Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why is this funhouse idle?

My schedule has been a disaster since January. Several things are getting in the way of the little engine that runs this site: I only feature books I've read, and there has been no time to devote to that. I won't look at something with only half my brain engaged, so...I can't bring you a new author to meet.

I've been on sabbatical from the real world; I took an entire year off to write. (jealous, aren't you?) Well, playtime has ended, but getting back to work has taken longer than planned. The easy transition I planned, has become an effort I do not like. 20+ years in a highly specialized career is sometimes a hindrance.

This is only temporary. I promise. Once my schedule is nailed down and some routine is established, new books and new authors will begin to appear.  Believe me, if I could retire and do this full time... I would.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How could you not remember which testicle you have left?

In the seventeen years since 1993, I've not been overtly public about this. My family and some friends know, but many who've known me for years will be surprised. I am a cancer survivor. I do not, and have not lived my life that way, as a survivor. I learned about it, had it cut out, and forgot about it. It is that simple.
There are many things I remember about that particular year in Kansas City. I had just remade myself, new type of job, new city, alone. I liked where I was, had developed some wonderful friendships, met my future wife; but I had brought an old worry with me. Most of 1992 I had wondered if something was wrong with my left testicle. By summer of 1993 there was no doubt. A man's 'boys' should be the same size, roughly equal as twins. I was carrying something close to a small hen's egg on one side.
When the receptionist at the Urologist heard my reason for wanting an appointment, she made one for the very next day. I only had to tell her once, without any follow-up explanation, "I have one testicle larger than the other, and it has no feeling in it."
Kansas City is a beautiful little city. But, it can be a bit difficult to find your way around there. I arrived early to my appointment, expecting to have trouble getting there. They kept me in the waiting room about thirty seconds. No paperwork to fill out, "remove your jeans and lie down on this table". I knew it was the right place to be. I knew that I might have waited too long.
Two doctors came in. The second was an intern. They introduced themselves, told me why the intern was observing, slipped on their gloves, and came to my side. Nothing was said, until the surgeon stopped handling me.
"This isn't good, Son."
Not much of their conversation, then, was directed to me personally. They spoke a lot about my genitals. For five minutes they discussed what they instantly recognized. The intern was being educated while holding my manhood.
"No one referred you. How did you find us?" Dr. Leifer asked.
"I looked in the phone book. I knew I needed a Urologist."
It was very quiet, and they stared at one another.
My mouth was very dry, I remember that well. Dr. Leifer confirmed my worries about it being cancer. He explained that it needed to be removed, in only days. He would perform the surgery; a Radical Orchiectomy. They would remove that testicle, and perhaps the other, once they brought the bad one out into the light. And that was it. I had just been told I had cancer, and one of the forms which killed many men each year, not so very long ago. But, I was in exactly the right place. No bounce between any physicians, no referrals, no tests. A biopsy would have been dangerous. It is what it is...let's remove it - Tuesday.
Not one second of fear.
However, the next hour was not normal. I was terribly agitated by what came next. I sat in a quiet conference room, while the surgeon made the arrangements at his hospital, and his nurse read to me from a handful of pamphlets, about living with, and dying from cancer. In that hour, the remainder of my life was planned. They would remove the cancer, which was actually a normal procedure; no worse than the hernia surgery I had endured years before. But, I might not survive beyond a couple of years, if all the later tests came back with bad news.
Nothing the doctor told me had bothered me. His nurse was making my skin crawl.
I would be in the hospital for 23 hours. They were going to cure me of cancer as an outpatient. A vet could have done it, actually, but there was no real reason to throw the babies out with the one rock. They wanted me strong for what would happen about ten days after the surgery; I needed to be able to walk. Ten days to recover from groin surgery, and the removal of one flawed jewel. Ten days to get all the blood tests back. Ten days to decide if I need radiation, or chemotherapy.
Ten days to learn if I had come in time.
I hardly remember telling family, one or two friends, and my employer. I lived alone, and would need nearly a month of convalescent angel of a friend told me to stop worrying about any of that; I would stay with her.
The morning of the surgery, I met a half-dozen physicians, what seemed nearly twenty nurses. One chaplain. I only signed papers; people became stenographers for me, asking questions, filling out forms. I only signed where told to. I was asked to sign one sheet that gave them permission to contact certain people if I died before waking from anesthesia. Every new person who came into the room asked this identical question, then wrote the answer; "Which side are we removing?"
"Left side."
"Which side are we removing?"
"Left side."
"Which side are we removing?"
"Left side."
