Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Brick in The Wall

     There is a place, a bounded land where I go to write books. It is a safe place I guard fiercely. As of late, I’ve let other people’s emotions and needs push hard on the walls I built around my favorite place. A few bricks fell out of my castle tower, a hole emerged here and there. The detritus of other people’s narrow mindedness and mendacity seeped into my writing world. It’s not a good mix.
     By nature, I am an empathetic person. I take on the moods of others. I feel their pain beyond sympathy. It served me well as an actress, this ability to feel so deeply what it was like to be someone else. I feel sure that empathy at this level makes me a better writer than I would be if I couldn’t understand what it was like to be a whole different person, with emotional scars for which I have no actual frame of reference. It has been both a blessing and a curse. The curse comes from the very real pain this empathy can bring.
     As authors, readers contact many of us because a novel we wrote moved them in such a way that they were compelled to communicate that to us. My email address is on all my novels and I encourage people to write to me. There’s nothing quite as motivating as knowing something I wrote changed someone’s life in their eyes. Readers also share heartbreaking personal stories that often leave me astonished, in tears, and a true believer that truth is stranger than fiction, (if truth can be found on the Internet.) I’ve also been deceived and perplexed at why someone would lie to me, a total stranger. To what end, I always wonder?
     Still, it’s a small price to pay, to listen to a reader’s troubles, but email has made authors so accessible, it can become overwhelming and time consuming. I had to learn to respond politely and, respectful of the person’s feeling, offer a short “hope it gets better.” That may sound heartless, but becoming emotional invested in the lesbian dramas of the world would be a full time job and one for professional therapists. I am not qualified. That point was driven home to me very recently. I still enjoy getting email and I will read everyone. I simply put a brick back in the wall.
     I don’t read reviews. I am in agreement with Rita Mae Brown on this one. Once the book is published, a review isn’t going to change how the book is written. It’s already out there. Nothing I can do about it now. My wife reads the reviews. If she thinks I could learn something from a bad review, she tells me. She’s very intelligent, fair-minded, and not afraid to challenge me on what I write. She also reads me a good one now and then, just to keep me motivated. All of this was learned behavior, after a particularly nasty personal attack by an unsatisfied reader. I am also reminded that there is a distinct difference between a “review” and a critique based on classic literary definitions and themes. I’ll take a critique any day. The delete button is my friend and I don’t seek out sites that review my books or those of other authors. Another brick back in the wall.
     I belong to several groups, one of them my own. I love my group. We talk about my books, other people’s books, ask questions that puzzle us, share answers and have fun. I only had one person post anything negative and I just happened to be online when it happened. Her racist remark about the President was met by a quick banishment. Problem solved. I belonged to another group that did nothing for my writing career and caused me anguish. Removing myself from the group brought instant relief. I hadn’t known how much I dreaded opening the messages until I was out. That brick was a pleasure to mortar back in place.
     I had alerts set up to let me know when new topics popped up in several lesbian fiction discussion groups. I only responded in the groups when a direct question was asked about one of my novels. After weeks of nothing but notifications of one particular overly enthusiastic new author, tooting her own horn to the point of obnoxiousness, I disabled the notifications. If I was anything close to that verbose in my excitement at becoming an author, I do humbly apologize and ask forgiveness. If someone is truly interested in my books, they know where to find me. That brick went back in pretty quickly and the silence was golden.
     Readers sent me transcripts of conversations from other groups that I am not a member of. It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t think the person they are talking about will ever see those words. After several of these, I asked the kindhearted readers, that were only trying to defend me against what they deemed unwarranted attacks, to please just leave me out of it. Let them talk. To give it another thought would be lowering myself to the level of middle school “she said – she said,” and quite frankly, I’m just too old for that. If another author or anyone involved in this genre feels the need to bash my novels in public, more power to her. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and it just might trigger a reader to go find out for herself. I, for one, believe there is room for lots of lesbian fiction authors and no need to attack each other, since the far right does such a good job of it. Another brick in the wall.
