Today the lovely Gilian Baker has a treat for us. She’s got a brand new book coming out, Blogging Is Murder, and she’s sharing an excerpt with us, as well as some behind the scenes thoughts about why she wrote this book and the very current and present issues about online privacy and security that concern us all.
Take it away, Gilian!
The first book in the Jade Blackwell Mysteries series, Blogging is Murder, came about as a catharsis for the frustrations of trying to make a living from my first blog. The issues that arise are ones that every blogger deals with. And cyber-theft is a blogger’s biggest nightmare.
In the scene I’ve chosen to share, Jade, our protagonist, learns that her friend and fellow blogger, Liz Collins, has been hacked, and more besides. The hacker has taken over Liz’s blog and her social media profiles. The situation has now escalated and Liz is at her wit’s end. Jade meets her friend at the little tea shop in Aspen Falls, Wyoming, Tea & Sympathy, to offer comfort…and to satisfy her curiosity.
“Well, last night we decided to bring the sheriff in because the hacker—Connie is her name, by the way—showed up on our doorstep.” Liz took a gigantic breath once she’d gotten the words out.
“Yeah, that’s why we’re so freaked out. But we didn’t want to make a scene in front of the kids, so we decided to go to the sheriff station today to see what he recommended.”
“So, what did he say?”
“First, we made an official complaint. I have to print out all the correspondence from my hosting and social media companies, so there’s proof in our file. Oh, my gosh, Jade. I have a file at the sheriff’s office.” She dropped her head into her hands as I grabbed for her tea cup before she tipped it over.
Reaching over the table, I patted her arm, making the usual comforting noises while she cried. Why would someone decide to invade her life like this? Why would someone go to the trouble of hacking to add to a blog and social media profiles? Were mine safe? I needed to take immediate action when I got home.
I stopped patting. “Wait a minute. This Connie woman showed up on your doorstep last night. How on earth did she find out where you lived?”
Liz’s red face looked up, her eyes peeking at me through her eyelashes. “My physical address is still on my accounts. You know that legally you have to have an address listed on the emails you send to your subscribers.”
I nodded, with a sinking feeling of what was coming next.
“I meant to get a P.O. Box, Jade, but it always got pushed back on the priority list. I mean, with all the other stuff you have to do as a blogger, it just didn’t seem that important, even though I’d read other peoples’ stories about similar situations. I guess in the back of my mind I just didn’t believe anyone would do it to me.”
She paused to blow her nose loud enough to make several patrons turn and look. “I’m not some huge celebrity, although the blog is gaining popularity.”
“Oh, Liz. Don’t blame yourself. I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. In fact, we’ve all heard those stories. But in every case, those savvy online entrepreneurs didn’t take action until someone came to their houses either.” I made a mental note to hit the post office PDQ to get the P.O. Box I’d been procrastinating.
*Note from Gilian:
Per FCC regulations, bloggers are required to include an address on all correspondence they send to people who sign up for their newsletters. Even though it’s recommended to use a P.O. Box as this address, it’s not uncommon for bloggers to use their physical address. The idea to add this to the story occurred when I read a post from a blogging personality who described a night when a fan showed up at her house asking for advice.
“Part of me knows that, but I keep thinking about the kids. I should have been protecting my family, Jade. But something else always seemed more urgent.”
“I know.” I patted her arm again. “What else did the sheriff suggest?”
“We started the process to get a restraining order against her so if she shows up again, they can do something. The cyber-crime stuff is less cut and dried.”
“Well, you know I’ll do whatever I can to help. Just give me a call.”
Liz blew her nose again, this time with barely a sound, and gave me a more genuine smile. “I know, Jade. I feel better just talking about it.” She looked at her watch and sniffed. “Oh, man. I’ve gotta get going. School lets out soon.” She looked up at me with wet, hazel eyes. “Thanks so much for dropping everything to meet me, Jade. I know you must have a hundred other things on your plate today.”
“Don’t be silly, Liz. Family and friends always come first.” As the words came out of my mouth, my mind went to my huge to-do list that had just gotten longer… now I needed to add “keep people from hacking my life” to it.
One of the reasons I decided to include the cyber-security angle as part of the plot in the book was because of the pervasiveness of the problem. The average person now uses the Internet to shop, bank and file their taxes. What must it be like to also have to worry about someone hacking into your blog—the way you make a living? How can bloggers protect the personal information of the fans who buy their products and services? How difficult is it to get into someone’s Facebook account and post as that person?
Does the hacker go free? Is Liz able to save her livelihood? Who get murdered and why? The answer to these questions are answered in Blogging is Murder, now available for pre-order.
Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.
In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.