Deleyna’s Dynamic Designs is Back!

With the internet shift to SSL, I’ve been helping folks get their sites updated and encrypted.

The problem with me and web design is that I enjoy it too much. With returning health and a taste of my addiction of choice, I’ve decided to resurrect Deleyna’s Dynamic Designs, my web design business.

But what about writing?

I’m still at it! “Dominion of Darkness” just came back from the editor and I’m busy with rewrites.

So now we see if I can balance my writing passion with my web design addiction.

Why I Changed Hosting Companies

Note: I’m now an affiliate for SiteGround.

I’d been with my hosting company for over 10 years. I’d recommended them more times than I could count, and for most of those years I was happy. My friends and clients were happy. Life was good and my internet presence was stable.

I knew I could count on that hosting company. They had my back. I felt safe.

And then they got bought out by a mega corporation.

Change was slow, but ugly. My favorite tech support gurus were gone, replaced with new people who really didn’t know what to make of technical questions.

Prices went up. Those wonderful automated backups suddenly weren’t wonderful. More than once they didn’t exist when I needed them, or they were corrupted.

There’s nothing like a corrupted backup to really ruin your month.

Now understand: I may not be actively doing web development any more, but I still have a lot of friends that I help out. I spend more time than the average person chatting with my hosting company. I have them on speed dial on my phone.

Wait times increased. Bizarre errors started occurring. I was lucky not to be hacked (I’m a fanatic about updates), but many of my friends were not so lucky. When I’d call technical support, I began to hear a very common line: a site on the server was hacked and compromised the entire server. And let’s face it, if you’re going to have wait times longer than 30 minutes, PLEASE have good hold music. Please don’t play the same odd song over and over and over.

I may never get that song out of my head.

I tried to find it on the internet. All I found were a lot of other techies begging to know the name of the song they’d just listened to over and over on their web host’s tech support queue.

See, that’s the problem. All of these big, really good companies got bought by one giant corporation who centralized everything into one facility. Then they seem to have painted a big target on the roof. Every hacker from the kid next door to the nation-state internet armies sees that facility as a fun thing to attack.

Servers slowed down.

Way down.

Outages increased.

Sometimes email just went…away.

When I started looking for a new hosting company, what I discovered was that almost every highly rated company was now owned by the same mega-corp.

A few years ago, I met some folks from SiteGround at a tech conference. They were nice, smart, friendly and WOW — was that hosting plan expensive! My geek lust was quickly stifled.

Fast forward a few years and SiteGround has moved forward with their service and they have some good deals on hosting plans. The other site has continued to raise prices. SiteGround suddenly was affordable. When I found them on the list of top 10 hosting companies, I was surprised.

I remembered them.

A little research showed they were only one of two on the list not owned by the big corporation. They were the only one on the list that could handle the particular site I wanted to move.

The last straw with my old host was when they refused to offer the free automated Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates, choosing instead to charge a lot of money for more traditional certificates. (What these are is all techie and likely to become an ugly issue next year as sites suddenly discover that Google wants the internet encrypted and they’re willing to force the issue.) I needed that SSL certificate. And there was no way I could afford one. But with SiteGround I could.

And so I’m now the proud owner of a SiteGround hosted website.

(Highly astute individuals may notice that the site isn’t encrypted yet. It’s coming!)

So far, my new hosting experience has been interesting. I’m still adapting to their technical support. It feels so weird. They don’t want me to listen to hold music. Do they even have any? Usually they just offer a screen chat if I’m stuck. They’d really rather fix things for me than have me try to sort it out on my own.

THAT is going to take some getting used to.

They don’t start contacts with “domain name and last four of the password” followed by a sigh. The last few contacts I’ve had have started with, “How are you doing tonight?” “Welcome to our company! How can I help?”

And y’know what is even weirder? They fix things.

