A WRITER’S SECURITY ISSUES

I’ve been thinking about security issues. I don’t have any at the moment, other than those of any typical apartment dweller in a quiet college town, but I do like to be prepared. Security will become an issue when I have to travel and the second book hits the shelves and people know my name.

The biggest security issue is internet security. There are some good hackers out there. The last thing I want is for someone to swipe an unpublished draft of a story and leak it. Some people think that if something was written on a computer then it should be free to all. No! Theft of intellectual property is theft. Period. This is actually a very easy problem to solve. I’ll have two computers. The one I write on will not be connected to the internet. The only way to hack it will be to sit down at the keyboard. The computer I use to write email and manage my websites will have an empty hard drive. Nothing to steal. If I have to email something to an agent or magazine, the inconvenience of physically walking a flash drive to the other computer is far less than the headache of tracking down copyright violators. There are probably other things I should do, and as I learn them, I’ll implement them.

I’m not worried about personal security. Despite the plethora of hatred and violence sweeping America, so far only one or two writers have been shot at, and those appear to be motivated by religious bigotry. So, I highly doubt that some infuriated person is going to barge into a book store while I’m signing books and pull out a Walther PPK. The people who are likely to hate my books haven’t shown any signs of violence yet. They’re book burners, not murderers.

That doesn’t mean I’m leaving my front door unlocked! Believe it or not, writers have to defend their homes. Just because we’re the hermits of the artistic world doesn’t mean our caves aren’t violated from time to time. Raymond Carver’s wife hung a sign in their front yard that read “Go away. The writer is working.” Stephen King walked downstairs to find a stranger wandering around his living room. Fanboys! I write what amounts to “geek-lit,” and I know that geeks can get exuberant about fandom. A few may try to scale the fence I haven’t installed yet around the house I haven’t bought yet, just to get a good look at “himself.” Eh, I can handle that. I figure I can distract the fanboy by showing him an unpublished story, while Trish calls the police. Then, maybe, I can work things out with the DA so I won’t press charges if the fanboy gets psychiatric help. Maybe I can make a friend that way.

Some people who think writers keep a large stash of cash in a safe. We don’t! We use credit unions and plastic like most people. I won’t tolerate a predator. For them, there will be a good alarm system, with motion sensor lights, hardwired to the local police department. And a twelve gauge double barrel shotgun. That is the most intimidating home defense weapon ever made. People back down from them even when they’re empty. If someone breaks into my house, I’m going to assume he’s armed and dangerous. Most homeowners are killed when they show compassion and call out before taking a shot. If I have to use the shotgun, even with my bad aim, I won’t miss. I have a high value for human life, and the two I value the most are my wife’s and my own.

There will be more than that, though. We are designing some really geeky defense systems. I won’t go into all that they are (alligators in the moat?) because we’re still designing them, and I don’t want to blab about everything waiting for an intruder. Let’s just say they’ll be loud, surprising, geeky, and can’t be bypassed with computer chips or wire cutters.

I’d get a dog, but I have a feeling that I’d neglect the poor creature.

We haven’t figured out the issue of travel, yet. That is a problem. Writers need to travel, and they should post their signing schedules publicly. Fans want to know if they’re in town. That is good manners and good business. It’s also a flag for potential thieves. If Trish were staying home, no worries. Not only is the an accurate pistol shot, but she has berserker instincts in a fight. Believe me! If you attack either of us, go for the tall one, not the cute redhead. But she wants to travel with me, and I want her to. I didn’t marry her to leave her at home. So, the place will be empty. Yikes! Who’s going to guard the fort while we’re gone? Who’s going to feed the cats?

I guess this is why so many writers, actors, and musicians hire personal assistants. Not only do they need someone to field phone calls, answer emails, and make sure they don’t miss their appointments, but they need someone who can watch their homes while they’re on the road.

I’m not sure what to do about that yet. I’d love to sit down with George R. R. Martin, R.A. Salvatore, Mercedes Lackey, Stephen King, and others and ask what they do. It’s things like this that they don’t teach you in graduate school!

So, what do y’all think? Any suggestions? For those of you who are writers, what do you do (without giving anything away)?

I guess my next cat could be a mountain lion.

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