Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Christine Susmann and Her Reincarnation

Some readers have referred to Christine's appearance in later books as her "reincarnation." While I don't personally have any opinions regarding reincarnation, when I first killed her off in Beyond a Reasonable Death LOTS--We're talking BIG LOTS--of my readers sent me correspondence objecting to her death. They loved her, they said, and she was too valuable a character to let go. So...yours truly re-wrote that part of Beyond and Christine, in the re-write, went unharmed. For those earlier adopters of my books with earlier versions, I sincerely apologize if you have been troubled by this. How about letting me send you a complimentary copy of The Mental Case as a way of showing how sorry (but happy) I am that Christine is still with us. Just drop me an email and reference Christine and you will get your copy when the new book is released. Welcome back, Christine!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Steps to Writing a Best-Seller: Step 2 - The Foil

Everybody needs a best friend.
In fiction the main character's best friend is often called a "foil." The purpose of the foil can be many things: I use a foil to get information to the reader that can't get to them otherwise, and I use a foil to suggest things to the main character, maybe a course of action, say, that I couldn't get to him or her otherwise. Many writers also use foils as "interesting" characters to give their book some flavor. I would caution you to be careful about doing this because what the writer considers eccentric or quaint or interesting about a character can, to your readers, be downright boring or, worse, plain dumb. Certain lawyers have written foil characters in their books and those foils get some pretty obnoxious reader reviews, the kind that all writers cringe to get. So...be careful about the look, smell, sound, and feel of your foil character. Don't let them speak gibberish, it will only confuse your reader.
In The Defendants I use a foil character and her name is Christine Susmann. Christine, as you might remember, is ex-Army, a weightlifter, ex-MP, and knows her way around the streets. She takes the naive young Thaddeus under her wing and teaches him how to shoot a gun--which saves his life--and teaches him a few things about how to manipulate bad people and, most important, as his paralegal she teaches him quite a bit about the practice of law.

When I was a new, young lawyer, I luckily had a legal secretary/paralegal a lot like Christine. I didn't know what a contract for deed looked like, so my Christine went around to other lawyers and gathered samples, then she made one for me to use. When I didn't know how to do other things she would always get on the phone and ask around her friends, who worked for other lawyers, how to do this or that.

When I was just starting out I also had a lawyer who was four years ahead of me, who I could bounce things off of. While I was in law school he paid me one summer to do some work for him, God bless him, which gave me enough money to live on that next year in law school. He also taught me which books I would need and how to use them, once I was setting up my own office.

A foil like Christine or Quentin (Thaddeus' DA lawyer in The Defendants) can be an invaluable tool. Remember to give them enough qualities and personal characteristics to make them real so you, the author, aren't just speaking through them, and then let them show you the way. If you've done it right, they will shoulder some of the load for you and give your main character a hand when things get really bad.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ten Steps to Writing a Best-Seller: Step 1 - Ordinary/Extraordinary

I have several books on the Amazon "Best-Seller" Charts at any given time, usually in the sub-category of legal thrillers. Nobody is saying these are NY Times best-sellers or USA Today best-sellers. No, I'm simply repeating what Amazon calls them.