     I became involved in the marketing and daily grind of running my own publishing business. Lawyers, accountants, editors, formatters, sales and taxes, the realities of running your own business. Communication with readers is also essential in today’s market. I gladly spend time each day on Facebook. I have, however, begun to watch my time there more closely. It’s on in the corner of my screen while I write and when I take breaks I pop over to see what’s happening or comment. Facebook can suck two hours away before you know it, so I check the time when I click on the page. I know exactly how much time I’m spending there. If I’m stuck or plotting, it’s a nice diversion for a while. The most important thing I realized is that the people on my FB friends list are already readers. That’s how they found me in the first place. No sense in wasting writing time, chatting with them all day. They would rather I were writing anyway. A small brick in the corner went back in.
     That brings me to my final brick. My fortress is almost as good as new, as pristine as when I began this journey. I was alone in my fantasyland back then. No one but my wife knew I was writing. It was blissful in that world, no voices of decent, no distractions, just me and a keyboard. I didn’t worry about what the readers would think. I never thought there would be any readers. I wrote that first novel for my wife and me. I shared it with a few close friends. They liked it. I was hooked. I wrote like a demon possessed and turned out four manuscripts in less than nine months. Every spare moment was spent in my little very productive world. I saw that production decline as the popularity of the novels I eventually published rose.
     Distracted by this and that, I longed for the peace of just writing. That heart pumping excitement that greeted me each time I sat down at my desk. The days when all I thought about were the characters and plot lines, and what to cook for dinner. I truly missed it. I set about putting my house back in order. A friend told me yesterday that another author said to her, “Readers read and writers write.” She went on to say, and I paraphrase (hopefully well,) “anything beyond that is just extra.” Readers want more books to read and writers want to write them, it’s as simple as that. Get back to basics, what got you here, why you began to write in the first place. I’m doing just that. I made up my mind this morning to put the last brick back in the wall.
     As my hands shook from anger, I wrote a long scathing post in one of the last two groups I’m in, outside of my own. I didn’t send it. I realized my heartfelt response would fall on deaf ears. I am the odd man out here, and out I’m going. I wouldn't hang out with people I don't trust in the real world, why should I do it in the virtual world just because we “seem” to be in the same profession. In “real” life, I would simply walk away, because my life is complete as it is. My mother-in-law has a saying. “Life’s too short to hang out with people you don’t like.” She also says, “Don’t put yourself in situations you know you don’t do well in,” meaning eventually I would go off on a rant, because I don't do well staying quiet while others clog the air with deceit and complete self-absorption. I was going to blow a gasket if I stayed in that group. I’m going to take that advice. The last brick goes back in the wall and I am once again shielded from the distractions of negative karma.
     I am writing this while taking a break from the novel I’m working on. I was amazed at how freely the words flowed this morning. A weight has lifted and I am once again in my safe place. If I feel intense emotions like anger and anxiety, I want it to be in the middle of a scene I’m writing, not staring at group messages. I get all the support I need from my family and readers who enjoy my work, and let's face it, writers thrive on feedback. I’m remaining in one group only and if at anytime the pleasant atmosphere dips to negative drama, I’m out. If this is poor marketing strategy, because word of mouth plays a huge role in this tiny little incestuous genre, then so be it. My blood pressure will remain at healthier levels.
     I’ll do a better job of protecting my space from now on. As an author, my brain is my only asset. If I clutter it up with things that really have no relativity to my work or my family, then I’m misusing my instrument and disrespecting the people who truly love me for me, not because I write books. If you are an author reading this, then you’ve probably already had these revelations. You’ve learned to manage your time and not let things interfere with your work, and are nodding your head, "Been there, done that." If you are a reader, then know I truly appreciate your support and if you’re not a nut case, I’ll probably keep talking to you anytime you feel like dropping me an email or a message on FB. (don't flame me over the use of the term "nut case." If you've been on the Internet, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Let's be real here.) Don’t freak if I don’t answer right away. Know I’m writing and managing my time better. That’s what most readers want anyway, more books. There have only been a few readers that expected more than I could give, but that few taught me valuable lessons. It was a hard lesson for me, fraught with hair tugging and tears, but I made it back to my turret, where I gaze now over the land I’ve created. The tower is again a stronghold, and I write, and write, and write, because after all, what good is a castle without a fairytale. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"The only thing to fear is fear itself."

