Author Archives: Tee Morris

Socially Sharing and Staying Safe while Traveling

girl_on_beachHere in Virginia, we’re getting a reminder that Summer is about to begin. (Enjoy those two days of Spring? Seriously, it was in the 30’s last week, and today it was in the 80’s!) Right now, our thoughts are planning for vacations. They could be getaways to places for off or day trips on spontaneous whims. No matter where you might be headed—domestic or international—the excitement of new adventures and new experiences might leave you open and vulnerable to identity theft and data breach. So in the days before hitting the road or checking in with your airline, you might want to stop and consider how secure you are.

Before setting off, make sure to follow these few tips:

  1. Reconsider geotagging features on smartphone apps and other devices while traveling. Geotagging and Facebook check-in’s are a great way to share your travels, but remember each check-in gives thieves information they need to target your empty home. Photos are fun to post as well, but always remember each tweet, each status update, and each check-in shares GPS coordinates of where you are and where you are not.
  2. Secure your computer. Protect yourself by making sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. This will allow you to use hotel hotspots safely.
  3. Exercise caution when logging into public networks. Avoid free hotspots as they can be insecure and susceptible to viruses and malware. Consider turning your own smartphone into a hotspot, complete with its own password. (The more passwords, and the more varied they are, the better.)
  4. Be aware of potential phone scams. A popular method for thieves to practice on tourists is to call unsuspecting tourists and claim they are Reception, needing confirmation on a credit card number after a “problem” has occurred. If you receive such a call asking that you confirm a credit card number, tell them you’ll be happy to provide the information at the front desk in person.
  5. Limit the number of credit cards you bring with you. Carry just one with you when sightseeing, but consider keeping a backup in the hotel safe. (Just remember to collect it when leaving!)
  6. Back up your documents. Before leaving, scan your identification, credit cards and essential documents. Save the images in a secure folder or file, either on a cloud service, smartphone, or tablet. Be sure to be able to access them just in case your wallet is stolen.
  7. Carry emergency contact numbers. Keep a copy of emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts handy in case you find your wallet lost or stolen. If traveling internationally, keep the address and phone number of your country’s embassy accessible.

It’s okay to relax when you are on vacation, but it never hurts to remain aware of your online security and how your identity and all that is associated with it still matters. Consider these tips outlined above as an investment for you to be able to enjoy yourself and time with your family and friends while away.

Safe travels to you.

Your Greatest Asset and Biggest Liability in Online Security: You

online_securityThink of the last time you were in a public place—an airport, a coffee shop, or standing in line at the grocery store—and a complete stranger begins having a conversation with someone on their mobile phone. Suddenly, the tenor of the phone calls changes with far too much volume and personal details being shared.

For an identity thief, this indiscretion is a welcomed opportunity.

From Above the Law, a blog covering the realities and business side of the legal profession, comes a story straight from the “Oh come on, you have GOT to be kidding me!” file involving a professional who should know something about the importance of sensitive data. On an Acela train between D.C. and New York, this managing partner of a prominent law firm called an up-and-coming lawyer to present them with a potential job offer. The terms of the offer were as follows:

  • Base compensation: $300K in the first year.
  • Additional compensation: $50K upon bringing in $1MM; 15 percent of anything over $1MM.
  • Equity: Possible equity in the partnership after one year.

The partner then proceeded to call his firm’s Human Resources department, and provided his associate:

  • The potential lawyer’s full name
  • Home address
  • Proper authorization to start a background check.

All these details were overheard by a full-to-capacity Acela express train.

Antivirus software packages and privacy settings applied on your social media outlets, but we as consumers and users of modern conveniences can still do better. We are the best line of defense against hackers and identity thieves. There is still plenty that we as digital immigrants can do:

  • Limit the amount of information shared on social networks. Use common sense. Think about what information you want to share, who you are sharing it with, and always assume that others outside of your protective network are going to see it too.   Then decide if you want to post it.
  • Avoid private discussions in public places. Again, there is no “private” in public places.  Voices carry; and when sharing PII during a phone call, your voice carries a lot more than just words.
  • Avoid sharing PII on public Wi-Fi networks. As seen in this editorial from CNN Money, many open networks are unsecure. Hackers can easily gain access to your computer this way and mine it for a variety of data. Avoid banking or other financial transactions when using public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Also keep your awareness up when surfing the Internet when in public places. Just as people can inadvertently listen in on a phone call, they can also watch your laptop screen from a distance.
  • Share with your friends and business associates what is and isn’t permissible to share in public. While you can do a lot to protect yourself online and in the real world, you should also advise your friends, family, and co-workers what you deem as “private.” If they don’t know, what may be perceived as a harmless photo on Facebook or a detail shared over the phone could cross a boundary or two.

When it comes to protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII), we all need to continue to be vigilant about monitoring and protecting our personal data, and sometimes the best way to be vigilant is to take a good, hard look at what we are making public knowledge. A little common sense and taking a moment to consider how much you are sharing with the public can go a long way in protecting yourself and your identity.

