I wrote something. Go read it, and I’ll donate money to help immigrant children

TL;DR: I wrote a book. I’m too lazy/busy/emotionally fragile to pursue any traditional publishing route, so I self-published. You can download it here.

Long version:

I don’t even know where to begin.

Before I moved to England, I did some criminal defense work. I loved it. Not because I think that murder and robbery and all that are ok, but because I believe we are no better than how we treat the least among us. I think I read something like that in Harry Potter.

I love to read and watch movies. I love crime stories, but in media, I’ve found there’s a bit of a skew towards the prosecutor’s point of view. Maybe it’s just observer bias, but I feel like I watch things like The Good Wife and hear “yeah, we represent this gangster but only for his legitimate business interests” as though representing someone accused of a crime is dirty. Or in Legally Blonde, when asked the stupidest question ever (“Would you rather have a client who committed a crime malum in se or malum prohibitum?”), whoseherface said she’d rather have the client who didn’t commit the “dangerous crime.”  Elle Woods, who bragged that she wasn’t afraid of the challenge that came with representing dangerous clients, eventually got her first wish to represent someone innocent, as her client was guilty only of getting liposuction.

Fuck all of that.

What about the people who did do these things? Don’t they deserve a defense? So I decided to write something about that. I also love fantasy, so it’s got elements of that too. Like Sookie Stackhouse for the defense.

Now what?

Well, my family will probably be moving to a new country sometime in the near future (read: this summer/fall). I don’t have the time or energy to put into finding an agent or publisher. I’ve got to pack, learn Swedish, figure out where my kids are going to school, find a place to live, figure out how to get my cats from England, to Denmark, to Sweden because the closest airport to that little Swedish town I’m moving to is in Denmark, etc. It’s a bit stressful. I’ve always found writing to be a fun hobby that helps relieve my stress, but I have no creativity. I feel like I can’t move on to something new while this thing is hanging over my head.

On top of all that stress, have you watched the news lately? What the fuck is going on with the US? I feel so powerless. I did some immigration work when I was an attorney in the US, but here, I can do nothing but look at pictures of kids in cages, watch heartbreaking reunion videos, and argue with people about how yes, they are concentration camps. If I were in the US still, I’d be down there. I’d be representing those kids.

I know that because I did.

I can also (and did) give money to organizations to help train lawyers to represent those kids, like the organization that trained me. And you can too.

That’s where my book comes in. Unless I sell it to a movie studio or something, there’s no way the amount of money I get from it will equal my hourly lawyer rate when considering how much time I put into it. It was a labor of love and stress relief. So I’m not selling it to try to make money. I’m selling it to try to raise money for these organizations. Because my book too is about an immigrant child in the legal system. (Oh, but it’s not heavy or depressing or anything. It’s a lighthearted romp through the criminal justice system.)

So I will donate all the proceeds I make from my book to K.I.N.D. (Kids in Need of Defense), the organization that trained me, up until $500 (I chose this ridiculously high number because I don’t expect to sell that many books and because at some point I’m going to want to try to figure out the tax burden, if any). For the first $100, I will make a matching donation (ie, if I make $25 in sales, I’ll donate $50). I will also donate an extra $1 for the first 10 3-star or above reviews on Goodreads or Smashwords. Yes, I’ll pay for reviews. I’ll verify my donations with you by posting screenshots of the receipts or whatever.

There you have it. Read my book. Write a review. Tell you friends. Raise money for a good cause.

Here’s the back of the book thing:

So a genie, a sprite, and a baobhan sith walk into a courthouse.

Meet Maddy Sands, a 30-something single woman running a solo law practice in the Houston suburbs. She does divorces, defends criminals, and did I mention that her clients are fairies and other assorted magical creatures? That’s okay. She didn’t know that either.

When a local girl goes missing, Maddy is hired to represent a genie enslaved by a sadistic master and arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Her client is desperate to plead guilty rather than return to his life and school where he’s bullied, singled out for being different, and under the grip of his master. But Maddy can’t stand by and watch an innocent man imprisoned. Up against prejudice and the threat of violence while she defends her client, Maddy learns that freedom is more than just a not guilty verdict. Though first she has to accept the fact that magic and fairytales are real.

