I'm happy to announce that my second book, Life in Twenty-Something: A Story of Self-Discovery, is slated to come out on May 10th. In the meantime, I'll be releasing the prologue and first two chapters as blog posts over the next three Mondays, after which, the Kindle version will be free from May 10th - May 13th. If you want more information, updates, and a free copy on May 10th, sign up here.
I'm also proud to say that this one is a full-length novel and in addition to Kindle, it will be available on Amazon as a paperback and hardcover, as well as available in the Google Play store, on Apple iBooks, and available for order through Barnes & Noble.
To give you a quick little background, the book is a modern fiction novel with very nonfiction principles and values. It's written as a parable, a guiding story about the struggle we all face when looking for our passion and happiness in life.
If you've ever believed that you're destined for something great, and if you're constantly searching for your purpose, then you'll love this novel. Also, if you enjoy observational stories that are chock full of drugs, sex, high-stakes business, money lost, and love found, then you'll REALLY love this tale. Read on my fellow travelers...
Dave couldn’t believe it. Mouth agape, he sat there, motionless. Maybe if he didn’t move the entire situation would pass him by unscathed.
“Read it again, Cody, will ya?” he asked. Dave needed confirmation that he wasn’t hallucinating. He had, on a few occasions, hallucinated, but even then it had been on purpose and a lot less nightmarish than this.
“Sure,” Cody replied. He picked up the document on the mahogany table, looked at it, and read it aloud.
“It has come to our attention that David Leblanc and Cody Welter are in breach of multiple provisions of the Proprietary Inventions Agreement and the Separation Agreement that they signed while employed by Contour Media, Inc. (“The Company”). Their breach has caused serious and irreparable damage to The Company, and it reserves the rights of ownership to any improvements, inventions, concepts, designs, ideas, discoveries, developments, and any other work, whether or not original, patentable, copyrightable, or otherwise legally protectable. The Company also reserves the right to pursue all legal remedies against Mr. Leblanc and Mr. Welter.”
Cody looked up with a blank stare and laughed nervously. “What the hell does that even mean?”
Before Dave could reply, the lawyer sitting at the opposite end of the table chimed in. “Gentleman, these allegations are serious. I wouldn’t consider it a laughing matter.”
Cody looked at Dave and his blank stare finally turned into one of comprehension. “Shit, we’re fucked, aren’t we?”
“Jesus, Cody, weren’t you listening to yourself just now?” Dave asked, looking around the conference room in a daze. Typical law office. Sterile white walls displayed degrees that were unpronounceable, let alone comprehensible, each one seeming to be more impressive than the last. Dave caught his reflection in one of the frames and smirked. He felt foreign in his grey dress shirt, his blue eyes contrasting sharply with the dull and tired garb, a cloudy gloom encircling his once vibrant body. His melancholy got the best of him and he cleared his throat, nervously running his hand through his hair. “What does it cost to run a place like this?” he asked, a little louder than even he would have liked.
Cody shot him a glance and leaned close. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he hissed. “First, you crawl up my ass, and now all you can think about is how much our lawyer pays for rent?”
“I dunno man, seems like a pretty gaudy operation,” Dave retorted, already fed up with the situation. “I’m sure they’ll put in gold inlays to keep up with appearances.”
“Gentlemen, please,” the lawyer said. “I don’t think either of you fully understand. Your former employer is accusing you of stealing proprietary technology and violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse act, causing irreparable harm to the company. They’re threatening to sue you for seven figures, and depending on the investigation, there could be jail time. Can you afford a legal battle like this right now?”
“Well, let’s see,” Dave said, counting on his fingers. “Cody and I just quit our jobs to start a new company, which has zero clients, and can barely afford the picture frames on your walls let alone the hourly rate you’re billing us as I speak. Contour Media, on the other hand, has ten million dollars in the bank, a number that will probably grow, seeing as venture capital firms re-invest in any company that uses the buzzword ‘Uber-ization.’” He finished with a scowl, disgusted.