When I go to the dentist, I always ask to be put to sleep. There is no - why? - I just love the sensation of drifting off to sleep, then waking a split second later, having lost an hour. I would lose about two hours, they said, this time. One of the nurses commented that she had never had a patient so relaxed during prep. I get that comment a lot, because I love being put under. It spooks some people. But, I figure, I already knew the worst thing I could know. Why be afraid of the cure? So, I chatted, answered the questions, asked a few of my own, and then began to count as the anesthesiologist requested. I was tasting the IV when the surgeon came in, asked if I was counting...
"28 - 2  9 - 3    0    "
"Ok. Let's get ready on the right side."
I was awake for only part of the next 18 plus hours. My room was not private and more than one nurse apologized to me in whispers when I was awake. I shared that room with someone who lay dying; beyond the help of even morphine. That poor soul only responded in moans to the nurses and doctors, and refused to acknowledge any of the relatives who came in; who begged him to let go - and go home to Jesus. I think I cried about it more than his family did. He was not there when I woke the next morning, and I didn't ask any questions. I wanted to believe he was free.
This was the week of Thanksgiving, 1993. Everyone said I would prefer radiation. On December 7, I began 15 days of treatment.  Just two days before, they began the process of making the shaped, lead shields which would protect my vital organs during the treatment. I was tattooed next to my navel, to help aim the beams. Nearly a foot thick block of lead was sculpted to match my innards; one shield for the front of me, one for the back. I would be irradiated from my upper thigh to my collar bone. An uncomfortable, hollow, clam-shaped lead ball rested around my half empty scrotum. The nurse who positioned it every day would laugh that I must not have liked her....prep took nearly an hour those fifteen mornings. That ball would pinch sometimes, and she would come back to do some wiggling.
Ten in the morning, the radiation would begin. I could feel the machine kick on, like a warm breath on my skin. I didn't move. An automobile-sized gun fired X-rays at me and turned like a half-opened hand, above, then below me, around my motionless platform. Half an hour later, they would help me up to let me dress. For two days, I believed that I could handle anything.
On the third day the nausea began, at precisely two in the afternoon. They never found a medication which eased the nausea. I would scream into the toilet until half past two, and then hobble back out to the couch to lie down and shiver from the shock. Every day for twelve days. I was not sick on the 16th day, but had been warned the nausea could continue for weeks. It didn't.
I had come in time. My left testicle was dead. Stage 1, but 100% cancerous. It wasn't even sent to the lab. In perhaps a month, or two, it would have broadcast its poison to my lymphatic system. It wanted to kill me. My right testicle was healthy, a tremendous surprise, but they would do a year’s worth of blood tests to be certain. The radiation was actually preventative; deemed a complete success in half a year. I had beaten many, many odds, to hear those reports. But, I had the lowest sperm count that was even practical to count, only hundreds of healthy little rascals. After all the protection, I must have been affected; it might have been temporary, but I was advised to not hold out any hope of being a father. There is always adoption.
And, I put all that holiday experience away in my mind - as best I could. I didn't do anything that most people advise...I didn’t' live a single day afterwards as a 'victim'. I didn't throw a single prayer to Heaven; something which would put my dear Mother aghast with disbelief. Cancer was my victim. I didn't fight - it had no chance. I got on with stuff. I'm a bit bothered to think my survival is heroic, or a victory of any sort. I only refused to believe cancer would kill me.
But, the experience altered me; that cannot be denied. Hearing the word cancer did not really change me. Lying that one terrible night in that hospital room - that pulled many foundations apart within me. I believe some evidence is in my writing. My characters confront themselves, confront some change they did not expect, and they may never be the same at all. I'm fascinated by such questions; what will I chose to be next? What do I really believe? So, my characters are harshly played things. Some, I try to break; one was even castrated. That seems so funny to me now, I promise that my experience never crossed my mind as I wrote that scene. But, I make my characters face uncertainty. It is for them to sort out, if they can.
Now, happily married to that future wife from KC, with two monstrous little boys, I realize that seventeen years are lived, after learning I might die, after facing my uncertainty. Miles came in 1998, and Colin in 2000; I have one very healthy nut after all. I love the thought of perhaps a daughter, to round out the boys, but Andrea gives me that 'special' look when I bring it up. I'm too old she says, and she doesn't want two of us in diapers at the same time.
Because of my books, there may be a thousand people who know my name today, who did not, even a year ago. It is very easy to know and have some interaction with that many people - something only politicians and movies stars could do when I was my sons' age. Some very dear, and some new friends are battling news, or consequences similar to my experience that month in 1993. On occasion, I see a message, in text, on my computer screen,
"Well, guess what I learned today...."
I know what you learned. I've heard the words.
Do not give away one second to fear.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Pirating: what it looks like when you don't catch it...