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This is my least favorite of all my kid’s toys.

peppa.png

It’s a Peppa Pig flip phone in a smartphone world. It’s not that I hate Peppa Pig. The show is actually much better than I thought it would be (granted, I had really low expectations). And I have a really high tolerance for toys that make annoying noises. She has a lot of them. She has a Sesame Street TV remote with Elmo. She has toy microphones. One plays animal noises that sound more like toilets flushing and another plays Let it Go on a loop. But for all of these toys, when she stops playing with them, the toy gives a cute goodbye message and goes into a sleep mode, and we can get on with the next activity.

Not Peppa.

Yeah, eventually she’ll shut up, but not before the phone rings. You have to ignore Peppa calling back before it goes in the sleep mode and Peppa says “bye for now!” You have to basically let Peppa go to voice mail. You can’t just close the flip phone. You have to deliberately miss the call before Peppa stops talking to you.

And I’m just thinking, why is it teaching her to ignore people? Of all the above annoying toys I mentioned, this is the only one purchased in the UK. Is this a cultural difference? Because this is how I see British people interacting (or not interacting) with others. I see people I recognize or know walking down the street, looking anywhere to avoid making eye contact. Phone calls and texts go ignored as they ghost me. I wonder if this is normal, if this is how people make friends here. My son’s best friend’s mother wouldn’t talk to me until after I snubbed her back, looking deliberately away when I saw her at the school yard. I guess growing up I missed the lesson that we should ignore our friends, having played with toys that didn’t make my heart grow hard listening to their cries as they begged for my attention.

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My 3 y/o is already sick of the patriarchy

My family started playing the card game Citadels, which, briefly, is a card game where each player builds a city. Not as in building an actual house of cards (which is what I feared when we started). Rather each card is a different building (church, castle, market, etc.) and each player plays a card from their hand to build.

Image result for citadels witch card

The trick is that each round you play as a different character, and each character has different “super powers.” One can knock down another’s buildings, another can steal your money. The game can be simplified for my 3 y/o or get quite cutthroat, like when I play with my 9 y/o.

Here is a sample of the characters you can choose from.

Image result for citadels witch card

Notice anything? My daughter did. She didn’t want to play as a boy. She wanted to play as someone that more resembled her, and she had to choose from either the hunchback witch or the busty queen (they all look spooky, in the words of my 3 y/o, so I shouldn’t harp on their appearances. It’s not like in video games where it’s strong buff men in sensible apparel and one half-clad woman). And they are both good choices in terms of their super powers, but she wants to know why she has so few options. And I think this is in the expansion pack. When we first played, there were no female characters.

Of course she *can* pick a boy character. As this game is not actually played with your genitals, anyone can pick any character. But she feels she shouldn’t have to. She wants to have the same options her brother has–to be able to identify with the character.

I doubt that the ratio of male to female characters is an accurate reflection of the players of the game, so I’m wondering why the game designers decided to make so few female characters. And I know my daughter is not the only one to feel this way. I’ll bet there are some boys who don’t want to play as the witch or the queen because they don’t want to be seen as girls. They won’t ever have to. By making so few female characters, the game won’t force those boys outside their comfort zone to accept a character different from themselves to obtain a benefit. This hurts everyone, and game designers need to do better.

And I’m sorry for being so binary. I’m still learning about trans issues.

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The Trump Russia scandal is the plot of Kushiel’s Dart

People keep saying if story of Russia’s meddling and Trump’s collusion with the 2016 election were the plot of a novel, it would be rejected by publishers for being too unbelievable. Well, maybe, but if we’re already suspending our disbelief for fantasy and magic, you basically have the plot of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (which is one of my favorite books and you should totally read the whole series. They are like Game of Thrones without the misogyny). So I’m going to totally spoil the book for you, and I guess the Trump Russia scandal if you haven’t been following it.

