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Sunday, November 15, 2015

A link to a cover, because I sometimes need one

Sometimes I need a handy way to link to this cover. So here it is. Credit goes to Elizabeth DiPalma Design+.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Yes, Dry-Sounding Legal Concepts Can Lead to Thrilling Stories: Rusch's Retrieval Artist Series

I know. Some people will hear about my new book, Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers, and they'll say: come on, now. How many interesting stories can you really base on obscure legal concepts?

Let us appreciate and ponder Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Retrieval Artist series.

In this science fiction series, going strong for thirteen years now, humanity has encountered and is doing interstellar business with a number of different alien species. Naturally, they all have their own world views and ways of doing things -- including their own legal systems. The premise of the series: that humans have consented to have these various aliens apply their own laws to humans who work on or otherwise visit the their planets. The problem: some of these alien laws are, by human standards, barbaric. For example, misunderstandings and the actions that flow from them may be crimes that condemn not only the criminal, but one or more of the criminal's children to anything from death to the transformation into something other than human.

In order to continue employing talented workers, the various multiplanetary corporations must provide some way for their employees to escape alien justice. The resulting industry "disappears" people, providing them with alternate identities and the means to assume them. But then there are the Trackers, who try to find the Disappeared and bring them to alien justice, as well as Retrieval Artists, whose function is at least supposed to be more palatable to human sensibilities. And that's just the beginning of all manner of plots and complications, not to mention fascinating characters.

My point: here's an engrossing, suspenseful, often mind-blowing, and successful science fiction series fundamentally based on . . . a choice of law issue. And yet, if you asked lawyers and law students (those who aren't already Rusch's ardent fans) what legal subject is too dry to use as the jumping-off point for exciting fiction, "choice of law" might well be one of the more common responses.

What fascinating fiction might the next writer base on some legal doctrine most people have never heard about? (And (ahem) where might the writer learn about that doctrine in the first place? . . .)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Drumrolls, Trumpets, Bronx Cheers, Whatever: Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers now available

After what, consulting my files, I find to be more than two years of effort, I've finally published my nonfiction reference work Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers. This book started life as three guest blog posts on Indies Unlimited, titled "Getting It Right" and aimed at helping writers avoid errors one commonly sees in books and movies about legal matters. The book shares that goal, but even more, it seeks to entice writers and potential writers to come and explore the legal landscape with its many dramatic possibilities. It could also be of use to law students, as long as they treat it as a supplement to assigned texts rather than a replacement.

Did I say "published"? At least, I've released the paperback, which sprang up promptly on Amazon and has now made it to Barnes and Noble's online store; and I've put out less elegantly formatted Kindle and Smashwords editions. If my ebook formatter ever conquers numerous obstacles and provides the fancier ebook version he's undertaken, I'll update the Kindle edition with that, and also make it available in the Nook Store, Kobobooks, Apple, and Google Play. (If the fancy version never materializes in usable form, I'll just upload the more stripped-down version to those retailers.)

I somehow failed to "reveal" the cover here when I received it, so here's the lovely cover, designed by Elizabeth DiPalma Design+.

I asked Elizabeth to look for 19th-century law-related engravings, and she came up with one I absolutely loved and built a great cover around it. (The paperback is even prettier, what with a spine and back cover. The Amazon link, which I provided just above, lets you turn the cover image around, though it skips the spine on its way.)

So far, most people with whom I've discussed the matter lean toward the paperback rather than the ebook. I myself like to flip through actual pages when I'm looking something up. However, the ebook has one significant advantage: the numerous cross-references in the text, and all the Index entries, are live links.

Even if you wouldn't be interested in owning the ebook as opposed to the paperback, Amazon's page for the Kindle edition lets you investigate the book more thoroughly: since it's such a long book, the "Look Inside" feature lets you read the extensive Table of Contents plus the first five chapters and part of the sixth.

And if you'd like a peek at the paperback's loooong Index, you can head to the book's website and click on "Online Extras." That link also takes you to deleted passages, including one of my favorite rants, reluctantly excised from the discussion of interstate commerce and the case of Wickard v. Filburn.

Finally, a blatant plea: if you know an author or student who might want to learn more about this resource, please inform them that it exists.

Post-finally (sorry): I'll be posting updates on the book's website, and occasionally updating the ebook. Updating the paperback is a more daunting prospect, as it'd mean redoing that monster Index; but if the book does well enough, I will. A possible compromise: new appendices from time to time adding updates instead of integrating them into the main text.

First, the fiction update

When I went to my blog to post an update about my first nonfiction book, I saw the last post and realized I had some novel-related updates to do as well.

