Monday, March 27, 2017

My Boss Makes a Great Serial Killer: Write Real People into your Novel Without Getting Sued

(Blogging today at Paranormal Romantics. Here's the post.)

Standard writing advice is to write what you know, but the new novel in your head screams out for an arrogant protagonist; a self-absorbed manscaper with a short temper and a roving eye. The perfect model just so happens to walk, talk, and look like your boss. Can you kill him with literary abandon? If you do, will you get sued? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t? When diving through murky legal waters, the first things you need to know are the definition of defamation and invasion of privacy.

Defamation of Character
Defamation means you gave someone’s character a severe black eye. Calling a person a butthead in print isn’t enough for defamation. It’s merely an insult, and, well, sticks and stones can’t break bones or get you sued. Any accusations must be blatantly untrue and the writer must act with obvious malice. An important point to note is a defamatory statement contains specific details. The person in question must be easily identifiable so that a reasonable individual can draw a connection between the literary creation and the real thing.  Inventing a character with the same personality as your boss is fine. Giving him the same physical appearance, quirks, nickname, weird birthmark, shoe size, home address, and then calling him a probable serial killer, possible arsonist, and likely body snatcher is a no-no. The court may take a dim view even if you make it clear this is only your impression. It’s like yelling  “Fire!” in a crowded theater.  If people get trampled in the stampede for the exit you can’t shrug it off and say, “The fire was only my opinion.”

Invasion of Privacy
Invasion of privacy makes a writer sound like a Peeping Tom, but all it means is that facts have been revealed that are “not related to public concern.” In this day of show-all/tell-all this one rarely makes it to the courts, and most legal cases are in connection with memoirs or biographies. Interestingly enough, the courts generally accept a legitimate public interest exists simply because a publisher elected to publish a book. If Simon and Shuster says it’s in the public interest to read this thing, then dang it, it is. Spilling the beans in your biography that Aunt Maude ran a Ponzi scheme will more likely net a public service award than a summons. Telling everyone how your cousin, Henry, started life as Henrietta might get you booted from family reunions, but not sued. (And wouldn’t it make a dandy Lifetime movie.) However, revealing the local high school principal has sealed juvenile arrests for prostitution and drug convictions is another matter. The information has nothing to do with the stellar law-abiding citizen she is today and could irreparably harm her career and ability to earn a living.  

How often do authors get sued? Not much, and most cases law involves writers who aren’t self-published. The legal precedent on self-publishing is murky since no independent third party publishing house designated your book as a legitimate public interest prior to publication. Therefore, public interest may be more difficult to prove in an invasion of privacy lawsuit. On the plus side, most self-published authors aren’t famous. The odds are your boss will never draw the connection.

Until the courts come down one way or the other, here’s a few tips to keep out of the big house and that tacky orange jumpsuit.
  • Disguise characters. Changing physical descriptions isn’t enough if the person’s identity it still blatantly obvious to everyone in the community. Show, don’t tell.

  • Use parody and satire. No one ever sued Saturday Night Live, and have you seen what’s on the internet? They even use real names. Insult is not legal grounds for a lawsuit.

  • Get signed releases.  This includes business owners if their companies feature prominently in your story. This is surprisingly easy as most people are thrilled to be in a book. I had several elderly church-going relatives vigorously campaign to have me use their name for a dead prostitute. Auntie Loretta won.

  • If you’re writing a memoir or autobiography don’t forget people remember things differently. A few kind words at the beginning of a book about how this is your impression of events might do a lot to assuage hurt feelings and keep legal trouble at bay.









Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Spotlight: Lapses of Memory by M. S. Spencer

“I know, every night in the shower for the rest of my life, wondering where he was and what he was doing. But that was you, not me. I know what I’m doing.”

Thank you so much for having me at your wonderful site, Linda. I’d like to talk about my new romantic suspense Lapses of Memory, in which two romances intertwine as a mother recounts her life-long love affair while her daughter juggles two lovers. The setting is Old Town Alexandria, one of my home towns, where both Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, and The Mason's Mark: Love and Death in the Tower take place as well.