In a nutshell, in this book Ysandre de la Courcel is heir to the throne. A lot of people in Terre d’Ange don’t like her because they think she is personality-less and used a private email server. Isidore d’Aiglemort, best known for his ridiculous hair and multiple bankruptcies, pays a hostile foreign nation to create skirmishes on the border. He fights them off and looks like a hero. He hopes people will support him rather than Ysandre so he can overthrow her. But the foreign country gets a leader envious of Terre d’Ange’s wealth and is an ex-KGB agent and prepares to launch a full-scale invasion. A prostitute (actually the hero of the story) and a priest (because come on. Ironic, right?) warn Ysandre of the invasion and Isidore’s betrayal. Eventually Isidore realizes he himself was betrayed and fights the invading warlord in a holmgang to the death. He was stabbed 17 times but died a hero, so yay for him.

So for those of you who’ve read the books, do you really think Isidore didn’t pay a servant of Naamah to pee on a bed that Ysandre or Ganelon slept in? That’s totally something he would do, right?

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The Wizarding World of the Trial Court

I’m not too proud to admit that Harry Potter helped get me through law school. More than once as a 1L, while trying to understand a dry contract case or an ancient property rule, I would have thought I was under a confundus curse preventing me from understanding whatever I was supposed to have learned. Happily, I found that occasionally Harry Potter presented scenarios that explained concepts to me better than my casebook. For example, the idea that just through the performance of an act one can enter into a contract. For me, I understood unilateral contracts by thinking of the infant Harry surviving Voldemort’s killing curse not because of his mother Lily’s sacrifice but because of the contract that was formed when Lily offered her life in exchange for Harry’s. Thus when Voldemort acted on her offer and killed her, he created a contract. When Voldemort subsequently tried to kill Harry, he was in breach. As the first novel recently turned 20, it is a good time to see how other lawyers and judges have used the books to explain the law or the facts of their case in court.

In State v. Kuykendall, 2005 OHIO 6872, No. CA2004-12-111 (Ohio Ct. App. Dec. 27. 2005), the appellate court drew a distinction between the magical world of Harry Potter, where verbal precision is required, and the courtroom, where the reviewing court needs only general assurances that the law has been followed rather than specific verbiage. “[A] trial court is not required to state any talismanic, or as the trial court referred to it, ‘Potteresque,’ language.” Id. The court contrasts this with Harry Potter, where language and enunciation is important to achieve the desired results. The court notes that in the novels, “the failure to follow not only the precise words, but also the correct pronunciation of a spell may lead to disastrous results. For example, in an early lesson on levitation, Professor Flitwick admonishes students that saying the magic words properly is important, and uses the example of a wizard who said ‘s’ instead of ‘f’ and ended up with a buffalo on his chest. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone 171 (Scholastic 1998).” Id. at n.2.

An Indiana Bankruptcy court twice referenced Harry Potter, both times when parties refused to call pleadings or people by their proper names. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Grant was reminded of how characters referred to Voldemort as “He Who Must Not Be Named” or “You Know Who,” writing “[m]uch like the wizards and witches in J.K. Rawlings [sic] Harry Potter series, where Lord Voldermort [sic] is ‘He who must not be named,’ rather than stating what is actually being talked about, the motion creates and then uses terms like ‘PII’; ‘Designated Filings’; ‘Replacement Filings’; ‘GLBA’ and ‘OCC’.” In re Bicker, No. 13-10280 (Bankr. N. D. Ind. Aug. 10, 2015). When used in the novels, the technique showed the reader the depths of the characters’ fear and sometimes reminded the characters to face their fears. But in the courtroom, these phrase created confusion. “Such terms do not enhance the reader’s comprehension.” Id. See also In re Rybolt, 550 B.R. 422, 426 (Bankr. N.D. Ind. 2016) (comparing a party’s hard work to avoid naming an individual to Rowling’s literary technique).

In U.S. v. Bonas, a government lawyer urged the trial judge to “‘utter the magic words,’” i.e., manifest necessity, in order to declare a mistrial yet allow the government to bring a second trial without violating the defendant’s protection against double jeopardy. U.S. v. Bonas, 344 F.3d 945, 951 (9th Cir. 2003). The trial court did, but the Ninth Circuit took umbrage at its bare assertion, noting there was “no evidence supporting the district court’s determination of manifest necessity.” Id. at 949. Merely uttering the words did not make it so. In reversing the district court’s judgment, the Ninth Circuit wrote “this is not a Harry Potter novel; there is no charm for making a defendant’s constitutional rights disappear.” Id. at 951.