First, Playback Effect has acquired some more bling. :-) Long after I'd forgotten that any review was in the works, Readers' Favorite gave the book five stars, a rating which comes with a "five star seal" in one's choice of shiny or flat versions. Well, I like shiny . . . .

I don't think I'll try to cram it onto the paperback cover, where I already have the Awesome Indies award. And if I update the ebook cover, I'll probably use the AI badge as well. However, I'm considering adding the Readers' Favorite seal to the ebook and/or paperback of Division.


When I stashed the RF seal away on my PC, I stumbled on a similar seal for Division. Which I had, once again, forgotten about, and which I don't believe I ever mentioned here. So what the hey -- I'm mentioning.

Nothing else in the way of breaking news on the fiction front. After the grueling process of preparing my nonfiction book for publication, I finally had a chance to give a bit of attention to the third Twin-Bred book, still languishing in mid-revision -- but then had to turn what time I had to planning (a bit) for National Novel Writing Month. (The one backhanded benefit we get from Daylight Savings Time this year: that extra hour turns up on November 1st, giving Nano participants a little more time to come up with those first 1,667 words.)

Next up: The Announcement (re my writer's guide to law and lawyers).

Friday, July 03, 2015

Playback Effect has another pretty badge

Here's an update on my post from last April about Awesome Indies Book's reviewing and approving Playback Effect. They've gone on to award the book their Seal of Excellence For Outstanding Independent Literature. And they gave me another badge.

Here's the badge. It's just as pretty as the last one.

And just as a reminder, here's the cover of the book, designed by Kit Foster.

And if you want to take a look inside, here's the Amazon link.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Cause

As the citizens of South Carolina ponder what to do with the Confederate flag now flying at their state capitol, it seems a good time to focus on a crucial distinction: the difference between why a soldier fought for a cause, and what cause that soldier actually served.

Those who supported secession and the establishment of the Confederate States of America, and those who laid down their lives in its service, were moved by a multitude of motives. Some were swept up in local fervor. Some believed that the United States, by refusing to let states depart from the Union, had betrayed the principles on which the country was founded. Some detested the growth of industrialism and viewed the South as a bastion of rural values. Some felt a far stronger patriotic tie to their state than to the federal union of states. And some believed that slavery was either an economic essential for the South's survival, or a positive moral good, or a recognition of basic truths about human nature, or all of the above.

Those who founded the Confederacy included quite a few of that latter number. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that the "cornerstone" of the new nation "rest[ed] upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina itself identified the threat to slaveholders' rights as a cause or major cause of their decisions to secede. More examples would not be hard to find.

Whatever brought them to the battlefield, whatever their courage and their sacrifice, the soldiers of the Confederacy, in the final analysis, fought to perpetuate and enshrine slavery. The flag of the Confederacy symbolizes -- not solely, but inescapably symbolizes -- that goal.

And so I believe that Southerners can honor their ancestors who fought for the Southern cause, which so many of them viewed as a noble cause, while partially or entirely disagreeing with that view; that they can honor those soldiers' devotion while treating the flag they followed into battle as a historical artifact, rather than a symbol to be revered; that they can, finally, agree with the descendants of slaves, and with those whose cause is the preservation and extension of freedom, that a state capitol is no longer the place for that flag to fly.

Friday, June 05, 2015

On the Advice that Authors Subject Characters to Continual Torture

I recently read yet another article warning authors against "nice writer syndrome," and exhorting them to make things as awful as possible for their characters.

Am I the only reader who prefers a judicious dose of difficulty and danger to an unending horror show of "But wait, there's worse"?

And doesn't a single hard blow have more impact when it isn't just another beat in a hundreds-of-pages-long beating?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pretty New Badge

I got some good news at the end of last week, in the form of a lovely review of my latest novel, Playback Effect, from the Awesome Indies blog -- and a very pretty "AI Approved" badge to go with it.

Here are some high points of the review:

"This is a novel that’s impossible to pigeonhole into a genre. The presence of a technology that permits recording and playback of dreams is science fiction, but it’s also a legal/crime thriller. The author, who has an extensive legal background, weaves it seamlessly into the story from start to finish. This is also something of a dystopian novel, in its description of the various uses and, most importantly, the misuses of technology, by those seeking to make money, by government, and by criminal elements – and the disastrous impact all this can have on individuals within society.

"Playback Effect has an astonishingly diverse cast of characters, and while Wynne is the main protagonist, the others play roles that are no less important. The author uses third person point of view, and moves from one character to another to keep the suspense level high and the tension as tight as a steel cable on a suspension bridge.
"Dialogue, descriptions, and narrative are flawless – not a wasted word anywhere. This is a book that will linger in your thoughts long after you’ve stopped reading – and are likely to invade your dreams. I give it a resounding five stars."
And here's the pretty badge.