I want to share with you what I have learned about writing best-sellers. I am going to do this because I know that lots of my readers are people with a book or two inside of them. How I wish someone had sat me down and shared with me some of the things I'm going to share with you. I can't promise great success with your writing, but I can promise that I will give you enough good direction that you will save yourself from making some of the huge mistakes in writing thrillers that I made when I was starting out. Want to give it a whirl? Please keep reading
1.Ordinary character in extraordinary situation
This is the starting point, finding a character, an ordinary Joe or Jolene, and putting him or her in an extraordinary situation. Think about the all the thrillers you have read. The good ones, like my book The Defendants always take an ordinary person to begin with, in this case a young lawyer who doesn't really know the first thing about practicing law. He's so new and wet behind the ears that every legal step he thinks he wants to take on case, he first has to run by his friend and older, experienced attorney, Quentin. This serves two purposes: first, it gives me the opportunity to show how inexperienced he is, when he has his meeting with Quentin and they discuss the defense of the young waitress while they're having coffee. They discuss a lawsuit and how and why it would be best to be filed a certain way. While this is a good scene for characterizing the young Thaddeus Murfee and his friend and mentor Quentin, it also is a top way of explaining why, legally, things are going to happen a certain way.
But even more important, Thaddeus Murfee, a common, garden variety lawyer, suddenly finds himself defending a high profile case for which he has no experience. What does this fact bring to the book? Two things: first, it engages the reader by giving him or her someone they can relate to, someone who finds himself or herself in a scary situation with only inexperience, but a good heart, to face up. The second thing this setup does is bring conflict into the book early. In this case the conflict is man against himself (his own inexperience), as well as green lawyer against legal system that's way smarter and way meaner than he ever imagined. So, we're got our setup. But what else is this setup doing for our story?
The defendant in this case is a young woman who went out for a drink with the wrong man on the wrong night. She wakes up hours later only to find she has been tattooed on her breasts with the man's name. Lots of young people go out drinking and have terrible things happen. Or at least very embarrassing things happen. Who hasn't gone out and hooked up with the wrong person and come to hate yourself for it later? Well, that's what our hero Ermeline does when she goes to Victor's office for one celebratory drink. Lots of people can relate to this character, Ermeline: again, an ordinary person (cocktail waitress) thrust into an extraordinary situation (charged with one count of murder). We are building up our conflicts with this and we are also hooking the reader by presenting another character they can relate to.
But please let me digress for one minute, then I'll conclude this Step 1.
Here's why I want to digress, to put up a red warning sign: which is this: Oftentimes I see new or inexperienced writers develop a new character like this. First, he or she is an ex-Navy SEAL. Can we relate to such a character? Really, how many of us are ex-Navy SEALS and thus can relate to such a character. We don't know if ex-SEALS feel fear like we would in a scary situation, we don't know if they kill without remorse (we would have great remorse if we had to kill, 99% of us) and we don't know how an ex-SEAL would handle this or that situation. So this is a mistake: don't give your main character super-human talents, skills, or experience. Why? No one will relate to him. It's true. Instead, give them Thaddeus Murfee, a nobody attorney in a nowhere small town with zero legal skills but a huge heart. That's why Dorothy's lion in the Wizard of Oz is a favorite: because he has heart. We can all relate to having heart because we all do. When faced with a hard situation we will always try to stand up to it and meet it. We may not want to at first, and we may hem and haw, but in the end we will give it our best shot. Which is what Thaddeus Murfee does in The Defendants
Next Step: The Sidekick. Check back for Step 2 in this Ten Step series of posts on writing a best-seller.
Now. Back to your own writing. About that main character....

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Little About My Real Family

I have seven babies. Their names are Chase, Cali, Dusty, Rusty, Sophie, Sunny Girl, Coco, Skittles and Max. The first seven are guinea pigs I have rescued, the final two are my pound hounds. Max is the latest addition, and he's from the Kenosha Humane Society.

Max was two when we got him, and he had virtually spent his first two years inside a cage at the humane society because, while Max is an adorable poodle-shih-tzu mix, he was incorrigible and people would fall for him--at first--and then return him to the humane society as uncontrollable.

So Deb and I adopted Max and soon found him incorrigible too. But if we took him back they were going to put him down. So we looked around and found a company called Sit Means Sit. We sent Max to their ten day training program at a cost of around $1800. When Max came back he would look you in the eye and pay attention to what you were saying.

Then he fell in love with us. He watched every move we made. He followed Deb from room to room. Soon he refused to leave her side. When he comes into my writing office and I have the TV on then he knows it's time for a nap and while I watch CNN Max gets up in my oversize chair and lays down beside me and naps. That's my boy. Today as I write this Max has been in to see me twice this morning and one of those times he even conned me into getting him a piece of roast beef out of my office fridge and him making off with it. He's got me pegged. I would do anything for him. So would Deb.