 

The Delights of a Digital Packrat

packratSomewhere around 7:30 a.m. on a morning where I had no plans other than to write, my phone rang. The voice on the other end was a client in need.

Sidenote: If a client calls you at 7:30 in the morning, something is wrong. Very wrong.

“A client isn’t satisfied with a class we began yesterday,” the client told me. “We need someone to go in and give a seminar on Social Media initiatives. Kind of a ‘speed dating’ approach to what’s out there. Can you do it?”

A seminar on Social Media. No background on the client. No preparation. No planning.

No problem.

You might be thinking “Woah, I could never do that!” My retort to that would be “Why not?” Think about it: The majority of planning and preparation a presentation happens the first time you give a talk. When you are called on again, you simply repeat your earlier performance, maybe with a touch more polish and finesse. Right? Later on, you’re asked to give that presentation of yours, a client may ask you “But, could you make the focus less on Topic A and lean more towards Topic B?” After some brush-up and a few deep dives into research, you then create a variation on your original theme — same subject matter, but different focus point for varying audiences.

My own log of presentations dates back three years. While that may deem me something of a “digital packrat,” it actually provides me an invaluable resource pool for building brand new presentations. For that unexpected wake-up call, my (sleep-riddled) mind sifted through numerous Keynote files on my laptop. I reviewed the following seminars I’d already successfully delivered:

  • Technology for the Technologically Challenged
  • What is Blogging?
  • What is Podcasting?

Ten minutes of editing and rearranging slides yielded the presentation Speak Geek to Me: Social Media in a Nutshell, a talk I have taken across the country and around the world.

My client told me en route that I would probably wrapping up no later than 3:00 p.m. I did not leave the client until 6:00 p.m. on account of the questions, the answers, and the strategies that came from my seminar. One of the students was so energized, she walked me to my car, still talking up the potential of Social Media in her workplace.

Safe to say, the talk was a hit.

When putting together presentations, keep this in mind: Success hinges on how ready you are, not just for today but for tomorrow. Thinking quickly is essential in providing a client solutions; but results happen when you act, and the ability to act and react even faster on your feet is not a talent but a skill that can be honed and mastered. Give yourself time to rehearse a presentation but plan out variations of that alpha seminar. Prepare two or three alternative versions of your talk, and keep them at the ready in a running log of  files. That way, when that call comes, you have a pool of resources to pull from.

Be prepared, because you never know when that wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. is Opportunity in need of your unique talents.

What’s Your Social Media Plan?

A-Team-Liam-NeesonI see businesses big and small jump into the Social Media fray, and sadly watch as their signal deteriorates into one of two things: Noise, or Silence. The reason why so many attempts at Social Media fail is an easy one — there is no plan in place. Why exactly is this so common? Because of the very nature of Social Media being part of the Digital Native age. Twitter and Facebook are for the younger generation. High school and college kids do this, so how hard can it be?

General Patton didn’t push through Nazi-occupied Europe without a plan. The Doctor never goes up against the Cybermen without a plan. (Alright, maybe the Doctor is making it up as he goes, but track with me…) Your Social Media strategy shouldn’t be any different. You need to know what you want to accomplish, how you want to reach those goals, and what you want your online profile to be. Sounds simple, but if it were so simple why are these things so quickly overlooked? Why? Because people are clamoring to sign up to Social Media to show how connected they are.

Without a plan, there is a dramatic disconnect. If you are launching a Social Media initiative without some sort of plan in place, you are doomed to repeat the present history of so many corporations, non-profits, and small businesses.

You might not think there is wisdom for business in something like The A-Team; but even in the over-the-top schemes that Hannibal Smith would cook up for his team, there was a plan in place. Hannibal is given a goal. He assesses the environment. Then he plays to the strengths of his team. Not a far stretch from how you should be approaching your Social Media. Your goal is to get your business, your product, your title, your property into the eyes of consumers. You want them to come to you as a reliable resource for what they need. Then you play to your strengths, be they blogging, podcasting, or social networking. From here, you build on your connections and your voice is heard.

See? Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Don’t do something simply because it’s cool. Take action with a plan in place. By keeping a clear head and a sharp vision, you prepare for pitfalls while at the same time achieving results. Success happens when you set a direction and a process for reaching it.

What is your Social Media plan? And if you can’t answer that, then it looks like you have something to do today.

Sound Advice for Social Media

From Lisa-Anne Samuels Moore and the sisters of Alpha Gamma Delta: Rho Chapter…

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I’m Tee Morris…and boy-howdy do I approve of this message!

 

WARNING: Websites Offering eBooks at “Bargain” Prices

Perhaps one of the toughest things to wake up to is being told by a friend and colleague in writing that you are being ripped off.

dangerous_siteThat was exactly what happened to me this morning when John R. White reached out to Philippa and myself on Facebook to let us know that a website was selling our books, both from our New York publishers as well as our own independent titles, for discount prices and allegedly these sales are neither paid to the publisher nor are they counted in statistics. (I say “allegedly” as I am still researching exactly who is backing this website, but I know that the site content appears to be scraped from Amazon and Imagine That! has not been contacted by this website’s administrators for price negotiations on our titles.) I checked, and sure enough our titles from the Tales from the Archives are on there, at a discount, with no consent from us.

