Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and readers!
May these eight days bring you fun with family and a peaceful year filled with light!
I've always thought Hanukkah was a such a beautiful holiday. What it commemorates is a fight for religious freedom — something we can all appreciate. When my kids were little, we observed Hanukkah even though we're not Jewish because I wanted them to learn the lesson of religious toleration. We still have our menorah, but it's a bit dusty...
Thanks to everyone for your comments on my prior post about book pirating. I really appreciate the support! I've been busy getting ready for Christmas, and that has kept me off the Internet. But I did want to pop in today to thank you all and to recognize the first day of Hanukkah.
I hope that everyone is having a wonderful weekend!
Thanks, everyone, for sharing your Christmas traditions. Not long before Christmas is here! I haven’t decorated anything, or baked a single cookie, or bought a single gift, so I’m going to be busy.
I’ve spent the past several days protecting myself from pirates. Yes, book pirates.
It seems that out there in cyberspace, some people have decided that stealing novels electronically is the thing to do. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of titles available for immediate download by anyone with Internet access. Among the titles of mine that were available was one that hasn’t been converted to e-book format yet, which means that either someone forwarded an electronic ARC — or someone scanned it.
One of the women who was “sharing” books posted on her blog that she didn’t see what was wrong with “sharing” books and that she was tired of getting threatening letters and emails from publishers about copyright infringement and that she would continue to “share” books.
I wrote her a personal email and explained exactly what is wrong with stealing — not sharing — books in this way, and that’s what today’s post is about. This post isn’t directed at the FOPs — that’s Friends of Pamela — because I know they wouldn’t steal anyone’s books. Their respect for authors and for the work that goes into fiction writing is too high, and they’re also wonderful women. This post is directed for the many faceless Internet users out there who are engaged in book piracy.
Let me explain why it’s wrong to share electronic versions of books.
When you download a book off the Internet without paying an authorized bookseller, you deprive the author who wrote that story of money that would otherwise compensate her for the hard work that went into writing that book. You also deprive her of credit for that sale. The publisher won’t count your download toward her sales record. When they go to decide how much to pay the author for her next contract, they’ll pay her less than they might otherwise have done, thanks to you.
Much of the world operates under the misconception that all authors are millionaires. Most aren’t. Most hold jobs and struggle every week to carve out writing time in order to craft the stories that readers enjoy. Taking income from these writers is like stealing food from their refrigerator. Even if the amount of royalties they might have earned from your single download is small, that’s still stealing. Because you’re not the only one stealing, it adds up. But even if all authors were millionaires, stealing from them is still wrong.
The publishing industry doesn’t have a huge profit margin, and right now it’s struggling. Each publishing house employs lots of ordinary, everyday folks whose job it is to edit, lay out, print, box and ship these books. When you pirate books or download them illegally, you hurt not only the author, but these people, too. As more and more people pirate books and download them off the Internet, more and more money is lost, meaning that publishers are faced with printing fewer titles — yes, fewer books — paying authors less, and cutting back on staff. So not only does your illegal file-sharing hurt the author, it hurts a chain of people you don’t know and will never meet whose job it is to prepare these novels that you so enjoy.
It’s illegal. Would you walk into a store and steal stuff? Would you expect to be able to get your groceries, your gas, your clothes for free? Then why do you expect to get books for free? Illegal file-sharing and downloading books for free is just as wrong as stealing something from a store. And, yes, you could get busted. If you’re not clear about what it means to spend time in prison, please read my book Unlawful Contact. Based on four real-life investigations and my own time as a journalist going behind bars, it will highlight some of the more exciting possibilities for you.
It’s immoral. A lot of us live with the attitude that we are entitled to whatever we want. If we want something, that justifies what we do to get it. But we’re not entitled to anything. The world does not exist to meet our every whim and expectation. Wanting something does not justify stealing it. If you want it, earn it. Work for it.
I know as much as anyone how tough it is to make one’s way in the world. As a single mother, I was forced at one point to rely on food stamps and Medicaid for my kids. I know what it’s like to stand in line at the grocery store and have people sneering at you because you’re paying with food stamps. I know what it’s like to struggle to pay rent and utility bills and medical bills. But I didn’t steal to solve my problems. Being poor doesn’t justify stealing. My solution? I worked my behind off.
I still work very hard, both at my day job and as an author. I don’t have television. I rarely go to movies. I rarely go out with friends. Because my dream is writing fiction, I spend every spare minute I have writing stories. And when you pirate my books and share them with people illegally, you spit on that hard work, even while you enjoy the benefits of it.
Yes, your illegal book sharing is wrong and bad and mean. I expect the publishing industry will step up its enforcement as this problem grows. But rather than waiting to get busted, how about you stop it? Take down your sharing sites. Remove the links. And start paying for what you’re taking. If you can’t pay, then check out your library or the local used bookstore.
But don’t steal.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program...
So I imagine everyone is very busy with holiday shopping, baking and decorating. I haven't done a thing yet — nothing. No decorating. No shopping. No baking. Nada. Nix. Nihil.
I've been very busy with a rewrite of Naked Edge, which I'm close to finishing. I'll probably be avoiding the Internet for a few weeks until I'm caught up.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions.
At my house, for example, we always have to have an evening of cookie decorating. I make a vanilla refrigerator cookie recipe, which we decorate mostly with butter creme frosting. If I do say so myself, my recipe for frosting rocks. The kids love it. Their friends love it. I learned it from my mom when I was a teenager. I once overheard Benjy telling a friend, "My mom's frosting is so good, you'll make yourself sick eating it."
