wordcraft -- Kittens, couture & tech for non-techies

Things I learned from tech geek James Gaskin: easiest password technique ever, why every writer needs a kitten, and that Hawaiian-style shirts know no season.

I already knew about Hawaiian shirts from watching Gaskin man the audio system at the monthly meetings of the Southwester chapter of Mystery Writers of America. But I didn’t learn the technique that will make me throw away my scribbled stash of passwords until I heard him speak at the recent meeting of the Writers Guild of Texas.

It was part of the wisdom Gaskin disbursed in his “Technology for Writers: Tips, Tools, and Tricks to Produce and Promote Your Words” program for the WGT audience gathered at the Richardson, Texas, library.

In between working his day job, Technical Solutions for Small Business, Gaskin writes (his latest books are Texas Hysterical Society and Email From A Dead Friend), and delivers his signature deadpan humor.

“Somebody once asked me for my best writing advice in a word,” Gaskin said, opening his talk. “I thought¾ ‘Finish’! So thanks for having me, it’s been a pleasure.”

Seriously, he stayed to offer a simple tip for constructing passwords, which have morphed into pass phrases. “The trick today is to have a different password for every site.” Unfortunately, most of us find this so daunting we use the same passwords for multiple sites, or succumb to jotting them down, or to trusting management of our dozens of passwords to online sites. Gaskin’s formula: “I have four numbers that mean something to me, then I have something (alpha) in the middle that means something to me, then another four numbers and a special character,” for example, “1234WGT5678!”. Or “1234MWA5678!”

Tempted to use your birthday for the numbers? Think again. As Gaskin said, “Nobody on the Internet deserves the truth from me. When I’m asked what my birthday is on the Internet, it’s not my real birthday.”

But how often do you change your passwords, an audience member asked. Gaskin’s answer: “I don’t, because I know the people who stole a password at Target don’t have my password for the Writers Guild.”

There was, of course, much more technical know how (we stayed until the library’s PA system warned it was about to close), but you’ll have to contact Gaskin at
www.gaskin.com for the full accounting and his list of helpful writing, organizing and editing software. I only have space now for his words of wisdom about kittens: get one. But first, get a blog.

And then, “Write this on your hand,” Gaskin said. “Never post a blog without an image. And if you can put a picture of a kitten on your blog, do it! I got a kitten, just for pictures.”

The illustration is of, yes, the real James Gaskin (in the marvelous shirt) with a crowd of admirers. Now if I could only manage to squeeze in a kitten¼


Totallyunrelated useful bytes: Oops, I goofed on the dates for the Dallas Public Library’s expansion of Sunday-Monday hours. New hours for the Audelia Road, Dallas West, North Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn, Paul Laurence Dunbar Lancaster-Kiest, and Preston Royal branches will begin Monday, April 6. All library branches will be closed April 5 for Easter.

And this coming Saturday, February 7, my friend Kathleen Rodgers launches her latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately, at Barnes & Noble, Southlake, TX, from 2-4pm. Kathleen will sign copies of the 2nd edition of her earlier novel, The Final Salute. Both books will be shelved under "New Fiction" and both are available at B & N online.

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