Pirate Flags in the Book World

A member of my book club asked how she could tell if a web site was offering pirated books. If such an avid reader didn’t know, it’s likely that she’s not alone. So here’s a brief summary of eBook pirate flags. For your safety, steer clear when you see them.

If you find a site that offers eBooks and PDFs of books free, and nothing but free, you have probably found a pirate site. If they offer best sellers and new releases free, you can be sure it’s not legit. If they have only a few of the books in a long series, that’s also a pirate flag. (They have not succeeded in stealing all seven or eight.) A real online bookstore will usually carry the whole series. And if later books in a series are free, not just the first one, that’s almost certainly a sign of piracy.

Pirates steal book files and cover images, or in some cases only excerpts of books. Pirates sometimes don’t really have the books at all. If the grammar and sentence structure on the web page seem a tad off, as if the site’s creator is working in English as a second language, that can be a hint that this site is housed in a country like Russia that tolerates cyber criminals. Think about it. What profit is there is giving away pirated books? There has to be an angle. That angle is exploiting the “customer” through credit card info theft, multiple types of malware, and email harvesting.

Some people share book files, thinking it’s like giving a friend a paperback after you’ve read it, but a paperback can’t reproduce forever, and there’s a risk in participating: malware. Instead of file-sharing, use the lending option on legitimate eBook platforms. I’ve known people who have two e-readers to loan one out so a friend can read what’s on it.

I found my three of my books—including the one that’s free in genuine online stores—on two pirate sites. My McAfee anti-virus program identified the sites as risky, so anyone who goes there may run into cyber trouble. If you’re an author, be careful as you check to see if your work is pirated. Just search, don’t click on links.

Pirates make it very hard to contact them or send a Digital Millennial Copyright Act take-down notice without clicking on a potentially risky link. To get around this, some authors go to the trouble of contacting the web host or asking Google to stop indexing the site in search results. If you do contact the pirate sites by email, keep in mind they may simply be harvesting email addresses to sell to spammers who will then try to sell you dubious products like paid reviews.

If you want to buy books safely, buy from legitimate, reputable outlets such as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Smashwords. If you can’t afford even low-priced $3.99 and $4.99 indie titles, go the free and 99 cent sections on eBook retail sites. I’ve shopped for free Nook books that way on B&N and found a large—and safe—selection. You can also check out an eBook from your library if they have Hoopla or Overdrive or another such system. Authors deserve to get paid. And readers need to avoid risky web sites.

Avoiding and Connecting

There are two kinds of social interactions I find easy. One: conversations with special friends, people with whom I have a relationship so close and genuine that I know we’re not judging each other. Two: spontaneous chats with strangers. It’s the in-between situations that are complicated. Parties—which I leave as soon as I politely can—and large meetings. Dreading the tedium of one of those meetings, I opted to attend it by Zoom even though I could have walked to it. I was rewarded for my avoidance by getting a call during the meeting from a friend in Virginia, one of those close friends with whom everything flows. We’d been phone tagging but hadn’t connected in many months, having different schedules and living in different time zones. I spent most of the meeting off camera talking with her instead of paying attention to the agenda. I’ve never felt so good about not showing up.

The Annual Whole Series Sale

All books in the Mae Martin Series are discounted through the end of January, on sale for $3.99 each .  Book one, The Calling, is free. The prequel, The Outlaw Women, is 99 cents, and book 7.5, the short story suite Gifts and Thefts, is $2.99. No murder, just mystery. No inflation, either. Available through all major eBook stores.




Listening and Light

Listening silences my inner noise. Running on a winter afternoon, I hear my feet. The sound- textures change from hard slapping on dried-mud clay to near-inaudible thudding on soft dust and sand to crunching on gravel and pebbles. A crow caws in flight. A flock of doves rises from the desert brush with alarm calls as fluttery as the rush of their wings. Hikers converse in amiable tones, too distant for me to make out their words. Rather, I receive their voices as part of the music, harmonizing with the cheep of a solitary bird, the hum of something mechanical at the New Mexico Veterans’ Home on the hill above the trails, and the crow of a rooster somewhere across the Rio Grande.