“I think what Dave’s trying to say is, no, we can’t afford a legal battle,” Cody said, his temper rising to match the hue of his red Henley. He unzipped his hoodie and gave his business partner another glance.
Dave returned Cody’s stare and smiled. “Yes, I think that’s what I’m trying to say. So, in the spirit of brevity, what’re the next steps?”
“Well, did you do what they’re accusing you of?” the lawyer asked, his tone of voice making it clear he thought they were guilty.
“No way. Did we steal from our former company and try to put them out of business? Definitely not,” Dave said. He took a breath and stopped his pulse from quickening. Looking out the 14th-floor window of the conference room, he noticed a cruise ship in the distance, gliding through the water and into the nearest port. Above the ship, the Bay Bridge shone like a multi-ton mirror in the waning afternoon light, reflecting the sun’s rays down at the San Francisco harbor.
Dave got up to get a closer look at the Ferry Building across the street. “I gotta say, you guys have a pretty good view out here. Maybe it’s worth the rent, anyway.”
“Ok, great, thanks for the valuable input, Dave,” Cody said, looking across the table at the lawyer. “And to answer your question directly, no, we didn’t. In fact, we want nothing to do with them. Literally nothing. The whole reason we started our company was to build a lifestyle business that fit our values.” He paused, leaning forward in his chair. “Their business wasn’t able to do that.”
The look Cody gave and the way he said ‘their business’ alluded to something deeper than values. There was pain behind his eyes. A sense of betrayal even before the lawsuit.
“Lifestyle business?” the lawyer asked, not catching the look.
“Yeah, a lifestyle business,” Dave said. “All these startups in Silicon Valley are so hell-bent on raising money to build their boondoggle that they lose sight of what really matters. I mean, who cares if you raise a million dollars to create the next dating app? What value are you adding to the world? A lifestyle business, on the other hand, is a bootstrapped company that provides its owners with enough money and freedom to do what they love. And trust me, what we love doesn’t include duping consumers into using our product so Yahoo acquires us for no other reason other than to stay relevant in The Valley.”
“And so you know what really matters?” the lawyer asked.
“What?” Dave replied. He had a habit of rambling without listening to what he was saying.
“Yes, what really matters,” the lawyer reiterated.
Dave looked at Cody. “No, we don’t know what really matters, but a lifestyle business can fund the discovery. That’s the whole point. There has to be something we can do that both makes money and leaves a positive impact on the world. We saw our company as a low stress cash flow that would give us the opportunity to find out.”
“Ok, we’re getting way off track, guys,” Cody said. “What are the next steps to dealing with this legal stuff?”
“Well, if you truly didn’t do what’s been alleged, then I’ll respond with a letter denying all allegations,” the lawyer said. “I must say, given your business goals, I’m surprised a company of their size wouldn’t just let this go.”
“Oh, it doesn’t surprise us,” Dave said with a bitter laugh. “They’re the ‘vendetta type,’ and I’d imagine they relish the idea of bleeding us dry financially, if not locking us up completely.”
“I’ll do my best here,” the lawyer said, “but admittedly, the allegations are serious. I don’t want to scare you, but I need to be clear. Losing a case like this would result in bankruptcy for you and your company, and would likely end in jail time.”
“It would ruin us, let’s not mince words here,” Dave said through clenched teeth. “Our company isn’t even worth the trouble at this point.”
“While I sort everything out with the opposing counsel you guys can do what you please, but just know that even dissolving your company won’t stop legal action,” the lawyer said. “And if your former employers are really anything like you say they are, I’d bet they’ll do everything, both inside and outside the law, to teach you a lesson.”
“Outside the law, are you serious?” Cody asked, looking at Dave. “Should we be worried about them breaking our thumbs, or what do you mean?”
“I’ll do my best to ensure that doesn’t happen,” the lawyer replied, a sad attempt at his first joke.