I’m not 100% sure that I trust this yet. Their technical support DID tell me off the other day. (Okay, so I started it…) They told me to just go do something else and let them fix it for me. THAT is going to take some serious adjustment on my part. (Apparently my searching and trying to be helpful was messing up the timer on my technical support ticket…and they are REALLY serious about that timer.)

So as of now, I’m recommending SiteGround. I’m an affiliate. I get a commission if you sign up through that link.

But mostly I’m hoping my friends will switch not for the money, but just so I won’t have to listen to that song again!

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Politics #PoweredByIndie

Happy Indie Author Day!

While thinking about this “why I love being an indie author” post, I made the horrific mistake of glancing at my social media feed. For posterity or anyone who lives under a SEP (somebody else’s problem) field, the short version is that the US elections are fast approaching and we are forced to choose between two horrible candidates. I’m sorry if someone out there truly supports either of these people based solely on their worth, but I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing a lot of intelligent people being forced to choose their candidate based on the other choice being worse.

You support A? How could you? Don’t you know s/he has done xyz? Yes. They know. But they’re afraid because candidate B has done fgh. Our friendships are being decimated by mud slinging and personal attacks.

Let’s face it. We are powerless to get a decent human being into the White House this term. Thankfully, “The king’s (or queen’s) heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.”(Proverbs 21:1)

Which brings me back to why I love being an indie author. As an indie, I can tackle any topic that touches my heart. While I do not expect either candidate to end modern slavery, I can fight for understanding in my stories.

Neither of the candidates will do much to fight GMO proliferation, but Michael R. Hicks does with his Harvest Trilogy.

Want to make a difference in LGBTQ rights? Consider reading and sharing the Shards books by Peter Prellwitz. Peter was indie before it was cool.

Or maybe you’re troubled by the state of racism in the US? Support librarian Alicia McCalla who writes books her students can relate to.

Worried about artificial intelligence? Fall in love with Ma in Joseph Lallo’s Big Sigma Series. (His books are available on his website or from major retailers.) While you’re there, check out his approach to strong female characters in the Free Wrench series.

Want more strong female characters? Check out the writing of Jefferson Smith. He’ll also make you think long and hard about corruption and children’s rights.

Want to shine a light on the problems of the homeless or injustice? Check out Geoffrey Neil’s work.

Indie authors aren’t wasting their time or power on politics, they’re actively fighting for the causes they believe in, changing hearts and minds with the power of story.

This is why I’m an indie, because I want to focus on telling the stories I have to tell in the way I want to, even if they aren’t politically correct.

Want to make a real difference this election season? Instead of contributing to a political campaign, consider buying a book from one of the authors I’ve mentioned here. Write a review—not just on the book sellers’ websites and Goodreads (which are amazing and helpful), but also on your social media networks. Consider sharing the find with a librarian in your area. (You may meet with resistance because of the perceived low value of indie books caused by scammers. Take the time to educate people that indie authors are turning out quality, well edited, professional, thought provoking works.)

Don’t waste your time promoting one bad political candidate over another bad one. Actively support indie authors as they fight corruption.

When you buy an indie author’s book, your money doesn’t go to a big corporation or a political movement. Your money goes straight to an individual working to make the world a better place. Your purchase, your recommendations, your encouragement actively empowers these brave individuals to change the world.

In four years, we’ll have another election and this year’s winning candidate will be history. The work of these brilliant, thoughtful indie authors will last much longer.

Creative Spammer Harassment

Time for another technology related post.

More of a rant, really.

Spammers Are Creative

Anti-spam technology has improved greatly over the last few years. I’m as pleased as the next technophile to find less spam in my inbox. Sadly, lately I’ve been getting less email overall.

And that my be a problem.

You see, I’m not getting all my email. I’ve had several incidents lately where people have sent me important emails and they have vanished. These emails are occasionally in my spam box, but more often no where at all.

How does this happen?

When you send an email, it goes through an out-going email server, through various nodes on the net, and then in through the incoming email server. Anywhere along that path, a message can be flagged as spam.