In the frame story of Lapses of Memory, Sydney Bellek is narrating her life to her daughter Olivia.  While Olivia labors to get her mother to cooperate, she has little time to concentrate on her own dilemma—how to choose between the rich and dashing Rémy de Beaumec, who wants to fly her around the world, and the steady, quiet, American-to-the-core, Benjamin Knox, who only wants to make her happy.

Wild Rose Press, 3/15/2017, Imprint: Champagne Rose
Contemporary romantic suspense/Action Adventure; M/F; 2 flames
Ebook (70,560); Print: 296 pp.

Blurb
Old Town Alexandria
It is spring in Old Town Alexandria, and Sydney Bellek is dictating her memoir to her daughter Olivia. Every few years from the age of five she meets her true love Elian Davies, but while he remembers her, she doesn’t recognize him. Only after surviving wars, revolutions, and years of separation will she realize they are meant to be, but this time it is Elian who has lost his memory of her. Will he remember her before she loses heart or will their new love be enough to replace the old one?

Meanwhile, her daughter Olivia has her own dilemma—how to choose between the rich and dashing Rémy de Beaumec, who wants to take her around the world, and the steady, quiet, American-to-the-core, Benjamin Knox, who only wants to make her happy.

Buy Links


 Excerpt
“Welcome, stranger.” Sydney offered her cheek. The chiseled features of the man at the door inclined toward her with polished grace. One perfect ringlet of ebony hair sidled down his temple. He kissed her and drew back, his black eyes sparkling.
“You grow more beautiful every year, Madame Davies.”
“I see you still have that silver tongue.” His hostess gave a gentle laugh to soften the criticism. “Olivia, why don’t we go into the drawing room? Would you like a cocktail, Rémy? Or champagne?”
Sydney kept the conversation light, dwelling on politics and religion rather than the weather. The tense muscles in Rémy’s shoulders gradually relaxed as the evening wore on and the wine flowed. He even began glancing at Olivia now and then, something he had studiously avoided at first. He hasn’t forgotten about Benjamin. That’s good. Sydney watched her daughter. She sensed Olivia had been opposed to this dinner—whether out of shame or apprehension Sydney wasn’t sure. Even now her face remained inscrutable, annoying her mother. Just like Elian.
“Dessert?”
“No, thank you.”
“Coffee then?”
“Yes, please.”
When they were served, Sydney rose. “Why don’t you two take your cups to the living room? I have some things to do to prepare for my trip. I shall return in a few minutes.” She let them go, waiting for a sign. Sure enough, as they passed out the door, their hands found one another and squeezed. She sighed and headed upstairs.
****
“Must you go so soon? The evening is still young.”
“Yes, madame.” Rémy’s hooded eyes kept her from deciphering his state of mind.
“We’ll see you again before you return to France?”
He twisted to look at Olivia. The pause lengthened. Olivia stared into his eyes, silent. “I hope so.”
When he’d gone, Sydney indicated a chair to her daughter. “Tell me what happened.”
As if she knew there was no escape, Olivia sat and squared her shoulders. “He asked me to go back to France with him.”
“Ah.”
“I…I said I’d think about it.”
“Ah.”
Olivia stood and started to pace. “I wish…”
“You wish Benjamin would show up out of the blue, sweep you off your feet, and carry you off to…er…”
Her daughter halted. “I do?”
Sydney shrugged. “If you up and took off with Rémy, would you ever know what you’d do if he did?”
Jaw slack, Olivia stared at her mother. “Say that again?”


About the Author
Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. 

Ms. Spencer has published ten romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

Contacts
Linked in

M. S. Spencer's Calendar of Events



Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Spotlight: Second Chance in Laguna

Second Chance in Laguna
by Claire Marti

When Sophie Barnes’s fiancé jilts her at the altar, her carefully planned life implodes. Considering her ex’s betrayal to be a rude wake-up call, she leaves everything she knows in San Diego and flees to Laguna Beach. She vows to transform her life by avoiding men for a year and by fulfilling her dream of writing a wildly successful novel. 