Max and Skittles have a huge fenced backyard where they chase off all the birds and squirrels and take care of things like that. I can go out back and sit for an hour and watch the bird bath and not one bird comes near. The dogs have them trained, much to my chagrin because I love all creatures great and small and love to watch birds in the bird bath. Or did before Max moved in.

Good boy, Max. Roll over. Fetch. Good boy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Will the Real Jeff Bezos...

I believe in principles before personalities, but there's one exception to this rule.

That comes into play when I see a victim of bullying. That's when I'm likely to step up and say Wait minute, here! (I'm 6-4, 270 so it works--lots). This is one of those times: Wait a minute, here!

The person I'm stepping up to lend a hand to is Jeff Bezos, the last person on planet earth who needs any help, much less help from a single citizen like me. Jeff (Mr. Bezos, in my daily speech) is being put upon by the media for all kinds of imagined shortcomings and imagined bad acts and imagined bad heartedness, as well as a general dislike for mom, apple pie, and--well, you get it.

So let me take a few minutes and tell you about the Jeff Bezos that I know.

First off, Jeff always has what I need. In my size. Or my wife's size, or your size. When I needed a new garden hose he said Will that be in half-inch or five-eights, will it be non-coil, and what color would you like, we even have red.

When I needed a new Macbook Pro he gave me umpty-ump to choose from, some with bells, some with whistles, some with both bells and whistles. And then he gave me hundreds of reviews to read about them so I could make my own best informed choice.

I needed fig jam. A distant memory from my childhood. Not a problem, here's fig jam, you can get it overnight, if you're that hungry.

But here's the best of all. I was beaten down by a job I had done for forty years. I was a professional and I had carried other peoples' water and borne their griefs and hardships as a professional and, brother, I was burned out. So I looked for ways to financially bow out of the profession I chose when I was twenty-five and full of pep. Now I was sixty-five and frazzled. I tried computers. Nothing there. With the help of a Paki engineer I developed a website of my own, one able to do high-performance data massage as a tool for other lawyers to use in the cloud. It went nowhere and I spent $35,000 chasing that pie in the sky. There were others things, too. Alas, nothing worked. I was too tired to continue, too broke to quit. Even my doctor said I had to quit.

One thing.

I had been writing short stories and novels since I was a teenager. Early teens, maybe even before. And I had tried to publish them, with no success. At one time I had applied and been accepted to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which is the most prestigious writing program probably in the world. Instead, I went to law school. The things we do when we're in our twenties. That's another story for another day. Point is, I wrote and kept writing. Even when I was at the end of my rope and ready to die.

Problem was, no one in New York wanted to read lawyer novels written by a nobody like me who hadn't gone to the right schools and who didn't come with a pedigree. I couldn't get an agent to even read my books, much less rep me to a publisher. I even tried sending directly to a publisher or two and never heard back. Not. One. Word.

Then I found Jeff. He had a program called Kindle Direct Publishing. Right there on Amazon. Well, Amazon already had my trust and so I thought, Why not?

I pushed PUBLISH and my first novel went up on Jeff's website in January of this year. Since then I've published four more books and sold all told in the twenty-thousand-somethings. All from a guy no one would take a chance on.

Best part?

Guess who doesn't have a law office anymore? And guess who doesn't have to practice law anymore? Guess who got to retire to writing books and making enough to live comfortably off his book royalties. You guessed it, me.

So when you see Jeff's name in the papers and some clown is trying to put him down for this or that, please remember my little story here.

Jeff. He has what I need.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Defending Turquoise is a Courtroom-Heavy WhoDunIt

As a young lawyer (mid-20's) I spent lots and lots of hours just hanging around courtrooms and going to school on other lawyers. I was learning how they did things like put on direct testimony without leading a witness, cross-examining without open-ended questions, how to make objections on relevance, foundation, hearsay, best evidence, and so forth and why to make them and when. I learned how to make "speaking objections" (frowned on by judges) and how to make clean objections that were not themselves objectionable. Yes, I learned how to fight dirty for those times when someone else was fighting dirty and you needed to protect your client. Opening statements and closing arguments are an art form and I spent years learning how to deliver on those opportunities. Then I studied all the judges within my geography and learned what they liked/disliked, what they would put up with and wouldn't, and I made notes about all of this, lots and lots of notes. Next I bought books. Books on expert witnesses and how to ask the right questions. How to object to expert witness testimony, how to argue against and for experts--all the tools a trial lawyer would needed

When all was said and done I was ready.