A few courts have mentioned apparating and disapperating. The United States Court of Federal Claims used it as a metaphor to explain that goodwill is not transitory and doesn’t exist only when the company turns a profit. Deseret Management Corp. v. U.S., No. 09-273T (Fed. Cl. Aug. 22, 2013). “According to plaintiff, goodwill is a fleeting concept, here one instant and gone the next, depending upon a firm’s current profit status—much like a Harry Potter wizard who disapparates in bad times and reappears in good.” Id.

The Georgia Court of Appeals referred to disapperating more literally to explain how criminal trespass and loitering statutes must be read to avoid absurd results. Isenhower v. State, 750 S.E.2d 703, 706 (Ga. App. 2013). Before the defendant could be convicted of trespass, a defendant required “some reasonable amount of time to remove herself from the second floor of the building, reach her vehicle in the parking lot below, and drive off the school grounds.” Id. Referencing Harry Potter to make itself clearer, the court wrote “it is logical that upon being asked to leave by Edwards, Isenhower could not simply vanish into thin air, ‘disapparating’ like a character in one of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ novels. (Isenhower was, after all, at Heard County High School, not Hogwarts.)” Id.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania used apparation to explain a person’s relationship to space and time in a negligence case resulting from a car accident and the death of a pedestrian. Wright v. Eastman, 63 A.3d 281 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013). At issue was the location of the decedent when she was struck and whether or not the driver could see her as he was driving. If the driver could only see her when she was 30 feet away, as he testified, the court was forced to ask itself whether the driver was negligent in not noticing her earlier as she “traversed the distance from one side of the road or the other to the point where she was struck” or whether she “instantly [] materialize[d] in a new location.” Id. at 293. The court explained “[i]n the world of Harry Potter, wizards refer to this mode of travel as apparition.” Id. at n.6.

A few times, cases have presented fact that nearly put judges under the imperious curse, compelling them to make a Harry Potter reference. Such was the case in Wyrostek v. Nash, where the plaintiffs lived at 4 Privet Drive, the address of Harry’s non-magical family and “the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen.” Wyrostek v. Nash, 984 F.Supp.2d 22, 24 (2013) (D.R.I. 2013) (quoting J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 17 (Scholastic Press 1997)). The court felt the need to point out that the facts of this case took place “squarely in the Muggle [non-magical] World.” Id. at n.1.

Making a slightly more tenuous connection—and being all the more entertaining for it—in Barneck v. Utah Dept’t of Transp., the facts mentioned “mile marker 46.5.” Barneck v. Utah Dep’t of Transp., 353 P.3d 140, 142 n.1 (UT 2015). Incredulous, the Court remarked “[w]e are unsure of what to make of that formulation, as we suppose that a ‘mile marker’ is in fact a mile marker and not a half-mile marker, and see no indication in the record or elsewhere that UDOT uses half-mile markers.” Id. They compared their disbelief to that of Harry’s muggle family upon learning about Platform 9 3/4, the place at the train station where young witches and wizards catch the train to their school Hogwarts. Id.

Finally, I find myself moved by the judge who discussed Harry Potter in chambers with a shy child who was the subject of a suit under the Hague Convention. In re Koc, 181 F.Supp.2d 136, 144 n.10 (E.D.N.Y. 2001). The judge notes that he was not wearing his “judicial robe” during the conversation, leaving the reader to wonder if he was wearing a different kind of robe, such as wizard robes the characters in the books wear. Id.

The above is only a small sampling of the times Harry Potter was referenced in court. It is interesting that it has been referenced so frequently, given that it is a relative newcomer to our pop culture lexicon and aimed at an audience much younger than lawyers and judges. That it has transcended the age gap and is so relatable to yet far removed from the legal system make these references all the more amusing and—dare I say—magical.

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You can’t snub people who ignore you

Apparently I live in the friendliest place in England. But saying that is like saying this guy is the most open-minded and accepting ISIS fighter. I learned quickly that rude and polite are standards unique to each society. People here probably think I’m loud and pushy. That’s OK. I think they are snobs and that England is a cold place filled with cold people. But I know it’s just that I don’t know how to make friends here.

