Monday, 22 December 2014

An Open Letter to E-Book Pirate Maraya21

Dear Maraya21,

Recently I received an electronic notification that you have uploaded unauthorized copies of my four Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novels to eight different pirate websites on the internet. Needless to say, I was very upset.

Not understanding why I had been targeted, I visited one of these sites and discovered you've made more than 100 uploads of copyrighted material belonging to dozens of authors. Visiting the page you've created for my e-books, I found an exchange of comments between you and an anonymous person--not myself or anyone I know--that was very interesting. Anonymous said:

  • Just love the ego/vanity thing you got going on with your name inserted not only in the metadata, but in the books themselves... hilarious. I guess if you're going to steal ebooks, you may as well get your name all over the real author's work as much as you can.

To which you replied:

  • First i do not STEAL ebooks, i PAY for them. With actual money. So that is why i tag the books with my name so other people would not take my work and present it as theirs. I do not tag books that i haven't paid for. Second i do not erase or alter ANYTHING inside the books, especially the Authors name! I put my tags on empty spaces and anyone reading the books would know that. Thrid [sic] since i PAY for my books i have the right to tag them. But if you people not like [sic] having ebooks then i can very easily stop and spend the money on shoes and stuff..

Wow, so much here to respond to, so much to say. I left a comment of my own, but unfortunately someone deleted it. Here's what I said to you, in case you've forgotten:

  • Hello, I'm the actual author of the books you're distributing. First, thank you for buying your own personal copies of my novels. I appreciate it. I should mention, though, that it took me about a year to write each of these books. I only sell enough copies to pay for the cost of publishing the next one. I will never make enough to come close to paying for my time. I'd ask, then, as a matter of dignity, that you respect the investment of time, energy and stress I put into these books and please take them down again. Beyond that, I hold the exclusive copyright on these works throughout the world. Period. You do not have the right to put your name in the metadata or text, nor do you have the right to distribute them to anyone else. Period. So I ask you, respectfully, to please withdraw them from the various sites where you've posted them... Please. Thank you.

Too bad this comment was deleted, but I think, Maraya21, I covered the basics there. Just to be sure, though, let me reiterate: as per s. 501 of the Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code, you have infringed my exclusive rights as copyright owner to claim sole ownership of these works and to distribute them. Read the subsequent sections of the act to see what my remedies are against you.

But enough about me. Let's talk about you. Curious to know more about Maraya21 the bold pirate, I ran a Google search on your handle and found information that I have passed on to the authorities. I've filed a complaint with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center of Homeland Security against you. I've also encouraged other authors victimized by you to file their own complaints. Hopefully, they will.

What will the future bring? For my part, I'm trying to set aside the feelings of violation and humiliation that go along with being a victim and write new novels that I hope no one will steal from me in the future. It's not easy, knowing that my e-books are being downloaded for free with your name in them, as though we were collaborators. I write and publish them, and you make illegal copies and distribute them for free, waving the skull-and-crossbones while shutting off my very modest source of revenue. Works for you, apparently, but it definitely doesn't work for me.

And for your part? Perhaps very soon an ICE team will knock on your door with a warrant to seize your computers and documents, freeze your bank accounts, and put an end to your night-time career as a pirate. Then you'll dearly wish you'd spent your money on "shoes and stuff" instead of my e-books. Think about it. Perhaps if you do, you'll understand the wisdom of removing my novels from the various sites to which you've uploaded them. Please, as an act of dignity and respect for all MY HARD WORK, take them down now.

Thank you,

the author

Monday, 15 December 2014

Change is Sometimes Slow

Canada converted to the metric system in the 1970s with the main argument being that the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, would convert shortly. Forty years later, the United States still has not converted to metric, leading me to wonder what all the fuss was about in the 70s.

If I ask my son what Fahrenheit means, he will give me "the look" that, roughly translated, means he is talking to a dinosaur. (In fact, when my son was very young, he once asked my wife if she was alive when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Her reply: "Some days it feels like it.")

This dinosaur prefers the old days of Fahrenheit, gallons and miles. My head has never quite made the conversion. My wife read somewhere that you can convert Celsius to Fahrenheit by multiplying the Celsius number by 9/5ths and adding 32 degrees. This is a bit too complicated for me to bother with. I enjoy listening to the odd weather forecast from Detroit that still provides temperatures in Fahrenheit. For me, 101 degrees is HOT and -10 is COLD.

And some of the metric measurements have never really caught on in Canada. Most people still prefer to give height in feet and inches rather than metres and centimetres, and weight in pounds rather than kilograms (although it does sound like you weigh less in the metric system because one kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds).