Listening seems to sharpen my vision, enhancing my inner stillness and conscious presence. The light behind cacti brings out gold in the thorns on tall green prickly pears and red in the thorns on little purple pancake cacti. Their flat purple pads soak up the light. A female desert cardinal is little more than silhouette in a mesquite tree. Each pebble stands out like a sculpture. Each crevice in the now-dry rain-cut earth is wrinkled with deep shadows.

Thoughts slip in, but I let them go and come back to listening and light.


The Rainbow of My Dream

I dreamed bright colors. Bands of yellow and green. No story, just colors and a feeling of joy. The following day was sunny and sixty-six degrees. Excited for such a perfect December day, I hit the trail in Elephant Butte Lake State Park. I knew it would be a little windy, but the sand was still damp from two days of steady rain, so it wouldn’t be flying in my face.

After I’d run less than a mile, the wind grew chilly and blew in clouds to cover the sun, and the temperature dropped. I wished I’d worn gloves. This was not the run I’d imagined. I persisted, though, knowing I’d feel like a wimp if I cut it short. The clouds were dramatic, and the weather kept the normal winter tourists off the trail. It was all mine.

Still, as I committed to the final mile, I asked myself, why is it so important to keep going in the cold? There’ll be plenty of warm, sunny, windless days all winter. As I finished the last stretch, the sun broke through in the west. Golden light flooded the sand and the desert junipers, and half a rainbow woke up in the clouds to the east. It set its jeweled foot softly on the ground and arced into the gray, its trajectory unfinished. My endurance was rewarded: the rainbow of my dream.

The Smashwords Sale

In addition to all the other e-book stores, my books are now available in the Smashwords store, the largest indie bookstore on the internet, and they will all be half price (or free!) as part of the Smashwords 2022 End of Year Sale.

You’ll find big discounts on thousands of indie titles throughout December. Discover your next favorite book at https://smashwords.com/shelves/promos

#SmashwordsEOYSale #smashwords #ebook #sale #books2read #indiebooks

The Neighbors, Now Gone

Though I was accustomed to the lack of choice, I still resented it. Taking an afternoon walk on Tuesday November 8th, I turned south at the corner where my apartment building sits. North, south, and west were options, but I missed going east, walking down my block. I know almost everyone there, and I used to enjoy spontaneous chats with whoever was on their porch or getting out of their car. But for a year or more, I’d been afraid to do that.

In the middle of the block, in a brown-and-white trailer with a decrepit plank fence, lived a woman who hollered profanities and threats and a teenaged boy who was once taken away in an ambulance. She had three dogs, loud, aggressive, and prone to escaping. They hurled themselves against the fence, barking, when anyone passed by. They chased me twice, and one tried to bite the man across the street from me. They attacked a Great Dane being walked by a young man who had to climb on the hood of a car to avoid being bitten. Everyone in the neighborhood had called animal control repeatedly. We suspected the hostile woman might be a drug dealer. Why else would she keep such dangerous dogs? One neighbor dared return an escaped dog to her yard. She came out and demanded to know what he was doing. He told her, and she called the police on him for trespassing.

The owners of the trailer live in another city. I wrote to them about her and her dogs, but she didn’t move out. After a while, I didn’t see the boy anymore and imagined he’d been taken away from her, perhaps put in foster care or with nicer relatives.

Behind the trailer, on the same property, is a little house. It had a high turnover of tenants—good, quiet people, driven away. The last one to live there was, like the rest, quiet. I take care of the gardens at a friend’s vacation rental place between the problem property and my apartment building, and she spoke to me across the fence a few times as I was watering plants.

“You have such nice wildflowers,” she said, the first time we met. “I promise I won’t pick them.”

I assured her I didn’t think she would. Perhaps she was accustomed to people accusing her, not trusting her. Her skin tone, on the grayish side of white, her unhealthy teeth, and her neglected hair gave me the impression she had a drug problem.

But it didn’t make her a bad neighbor. She was pleasant and friendly. I offered her pomegranates from the garden once. Like everyone else, she didn’t like them and declined, but she thanked me. For safety, I carried pepper spray when I watered plants, and I wanted to ask her if the dogs in the trailer bothered her. But maybe their owner was her dealer.

When I came back from that walk on election day, a state police crime scene investigation vehicle was parked in front of the trailer-and-little-house property. My first thought was that Hostile Woman was in serious trouble. There wasn’t a sound from her dogs. What had happened? Then I realized the workers were going in and out of the little house.