This is a screenshot of my pirated books on

That's right. My own POD - had fraudulent versions of my book listed in their catalog. This post will detail every painful step I was forced to take.

Internet Fraud /Copyright protection tips are posted in a thousand places. Most of them advise you to contact the entity who has stolen from you, and to demand they cease and desist: demand they remove the stolen content.
DO NOT DO THIS. LEAVE THAT FRAUD TRAIL ALONE - DO NOT TIP OFF THE PIRATE. The prompt removal of the stolen material gives online retailers their best excuse to do nothing further for you.

Copy this text and keep it somewhere with all your publishing files:
  1. Make note of every change the pirate made - new cover, new title, ISBN, alterations to copyright text...
  2. Take a screenshot of every page where you can find a fake of your book.
  3. Make a list of every URL where the fake can be found.
  4. Make a list of every title and every author who might have had material stolen and reposted with yours.
  5. Try every possible way to find other links to the book pirate. List every URL you can find.
  6. Report the incident to this link:
  7. Click to report your stolen content right on the website where it appears. Do all your books first.
  8. Click to report all the stolen content right on the website where it appears.
  9. Save every email response you get from the website. Put case numbers on one of your other lists.
10. Attempt to contact every other author who had stolen material posted with yours.
11. Share every URL and your case number with every author, so they can make their own claims.
12. Keep track of dates for every step; finding the materials, reporting the materials, contacting authors.

I just found these March 4, 5 pm.  Oh, look at that - one of the dipshits thinks they can sell a first chapter sample at $4.50!
BTW:  Lulu has no method for authors to report this directly.

Why find these only now? Don't I visit Lulu all the time?
Yes. I visit my project dashboard, and my storefront. I rarely use their search engines for my own work.

How long have these been up there?
Perhaps since mid February. I don't know yet. Lulu has just been contacted about this, reports made from each fraudulent listing. But, Lulu doesn't react to any support tickets for perhaps 48 hours. I just have to wait.

Why are they using stupid, cheap covers?
Because it is a lot of work to steal cover art. Pirate one of my covers, and it may LOOK so bad that buyers are put off.

Why in hell would they put my name on the damned book?
They are stupid enough to believe my name will sell. They don't want credit for writing it - they want to bleed my sales away from me.

How could they get away with this?
Easily. They got PDFs of my work, and reloaded them onto Lulu, using their own account. All they need, is for a buyer to click purchase from that link, and the pirate gets the money.

Not my ISBN.
Doesn't Lulu look for this sort of thing; doubled up titles, strange versions, obvious fakes?
No. Why should they? That would take a massive amount of work on their end. There is not a retailer in existence that will police your work for you. One of the listings even has a new ISBN. You would think that Lulu would at least contact me to say my book, my name has had such an edit.
You will go insane thinking your POD cares this could happen.