And by now the better cases had begun to fall my way.

My big break came when a police chief hired me to defend him on theft charges. The FBI was the investigating agency and the Illinois State Police forensics were in there too. After a three day trial I got a not guilty. From then on I had a reputation as the "go-to" guy on cases in my area.

So what came next?

I started going after cases on a national basis. Soon I was defending clients from California to New York, from Texas to Washington.

I'm not telling these things to brag. I am telling them to point out the preparation it took for me to begin writing believable and accurate novels about lawyers and court proceedings. I wanted my books, especially the trials and testimony portions, to be as accurate as could be, for how things happen during trials and what lawyers are thinking about when those things happen.

When OJ Simpson went on trial I took a leave of absence from my office and stayed home every day and watched that trial in its entirety. Who wouldn't? I got to watch F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, Johnny Cochran, and Barry Scheck (probably the greatest DNA lawyer of the time). These guys were fantastic, and had huge reputations and I loved getting to known them and learning how they did things. Has this paid off in my writing? I think so.

Which brings me to this. My new book, coming in about 1 week, is courtroom intensive. It takes the reader through two murder trials. It exposes the reader to how small some judges can be, how hateful they can act, and how godlike they assume themselves to be. Don't get me wrong; those judges are a tiny percentage of the really fantastic men and women who populate the rest of the bench. The good ones like Bill Garbarino, Richard Mangum, Steve Verkamp, Cecil J. Burrows and so many others I've worked before. These guys are the best of the best and I will always be grateful for how well they treated me, how respectful they were to us all, and how wise their decisions and well-informed.

So in Defending Turquoise I have tried to get some of that best and worst into the book. I have lived this stuff, ate it and slept it, and love bringing it to the page for you to experience. There's nothing more rewarding to me than getting to share some of what I know with my readers.

Defending Turquoise. Get it now and enjoy my longest and my most trial-heavy book yet.

One last thing. The killer isn't revealed right away. Please don't spoil the book for others with reviews that tell who did what.

But please leave reviews,lots of them. That's got a lot to do with me getting paid in this new job of mine, writing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Defending Turquoise: in Beta Reads

Defending Turquoise is finished through first draft! As of Sunday the last sentence was written and the polish began Monday. The cover is being developed Down Under and the editor has set aside his time to edit. At this point it's almost all the way out of my hands, depending on what the beta readers come back with.

In order to get the book finished and meet the pre-order deadline, I skipped football the past several weeks and still don't know how the Pack or the Bears did, but I've got those recorded. The problem with football, though, is it eats into time I'd rather spend writing.

At this point the next book has been heavily researched. It's the book that's either going to get me run out of town or have me swimming in Nobel Prizes. We'll have to see.

Tired and overdue for a fresh Starbucks.

Oh, one other thing. Just raised all prices across the board to $3.99, might soon go to $4.99. My books are worth that and I have to pay my bills while I keep the hammer down. Hope my fans understand and support me in this.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How I Became an Overnight Success

Thaddeus and I came on the scene of the great American legal novel seven months ago. Last month we sold over 5,500 books and it's climbing every day.

An overnight success story?

On some of the blogs I read, new writers who have written a book or two often wonder why they're not selling.

I think I know why. They don't read.

How dare I, an overnight success, say that!

Sit back and let me tell you about overnight success. I began my creative writing career in 1967, my sophomore year in college. This was before most writers writing today were even born. I kept writing until 2014, when I self-published my first book, The Defendants. During that time I wrote five novels before The Defendants, got an agent, submitted my novels to the great New York City gatekeepers, and they turned me down. My novels were lacking this or that or the topic wasn't one they thought they could sell and etc etc etc. Always some reason. So what did I do? I kept on writing. Short stories. Novels. Poetry.

