Please Don’t Steal My Book

The first time I saw my book illegally downloaded on the Internet I wanted to cry – but not before punching in the face those six hundred-plus people who stole my book. Yes, stole. They didn’t pay for it, so it’s stealing. I had a discussion today with my sister about this issue. She knows a person who sells pirated-DVD copies of movies – new movies – movies less than a week in the theater new. She makes six hundred dollars cash a week. That didn’t sit well with me.

I told my sister this person was making money off someone else’s hard work. A writer’s words. A director’s vision. An actor’s passion. A costume designer’s sore, over-pricked fingers.

“She’s s single mom,” my sister responded. “Maybe I’d do that too if I needed the money. Would you rather have me work as a stripper and give lap dances?”

Please get over yourself, sister. You don’t have the boobs to be a stripper, but if you did, then yes. Yes, I’d rather you be a stripper giving lonely guys lap dances in dark rooms because at least that’s your hard work you’d be getting paid for. I had to explain it to my sister the way I explained it to my ten-year old niece that buying pirated movies is the same as walking into a store and shoving a DVD under your shirt and leaving.

“But we’re paying for it,” my niece said to me.

“Yes, but to people who stole it,” I responded.

The digital world has made books, movies, and music so conveniently available to us (on our phones, our computers, our Ipads) that it gives the delusion that we own the product before we even buy the product.

I know this didn’t just begin with my book. This type of theft has been going on for a long time. I remember Napster, but I never downloaded music I didn’t pay for, and that goes for books as well.

Authors don’t get paid much, especially authors of e-books that sell for three dollars. The price of a coffee. The price of my book. I didn’t become an author for the money because I knew long before the digital world came around that the writing business was tough. Not many people can make a living doing it, and those who do are probably not living the high-life, but merely scraping by (unless your last name is King, Grisham, Patterson, or Rowling).

Since I’m not here for the money, I admit, I got a little excited when I saw that over six-hundred people had downloaded my book. The prospect of over six-hundred people reading my book was thrilling, thieves and all. Recently, I’d been notified by my publisher about another piracy site. I checked it out and found that my book hadn’t been downloaded at all – not even once. I was relieved, but then quickly thought, “What the ^uck? People don’t even want to read my book for free?”

As a writer I think I’ll always be stoked when people read my work, but is it too much to ask them to pay for it, too?

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Her Name” by Alicia Joseph

I’d like to share an excerpt of my lesbian romance novella, Her Name.

Her Name
Her Name

I was on my knees washing the floor when I heard her call out my name. I immediately stopped. This wasn’t just a holler for more pillows or another blanket. This was an urgent “I need you!” scream.

I ran to our room. I found her in our bathroom, sitting on the toilet, hunched over with her arms pressed against her stomach. Blood trailed over the edge of the seat. I couldn’t move. With a scared expression on her face, she whispered, “The baby.”

I hurried to her and wrapped her head in my arms. The toilet was filled with blood, and when I moved to flush it, she stopped me.

“Don’t! Not yet.”

I fell to my knees and cried beside her. She gripped my hand tightly. It was hard to comprehend what had just happened. Even as I had washed the toilet, evidence to what had been so brutally taken from us was right in my face, yet, I couldn’t believe it. It happened so quickly. Everything changed in less than two minutes.

She was lying in bed when I got off the phone with the doctor. She needed to rest, and we were to see him early the following week. I walked into the dimly lit room, carrying a washcloth in my hand, and pulled back the covers. I held her shaking body in my arms.

Her cries were violent. I wanted her to stop, but knew she couldn’t. I knew there wasn’t anything I could say to ease the agony of having a life die inside you, but I wanted to take that pain from her and wear it like a tattoo across my heart. I’d bear all the suffering so she wouldn’t have to, but no matter how badly I wanted to, I couldn’t take it away. She held her sorrow too close to her.

“I let my baby die!” she screamed.

“No, you didn’t. Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that,” I said and kissed the side of her face. “There was nothing you could do. Please believe that,” I begged.

She didn’t say anything, and I stopped talking, knowing she wouldn’t hear anything over her bawling. I held her tightly for as long as she needed me to. Her deep sobs slowed to a quiet whimper. Her body finally found some peace as she fell asleep under the protective covers of our bed. I lay beside her, holding a cool wet washcloth across her forehead.