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

     Today, I was digging through the copious quotes on the Internet honoring the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The man certainly was quotable and a visionary. The quote above stuck with me and after about an hour of reading, I came back to it. Those words ring so true, we hate what we fear and fear what we hate. I have never experienced horrible injustices because of my skin color. I'm Caucasian, dirty-blonde hair (I love my hairdresser. She is the queen of color,) and blue eyes. Thanks to good guidance from some awesome adults as I grew up, I was taught to believe that the content of one's character was much more important than where you came from, what your parents' do for a living, how much money you do or don't have, the color of your skin, how much education you have, etc. You get the picture. I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders as a child and thought they had a point. Separate is not equal, any six year old (my age at the time of his death,) can tell you that. I understood and finally America did too. We grew and are growing in our understanding of the words this country was founded on, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
     I know that some people don't want the LGBT community's struggle for equal rights compared with the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. Okay, I won't do that here. What I will do is reflect on the quote above by the great Civil Rights leader himself, "People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other." King knew that if people began to know each other as human beings, then it would be so much harder to hate someone. So, what can we do in the LGBT community to allay the anxieties of those who fear and hate us? I suggest we speak up, at least those of us that can without fear of reprisal, and make a new LGBT ally every day. I suggest we show people that our everyday lives are not much different than theirs and we are not to be feared. After all, what some people think they know of our community is what they’ve heard spouted by hate mongers. They fear us because they really don’t know us.
     For example; I’m a lesbian fiction writer. When I tell people that, I get the look. You know, the look. The, “OMG! You write porn,” look. Trust me folks, my novels are about as vanilla as they come, according to my voracious lesbian fiction reading friends. I blush when I read a scene in public that fades to black before the action starts, simply because my imagination knows what is about to happen in the character’s world. In my explanation to the shocked onlooker that I do not write porn, or erotica, I try to point out that sex is generally not the center of our lives. It is a big part of it just like it is in the hetero world, but so is doing the laundry, buying groceries, and going to work. I write about human beings getting on with life, they just happen to be lesbians. “Oh,” accompanied by a doubtful look, is usually the response.
     We have to do a better job of letting the public know that we are not a deviant bunch that spends every waking minute seeking the next sexual encounter. Okay, yes, some of us are on the hunt 24-7, but in my case, I’m chasing my wife around the house. That also seems to happen in healthy hetero marriages. I am extremely happy that after almost 25 years, I still like to chase my wife around and I don’t need Viagra. (Sorry guys.) We’re healthy adults with normal sexual desires. We are not pedophiles stalking the school parking lots. (Being lumped in with pedophiles is one of my biggest pet peeves. Hey folks, the Penn State dude is married with children. Claim your own.) The only difference between my marriage and hetero marriages is that mine has lasted longer than most of theirs.
There is no need to fear us. We work, we play, we eat, sleep, dance, sing, and we love just like other humans. I can’t imagine a creator that would put this wonderful human being on the earth, somehow let us find each other, and then not want me to love her. I just can’t wrap my mind around that. I think ignoring the gift of love I was given would be a bigger sin, than living this happy life we’ve led. My wife and I are not alone. Millions of LGBT people live quite “normal” lives. Our lives can be as routine as the next family on the block, simply getting by, living and loving.  
     So, the next time your neighbor waves and smiles, spend a moment to just be friendly. You don’t have to start every conversation with, “Hi, I’m gay. Gotta problem with that?” I rather like it when someone says, “Oh, I didn’t know you were gay. You’re so normal.” I smile and say, “Yes, I am.” Sometimes the person can’t believe they’ve befriended a gay person and you see the light come on. Suddenly, we don’t seem so scary, so much of a threat to “normal” people. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, clerks at the market, policeman, military personnel, artists, writers, dancers, singers, preachers, your neighbors, your friends. “Get to know us before you fear us,” is my message to the haters. “Help them understand,” is my message to the LGBT community. Make an LGBT ally everyday. Dispel the fear and teach them. Dr. King was right, “…they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other “ Open the lines of communication today. 
     I'll close with another King family member quote, one of my all time favorites:
"I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation." ~ Coretta Scott King

