Have a question about how to use the law in your story? Need a character, plot twist or setting? Ask me in the comments section and I'll be glad to answer. I welcome all comments and questions.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5/25/10 Writing and Publishing News

Which monarch is championing libel reform? Which publishers are killing endangered trees to make books? What does Facebook do to dissenters? Which writer is claiming Heroes stole the last season from their comic book? The headlines, plus more of the latest writing and publishing news are in this week’s Write Report.

Where the law and literature meet:

Children’s publishers using paper from endangered rainforests: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20100524/FREE/100529924#

Tibet cracks down on writers: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-saunders/new-wave-of-dissent-in-ti_b_577594.html?ir=Books

Author of book criticizing Facebook has FB account shut down: http://gawker.com/5542792/facebooks-history-of-squelching-dissent

Queen takes up cause of libel reform (the monarch, not the band): http://www.thebookseller.com/news/119146-libel-reform-back-on-the-agenda-after-queens-speech.html

In Israel, publishers won’t be able to own bookstores: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/ministers-tackling-law-to-keep-publishers-from-also-owning-bookstore-chains-1.292046

Lawsuit says last season of Heroes was stolen. Not sure I’d admit to originating that one: http://techland.com/2010/05/19/lawsuit-alleges-thatheroes-final-year-was-a-rip-off/

Amazon under pressure to axe terrorist books: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5igSSbZn3vm5v00kVgm84ONDeGLeA

More headlines:

Litopia’s fantastic Muse e-zine for writers is out! I’m in it, along with loads of big name writers including one of my faves, Charlaine Harris. Download free here: http://www.litopia.com/muse/muse-issue-one-beginnings

Why the Konrath effect probably won’t help you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-pinter/the-konrath-effect-will-n_b_579455.html?ref=fb&src=sp

Midlist author tries hybrid self-publishing: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/industry-deals/article/43258-midlist-author-tries-hybrid-self-publishing.html

The truth about sexual harassment can only be told in novel form: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-reinbach/sex-harassment-and-the-tr_b_577859.html

Author rejected by every major publishing house signs half million dollar deal: http://www.metro.co.uk/news/826446-rejected-author-gets-250k-deal-for-her-next-creation

Writer Stephen Perry missing: http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/thundercats-writer-stephen-perry-missing-after-grisly-discovery/

Children’s writer recovering from cocaine addition: http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100517/munsch-addictions-100517/20100517/?hub=CalgaryHome

Neil Gaiman getting dissed for accepting speakers’ fee (and why the heck shouldn’t he?): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-weaver/neil-gaiman-dust-up-raise_b_585730.html  

How to tell who’s running for President in 2012? Look at the bestseller list: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-guttman/presidential-possibilitie_b_581846.html?ir=Books

Authors look at alternative routes to getting published: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/24/DDTJ1DIJ95.DTL

Agents comment on the alternative routes to publication, how agents will change to deal with the industry changes: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/43276-agents-weigh-the-growth-of-alternate-publishing-options.html

The books of Lost: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/books/blog/2010/05/meaning_of_sawyers_favorite_bo.html

Why paranormal is still hot: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/43272-p-is-for-paranormal-still.html

Study says books in the home keep kids in school longer: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7750167/Books-in-the-home-boost-childrens-education.html

Here’s an article I wrote about what to do if you’re presented with a severance agreement: http://nejs.org/2010/05/21/career-tips-severance-agreements/

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guest Post on So You Killed Off the Parents In Your YA/Middle Grade Book? C’mon, You Know You Did It. Eight Ways the Law Affects Teen and Children’s Stories

My guest post this week talks about why you need the law even when writing children's and teen books. Because the parents are so often absent due to death or divorce, your characters deal with custody, inheritance and all types of issues.

If you haven't seen LM Preston's blog, it's worth a visit for YA and sci fi writers. She covers all types of issues on genre writing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5/18/10 Writing and Publishing News

Which literary agent got busted for stealing from his clients? Which author is dealing directly with Amazon for traditional book publishing? Which book got halted after a libel threat letter went out to everyone connected with it? Is the agency model iPad uses for e-books going to run into antitrust problems in the UK? These and other stories are in this edition of The Write Report.