Alicia Joseph

Please check out my Author Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alicia-Joseph/1444411879162094?ref=hl

http://www.amazon.com/Her-Name-Alicia-Joseph-ebook/dp/B00LPIAGB4

You can also connect with me on Twitter @JosephJody76

Starbucked

I’m not a coffee person. I prefer tea. I don’t hate coffee. I just don’t need it the way my caffeine-crazed, addicted-induced, coffee-hound friends do. And when I do drink coffee – I sip on decaf. (Yes, there is a point to decaf coffee, especially if it’s flavored. It tastes good!)

Last night a friend asked if I wanted to meet for a cup of joe. “Sure,” I told her.  “Where do you want to go?” (Silly question.)

“There’s a Starbucks down the street (of course there is). We can meet there.”

I’m reading the book, Starbucked, by Taylor Clark. I’m not far enough into the book to give a synopsis. My bookmark lies across the page titled Chapter Two, so I don’t know yet if this book is going to be a “balls-out” bashing of Starbucks and everything that’s wrong with Corporate America, or if it will tell the history of how a young and inexperienced Seattle-based coffee company, losing over a million dollars in one year (1989) with eighty-five stores, would transform into one of the largest and most profitable chains in the world. (I suspect the book will include a little bit of both.)

At the end of 2013 there were close to 20,000 Starbucks locations, globally, with a collective revenue of $14.9 billion dollars. That comes to a net income of $1.7 billion dollars. *

Christ, that’s a lot of coffee, but more importantly, that’s a lot of expensive coffee. With Starbucks opening almost two thousand new stores every year, the coffee isn’t gonna stop pouring anytime soon.

I’m curious to learn how the concept of “gourmet” coffee was sold so easily to an entire society because not only have people accepted this, but they’ve seemed to embrace it in the way of an arms-stretched-wide thank-you hug.

“Thank you, Starbucks, for introducing ‘customized’ coffee wrapped up nicely in pretentious, nose-in-the air terminology.” If someone hasn’t written an “Ordering Starbucks Coffee for Dummies” book yet, they should, because it’s kind of of ridiculous.

Last night, I ordered the coffee for me and my friend. Three times she had to tell me what she wanted  – tall, skinny, vanilla latte iced. She noticed the dumb expression I was sure was sitting across my face and said, “Don’t worry. They’ll know what you mean.”

I walked to the counter repeating the order over in my head. I waited behind two women with coupons. It took a while and the last thing I needed was more time to forget what I was supposed to say. When it was my turn, I stepped to the counter. “I’ll have a medium…errr… tall mocha…I mean latte… vanilla…ummm…skinny with ice.” Yep. I got this. (As I wiped the sweat from my brow.) And thank you, Starbucks, for forcing a chubby thirty-eight year old to use the word “skinny” in her order. Me and the rest of your svelte-challenged customers appreciate it. 😉

Now, I am not new to Starbucks. I go there more often than what my stammering over an order of coffee would have implied. But I mostly order tea (very simple) and I don’t use their stupid size labels either – short, tall, grande, venti, or trenta. It’s small, medium, large, or extra-large – thank you very much.

Which, if you didn’t know, short is used for only hot beverages and trenta only applies to iced ones. This is where I think Starbucks attracted its customers from the beginning. Starbucks appeared as an exclusive club where only those “in the know” knew not only the correct terminology, but the precise word-order when ordering a Starbucks coffee.

It may be hard to imagine Starbucks as “exclusive” now – with tens of thousands of stores (the word’s basically out) – but I remember when Starbucks was first starting to pop up on every street corner (and then kitty-corner to that corner), and I avoided it like the plague. I thought it was super-trendy and I’m not a trendy person. I have no clue (or interest) what the latest style is. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a fashion disaster. I have left my house wearing outfits that forced people to ask if I own a mirror (and these are from people who like me). Holding a cup with the Starbucks logo on it seemed to be a fashion statement, but that wasn’t the only reason I kept it out of my hands.

I was so damn intimidated at the mere thought of standing in front of a counter and staring at a coffee menu filled with words I didn’t know – lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, mochas, and not to mention all the different ways one could order these new drinks –  no foam (wet), foam (dry), extra shot, skinny, iced, hot, vanilla, hazelnut, caramel – so many choices!

I stayed away, but I seem to have been the only one because here we are and I need to know how we got here. Why are we so willing to shell out ridiculous prices for coffee?