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lost in Translation

In an effort to cut through the language barrier. I emailed this helpful guide to the difference between sharing and stealing to Yamlugue1980@yahoo.ar and Yamluge@yahoo.ar

Yamila Luciana Guerrier
Cochabamba 948
Ciudad de Buenos Aires
1150 Argentina

Yamila,
I saw that you spoke on the phone with my friend Layce Gardner. Yes, she posted the transcript of your phone conversation. You see, lesbian fiction is a very small genre and we're a bit like a large family of sisters. Just like any family, we don't always get along, but we have rallied around one cause - Putting you at the top of the most wanted pirates list for illegally posting copyrighted material. In your conversation with Layce, I detected a slight translation problem and I'd like to clear up any misunderstandings. The word "share" seems to be a stumbling block in your conversation. Share can be used both as a verb and a noun. The noun "share" means a portion of something, as in "your share of the pie." It implies ownership. The verb "share" has several meanings.  In one sense of the word, when you share you allow someone to use or enjoy something that you possess, as in "I will share my water with you." "Share" can also mean to tell, as in "I will share my thoughts with you." There are other definitions of "share," but these should help you comprehend the difference between sharing and stealing.  Stealing, thievery, is the taking of something that isn't yours from it's rightful owner.
You say you don't "steal" copyrighted material, you "share" it. See, this is where I think the language barrier may come into play. Where I grew up sharing was okay, stealing would get your ass kicked. I was under the impression that most people knew this. Alas, I wish you had grown up in my house, because we were taught the difference between sharing and stealing. When something is shared, there is implied permission. When something is stolen, no permission has been granted. So, for the sake of this argument, let's say you did buy one copy of each ebook. (By the way, you must be a huge lesbian fiction fan, because you have illegally copied every big name in the business.) If you shared your copy with a few friends, while it is still not good for my business, I really don't have a problem with one or two people reading your copy. That is sharing. I loan books to friends myself. The word loan implies that it will be returned to me. I participate freely in the lending programs at my authorized distributers. I don't know too many authors that have a problem with loaning and sharing books. What we do have a problem with is the illegal uploading of complete ebook files to thousands and thousands of people. These people are not your friends. They are Internet strangers you seem to desperately need to please. This, by the way, is probably due to your low self-esteem and emotional issues. I'd get that checked by a mental health professional. I am sorry that you must buy your friends using my work and that of others. It's sad really. 
If you are a fan of lesbian fiction, then I suggest you cease and desist damaging the earnings potential of its authors. We are not mainstream authors with huge publishing corporations behind us. (I think pirating the wealthy authors is just as despicable, but at least they'll keep eating.) We are women (for the most part) who have families to feed and bills to pay, just like the women who legally purchase our books. Some of those women struggle to fit lesbian fiction into their budgets, but they buy the books, and I am forever grateful. The money I get from those sales goes right back into publishing my next book. The rest goes into the family budget. I don't live in a big house, or drive fancy fast cars. My wife works, I write, and we get by. I'm a REAL PERSON. I am not a virtual entity and that is not virtual money that you are taking out of my pocket. 
I am respectfully asking one more time, (and now that we've cleared up that translation issue, you should comprehend exactly what I'm saying,) that you stop stealing from me. I am sharing my opinion with you in hopes that the creator gave you your fair share of humanity. If this falls on deaf ears, as all the other requests have, I hope the thieves come in the night, steal from you, and share your belongings with anyone that wants them. I hope you have your share of misery and bad karma. I'll share with you something I read in the news. The US is threatening to stop sharing with countries that do not respect copyright laws and punish the thieves appropriately. Trust me, your government doesn't want trade blocked with the US. When the government shares its displeasure with pirates, it won't be the big upload sites sharing the bill. They will laugh behind their corporate lawyers while the blame is shared by the pirates. I hope when the law catches up to you that the court shares with you the severity of your crimes and gives you the appropriate jail sentence, where you should be happy to share everything you own with your new roomate. Hopefully she will share your love of lesbian fiction and you can share your stories into the cold dark nights. I hope the judge also takes my share of the money you have cost me and shares it with me in one lump sum. 
I hope you now understand the difference between sharing and stealing.
R. E. Bradshaw

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unleash the Kraken!