Know what else I did?

I learned to read. That's right, I learned to read my own writing and began to see it for what it was. Much of it was muddy, didn't say what i thought it said, meandered, was full of itself--and on and on. So I began the task of learning how to write all over again.

I wrote the first paragraph to a new novel and spent three days with that paragraph trying to understand what I'd said. I realized, again, that I hadn't said what I was trying to say. There was too damn much music in my writing that wasn't my own music. I was sounding too much like this guy or that gal or being something I wasn't.

How did I solve this?

Simple. I accepted myself and my own style. I started writing what I was thinking. Not trying to skirt around it in a literary fashion as they teach you in college when they ask, What is the writer actually saying here? I don't like that kind of crap, but I was doing it. So I decided to write from the heart. If I felt something or believed something, then Bang! it went on the page.

Finally I had it. I was the one to tell the story, in my own best way.

I called the story Thaddeus and the rest is--is becoming--history.

5,500 last month. And counting.

Overnight success.

Happy Labor Day

Have you noticed? Have you noticed there's no "management day?" Wonder why that is.

Anyway, today being Labor Day, I decided to labor. I wrote probably 4000 words on Defending Turquoise. It'a an exciting book and I love working on it. Turquoise is a mid-teen Navajo girl accused of murdering the man who was raping her.

Did you know that on the Indian reservations the rape statistics put that crime at twice the level of non-reservation parts of the U.S. Did you know that with Alaskan tribes some stats show it's twelve times higher there? Well...that's enough to commend and command a novel right there.

I like to look for my stories in the common places, but not always. Sometimes we have to sit up straight and take a look around us. There are people out there whose stories deserve to be told. Thaddeus Murfee is ready to embrace those forgotten and ignored people and their stories.

So am I.

Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Shots From Your Glock: What!?

Ferguson, Mo.

What I know about the shooting of Michael Brown I basically know from CNN. I wasn't there, haven't been there since, and have no business going there.

But as a shooter and concealed carry enthusiast myself, let me say one thing.

The officer fired ten shots, according to the Skype recording now authenticated by the FBI.

What!? Ten shots?

Either someone was a very bad shot or...

Someone was very far away and difficult to hit.

If a bad shot, that's one thing. Maybe in the heat of the moment it's imaginable (?) to miss nine times in self-defense...though very unlikely.

Or...Michael Brown was so far away from the officer that it took ten shots to...what, execute him?

If he was that far away, it doesn't smell like self-defense, to me. But it does smell.

If he was that far away, there was no need for self-defense because, from an unarmed citizen, there is no "imminent threat of great bodily harm or death" -- which is the legal standard for self-defense to be accepted by a court.

And if there was no imminent threat of great bodily harm, then the shooting was...illegal.


I'm not taking sides here, we all need to wait for all the evidence to come in. That is immutable, unchangeable, and the law and fairness requires it. All witness statements need to be analyzed, have metadata created out of them, and then likeness and differences noted and weighed. Now there is an objective yardstick to be used, which is the recording of the ten gunshots. By that tape measure we can judge the accuracy of the witness statements. In other words we can ask, is what we're hearing on the tape matching up to what the witness is saying? So we finally have a yardstick and it will go a long ways in helping us sort out whose story is accurate and whose story is inaccurate.

Let's give it time. Federal investigations are notoriously slow. I have been involved as a lawyer in many of them. I have had clients under investigation get angry with me because they thought I was delaying things when, in fact, it was the DOJ in Washington that wasn't responding to my inquiries. That's just the nature of the beast.

In the end, we can all imagine various scenarios for what actually happened.

But justice is as justice does. By this I mean, justice is only as good as the investigation in this type of case.

We all need to go back to work and go back to school and do the hardest thing that can be asked of us.

We must wait.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

About Publishing on Amazon

The Zon is the most amazing company I've ever worked with. And I love publishing my books there.

Zon's interface is easy, consistently perfect, and offers all the little creature comforts an author could want.

Zon's author help (Kindle Direct Publishing) is helpful and bends over backwards to assist me with any questions or issues.