We also make Christmas fudge, usually a few batches so that we can have a milk chocolate batch, a dark chocolate batch and then a white chocolate or white/milk chocolate swirled batch. Mmmm.
Before I started writing fiction, we'd spend most of a day decorating the house. Then after I started writing, I would only put up a tree on the years the kids were with me. (I alternate holidays with my ex.) And I admit there were a few busy years since 2003 where Christmas seemed an inconvenience because of deadlines. I truly felt irritated to have to set aside writing to celebrate. Deadlines can freak a person out.
But after this year with all that has happened — most particularly two serious car accidents involving my sons — I'm all for slowing down long enough to enjoy the holiday.
So we'll be putting up a real tree this year and decorating the house and doing our cookies and fudge while listening to our favorite Christmas music.
Funny thing about Christmas music... I find that everyone imprints on Christmas music like baby birds on their mama. No matter how stupid it is, the music we listened to as a child tends to be the music that makes Christmas feel like Christmas. Does anyone else find this to be true?
When I was growing up, we listened to Alvin and the Chipmunks and Andy Williams. Even though I might laugh about this and consider both the Chipmunks and Andy Williams to be pure cheese, they still sound like Christmas to me. In fact, when the entire family gets together to open gifts, Andy Williams' "White Christmas" is what's playing. Though I insist I am not an Andy Williams fan, I just downloaded his Christmas CD. Ah, tradition!
Fortunately, we were also raised with Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," which is near the top of my favorite Christmas songs. It's so full of energy and fun.
To those, I added Nat King Cole's Christmas album, Bruce Cockburn's Christmas, which is beautiful, and Loreena McKennitt's To Drive the Cold Winter Away, which is stunning. This is what my kids have been raised with — in addition to Andy Williams, of course. (If you have time to sample at iTunes, I recommend listening to and downloading Loreena's song "Snow." It's so pretty it makes me teary-eyed!)
Typically, we open gifts on Christmas morning in front of the fireplace and then have a yummy turkey dinner in the afternoon. I love to spend my spare time — not that I have any these days — reading a Christmas romance or anthology. I haven't done this for years, but I really love it when I'm able to.
It really is my favorite holiday — when I give myself permission to celebrate.
So what are your traditions? What are your favorite holiday treats? And what silly Christmas music do you listen to?
First, congratulations to the winners of the previous two contests! Cathy won the Colonial stoneware candle holder from Rogers Island (Ranger Island), and Ellory won the DVD of Last of the Mohicans. I've already heard from Ellory, but not from Cathy.
Cathy, please send your mailing address to my email at [myname]@earthlink.net so I can get your prize to you.
If you didn't win, dinnae despair! I've got a couple more contests to go.
Today's contest is no ordinary contest. To win this contest you must be willing to work. Hard. See the "Help Wanted" ad below for details.
Wanted: Camp followers
Must be passing fayre in appearance and be free of sickness with sound teeth and bodye. Will wash and cooke for MacKinnon's companie of Rangers encamped at Fort Elizabeth, seeing to all such needs as are common for soldiers. Pay at one schilling per week. Assemble one week hence at the northern stockade gate for the journye to Fort Elizabeth. Those who hope to receive the King's schilling will be examined by a surgeon for sickness and the & etc.
Now, I know the economy is bad these days, and lots of us are unhappy with our jobs. But before any of you rush off to apply for a job as a camp follower, allow me to tell you what your life will be like.
You will live year round in a canvas tent or, if you're lucky, a small cabin that shares its two side walls with other cabins, standing in a long row.
You will be responsible for making and repairing your own clothing which will includes: a linen shift that also serves as a nightdress, woolen stockings, moccasins, a woolen underpetticoat, a plain linen pocket, a linen petticoat, a linen cap for modesty's sake, a linen short gown, a linen apron, a linen kerchief, and a straw hat if you had one. You would wear these items until they wore out and could not longer be patched, stitched or otherwise repaired.
You will cook each morning, noon and night for one-hundred twenty hungry Rangers: cornmeal mush with salt port, ash cakes, biscuits, and soups and stews made from vegetables grown at the fort, as well as roasted fish, venison, rabbit, goose, duck and such other game as the Rangers provide.
You will wash the Rangers' clothing, stirring it in large, steaming kettles and hanging it to dry in the open air.
You will work in the Kings's garden and grow such vegetables in your own kitchen garden as you can, eating what is left after feeding the men and what you can make for yourself.
You will tend wounded Rangers both at the fort and on the march, tending their smaller hurts.
If the Rangers decamp and march into battle with the army, you will go with them keeping to the rear of the army. You will walk the entire distance, carrying your own belongings and everything you need to serve the men. The wagons are needed for food, weapons, powder, shot and other stores.
And at night, after the Rangers have had their ration of rum, there may be those who visit your tent in search of pleasurable company. It will be up to you to decide whether you'll trade a bit of time in your bed for extra rations or cloth or trinkets from the sutler's store or perhaps even a coin or two.
So, now who wants to be a camp follower and serve MacKinnon's Rangers?
One lucky person will win a one-year membership at the Camp Follower level to the Friends of Rogers Island, the organization that works to protect, fund and research Rogers Island, which is Ranger Island in my books and is where Iain, Morgan, Connor and the other Rangers live. The winner will also received a signed copy of Untamed.
So that there's no confusion, let me clarify. There's no real laundry or whoring involved, or work of any kind for that matter. I was just sharing the life of a Colonial camp follower with y'all. The prize is a membership to The Friends of Rogers Island at the "camp follower" level and a signed copy of Untamed.
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