October 22, 2010

Moi and Donna…why are all my authors so tall?

What’s more fun than meeting one of your authors? Well, besides switching the beagle’s tequila out with colored water, that is. Donna Ballman, lawyer, author extraordinaire gave a riveting 4-hr. seminar on using the law in your stories.

Now, the thing I lurved about this seminar is that Donna offered a ton of ways to enhance and enrich plot lines in a direction that not many would think of. It’s a way to give your stories more depth.

For that reason, I’m ordering everyone to buy a copy of Donna’s book, The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers.

That is all. Now I’m off to go an agent/editor’s panel. Well, after I finish my cookie. They have the largest table of cookies in the middle of the hallway and, well, how is one supposed to resist…?

Birthday wishies and literary dishies

June 23, 2010

So what makes a black-hearted, soulless editor happy on her birthday? Oh sure, the usual things apply – query letters that have a clear plot, authors who actually read the submission guidelines [which for some reason has been in very short supply the entire month of June], cover designs that come together easily, fabulous projects.

But there are other things, too.

Selling 5,000 units of Jan’s Story in three days is certainly a good way to drunk-punch an editor clean into Giddy Land.

Another good way to put the jam in my jelly doughnut is to see a nice huzzah in Daily Business Review for a really damn good book – The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom – Let’s Quill All the Lawyers. Go, Donna!

And with that, I must go. The beagle has made reservations at the local pub/health spa/taco-ria. She even got the Rottweiler down the way to cover the phones. I’m wondering whether to be worried…

The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers

February 1, 2010

After publishing over 70 titles, I’m still a little kid when it comes to seeing the final print run in all its glory. There’s nothing like seeing all the hard work of my cover designer become a 3-D viable thing to hold. And hug. Yes, I still hug each new book because it’s about the only time I can stop to take a breath and remember the production phase.

As I hugged Donna Ballman’s book,  The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers (fondly known as Quill around these here parts), I flipped through the pages and got to remember all over again how fabulous this book is. Not only does she make this palatable and clear to writers, but she invites all kinds of fabulous ideas that could enhance a story – aspects that the writer might not have ever thought about had it not been for reading Quill. In fact, her book gave me a new idea for a book. Donna, I’m not sure whether to thank you or kill you. Like, I have time to WRITE?

The cover is GORGEOUS and promptly swooned upon tearing open the box. The inside is equally wonderful, which is no small task because this wasn’t a book that was even a slight gleam in her eye.

Donna is a children’s/YA writer. But she has this wonderful day job that attracted me when I first met her on Litopia. “Ssssay,” sez me, “I have this imprint, The Get it Write Series, that deals with writer’s research books and all things writerly. How’dja like to write a writer’s guide to the courtroom? The Great Cosmic Muffin only knows how many writers get things wrong when putting their characters into a court room. This would be one-stop shopping of the civil law system thingy mc-joby.”

Donna was up to it and wrote her little heart out. When we were editing the manuscript, I kept saying, “Donna, dear, you forget that we don’t know all this stuff. You need to make it possible for the beagle to understand it.” It didn’t take long before we developed our own mantra: “Channel the beagle.”

To Donna’s great credit, she channeled the beagle and the result is an inclusive bible of US civil law that is clear, concise, and bloated with fabulous writing ideas.

The channeling was great; the beagle just filed suit against me for unpaid designer doggy chewies, and word on the street is that Donna has a new penchant for margaritas.

My recommendation to all writers is to fire up the blender, rush to your bookstore and snap up a copy of Quill. Otherwise, the beagle may just have to serve you with papers…


edited to add: check out Donna’s website and blog

The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers

January 17, 2010

I had occasion to give a critique on a three-chapter submission the other day. As often happens, I use examples to highlight a particular point. Since the submission was for our Get It Write Series, I used examples from Donna Ballman’s fabulous book The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers – fondly known around here as Quill.

Many books of this ilk have an innate tendency to assume a role of teaching a general writing course, and that’s not the intent of a research book. You want a writing book, buy a writing book. If you want a research tool that will give you every single detail about U.S. civil law, you go no further than Quill because Donna concentrates on what she knows best – lawyer things. And she does it with her dry/ wry wit that keeps the reader engaged while laughing their heads off.

I mean, face it, lawyer stuff is as boring as a tax audit, but Donna makes it fun – and better yet – she makes it clear. When I approached Donna about writing this book, I didn’t know a tort from an apple pie, but she broke everything down so that even this law-challenged neophyte could understand admiralty law, which is actually a really cool foundation for a book. Talk about unique – but I digress.

Donna teases the author into thinking about the possibilities of how they can enhance their storyline. To achieve that, she continually ties in the relevancy of her information to writing. There is no way writers can Google their particular topic and get the same clear-headed analysis that caters to a writer’s mind.

Here’s an example of what I mean:


Your characters can’t just bounce from court to court and show up for hearings without jumping through lots of hoops first. Lawyers must be admitted to the Bar in each state where they practice. They must graduate from an accredited law school and pass a background check. The qualifications vary from state to state. Most states have a Bar Exam covering the key areas of law and procedure in the state. Did your character flunk the Bar three times before they got in? Do they have to take a Bar Exam in another state after twenty years of practice?

Notice how she keeps the reader engaged by continually referring to their own writing and how they might apply her information to their character development or storyline. She’s expanding the writer’s creativity with the information she gives.

Donna gets very tactile – a godsend to us writers – by giving us a five-senses feel about her various topics. Her description of the courtroom was enough to pucker my sphincter – yah, I was instantly intimidated.

Another great thing Donna does is use excerpts from well-known books as examples of what to avoid, or what to emulate. The law is a confusing rat’s maze as far as I’m concerned, yet there are times when we need to sue, litigate, or process our characters to within an inch of their little fictional lives. Or maybe we really love lawyer-type books. Given this genre is really  impacted, it’s vital to come up with something unique. So where do writers go for information or to ponder really good ideas? Well, to our new bestest friend, Donna Ballman, of course!

So come February, run – do not walk – to your local store, to Amazon, or our online store, and nab this book for your very own.

And happy writing!

Let’s Quill All the Lawyers: I love it when a plan comes together

April 18, 2009

quill-smI love my authors. I say it all the time. I love them because they’re proactive and jump in with both feet. Donna Ballman is no exception. She is the effervescent, humorous, brilliant author of The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers (I crack up at that subtitle every dang time I see it.)

I had mentioned to her that I’d love to get a foreword, and she whups out Judge Alex. Yah, baby.

I cannot wait for this book to come out because her wit mixes beautifully with all the info she spews forth. Anyone whose characters find themselves looking down the barrel of a lawsuit will use this book as their bible.

Donna, you so rock.

Disclaimer: be sure your bladder is empty when reading.

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