I later learned from neighbors in my building that while I’d been on my walk, detectives went around knocking on doors, asking about the residents of the trailer and little house. One friend said he told the detectives to contact animal control, since they were the ones who’d interacted with Hostile Woman the most. We never knew her name. Or the name of the woman in the little house.

The next day, someone came to clean. They put the belongings of the woman I’d assumed was an addict in a trash bin and on the sidewalk in front of the house where I do plant care, blocking the driveway where a vacation tenant would have to pull in. I cringed, but I moved the stuff to driveway of the little house. I didn’t know what had occurred, but it couldn’t have been good. Then I approached the brown-and-white trailer. A young man was inside cleaning with all the doors and windows open. Stale tobacco stench reached me from twenty feet away. Poor guy—he had his work cut out for him. I asked him to please not put the trash in front of the house next door, he agreed not to, and then I said how good it was to see the trailer empty, to be rid of the scary dogs. He said something noncommittal, and I realized I’d been insensitive, treating the situation as good news. He might have been cleaning up a crime scene.

Still, I was relieved. I could once more enjoy the safe, sociable neighborhood I’d first moved into. I walked east on my block and had a curbside chat with neighbors a few houses down, two brothers, a musician and a plumber. The musician said he’d ventured into the trailer and its yard shortly after it became empty and the crime scene people had left. He found dog droppings everywhere, even indoors. I hate to think what might have happened in there—and still don’t know.

The plumber told me that a woman had been found dead in the middle of a nearby street at two in the morning on Tuesday the 8th. Apparently, she’d knocked on someone’s door, incoherent, and then staggered off. The crime scene investigators had been going in and out of the little house. I guessed the dead woman was the tenant and that she’d died of an overdose. Perhaps the owner of the bad dogs had supplied it.

Thursday, I moved the heap of bedding and the overfilled rolling trash bin from the little house out to the curb. The clean-up man hired by the out-of-town landlords wouldn’t know Friday was trash day. Though I felt strange and uneasy touching a dead person’s belongings, it seemed important to me—respectful, in a way—to have everything picked up. The sheets, blankets, and mattress pad from a single bed, the place where she’d slept, were too personal, too intimate, to be left lying on the pavement. Due to the lack of a county medical investigator, the dead woman herself had been left lying in the street for hours until someone from another county could come examine her. That was more than enough indignity for one soul.

The next morning, her few possessions were gone. I rolled the empty bin to the chain-link gate of the little house and took a moment to wish her rest in peace. Not much of a memorial ceremony. I hope it wasn’t the only one she had, but it might have been.


The Mastodon Post

I’m learning my way around a new (to me) social media site, Mastodon. So far, I have two followers. Not bad. I’m a slow learner, but soon I will follow other people. I like how Mastodon isn’t driven by algorithms but by your interests. I joined a server that is focused on science and the arts.  It should be interesting, once I master it. I suspect it will be like the process of getting acquainted with my electric car. I can drive it, charge it, and interact with it fairly well, but once in a while I still discover a talent it has, a feature I didn’t know about after owning it almost a year.

Becoming InTwitterate

I’m sending my last tweet. I avoid places that manifest too much negative energy, and I’m afraid that may be the future of Twitter. This feels like the right time to leave—not that I ever tweeted much anyway. I’ve enjoyed tweets from fellow writers, but we can find each other on Facebook and Goodreads. In fact, I’m already connected with most of them this way.

If you’re reading this on Twitter and want to stay in touch, here are some options:

Looking at all those options, I feel ubiquitous. Which makes me quite comfortable with becoming inTwitterate.


Note: I don’t feel the need to migrate my Twitter contacts to Mastodon, but there are tools you can use to accomplish this before you actually leave Twitter. https://fedifinder.glitch.me/  and https://debirdify.pruvisto.org/


I wish for more kindness in the world. For more genuine intellectual curiosity. I wish for open-mindedness, for myself and others. I had a fascinating conversation a few days ago with a woman whose world view was radically different from mine. We didn’t change each other’s minds, but we heard each other with respect and friendliness, not judgment. That took two people willing to listen. Willing to share. I’m glad I met her, and wish for a world full of more such conversations.