If it gets flagged by the outgoing server, then the email never leaves the host. It will show as sent, but it never left the first stop on its journey. The recipient will never know it existed.

Imagine if you were paying an important bill and you took it to the local mail drop off. You mailed it, so the bill is paid, right?

Nope. Not if someone comes along with a truck and drags off the mailbox before the postal worker comes by to pick up the mail.

But I’m Not a Spammer!

It seems that my personal email address has been reported as spam. I’m blacklisted on some servers. I don’t send out newsletters or bulk mail from that address.

This isn’t a situation where my email violated rules.

Of all my websites, has been subjected to the most aggressive attacks. My site is bombarded constantly. Thankfully, I have some very good protection. I would have expected this to happen to my address, but that isn’t it. This flag is on my personal GMail address.

How Spammers Create Chaos

I found this by accident while researching a client’s missing outgoing emails. Her website stopped sending out emails completely. The technical support rep explained that the domain had been reported as sending out spam. He researched her history and agreed that her newsletters (strictly opt-in) should not be considered spam. Then he surprised me. He said that my personal address (I’d been using for technical support contact) was on the list as well.

Anti-spam works by matching an email address against a curated blacklist of known spammers. It is easy to mark incoming mail as spam, thereby adding another report to the servers.

This works tremendously well.

So well that the spammers are having to get creative to combat it. Their latest trick is to skim legitimate email addresses and to report those addresses as spam.

I suspect some of the addresses may be coming from several of the well known data breaches that have happened over the last few years. These are the same attacks that have us all scrambling to have unique passwords for every site we use.

I know my personal address was victimized that way along with millions of others.

The spammers are inserting legitimate email accounts into the blacklists. I can only imagine the chaos this is creating in the anti-spam databases.

I’m not overly worried. At some point the anti-spam folks will create an algorithm to clean the lists. But in the meantime, these spammers have created a new way to make our email lives miserable.

If you sent me an email and I didn’t respond, you’re probably on the list as well.

How to Check if You are Blacklisted

If you are sending email through your website, you can check your status using MX Toolbox.

If you are sending from an email provider like GMail or Yahoo, then you will need your friends’ help to find and resolve the problem.

The only way you’ll know this is happening is if you communicate with your friends without using email and ask if they received your email. If they did not, then have them check their spam folder. If they find your email there, then you’ve very likely been reported as a spammer. (There are other reasons: sending spam-ish sounding messages being the primary one. Remember, all emails are scanned by computers as they travel. If an algorithm doesn’t get your particular brand of humor, you can be flagged by mistake.)

How to Fix This

If you find your domain listed on a blacklist via MX Toolbox, follow the link to the list and request removal. If your email isn’t leaving your hosting company’s server, call technical support and ask them for help.

But if the problem is with your GMail or Yahoo address, you will need your friends’ help. When they find your email in their spam folder, it is critical that they mark the message as “not spam” in whatever way is available to them. (Some hosts label the button as “not junk” or with some other clever phrase.) If your friend is tech savvy, they can create a filter on their email with your address marked as “never send to spam.”

Both of those actions not only move the message into their inbox, but they also report your address as “not spam” to the appropriate lists.

Because these lists are intended to stop spammers, there is often no way for you to request that your email address be removed. Think about it: if that worked, the spammers would just ask to be removed.

Website hosting companies have a bit more control because they deal with whole domains that may be flagged. They use business tools that allow them to help their clients when appropriate. That is how my client’s email got fixed…mostly.

But now, her email (and occasionally mine!) winds up in people’s spam boxes. The only way out of that box is with a little help from friends.

A little help here? If you see my email in your spam filter, mark it as not spam. Maybe take a moment to check for other friends’ emails as well. Who knows? You may be next.