People here don’t make eye contact. In the US, I’m used to people you pass in the streets smiling and nodding, if nothing else. When I lived in the deep south, there was one woman who would smile and say hello to me every morning as I walked to school. We had never met. I had no idea who she was. She was just friendly.

Here, even people I know avoid my glance. The parents of my kids friends ignore me. I ask to make play dates and get blown off. Sure, maybe their own lives are so busy that they don’t have time to schedule things for their kids. How many times should I ask before I realize they are trying to send me a message that they don’t want anything to do with me?

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it was something I said or did. Maybe I’m a rude American. But it also happens with people I’ve never met. This one woman whose kid goes to daycare with mine, I see her almost every day for years now. Everyday, I tried to make eye contact. Everyday, I failed. Now when I see her, I want to shake her and say “acknowledge my presence, you limey cunt!”

I’ve tried to adapt to my surroundings, but maybe people here need to be open and accepting of differences too. I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make friends. And besides, I have made friends. With the members of the British-Pakistani population.

 

 

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What does it feel like living abroad in unpresidented times?

I can only speak for myself, but I feel alone. People here are freaking out about Brexit. Someone who I want to be friends with said that Trump is 4 years, 8 years max (it sounds like a prison sentence: 8 years, 4 with good behavior), but Brexit is forever. Maybe so, but I don’t think the amount of damage they can do is comparable. How many people will die because of Brexit? I can’t find any data, other than Jo Cox. He Who Must Not Be Named will kill more than 43,000 a year just from repealing the ACA. This does not count dead soldiers in the needless wars he will start, dead civilians from the terrorist attacks that will occur because he emboldens ISIS and domestic terrorists and will not read intelligence briefings.

I also feel helpless. What can I do from here? All the “action items” or whatever I’m hearing about are to call a senator or march. Yeah, I can calculate the time difference and pay way too much for a long distance call in the hopes that I won’t be on hold for too long and will actually get through. So I spend my time writing emails that will never be opened or using “contact me!” forms that limit me to 1000 characters fewer than I need. If you have any answers, let me know.

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Buffy update and a question

I’ve gotten a surprising amount of hits and comments on my I don’t like Buffy post, and I feel like it deserves an update.

I still don’t like Buffy, but I do appreciate the people debating it reasonably with me and trying to open my mind. I admit, some of my judgment may be unfair (it’s not fair to say I don’t like it because it’s not feminist enough). But some of it is just taste. And to those people, I want to share this:

My husband loves Buffy, and we had a baby girl about 2 years ago. My husband works all the time (often late into the night), a lot of the time from home on his computer. And he’ll usually have a favorite show on in the background. Like Buffy, Star Trek, or Friends. Because he works late into the night, he took a lot of middle of the night feedings when she was a newborn.

On one such night, he was watching Friends and feeding her, and he just felt icky watching this show that he felt objectified women. And he just became so much more aware of sexism and objectification that now he doesn’t like Friends anymore. So he decided to watch Buffy with her, because he thought Buffy (and presumably Willow, Tara, and Anya) would be better role models and the show would have more egalitarian themes and focus more on women’s strength and intelligence. Even though I have my own issues with Buffy, I was touched by this.

But here is my question: Do you think any of the images in Buffy are inherently frightening? This is not to pick on Buffy generally, I mean any frightening image generally. In particular though, I am thinking of the Gentlemen.

the20gentlemen20hush20buffy

Babies like looking at faces and can recognize faces. Do you think a baby would recognize it as a frightening face, or is it learned that they are scary?

I am not such a prude or whatever that I told him no, don’t watch Buffy with her. I did suggest that he be careful with the monsters that looked like scary human faces.

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Kushiel’s Mercy readalong: weeks 6 and 7

Ok, so I had to stop reading after week 5. I realized why this book isn’t my favorite of the series despite having 200 pages or so that I love more than any other portion. It’s because Sidonie and Imriel return to the City of Elua and learned that they all voted for Donald Trump. And I just can’t. Most of the time, when I do a reread, I stop after Astegal is dies. I don’t need Frodo et al. returning to the Shire and overthrowing Saruman. I can stop when real evil is defeated.

Nonetheless, here we go (sorry my heart’s just not in it anymore):

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Kushiel’s Mercy readalong: week 5

Chapters 50-62. Questions by Lynn.

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