"Let no joyful voice be heard! Let no man look to the sky with hope in his eyes! And let this day be forever cursed by we who ready to wake...the Kraken!"~ Davy Jones - "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"


A line uttered by a famous pirate from a famous movie, by an even more famous actor. I give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the same rules. Credit is due thousands of artists around the world. Pirates are raiding our work and no one seems to be able to do anything about it. Hands are raised in the air, heads shake, but no one gets anywhere in this struggle to hold and maintain copyrighted material as sacred, not to be duplicated by unauthorized persons. 
Arguments for apathy abound. "Come to terms with it," "It's a waste of time to send take down notices," "Pirates are good for business," "Ebooks are too high priced," etc. The list goes on. I'll try to address those quickly. Bull shit! Was that quick enough. Doing nothing when all this started is why we're in the mess we're in. Had the alarm sounded much louder, or had we listened, we would have foreseen the impact pirates have on sales. "If they download a book free, they'll buy the rest." Again, BS! They'll download books for free and laugh at the people who pay for books. Pirates are not good for the lesbian fiction writer. Our readers are a loyal bunch. The core of our readership dutifully buys and will always buy our books. People downloading free books are going to do it no matter what, but continuing to stand by and let the pirates have their way is in no way good for my business. I lost a significant amount of money according to download numbers. I am certainly not alone. About prices, to say that lowering prices will stop pirates is ludicrous. They steal FREE stuff to download. If it's okay for them to steal my work and cost me money, then I would hope the person stating that is ready for me to pass on the losses through the price of my ebook. I'm already charging less than publishers. I'm not doing this writing gig without food and shelter. To authors that aren't incensed about all this I say, they just haven't hit you hard enough yet. When the real numbers start to come clear to you, you'll see. 
All that said, I am joining my fellow authors and readers in saying enough is enough. We are targeting one of the most prolific lesbian fiction pirates out there. Yamlugue1080 or Yamlugue, she changes her screen name from time to time. There has been a call for a letter writing campaign to request politely, but voice an opinion strongly, that she stop stealing from a genre of which she claims to be a fan. Fans don't steal from artists. Thieves steal. Layce Gardner has a sample letter on her blog.(http://laycegardner.wordpress.com/) Saxon Bennet is talking about this too.(http://saxonbennett.wordpress.com/) If you feel strongly that pirates should be addressed, then send an email and a snail mail, (Yamlugue will shut down her email pretty quick I assume,) to the addresses at the bottom of this blog.
I always wondered what a group of women could do with a common enemy. Amazon women were fierce. Modern lesbians are taking on the world. We are strong when we are strong together. Pirates beware, you've poked a slumbering  beast. Davy Jones was right to curse the day the Kraken was unleashed!
One last thing. I have a favorite line from "The Lion in Winter." I use it when someone says something can't be done, like telling me we'll get results with this campaign, "When pigs fly." To that I say, in my best Katharine Hepburn voice, "There will be pork in the treetops come morning. Don't you see? You've given them a common cause..."

email: yamlugue@yahoo.com.ar
Yamila Luciana Guerrier
Cochabamba 948
Ciudad de Buenos Aires
1150 Argentina