You can see my problem here. Old ways of thinking die hard--

Monday, 8 December 2014

Support Your Volunteer Firefighters

I'm currently working on a new crime fiction series set in eastern Ontario, and one of the great things that comes from writing about your own region is that inevitably you begin to look more closely at things you've taken for granted in the past. The manuscript I'm presently working on includes a response to a fire by the Rideau Lakes Fire Department in Leeds County, Ontario, and in order to put the characters to work in my story I needed to do some research on the Rideau Lakes fire stations in particular and rural volunteer firefighting in general.

A revelation, to be sure.

This past weekend I was signing books at the annual Westport Christmas Farmers' Market craft show at Rideau Vista Public School in Westport, Ontario. As I chatted with two of the women with tables next to mine, I discovered quite by accident that both their husbands are volunteer firefighters with the Westport station of the Rideau Lakes Fire Department. Never being one to miss a chance, I began asking questions--after explaining, of course, the reason for my burning (!) curiosity. Needless to say, I discovered that while my research had been pretty solid in terms of training requirements, compensation, and equipment, what was missing was the human factor.

They described to me the remarkable commitment involved in becoming volunteer firefighters. I knew an investment of at least 100 hours in training was necessary in many cases before volunteers would be allowed to perform tasks required of rural firefighters, but when the women talked about entire weekends devoted to long training sessions, I could see the commitment was actually one shared by the family as a whole. They mentioned the ubiquitous pager, the 24/7-365 availability, Christmas dinners interrupted, late night calls, and how firefighting could take top priority in their lives without notice. They also stressed the inevitable risks their husbands face when responding to calls, and I could see it was a constant concern for them.

And of course we must always remember that rural volunteer firefighters, unlike professionals, also have day jobs. They are farmers, plumbers, auto mechanics or store clerks who sacrifice their off-hours to respond when their neighbours are in crisis and dial 9-1-1. They must not only be committed, prepared and dedicated, but tireless as well.

As with most research, only a fraction of what I've learned about volunteer firefighters will actually make it into the manuscript, as the characters in this case are minor and only appear in one chapter. Nevertheless, I've learned things that make me much more appreciative of the individuals who commit themselves to a second career as a volunteer firefighter, and I'm thankful their counterparts are standing by to respond here in rural Grenville County, should I ever need them at my home.

Take some time to learn more about volunteer firefighters in your region, and support them wholeheartedly whenever you have the opportunity!

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Home Child

I'm very pleased to announce that our imprint, The Plaid Raccoon Press, has launched a new publication by debut author Lynn L. Clark entitled The Home Child.

Set in Grenville County in eastern Ontario, The Home Child tells the story of Jake Hall, a transplanted city dweller trying to adjust to the realities of country life. He knows it isn't going to be an easy transition. He's prepared for major renovations to the old farm house he's bought, but what he hasn't counted on is finding a former resident still inhabiting the house in spirit form!

Set against the backdrop of a rural town in transition, this story combines historical detail and the supernatural in the poignant tale of the spirit of a  home child wanting simply to be reunited with the family he lost so many years ago.

Now that Lynn has published her first novel of the supernatural, she has agreed to assume full editorial control of our sister blog, Behind the Walls of Nightmare, which will continue to focus on the horror genre, including topics related to my supernatural thriller, The Ghost Man. Meanwhile, I'll be managing The Overnight Bestseller right here.

Lynn is already busy at work on her next supernatural novel, so be sure to follow Behind the Walls of Nightmare for all the latest news on The Home Child and updates on what's coming next.

Congratulations, Lynn! As the raccoon would say, pass the rainbow trout and let's celebrate!

Purchase The Home Child for your Kindle
For various e-readers:
In paperback from Amazon

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Price of Books

Photo by Wayne Cavanagh, 92.3 JACK FM
Money is tough to come by, these days. Everyone's feeling the pinch, and hard choices often have to be made between necessities and nice-to-haves. A warm house and food on the table must come first, and entertainment expenses must be carefully managed.

Christmas is traditionally a time when we try to loosen the purse strings a little. It's said that a book makes a great Christmas gift, and with that in mind I recently participated in the annual Christmas craft show at a local high school to sell my novels. The show turned out to be huge, apparently with more than twice the vendors from a year ago.

I love doing these events because they give me a chance to meet people and talk about what interests them. My books range in price from $14.95 to $19.95 for each paperback copy, and with the wallet in mind I've decided over the holidays to sell them at these shows for $15 a copy and $50 for the four-book mystery series, autograph included.

During this particular show, a woman came up to my table and delivered an incisive little rant on the high price of books. "How am I supposed to know what I'm getting for $15?" she said. "I may buy it and not even like it. That's a lot of money to spend on something I might end up throwing away."