Sophie’s new landlord, Nicholas Morgan, is a gorgeous, successful architect with a player reputation. He makes it tough for Sophie to remember that she’s sworn to be single. Nick’s avoided the intimacy of a long-term relationship--until Sophie’s independence, courage, and beauty touch his guarded heart. Both Sophie and Nick are terrified of being hurt again, but can they resist the pull of true love?

EXCERPT
Nick arrived right on time, looking gorgeous in faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt. How did he always manage to start the butterflies fluttering in her stomach? Just by standing there with the setting sun framing him? She was in trouble.

“Hi beautiful, ready to go?” He clasped her face in his hands and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

Returning his kiss, Sophie wound her arms around his neck and deepened it. She couldn’t resist. His strong arms wrapped around her waist, hugging her close to his broad chest.

“Mmmm, feel free to greet me like that every time I come over,” he said, lips curved up into a sweet smile.

Heat washed her cheeks and she returned his smile. “Let’s go. Prepare to be blown away by the movie snack of the century.”

Determined to keep things light and enjoy the movie before “the talk,” Sophie thrust down the lick of panic bubbling in her gut. She’d accomplished next to nothing all afternoon, instead wrestling with whether she needed to tell him about Doug.

The angel on her shoulder whispered to tell him because if they were going to have any kind of relationship, even a friends-with-benefits one, honesty and trust were vital.

The devil urged her to zip it. They’d only known each other a few weeks. What if he lived up to his “Player of Laguna” reputation and expected only a fun fling? Even though he seemed deeper than that. What if she scared him off with a premature talk?

BUY LINKS for March 31
·  Amazon 
·  Kobo  

AUTHOR BIO
Claire Marti started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress. 

Finally, Claire followed her heart and now focuses on two of her true passions: writing romance and teaching yoga. Her debut releases from The Wild Rose Press on March 31, 2017 and is the first in the Finding Forever in Laguna series.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The best wartime stories don’t necessarily take place on the battlefield.  The home front can weave a rich tapestry, especially in the competent hands of author Jennifer Ryan. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the charming tale of what happens to the women in the fictional village of Chilbury, England, in early WWII after most of the men leave for war. The story takes place from March to September 1940; the action precipitated by a notice from the vicar on the church door. Since all the male singers are gone, he disbanded the choir. After all, who wants to listen to a group composed of only women? It just isn’t done.

The vicar’s action triggers unexpected uproar in the members, as if the sudden decision ripped the last shred of normalcy from their lives. The battle in Europe isn’t going well; the fate of loved ones overseas is unknown. Under the prodding of the choir mistress and music teacher, the women decide the choir must not only continue, but also serve as a morale booster to those left behind, a distraction from the horrors of war. So they change their name to The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and gamely carry on. This simple act of defiance from women used to toeing the line causes a ripple of unexpected consequences. War doesn’t only leave a mark on soldiers. It can also change their families and, in the case of this novel, for the better.

Ryan created an engaging cast of characters. The book is a first person account, but not from the same person. The story progresses using a compilation of notes, letters, journal entries, and assorted postings from choir members and a few others. Each writer sees the action from a different viewpoint, but this is entertaining rather than confusing. While the story isn’t a heavy handed drama, there is spectacle galore; deaths, births, kidnapping, falling in and out of love, not to mention a little wartime intrigue. It’s all done with charm, cheek, and gentle good humor. Each character speaks with an engaging voice; not an easy task when an author is working with a range of ages from 13 to about 60.

The change in a few of the characters is a bit of stretch, but that’s a minor quibble and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I highly recommend The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. If I have one complaint it’s that the story ends after a few months. Within that short period of time everyone gets their just reward (or due comeuppance). I enjoyed my visit to Chilbury and hated to leave the villagers behind. Although Ryan doesn’t say, I like to think they came safely through the war and both happy days and the choir lasted ever after.


I received this book from Blogging for Book in exchange for a review.