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thank you, Kristy McNichol

     When I saw the feed hit twitter, I was excited. I turned to the wife and said, "Kristy McNichol came out publicly." I clicked on the link, saw the picture, and read the story. Cool, she looks content and has been in a relationship for sometime. That's great. I'm happy for her, but I'm more excited that she chose to show us. From what I read, she made a public statement because she's tired of seeing the stories about kids being bullied. There are already those that say it's an attention grabbing opportunity. Good, I hope she gets lots of attention. She's right. The bullying has to stop.
     What I want to address here are the folks saying, "Who did she think she was fooling?” I'm no Kristy McNichol, world famous actress, (even if her star is a bit dated,) but I had to hide for much the same reasons she did. Her career would have tanked way before she simply faded out of the public eye. She would have been, Kristy the gay actress, not simply the kid everyone fell in love with on the screen. Her income would have been devastated even after she was no longer the star she once was. As a public school teacher, I hid that part of my life for one, because it is my personal life and two, because I wouldn’t have been a teacher long if I was out publicly.
     When I started seeing the posts commenting on how everyone knew Kristy was gay and how it wasn’t a surprise, I felt an old wound awaken. When I finally gave over to latent feelings and mysteries that had plagued me throughout my youth, I fell in love with a woman at 26. Some of my friends were quick to say, “I knew you were gay.” Oh really? You knew something about me that I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know that what I was looking for was a woman. I didn’t know she would be the answer to all my questions. If I didn’t know, then how the hell did you? I wouldn’t recommend this be the first thing you say to a friend that has struggled with telling you their deeply held secret. Maybe you should just say, “Welcome to the family.”
     I was out to friends and family, but not at work. When I quit my job to write fulltime, I could say it out loud for the first time. I am a lesbian. I have a wife, a son, and I am very happy. My God, was that not a moment to remember. I felt like a weight had been lifted and I had been given wings. It makes no difference that most people, including the students, “knew” I was gay. They never heard me say it. They never heard me say, “This is my wife and that’s our son.” They never heard me say, “We’ll be celebrating our 25 anniversary this year.” They never heard me say, “Honey, it’s okay to be gay and it will get better.” But they can hear me now! I'm sure Kristy feels the same way.
     So, yes, I suspected Kristy McNichol was gay. I had the same crush on her that the rest of America had, and looking back, she played a part in the questioning of my own sexuality for years. Kristy and Jodie led the bandwagon of latent sexuality out of my soul. And though it took me 26 years to figure it all out and nearly 50 years before I could just be me all the time, I will always look back on them as the little girls that held my hand while I remained in that dark closet. I know Kristy didn’t make this statement without a lot of soul searching and I’m glad she came to the conclusion that she could remain silent no longer. Each person has her own journey to make out into the world. I for one am grateful that Kristy is making hers. Thank you, Kristy. Welcome to the family.


(And yes, I write under a pen name. I started writing when I was still a teacher and as I've stated, you don't come out in my school district and keep your job.  Anybody can find out my real name. It's on this blog site, on my Facebook page, and if you've met me I probably told you my real name. If you're curious, do some research. It's easy to find.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Just a little rant about piracy, file theft, and Lord, I need chocolate.