The Optimism of 9/11

Anyone who lived through 9/11 remembers where they were when they heard the news. I’m no exception. I was sleeping in after a fun weekend with my kids + 1. (Raised as an only child, I love it when there are extras.)

The phone rang.

My husband an I ran an aircraft maintenance shop. The future was bright and the days where full of children’s laughter.

The phone call was from a Civil Air Patrol member. His voice brought me instantly awake. Usually the most laid back customer, he said simply, “We need our plane in the air. Now.”

Normally I would have tried to calm him down, because you never push someone who is fixing something you intend to fly. But that tone in his voice was military. Commanding. Serious. Focused. Determined.

“I’ll call the shop. I’ll have them give you a status.”

He hung up without saying goodbye. The commander wasn’t being rude. He was simply on to the next task.

I dialed the shop and heard that determined focus echoed in my husband’s voice.

“Civil Air Patrol needs their plane,” I started.

“Tell them we’re almost done. We’ll have it ready.” And I knew he’d rushed the job even before the call.

“Why?” I asked in my last moment of innocence. “Why do they need it rushed? They have other planes.”

He was silent for a moment. “You haven’t heard,” his voice was almost a whisper. “There’s been an attack. News is still confused, but… It’s bad. Turn on the news. Stay home.”

A haze of dread seeped into my bones as I turned on the television and watched those horrific images along with the rest of the world.

I’d always been an optimist, but something broke in my heart that day. The kids struggled to understand. I heard the beeping of pass alarms in the background of the broadcast and my heart broke.

As the wife of a volunteer firefighter, I knew what that noise meant long before the media caught on. Firemen were trapped somewhere that rubble. A lot of them. I’m sure I cried, but most of that day fell into a blessed haze of shock.

It was a year later, watching a memorial of 9/11, when the clip was played where a journalist asked someone near him what that sound was, when my heart finally came to grips with the overpowering emotions. I ran from the room and threw up, crying in choking sobs. So many gone so suddenly.

We were at war. But perhaps not the one everyone associates with 9/11.

The War on Optimism

I’d just taken the kids on a trip to Canada a few days earlier. Such a simple trip would never again happen that easily, that spontaneously, that innocently. Borders closed, and security increased.

My 9/11 image, the one that struck me and lives on in my nightmares did not happen until weeks later.

You see, 9/11 shut down our airport, cutting the foundation out of our business. All around us was silence. That CAP plane stayed on the ground with all the others at our airport for months as the government decided if it was safe to allow planes in the air so close to Seattle.

I was at work in the eerie quiet that should never be heard on an airport, when a low drone began in the distance, slowly growing closer. The noise grew and what passed for work stopped. We walked out onto the ramp and looked up. The air was vibrating.

A flight of maybe a dozen military transport planes flew overhead, low and slow. It was a terrifying sight. I’ve worked on a military base, but I’d never seen more than one of those mighty aircraft at a time before that moment or since.

And I knew, we were at war.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Flash Forward

It’s been 15 years. Before 9/11, I didn’t let my boys play with guns. After 9/11, we made sure they knew how to shoot. I’ve watched one son take his oath into the military. I’ll watch another soon. I’m proud of the way they’ve grown up: serious, focused, determined.

The shop did not survive 9/11, although it took a few years for us to surrender. Like the twin towers, it took a while for the terrible reality of the structural damage to be seen.

We lost almost everything.

Before 9/11, I lived in a world of optimism. The future seemed bright. And then in an instant everything turned dark, the future hazy and ominous.

Now we live in a world of danger. People thrive on dystopian fiction. Terror attacks are common. Young people scoff at how naive we were back then.

Lately I’ve been searching for the optimism that I misplaced that day 15 years ago. I want it back.

We’ve rebuilt our lives.

Anyone who knows me knows the last few years have been particularly hard. And yet, the future begins to seem bright again. The smoke is clearing.

Finally, I find my heart being restored. I’m still serious, focused, determined. But maybe there is just a hint of optimism in the air.

World Trade Center