There wasn't a thing she said that I haven't thought every time I stood behind a table trying to sell my books. It is a lot of money to ask, just on faith. I put a great deal of care and attention to detail into the design and appearance of the books, but what if I can't write a good story to save my life? I'm very grateful that The Rainy Day Killer was longlisted for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel in Canada, because it gives me something to say about the level of quality they'll hopefully discover when they get it home and start to read it. But still ..... fifteen bucks is a lot of money. I explained to her that people could visit my website and read an excerpt from each novel, to see if it might be something they'd like. I gave her one of my postcards advertising the series and told her I understood completely. She walked away, having spoken her piece.

She disappeared past the table next to me, where they were selling women's handbags for $35 a pop and cute tutus for little girls that were even more expensive. I don't know what people normally pay for that kind of stuff. I'm guessing it was reasonable, and I don't know how their sales were as the day wore on. However, I was selling like there was no tomorrow. It was a personal best for me that day. Books apparently do make an attractive Christmas gift!

And you know what? The woman who'd expressed her frustration about the high price of books returned to my table about twenty minutes later, my postcard still in her hand. She rapped her index finger on The Rainy Day Killer and said, "All right. I'll take that one."

Her concern about the price of books was obviously something she'd needed to get off her chest, and boy, I sympathize with her. Believe me. I signed the book, and as I gave it to her I held up crossed fingers and said, "I hope you like it."

"I'm sure I will," she said, and stormed off again.

Given how tight money is these days, I've still got those fingers crossed, ma'am.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Guilty Reading Pleasures

We all have them. The books we love to read but are embarrassed to admit are on our shelves because, well, they might not present the greatest intellectual challenges ever put down on paper. You have them, your friends have them, and now it's time for me to let you in on my guilty reading pleasures.

When I was a high school senior my English teacher liked to talk about a friend of his who was a professor of English at Trent University. Dr. Gallagher was, according to him, just an ordinary, unpretentious guy who liked to read ordinary, unpretentious stuff like murder mysteries and westerns along with James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. At the time, because of my own personal reading habits, I thought he sounded like a good role model to follow.

Encouraged to be an omnivorous reader, I remember devouring a large bag of my mother's Harlequin romances out of curiosity as an undergrad at Trent. These were novels published in the 1960s, and I remember several doctor-and-nurse stories and a couple of mysterious houses and tall, handsome widowers. Already an avid fan of the highly-formulaic Doc Savage adventure series, I recognized in the Harlequins a similar dependence on well-established conventions and an even better approach to plotting. I haven't read any romances since, I must admit, but I'm very glad I took the time back then. As an aspiring writer, I learned quite a bit about basic storytelling from these books.

What I have continued to read, though, are what were referred to then as sports juveniles. As a youth I read almost every book in the Young Adults section of the public library, and the sports novels were among my favourites. As an adult I've built up a small collection of them that I regularly raid whenever I want to read something light, dependable, and fun.

These books include Junk Pitcher by Bill Knott, Rookie Running Back by Cliff Hankin, Throw the Long Bomb! by Jack Laflin, Scrubs on Skates and Boy on Defense by Scott Young, and Batter Up by Jackson Scholz, just to name a few. These books appealed to my budding sense of right and wrong, my appreciation of the difficult challenges faced by young people trying to succeed as athletes, and my love of a simple, good story, well told.

So I happily admit it! I still love to curl up with a bag of chips, a glass of juice, and one of my favourite sports juveniles. The room is quiet, my brain gurgles contentedly, and, once again, all's well with the world.

Say, it's been a while since I re-read Throw the Long Bomb! I think I'll grab that one tonight!

What about you? What are your favourite guilty reading pleasures?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Remembrance Day 2014

As this year's Remembrance Day ceremonies will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, I'd like to dedicate this post to the memory of my grandfather, Harry Brook.

Born in Acton, west London, England in 1888, Harry was already a twelve-year veteran in the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army when he shipped out with the rest of the 4th Battalion as part of the British Expeditionary Force dispatched to France in 1914. Landing at Boulogne on August 14th, Harry and his comrades saw action at Mons and Le Cateau, and were dubbed by Kaiser Wilhelm as "General French's contemptible little army." Proud to be known thereafter as one of The Old Contemptibles, Harry fought at the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne, and the First Battle of Ypres. The worst was yet to come, though -- the Battle of the Somme in 1916, one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, in which more than a million soldiers were wounded or killed.

Harry suffered a severe burn on his leg from mustard gas, a wound that never adequately healed for the rest of his life. My mother remembered him chasing her out of the kitchen when she was a little girl as he struggled to change the dressings on the wound, gritting his teeth at the pain that never went away. For his service in the Great War, he was awarded the Mons Star (with bar), the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal, which he wore proudly every Armistice Day until his passing in 1960. It was our understanding that he was last surviving member of The Old Contemptibles in Canada at the time of his death.

This week, as we remember the service of everyone who placed themselves in harm's way to defend their country and our way of life, I'm proud to salute the memory of my grandfather, Harry Brook.