 I don't get the argument that file sharing isn't hurting anyone and is actually good for business. So in that world, it's okay for me to go to work and at the end of the day the boss says, "Oh well, I'm not going to pay you for your work today. You going to give me this day for free and maybe I'll pay you for tomorrow, but I'm not promising anything." 
     I write for a living. I don't have a second job. This is my job and it is a REAL job. That's how I take care of my family. As an author, I do give away some of my books. I donate to libraries and book clubs. I help out readers who want a book, but can't afford it right now. People lend my print books to each other and that's okay. Maybe if they read one, they'll buy another. I also participate in the lending program with my ebooks. Someone can buy an ebook and lend it to a friend for 14 days. So, yes, I am giving away my work, but it is my choice. It is not my choice when someone downloads a whole book and gives it away for free online or worse, sells it. Lending a print book to your group of friends or lending an ebook for a limited number of days is one thing, making my work available to millions is theft.
     There is enough free music, literature, art, etc. online without it being necessary to steal, and yes that is exactly what it is. I offer free short stories and other writing that I am happy to see shared. Many other artists do the same and more. Do I hope that generates some book sales? Yes, it's called marketing. I am in a small market genre where every sale counts. I have friends who are independent film makers in this same small market. Everyone loves their latest movie so much that they download it onto YouTube, all the while demanding better and more movies in this genre. How is an independent film company going to stay in business if fans keep giving away their movies for free, forcing them to beg for donations to give the fans what they want? 
     None of us in this genre are making money hand over fist like the big boy publishers or movie producers. We are not millionaires from some far off fantasyland. We are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, working at a job just like you. I doubt any of us put all this blood, sweat, and tears into our art for the money. We do it because we are driven to create, but we still have to eat, keep a roof over our heads, and pay the expenses for producing that art. Bottom line, everyone deserves to be paid for the work they do. So, as I stated, I don't understand the logic of, "I'm doing you a favor by sharing your hard work to the world. You should thank me. I'm generating fans for you." I'm sorry, but a real fan supports the artist by paying for the art, so that the artist can continue to be creative. Art is and always has been dependent on its patrons to survive.  
     File sharing is theft. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck... well, you know the rest. Really, thanks for the offer to distribute my work and generate fans, but no thanks. That's my job and my responsibility, not yours. If I choose to work all day and not expect to be paid, that is my decision and my right, not yours. I agree that giving the government control over what is and isn't available online is unwise, but then we must govern ourselves. Do not share copyrighted material. Do not stand silently by while your friends and family members do it. Govern yourselves people or the government is going to do it for you. If you see my novels being offered on an unauthorized site, I would appreciate an email - (rebradshawbooks@gmail.com) - and I'm sure my fellow artist would too.

PS. If you're thinking it's easy to get a file pulled down after someone loads it on a  site, you are sadly mistaken. The ISPs are uncooperative and simply ignore anything but a legal attack, which again cost me money. If you think that's fair, by all means, share away. If you have a conscience, think before you click - it could mean your favorite artist can keep creating one more day. 


Now, I shall consume chocolate, because Harry Potter says it calms you down.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Abe