Zon pays regularly, on time, and in full.

Zon's publishing algorithms are democratic. The more books I sell, the higher my books locate in the search rankings.

Zon can surprise me, happily. Just this morning their "Thrillers" email to subscribers featured two of my books, The Defendants, and Attorney at Large. Who else does that for its writers?

Lately Zon has been getting some bad press. It seems it's involved in contract negotiations with a publisher or two and, in an effort to effect the contract terms in their favor, the publishers have been calling on their stable of writers to post letters, articles, and even ads that attempt to create public disfavor with Zon. Please, don't fall for that. I haven't, and won't. Plus, all of us, Zon publishers and customers, don't really have a dog in that hunt anyway. The public clamor the publishers are trying to create is, at best, a miserable PR tool that attempts to enlist unsuspecting minions to its side, and, at worst, a ploy to manipulate the market during the negotiations. Damn bad business.

Zon is an exciting,forward-thinking, place to publish and purchase. It invented the Kindle and revolutionized book publishing,making millions of books cheaper to readers that ever before in history. As a customer, I can order just about anything my little heart desires and get it overnight. If it doesn't fit or isn't what I thought, returns are simple and can be self-managed on the Zon web without the necessity of phoning anyone and getting pre-approval for the return. Totally revolutionary.

So please, do what I do and use Zon. Publish there. Purchase there.

As for the ongoing publishing war that none of us really cares about anyway, just remember who's firing off the arrows and try to keep your head down.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Where I've Been...

Actually, nowhere.

That's right, I've had my you-know-what stuck in my favorite writing chair while Thaddeus drives me nuts with Book 5. I may have to take a rest from the guy after this one, you know? Maybe give someone else a chance at discoverability.

Whatever, it's been a wild ride. People seem to love Thaddeus. He sells thousands of books each month, and the way it's going, sales have literally been doubling every month, and he's barely seven months old. The books are fun for me to write, and I seriously doubt that Thaddeus and I will part ways before he makes several more appearances.

The secret to a good book (meaning what I like to read) requires two things: First, there has to be something for me to learn about. Something I wouldn't have known about if I hadn't read your book. Case-in-point: in Attorney At Large there is a quite lengthy scene where the key character is counting cards. In order to write that scene I had to really go to school on card counting. I read several books about it, went to casinos and talked to dealers and pit bosses, and even was allowed to watch from overhead, the eye-in-the-sky view. When it was all said and done, it boiled down to maybe 20 pages in the book, but it took hundreds of hours in the preparation. But that's what I mean: I like to read stuff like that because I learn something off the beaten path.

The second thing a good book needs to give me is action. Action of all types. My books aren't necessarily about car chases or run-downs from behind type action, but courtroom drama, if you've been to a lot of trials (I have, hundreds) you already know trials have a type of pace and excitement that oftentimes the jury only senses but the lawyers understand and the judge gets to watch as a referee. Witnesses come and go, your belief in one side or the other waxes and wanes, and it all comes down to that climatic moment, that reveal, when the judge says, "Madam foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?"

In the hundreds--maybe thousands--of cases I tried over the years it never failed to take my breath away when the jury was about to announce its decision. I've stood at those times beside men who were perhaps going to the gas chamber, and beside women who were looking at twenty-five years in maximum security for totally awful crimes, and on and on. And even though I was never the one at risk, I always felt as if I were. That's the kind of action I try to capture for my books. Someday, if I'm lucky and keep at it hard enough, I just might run one of those beasts to the ground and bring it back to show you.

In fact, Thaddeus 5 just might have that very kind of thing going for it. Look for it in September! The title is Defending Turquoise and she will steal your heart.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's Up Next With Thaddeus (Book 5)

In book 5, Thaddeus in practicing law in Flagstaff. (I used to live there.) He is involved with some local cultural interplay and with a judiciary that is less than friendly. This book is very courtroom intensive. You will find probably two different trials of two different defendants caught up in unhappy circumstances. Not both defendants know it, but the two cases are related. Thaddeus is joined in Flagstaff by Katy and Sarai. Katy takes-- Oh wait. I can't give it all away! More to come. The book should publish about 4-6 weeks from now.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Welcome to John Ellsworth Books


You are very welcome here. I love  my readers and will do whatever I can to interact with you and answer questions about me, the practice of law, Thaddeus and any of the people you might meet in my books, and just about anything else you can ask me.