I used to work with a young woman who was a single mom and I knew money wasn’t flowing freely for her, yet, every morning she’d walk into the office carrying a big ole’ cup of Starbucks. For the sake of easy math, I estimate that she spent four dollars per coffee (including possible tip). One cup a day, five days a week, for fifty-two weeks is a total of just over a thousand dollars a year. (And that’s only based on the coffees I actually saw her drink.) I worked with this woman for five years. That’s over five thousand dollars a single, struggling mother spent on coffee and I’m pretty certain she had no IRA, Roth or Traditional, no college fund, and no rainy-day savings account. But every morning she had her Starbucks coffee.

Is it that much of a novelty? Still? I read in Starbucked that the company’s research department tries to anticipate what colors will be popular a year in advance so they can have flavors that will match the “outfits of trendy customers.” Really now.

God help a society comprised of people who will choose a beverage based on the color of their shirt or tie, but I’m frightened this might work. If Starbucks can market themselves so that people who really can’t afford their coffee buy it every day anyway, then who’s to say they can’t get a woman to buy a specific-flavored drink because it goes superbly with her skirt?

But that woman will never be me, and for more reasons than the fact that I don’t wear skirts.

As I write this blog, I am drinking a decaf coffee from McDonalds and it tastes better than Starbucks. And the best part  – it only cost me $1.39 and that was for a venti…Er, I mean a large.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

*Source for sales figures provided by m.nrn.com

My Interview with Ashley Ladd.

Today I am featured on author Ashley Ladd’s blog “Happily Ever After.” Please check out the link below where I talk about my new lesbian romance novella, Her Name. Thank you!

http://ashleyladd.blogspot.com/

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“Books and Internet Love.”

The year was 1998. Amazon was three years old – a puppy not yet showing any semblance of the big dog it’d become that would be the bane of every brick and mortar company’s existence.

In 1998, the “bad guys” were Borders, Barnes and Noble, and any other big corporate giant that moved in and put friendly, independent neighborhood bookstores out of business. Those same corporate giants are now shutting their doors thanks, mostly, to Amazon, but back then, you couldn’t mess with them. This “bullying” of small bookstores didn’t sit well with me because I’d envisioned a nice quiet life managing my own bookstore where I’d serve coffee and chat with customers I knew by name. It could have been a nice life, but with a Borders across the street and a Starbucks right next to it, it would have been short-lived.

Years before Ellen Degeneres came out as a lesbian, she had a TV show called, Ellen, where she played a character who owned a bookstore. I was a teenager at the time, fantasizing that I was watching my future life play out in front of me. I believed it could be like that. Just…like…that. The perfect business. The perfect friends. The perfectly-timed jokes. I was naive enough to think a TV show could resemble real life.

Then came the movie You’ve Got Mail. It still makes me smile when I watch it. It touches on two things I know well. Books and Internet dating. You didn’t boast loudly back in ’98 about having a profile on the Internet searching for love. You whispered it into a trusted friend’s ear, if you said anything at all. But You’ve Got Mail made Internet dating sweet and charming, in a way only Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks can do.

Meg Ryan plays Kathleen Kelly, owner of The Shop Around the Corner (friendly neighborhood bookstore) and Tom Hanks plays Joe Fox, owner of Fox Books (evil corporate bully). Fox puts Kelly out of business all the while romancing her over the Internet, unbeknownst to her that it his him.

Only “always the good-guy” Tom Hanks can pull something like this off and come out looking as wholesome as Jimmy Stewart in an “ah shucks” kind of a way. “Ah shucks, Ms. Kelly. I’m really sorry I put you out of business, taking away your livelihood, as well as conversing with you online and not telling you who I really was. But I’d really love to take you to dinner sometime.” You’ve Got Mail segued into a sweet love story with a happy ending, in a way only Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks can do.

It was 1996 when I corresponded romantically with someone on the Internet for the first time. Meg Ryan nails it perfectly when her character says, “I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beating of my own heart. I have mail. From you.”

Yes, Meg, I know the feeling well.

In ’96 we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or texting. If you had something to say to someone, you called them on the phone. If you weren’t ready to give out your number because you were, after all, talking to someone from the Internet, which could be ANYBODY, you used email. That was it.

I eventually met the woman that had sent me rushing to my room as soon as I entered my house, locking the door, and holding my breath until I saw her name in my email box. Big smile. She was the first woman I called my girlfriend. The woman who would help me come out to my family and friends. I remember the exchange with my mother when I told her. She sat on the living room couch. Me on the other. I told her I needed to tell her something. And then I lit a cigarette – signifying this was serious. She sat up. “Mom,” I said. “I met someone online. This person’s name is Chris. But not Chris as in Christopher. Chris as in Christine. I’m a lesbian. She lives in Jersey. I’ll be leaving to see her next month.”