     I was twelve years old that summer. I had a little buddy named Perry. Perry was ten and had a medical problem, so his heels didn't touch the ground and he walked funny. I didn't care. He was my buddy. Both of our moms worked at the courthouse. We were courthouse brats, making it our playground. The old courthouse sat on the edge of Currituck Sound and is now a national historic site. I lived about a 1/4 of a mile from it and Perry lived closer to the huge red brick building. It really isn't that big, but to us, it was gigantic. The courthouse was built adjacent to the ancient jail, which was constructed in the 1700's. It's iron bars still visible and irresistible to two imaginative kids. We were sure pirates had been held there in chains.
     I drank my first beer with Perry. We found one floating in the sound, hot, the tin can faded. We went to the old country store across from the courthouse, bought a grape soda and mixed that beer with it. It was nasty and we vowed not to try that again. I also smoked my first pot with Perry. We weren't bad, we just found some pot the deputies dropped while taking pictures of it for court. We dried it up, stole some rolling papers from some older kids, and fired that puppy up. Nothing happened except we coughed a lot and vowed not to do that again, either.
     We would sneak into the balcony and peek at the court proceedings, until the bailiff would give us the evil eye. Perry and I were privileged to watch people be led in cuffs into the mysterious belly of the jail, where we were never allowed to go but damn if we didn't try often enough. We did finally get to see it when a deputy took us and locked us in a cell, just to scare the crap out of us. It worked and we stopped trying to get in there. Sometimes the inmates would offer us money out the windows to bring them smokes and drinks. Back then you could buy a pack of cigarettes, even beer, if you told the old man at the counter it was for your mom or dad. We never lied to the old man, because he would ask your parents about your shopping habits if he were suspicious. We never brought the prisoners anything either, because the Sheriff said if he caught us, he'd tan our hides. Ah, but then there was this one time.
     Just down the road from the courthouse was the Maple Prison. It was a medium security prison. My dad even taught some classes there for extra money. He was a school principal and still had to work part time to make ends meet. Escapes were frequent and they often ended up breaking into the school cafeteria to get food. We lived on the school grounds and my dad always got a call when there was an escape. (More on that later.) The prison also provided the county with workers, menial labor jobs, like janitors at the courthouse. That's how Perry and I met Abe.
     The first time I saw Abe, he was talking to my mother. Okay, he's talking to my mother, he has to be a good guy, right? We had been around so many prisoners, one more wasn't a real shock, but Abe was different. Abe looked like Paul Newman, at least in my twelve-year-old mind. He could have stepped off the screen and walked right out of "Hud," as far as I was concerned. He was wearing a tight white tee-shirt and the white prison pants with the stripe up the leg. Abe was charming and smart and didn't mind us tagging after him as he cleaned the courthouse floors and bathrooms. I always felt important when he'd ask me to check the ladies room so he could go in. I asked him why he was in prison. He told us someone stole his tools and he stole them back, 'cept he got caught. That didn't sound fair to us, so we never looked at him as a thief or criminal. We three became fast friends.
     We liked to swim and Perry and I were subject to just jump in anytime. The water was right there and nobody cared that we swam without adult supervision. Hell, you had to walk a 1/2 mile out to just get over your head in the shallow sound. Unless you jumped off the ferry dock, which had I done so, would have resulted in my tail being whipped "till you can't sit down." I did it once to say I did and prayed my daddy wouldn't find out. He never did. I swore not to do that again, either, after I watched my dad and some of the men fish one of my friends from the depths of the ferry dock, dead. Anyway, as it turns out, Abe loved to swim too.
     The prisoners were always dressed in the white prison attire. Abe was no different. He had only that set of clothes with him. He could not get them wet, so we acquired a bathing suit from Perry's dad's wardrobe and spent hours splashing alone with a state prisoner. We were sworn to secrecy, because Abe wasn't supposed to be swimming. He was our friend and we decided he needed to have a little fun. I know what you're thinking, but he was never more than the big brother we both wished we had. I never felt in danger with him and he was so much fun, throwing us in the air, playing ball, hunting crabs. We had a blast that summer.
     Abe had five years to go on his sentence. That fact alone makes me wonder now if he was just in prison for a simple theft, but back then we didn't care. As the summer drew to a close and school loomed ahead, Abe started complaining about always having to wear that white uniform. We were sad that we wouldn't get to see Abe every day, because he would be gone by the time we got home from school. We wanted to buy him a gift. Perry and I had a little birthday and grass mowing money saved up. We pooled our stash and went to the little store to see the old man. The store was almost as ancient as the jail, with wooden floors that creaked when you walked. The old man sold farm jeans and flannel shirts. He even had underwear and white tee-shirts.
     The old man eyed us suspiciously when we made our purchases. I had Perry look in Abe's clothes while we were swimming, so we knew what sizes to get. We bought a pair of pants, underwear, tee-shirts, and a flannel shirt. The old man wrapped our gift in brown paper from the butcher counter. He asked who the clothes were for and we said it was a gift for Perry's uncle. Somehow we knew not to tell it was for Abe, even though we saw no reason a man couldn't have a change of clothes. That afternoon we gave Abe his present. He was so happy. He hugged us both and we all cried on that last afternoon together.
     A week later, my father got a phone call about an escaped prisoner. I listened as he commented and repeated back what was being told to him about the prisoner's particulars. After a few minutes, I heard the name and my heart stopped. Dad got off the phone and told my mom, "You know that fella that works at the courthouse, Abe, well he walked away from there this afternoon. They found his white uniform in the bathroom. He must have got hold of a change of clothes somehow." Well, our secret didn't stay secret too long. The old man ratted us out in no time. There I was, all of twelve years old, an accomplice to an escape. We didn't get in too much trouble. I think the adults saw how stricken we were for being duped.
     I never heard about Abe being caught. I think about him from time to time and wonder if he remembers those two kids that looked past his criminal record and saw a friend. I hope he changed his life for the better and has lived a good one. He may not remember us, but I'll never forget helping Abe escape. I like to think of him as Cool Hand Luke on an adventure. Hope it was worth it.

(R. E. Bradshaw is a writer of fiction. The names and events here may have been changed to protect the innocent.)