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).