Spending a bit longer and digging a little deeper into this site, I discovered something far more serious (if not sinister): You cannot “buy” books from this site. At least not straight away. You “Join Free” and then this vendor contact you with the lowest negotiated price for the book, almost as if it’s a Priceline for eBooks.

I say “almost” because this site strikes me as a potentially dangerous site. Not just for authors, but for readers. Read the rest of this entry

New releases for January 2013

The Little Clockwork Mermaid
The Little Clockwork Mermaid
by Pip Ballantine
Amazon

The mermaid Lorelei is the youngest daughter of King Triton, but she has always been drawn to the Above world. Though she is reveals in the joys of her tail and the underwater world, she has never felt she belongs there. The Sea Witch and her marvelous contraptions offer a way to pursue her dreams. What she will find there will change her fate forever.
Novella

Merry Christmas, Verity Fitzroy

Merry Christmas, Verity Fitzroy
by Pip Ballantine
AmazonNook — Smashwords — Kobo

It’s Christmas Eve, and Verity Fitzroy finds herself distracted from her duties with the Ministry Seven. When she endangers her fellow urchins, she begins to question her role in their life.
Short Story

Curtain Call

Curtain Call
by Shaun Farrell
AmazonNook — Smashwords — Kobo

Cordelia is called to a strange theatre by a message from her estranged father, and she hopes for a joyful reunion. Her father though has been treading on dangerous ground while trying to impress the Director the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Still Cordelia cannot possibly know the strange and terrifying details of what lies within this particular play house.
Short Story

In the Spirt of Christmas

In the Spirit of Christmas
by Tee Morris
AmazonNookSmashwordsKobo

It’s Christmas Eve, and Wellington and Eliza investigate an incredible haunting in the heart of London. What looks to be a job well done in the end quickly becomes a lump of coal in their stockings when their client takes some offense…
Short Story

 

Recent releases

From the Tales from the Archives and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

The Cross of Columba
by Doc Coleman
Amazon – NookSmashwordsKobo

April, 1883. Agent Bryan Teague travels from the London offices to a remote area of Scotland on the call of Lord Pennyfarthing, a self-proclaimed scientist and specialist in ancient and rare fauna. Agent Teague arrives to find his skepticism of Pennyfarthing’s previous follies on finding a traumatised valet and a dying English lord with an incredible fish story…


A Trick of Strong Imagination
by Alyson Grauer
Amazon – Nook — Smashwords — Kobo

Althea Galway, a gifted statistician for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, follows her tedious pursuits for Doctor Sound to a Winter carnival and a strange mystery at its heart. With a dashing illusionist and the memories of her own secretive past with the Traveling Galloway Circus clouding her judgment, she dares to reach beyond her station and discover what is behind the tricks of a trade she knew better than any active field agent.

The Wrong Camera
by Catherine Ford
Amazon – NookSmashwordsKobo

Blythe is very excited to receive a camera for her birthday, but finds that gifts can have their price. What she sees through the lens offers a chilling insight into the future that people will kill for and draws the attention of a New Zealand field agent from the Ministry.

New titles for June and May

This month’s releases from our authors were all about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

We hope you are enjoying these titles, and we look forward to bringing you more in the coming months.

Tales from the Archives

Sins of the Father
by Tee Morris
Amazon – NookSmashwords

A Swan in Siam
by PJ Schnyder
Amazon – NookSmashwords

Women of the Empire
by J R Blackwell
Amazon – NookSmashwords

The Emperor’s Fist
by J R Murdock
Amazon – NookSmashwords

And the Fourth Collection of Tales from the Archives containing all four stories

AmazonNookSmashwords

Billi’s back winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered. It was so nice to see the support Billi has out there, but there can be only one winner…and it has to be Mel Hay. Yes indeed, she did the most to spread the word about Billi, and can claim herself as Bill’s Biggest Fan.

She wins:

  1. A named character in the next piece of planned Billi fiction—a novella. You can chose to insert yourself, or your loved one into Billi’s world.
  2. A signed hardcover copy of Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.
  3. Signed copies of Geist and Spectyr by Philippa Ballantine.
  4. A signed copy of The Janus Affair paperback when it is released.
  5. Signed copies of the (now out of) print Dragon Moon Press editions of Singing Sword and Pitcher’s Pendant.
  6. A CD of all the audio Billi episodes in mp3 format—also signed by the author.
  7. ebook versions of all of Imagine That! Studios books on offer as of 1st of May.

The five random winners of the complete selection of Imagine That! Studios books are Hugh O’Donnell, Michael Malm, Michael Ward, Jessi Coy and Scott Roche.

It’s been fun to watch all the tweets, messages and facebook posts pop up. Stay tuned for a Billi novella coming in the next few months where Mel’s name of choice will appear as a character.