“Well that’s good,” Dave said. “At least our lawyer will be ‘trying his best.’” He took one last look around the conference room, unable to shake the feeling that he was in a medical facility and the best parts of his life were being cut right out. Dave glanced out the window. The sun had since gone down and Dave could no longer see the Ferry Building. In its place was a dark and shadowed structure that did nothing to convey the hustle and bustle on the Embarcadero an hour prior. Only more cold and grey, where there used to be the pulse of life.
“Come on, Dave,” Cody said, “I think we have a few things to talk about.”
“I apologize about this whole situation,” the lawyer said. “Again, I’ll reach out to the opposing counsel and deny all allegations. Once they respond, I can give you more information on how your former employer will want to proceed. If I were you, I’d be prepared for the long haul.”
“Thanks for the advice,” Dave said. “But the best preparation might be to let them win before we ever get to court.”
Outside the building, Cody was fuming. “C’mon man! Could you have taken the meeting a little more seriously?” he asked.
“Honestly dude, I just can’t understand why Omar and the Board would go this route,” Dave replied. “Like, I get that they have a lot of animosity toward us, but I thought people were better than this.”
“You know there’s no love lost on their part. Yeah, I s’pose I’m a little shocked too, but it doesn’t matter. We have a lot to lose, and we haven’t even thought about our equity stake in Contour Media. We could end up forfeiting a lot of money.”
“For you, maybe. I only have a few thousand shares.”
Cody glared at Dave with fire in his eyes.
“Sorry,” Dave said, “that came out wrong.”
“Look man, I think it’s best if we sleep this off and try to come at it with fresh eyes tomorrow,” Cody suggested, fighting his urge to argue.
“If we can sleep,” Dave said, sighing. “You’re right though, I think I’ll walk home. I’ll catch ya tomorrow.” Dave spun on his heels without waiting for a response and walked down the Embarcadero, heading north towards the Golden Gate Bridge and following the waterline past South Bay’s raucous bars.
Sounds like fun, Dave thought to himself as he wandered by, unable to remember what fun actually felt like. Dave glanced longingly at a restaurant as he passed, the inside brimming with merriment, and felt his impending lawsuit begin to infringe on his thoughts. Violating.
The dim lights on the streets made him invisible to those inside, and the large windows framed the people inside perfectly. Not a worry in their world, it seemed. “I wish I could give them some of my worries,” Dave said aloud to no one in particular.
“I’ll take your worries!” he heard someone shout from a back alley, the voice wedged between the restaurant and a pier to its right. Apparently, one of San Francisco’s homeless had overheard him.
“I think you have enough to worry about, my friend,” Dave replied, unable to see the person in question or know how much he actually had to worry about. Dave knew that misery loved company and hoped it was a lot. He smiled, almost wishing he could trade places with the guy. At least he’d be off the grid, no lawsuits to deal with. In fact, there’d probably be nothing to stress over. What an interesting dichotomy. Here he was, first wishing he could trade places with those inside the restaurant, and now wishing he could trade places with the homeless outside of it.
Anyone but him, it seemed.
He left the water and hung a left onto Broadway, putting in his earphones and turning up his music before passing the street’s seedier strip clubs. Bombay Bicycle Club started playing, the lead singer crooning, Dave following along in his head. Here comes the doubt, to shut the sunlight out, I feel the brunt. And I keep the world away, to be asleep throughout the day is all I want.
By the end of the second chorus Dave had reached the Broadway clubs. Never tempted but always interested, he made the mistake of glancing at the girls out front, noticing that many of them were out of shape. One would think that dancing would burn calories, not put them on, he said to himself. The girls at Cheetah Club caught his wandering eye and one of them called out to Dave. “Hi baaaaby,” she said. “Looking good hunny, why don’t you bring those broad shoulders over and let me give ‘em a rub.”
Thank god Dave’s music was playing; he could ignore the catcalls. Plus, he knew that he couldn’t have broad shoulders, not when they were weighed down as much as his were.