< ------

By signing up for my email list you will receive advance notice of promos, book releases, and can even let me know you would like to join my beta team and help me finish books before there are even published. Talk about being a first reader, I'm really open to that!

Thanks for dropping by.

John Ellsworth

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Happens to the Author When Big 5 Goes Bankrupt

As a former Chapter 11 Bankruptcy attorney (business bankruptcies, called "reorganizations") I can somewhat predict what rules and forces will come into play when Big Publishing begins Title 11 (Bankruptcy) actions. If I were writing a novel about this scenario (thank heavens I'm not) these are some of activities I would consider for that fiction:

First, the BPH will most likely file chapter 11 over chapter 7. Chapter 11 gives them the opportunity to reorganize debt and hang on to certain assets. Chapter 7 is the opposite: while 7 jettisons debt altogether, it also jettisons assets.

How will Chapter 11 affect authors?

If you are a Big 5 author, you have signed a contract. In Chapter 11 parlance, that contract probably gets labeled as what is commonly called an executory contract. "Executory," in the sense that there are terms yet to be performed at the time the bankruptcy is filed. And these might include: the debtor (BPH1) still has to perform production, distribution, sale, and author payment under the contract. The author, of course, still has to produce works, etc., but the "executory" in "Executory Contracts" refers to the duties owed by the debtor/BPH. Your contract is also an asset of the debtor's estate. This creates an interest in you by the debtor's creditors that you probably never expected. And most like would just as soon not have.

So...in Chapter 11, BPH will tell the judge, Look, we have certain contracts we want to keep, mainly author contracts. Plus there is a lease or two we want to keep so we can continue our presence in NY. Or maybe we'll jettison ("reject") our lease and move the biz to Omaha, where rents are affordable. In other words, Your Honor, we wish to offer up a plan of reorganization that does this: [here fill in the Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization, a document as brief as 25 pages for a pizza joint to 2500 pages for the first step of United Airlines].

Most important, Your Honor, here's what we would like to do with our author contracts:
   1. Reject those that are unproductive. Get rid of the author altogether, give them their rights back.
   2. Keep those that are making us money and abide by the original terms of the contract
   3. Hybrid: keep the parts we like, reject those parts we don't like. (Example: We'll keep ebook rights but reject paper book rights. Let the authors publish their own paper if they wish, but we're hanging onto to electronic book rights)
   4. Re-negotiate the contracts and offer these new terms based on our obtaining new financing: [use your imagination]

So that's a birds-eye view of what the BPH debtor will do.  Now let's take a look at what the affected author will do.

First, there's probably no worse position to be in than that of a party with a contract that ties one to a Chapter 11 debtor. This is true for two reasons: One, you will need a lawyer and you will need to commit a minimum of three years (part-time, one can only hope) to court appearances and preparation and filing of court pleadings. Two, you will be subject to the whimsy and imagination of the debtor's attorneys. They will be stridently looking out for BPH1's interests in both planning its moves inside the bankruptcy vehicle and inside the courtroom itself. They will offer plans, plans, and variations on plans until they finally arrive at a plan that a class, known as the authors class, will accept and vote for. As a member of that author class, you will require the services of a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to help you decide how to vote on the treatment of your class within the Chapter 11 plan or reorganization.

Second, the affected author will deal with years of uncertainty regarding revision of rights pre-term. For example, your BPH goes belly up, you want your rights back so you can self-pub and make payments on your Mercedes. Or Accord. Or--you get the idea. Problem is, there's really no one who has the power to give you your rights back. Except the debtor itself. And even that will require negotiations and approval by the judge before it is allowed to happen. Creditors will also get to vote on the resolution of how/when/price of you getting your rights back. Typically, your lawyer with negotiate with the BPH lawyer and say "We'll offer you $5,000 cash and ten percent of net epub sales for 24 months in return for a reversion of all rights effective immediately."  You'll leave your lawyer's office thinking That's damn fair. I hope they take it. Problem is, there must be a motion to settle your part of the pie on those terms and there must be a court hearing on your motion, at which time any creditor may object to you getting cut loose, the trustee may object, the debtor itself may object, and the creditors' committee may object. Whew. All for a lousy $5K advance and royalties every six months?  What?!