Where the law and literature meet:

Literary agent on trial for stealing from his authors: http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/court/Literary-agent-trial/article-2145139-detail/article.html

How the agency model may fall afoul of UK’s anti-competition laws: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/118550-legal-issues-raise-question-over-ipad-agency-model-in-uk.html and http://mhpbooks.com/mobylives/?p=15167

Canadian publisher postpones mining book after libel threat letter goes to everyone connected with the book: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/118600-canadian-publisher-postpones-book-on-legal-threat.html

Konrath signs directly with Amazon for traditional book, bypasses agents and mainstream publishers: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/05/shaken-by-ja-konrath-press-release.html

More headlines:

Another piece on applying science to literature: http://www.thecommonreview.org/feature-articles/gottschalls-problem.html

On Ralph Ellison, writer’s block, letting go of the manuscript and finding an ending: http://chronicle.com/article/Ralph-Ellisons-Never-Ending/65399/

Facebook creates community pages for bestselling authors, publishing houses: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/random_house/facebook_creates_community_pages_for_stephen_king_kathryn_stockett_random_house_and_many_others_161594.asp

Cory Doctorow drops Facebook over privacy issues, but his community page is still up: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/authors/cory_doctorow_drops_facebook_account_his_community_page_remains_161606.asp

Amazon to separate out free books from others in bestseller lists: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/43152-amazon-to-drop-free-books-from-kindle-bestseller-list.html

20 Tips for Writers: http://www.scribd.com/doc/31244122/20-Tips-for-Writers-by-Douglas-Clegg

How the iPad is a friend to Penguin: http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/apples-ipad-is-penguins-friend-amazon-enemy/

Konrath gives the details on how he makes money e-publishing, including names, recommendations: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/05/top-ebook-questions.html

Nothing to do with writing, but I couldn’t resist a story about how Florida police deal with 911 calls claiming voodoo curses: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/delray-beach/fl-voodoo-police-20100515,0,5298065.story

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Who Might Your Murderer Character Want to Kill Off (Besides Lawyers)? Six People Who May Just Need to be Murdered

I did a guest blog post today for Angela Cerrito’s blog on Who Might Your Murderer Character Want to Kill Off (Besides Lawyers)? Six People Who May Just Need to be Murdered.

If you haven't checked out Angela Cerrito's blog, it's a wonderful place to learn all kinds of things about writing. Her Middle Grade Novel, The End of the Line, is forthcoming from Holiday House. I met her in a writers’ workshop, which proves that these workshops are worthwhile!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5/12/10 Writing and Publishing News

Which book just got banned in New Jersey? Which gardening book author is accused of plagiarism? What are TV execs scared of more than bad ratings? And why did a mom turn into a library book thief? These and other stories are right here in The Write Report.

Where the law and literature meet:

Book banning in NJ led by Glenn Beck: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/may/10/gay-anthology-revolutionary-voices-censored

Plagiarized gardening book: http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/3667586/Gardening-book-plagiarism-claim?

TV execs ban Islam as a topic due to threats, bomb scare, proving that threats let the bad guys win: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/05/07/islam-taboo-topic-tv-wake-south-park-threats-times-square-bomb-scare/ Lawyer argues for the Google book settlement: http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2010/05/google-book-search-settlement-agreement-is-fair-argue-author-and-publisher-groups/

Why Australians can’t get most Kindle books: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/opinion/ways-around-e-book-blockade-copyright-issues/story-e6frgb0o-1225864694693

Objections to the Google settlement summarized in “only” 55 pages: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/43105-revised-summary-of-google-settlement-objections-issued.html

Mom turns book thief, refuses to return Gossip Girl to library: http://www.woai.com/news/local/story/Mom-refuses-to-return-racy-teen-books-to-library/JnEsNEFkKEC1s7dG5_Mwfg.cspx

Publishers still in limbo after CPSIA hearing: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/43054-latest-cpsia-hearing-leaves-publishers-empty.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly%27s+Children%27s+Bookshelf&utm_campaign=82e1447fdb-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email

Where will Kagan be on 1st Amendment issues?: http://www.tv.com/concerns-about-kagans-first-amendment-position/webnews/79026.html

More headlines:

Is English becoming the global language?: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/may/09/globish-english-language-robert-mccrum

Which e-reader is best? http://www.abcactionnews.com/content/taking_action_for_you/story/Comparing-e-book-readers/Jbg5o0c25UysHKgGoBRaSw.cspx

Wanna be a bestseller? Offer the book for free: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/05/top-10-kindle-ebooks-all-free.html

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lawyers with Alzheimer’s, Conflicts of Interest and Ethical Conundrums in The Good Wife

A recent plotline in The Good Wife bugged me so much that I did some research on the ethical conundrums it raised. When I got no satisfactory answer on my own, I did what every good writer should do – I called someone who knew what they were talking about. In this case, I used (or possibly misused) the Florida Bar’s Ethics Hotline. Most states have something similar, where lawyers can call up and get some advice when ethical issues arise. I confessed right away that I was calling about an ethical issue from a TV show, and was lucky enough to run into a lawyer on the hotline who happens to be a fan of The Good Wife. She knew exactly which two episodes I was talking about.

Confidentiality Within the Lawyer’s Firm

In the first episode that was bothering me, our heroine, a newbie lawyer, got drafted to represent a firm partner in a legal matter. In the midst of her representation, it came out that her client had Alzheimer’s. She now knows that a hotshot lawyer, a firm partner, is impaired, unable to represent clients competently, at least some of the time. Her supervisor is a different partner. The client/partner tells her that the existence of his disease is confidential, and she can’t tell anyone, even her boss. Any normal new associate would have been incompetent to handle the representation at that point. My ethics guru agreed that she probably should have insisted that she be allowed to get advice from her boss on how to proceed with the case. That would have solved most of the other issues. Plus, it’s extremely unlikely that such a high profile partner wouldn’t have had someone else figure out his condition by this point.