Maybe that wasn’t an entirely fair way to put it to my mom. “I’m gay, but no time to talk. Got a flight to catch! Bye!!!!!”  I was nineteen. What stupid things were you doing when you were nineteen? I flew to Jersey. Met the girl. Sparks didn’t fly.

Though it didn’t end “Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan” style. I don’t regret doing it because I took a chance. I wish one day I’d open my email and see her name again because I’d like to know how she’s doing – nineteen years later.

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Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To Love You Like a Dog

I have loved and I have been loved. I know love. There is no greater feeling. There are all kinds of love and I can’t live without any of them. I need the way my mother loves me or my brother, my sisters, nieces, nephews, my friends, and of course, a partner.  But what about the love of a dog?

A little over three years ago I decided I needed a pet, a dog. While growing up my family always had a dog and it was time for another one. I didn’t know what kind I wanted. All I knew was it had to be a shelter dog. So I took to the Internet and scrolled through page after page of dozens of dogs – too many dogs – who needed homes. One by one, I browsed every page, every face, and then I saw him. A tan and white Pit bull mix. His name was Phil and he stopped me. I had to meet him. He was in a shelter in the city. I live in the suburbs.  Surely, there were shelters closer to me. Yes, there were, but Phil wasn’t in any of those and there was something about him. So I grabbed my shoes, my wallet, and my best buddy and off to the city we went.

My friend and I walked into the shelter and instantly were greeted with loud barking from the many nervous and anxious dogs crammed into rows upon rows of kennels lined up in the room – a doggie prison for sure. I rushed inside and hurried down the aisles, peering into each cage, looking for the dog from the Internet who had captured my heart.

The rest can play out like the greatest love story of all.

I was walking so fast I almost passed up a cage where all I could see was the back of a dog and then he turned his head sideways. I stood still and for a few seconds we just looked into each other’s eyes. I smiled. I had fallen in love and from that moment on he was mine.  He was quiet and calm, unlike the other dogs, and I still ask him if he knew his momma was coming for him that day.

I hurried to the front desk after instructing my friend to “stand guard” to make sure nobody else takes him. After telling the lady sitting at the computer that I wanted Phil, she asked, “Have you taken him out yet?”

“Um, no, I haven’t.”

“Well, you have to meet him first to know if you get along,” she stated, with an obvious tone, but the joke was on her because I didn’t need to meet him cause I just knew. But not wanting to argue, I waited for them to set us up in a room. He came to me as if he knew me. I felt it, too. Even the volunteer commented that he’d never seen Phil take to anyone like that before. I’m aware that could have been a sales pitch because there were a lot of dogs there who needed homes, but maybe I’m a sucker because I believed him.

Yes, I thought to myself, it’s as if we are truly meant to be.

After some completed forms and a short interview, I opened my car door, as well as my heart, to my new four-legged, furry companion. Days later, the same volunteer would call and say, “I’m just checking to make sure you’re still in love.” I was sitting on my couch and glanced beside me to where Phil lay and smiled. “Yes, I’m still in love.”

And three years later our love is still going strong.

A dog’s love is irreplaceable. He is always happy to see you. Whether you left the house for a quick spray tan or a three day road trip, he will wag his tail while greeting you at the door, knocking down anything that gets in his way. He’ll let you take funny pictures of him at all times of the night and never complain when you post them on Facebook or Twitter (even if you didn’t get his “good side”). He will always be up for a ride in the car or a walk in the park, but is also just as willing to be a couch potato with you, never leaving you to feel like a lazy bum by yourself  – a true team player.

He will wait patiently on the other side of the door when you accidentally shut him out. He will let you drench him with your tears when you need a good cry without ever leaving your side. He will rush to get between you and anyone, or thing, he perceives as a threat, with complete disregard for his own safety.

Best of all, he will love you unconditionally and lick your face when you need it the most because dogs know; they always know.

I was 35 years old the first time I experienced “love at first sight” and it was with a dog. Sad? Probably, but it turned out great.

Since then, only one other person has ever stopped me in my tracks, with just one picture, the way Phil did. I looked at this woman and just knew, the way I knew with Phil. It was in her eyes. In her smile.

And I wonder if someday we will look each other in the eyes, smile, and just “know.” And maybe, I’d have to call a friend over to “stand guard” so nobody else takes her.

More than ever before, I want to love someone like a dog. I don’t want to be a dog, I only want to love you like one.

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