Wouldn't I have noticed this on Google?
Very good question. NO. I would have seen my title, my name, Lulu.....and wouldn't have looked any further. I might have seen them, if I used Google images to search my titles. But there are sporadic real time scans of the Internet on those engines. These covers might not pop up for a good while on Google. (I've been checking there and cannot find the fake covers anywhere, yet.)
How is this being reported to Lulu?
I went to each fraudulent listing, which I will now call F**kers. I copied the URL of that page, and went to the bottom of the listing to the report this content button. There, I screamed with lots of caps, and pasted the listing. Lulu does not have a MY BOOK HAS BEEN RIPPED OFF  button. They don't make it very easy to report F**kers.

Have they responded yet?

See those two books on this F**ker page? Right hand side? Wanna bet those are pirated by the same asshole who has mine?

What can you do, to find and prevent this?
Clone yourself.  You need to constantly search yourself on the major outlets. If you sell lots of books, search around every week. You could lose a lot of money in a week. Imagine not knowing for a month. Two months.
Google yourself, and follow all the listings until you disappear. Any strange URL - go there. And, yes, I think it might be wise to see if any strange covers come up when you look for Google images on your title.

Am I going to recover any stolen sales?
Ha hahahahah hahaha ha.  Those F**kers are GONE.
Update: my search to see how many of my titles were stolen, uncovered a storefront on with six pages of different authors and books being listed. My book, Shared, was there along with them. This one pirate was stupid enough to make a storefront page, to suck sales from every author shown. Naturally the user has been reported. Still no word from Lulu after 12 hours.

Update: (March 5, 8:30 am)  I've been contacting nearly every pirated author on the Lulu F**ker page. It seems every one of them has uploaded to I won't blame that website for this - and have contacted their support team - but it explains why someone in Siberia would want a copy of my books. No word from Lulu. I want to pressure those two sites to share information and find the user.

Update: (March 5, 9:15 am)  You will not believe this. That Lulu user is a real person in Turkey. I found them on Facebook. I've been in contact with them on FB messages. Guess what she said.
"I took down the page - Hope you don't mind."
My brain is leaking.

I feel like Caesar, ready to give a thumbs up, or thumbs down on this kid.

Update: (March 6, 8:30 am)  Lulu contacted me about one of the reports. They are referring the matter to their specialists unit and tell me it will be 2-3 days before I hear from that group. Nearly all the other authors have contacted me, there were a few I could not get a message to. {side note to other authors - you need an email address mention on nearly every site profile you have. Imagine this happening to you and you cannot be contacted about it.} Now we wait to see what action Lulu will take against this pirate.

Update: (March 9, Noon)  After waiting for about 5 days, I've received about 5 replies from Lulu. I had reported several dozen stolen titles using their normal process, they did not email respond to every report click I made. But, they told me they were going to look into the matter, and they did. However, there was nothing they could do further to help - I had already done all the work. My correspondence with the book pirate resulted in all the fake ebooks being removed from Lulu, and all the Google links have died off.

Just now, I received the best news from Lulu. The pirate made no sales. She was exposed before she could steal a cent from 52 stolen books. We are a very relieved bunch of authors. But, I'm still quite angry at Lulu. Why?  Because they will never to anything beyond removing the pirate account. That is the extent of their actions against copyright material theft. Once it is gone from their site, they are done. That is bullshit.

Piracy happens because it is easy. If the only penalty is to be forced over to another site, well, just set up shop somewhere else and keep on ripping off authors. The very first thing Lulu should have done, is give me resources to continue reporting this crime. They didn't. Lulu should be ashamed.

They won't be. They aren't in this business to correct any ills, just to make money. Unfortunately, I need their lazy asses to make any money myself. I just have to be my own watchdog, and policeman, and lawyer. I will be all those too. I'm going to report this pirate to the appropriate agencies in the U.S. and in Turkey. Internet crime should be treated as crime. I'm happy to be one of the voices demanding it.

Go check your stuff guys...don't hang around here.