But, let’s give the writers the benefit of the doubt. Our heroine is a super-attorney who can handle tough cases with little supervision. She handled the case like a champ. Even though her firm represented the partner/client, the client is within his rights to instruct her to keep this information from the other lawyers in her firm. She would have to refrain from even writing it in the file, because the file is firm property, not hers. In this situation, the writers probably got it right.

However, any normal newbie lawyer would have had to either get the okay to go to the boss, or withdraw. The lawyer has a duty to withdraw if they can’t give competent representation. She couldn’t have told her boss why, only that she had a conflict.

The partner/client then announces that he’s leaving the firm and taking most of the clients, and reminds her she has to keep his condition confidential. She’s stuck. She can’t tell. That’s probably right, if she didn’t tell the supervisor while she was handling the case.

So I’ll give this first one to the writers.

Conflict of Interest With Former Client and Duty of Zealous Advocacy

Then comes the second episode with the same issue. Our heroine is handling a case. The former partner/client makes a surprise announcement that he’s the opposing counsel. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the case came to our heroine’s firm after the partner/client left, because otherwise he can’t do it.

So our heroine now knows that she has a lawyer on the other side who has Alzheimer’s. He’s incompetent. Normally, she could probably get him tossed off the case. She has information advantageous to her current client. But she can’t use it because she got it from a former client and it’s confidential.

The writers found a clever way for her to get out of her dilemma. I won’t give it away. But the whole scenario really bugged me at that point, and the expert agrees. Because she had information she should have used as a zealous advocate but couldn’t, she had a non-waivable conflict. She had to withdraw from the case.

Could she tell her firm why she had to withdraw now that the client/partner is gone? I don’t know. Possibly, but maybe not. If she did, whoever she told couldn’t use the information. Could another member of the firm have taken the case after she had to get out? No. The whole firm is disqualified.

Ethics and Alzheimer’s

That puts the guy with Alzheimer’s in the catbird seat, storywise. He could stalk all their cases and tell the folks on the other side he knows how to get the other firm off the case. Would he be unethical to solicit those clients? Yes, most likely. But then he’s already unethical. He knows he’s impaired and he hasn’t done anything to protect his clients. He hasn’t even disclosed it to them. His staff doesn’t know, so they aren’t even watching his back. Just because he’s impaired doesn’t mean his ethical duties go away.

Why I’m Giving Them A Pass Even Though The Writers Got it Partly Wrong

In all, I think the writers did a decent job. They used a real ethical dilemma, dealt with it credibly, and it took two lawyers, including an expert, about 15 minutes of hashing out the rules and permutations to figure out that there was a problem and why. Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related issues are featured in this month’s ABA Journal because those of us who are boomer lawyers are getting freaking old and refuse to leave the profession. It’s something the Bars need to get a handle on. The issue is timely and I hope to see more of this interesting character.
If you are writing about the law and get this close to being right, I probably won’t change the channel. Both the expert and I agreed – we’ll keep watching The Good Wife. It’s a wonderful show for lawyers to watch, even if they do take some liberties.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5/5/10 Writing and Publishing News

Where the law and literature meet:

Grand jury subpoenas author for book sources: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-times-reporter-cia,0,322365.story

Appeals court tells trial judge to take a second look at the Salinger sequel/spoof, still thinks Salinger estate likely to win: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100430-717011.html

Amazon cuts Penguin hardback prices in tiff over e-books: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703572504575214492194024292.html

Apple faces antitrust inquiry over apps: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/117724-apple-to-face-antitrust-inquiry-over-app-development.html

Hate-filled venomous speech is still protected speech: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2010/05/federal-judge-orders-9-members-of-christian-militia-freed-from-custody/1

Authors, songwriters unite to address gap in copyright law: http://www.authorsguild.org/advocacy/articles/songwriters-and-authors-unite-to-protect.html

Now that Google scanned all those books for free, it plans to sell them: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703866704575224232417931818.html

More headlines:

Ve know vhat you’re highlighting: http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2010/0503/Is-it-creepy-that-Amazon-is-tracking-most-highlighted-Kindle-passages?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fbooks+%28Christian+Science+Monitor++Books%29

Can erotica save the publishing industry?: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36835812/ns/health-sexual_health/

Authors against SATs: http://alangibbons.net/?p=936

A peek at China’s largest literary agency: http://www.forbes.com/global/2010/0510/companies-literary-agencies-lily-chen-book-drive-in-china.html?

Oxford poetry professor race heats up. This is about as exciting as it gets in Oxford: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/29/michael-horovitz-oxford-poetry-professor