As you can see, when BPH jumps in the bath water, everyone gets soaked. You get soaked with untold hours of worry, delayed royalty payments, less-than-earned royalty payments, legal fees (probably worth more than your advance, when all is said and done) and you may or may not get your rights back.

One other curious item, curious to authors, that is. Say your BPH files its Chapter 11 and six months into it you submit your third novel, according to the contract. At this point, the debtor is going to be able to perform its side of the contract in what is called the "ordinary course of business" and your novel will be edited, printed, distributed, and accounted for. Fair enough. But what if your novel is rejected by the debtor for whatever reason? Welcome to No Man's Land. Why? Because you now own both a rejected or declined novel and may or may not own the rights to it. You see, all dealings with a debtor like a BPH are subject to court approval. So do you dare self-pub our novel at that point? Are you sure about that?  Again, your legal counsel only can advise you.

This blog post is supposed to raise some of the fictional questions around a fictional Big 5 Publishing House's corporate reorganization aka bankruptcy. This post offers no solutions and is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by this blog post, whether or not you read and act on it or refrain from acting on it.

In other words, this is fictional only. It's supposed to be interesting, not usable.

I hope it's that.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Welcome to John Ellsworth Books

I have to wonder when I see fellow writers say they need "help marketing" their books. Help in what form? TV commercials? PPC ads? Magazine display ads, Yellow Pages? TV spots? Then there are the social media "opportunities" so often touted--Twitter and FB and Linked In etc. Then there are the Bookbubs, ENT's, BKNights and etc. Then there are growing up before our very eyes a new group calling themselves "estributors" who claim, variously, knowledge of how to manipulate the Amazon algorithm. Sounds scientific and thus sounds appealing as well. (As a one-time software engineer who has written his share of algorithms, ahem, excuse me while I explode with hilarity at this notion,)

I am inclined to venture that, in our particular line of retailing, perhaps the best (and possibly only) effective medium is word-of-mouth. Maybe rather than casting about for ways to "market" our work we should instead be looking at ways to let our work market us. Which means, of course, we have to write books that make people want to tell other people about what we've given them to read.

I think I like this idea. I think I am compelled to look harder at my writing and learn how to make it better. How to make it compelling. How to make it have the kind of impact that makes people want to tell other people about it.

That's the direction I think I'll head.

How I Made a Box Set - Info for Authors

I am going to describe how I made a box set myself. I posted twice on KBoards looking for help but no one came to my rescue, so I can only assume this is an unknown quantity and the need for this post might be valid. At any rate, for the next person searching these boards for a Box Set How-To, here we go.
Disclaimer: For all I know, how I did this might be the worst way to do it. I honestly don't know. So if you can add (or subtract) anything to this, please do. 


--3d cover
--3 book covers (assuming it's a 3-book set)
--1 word document consisting of your three novels property titled and chaptered (page break chapters with number at top of each chapter)
Steps I took:
1.Open Word doc in Vellum. It responds with consecutively numbered chapters. Add front matter and back matter. I added front matter and back matter to each one of the three novels, separate set for each. Jason at Polgarus Studio told me you only need it for very front of box set and very back of box set. I chose to do it for all three, but that's just me and my sense of everything presented as three separate interior packages, like I would expect to receive if I were buying a dead tree box set. Use Vellum to generate the epub file.

2. Using Sigil, open the epub file that Vellum generated. Drag cover file to very top. Right click cover and select "Add Copy" -- make two more cover files. Titles of all three are now Cover, Cover2, Cover3 or whatever you like.  Go to images folder and bring in cover images. Now there are four images inside: Box Set cover, Book 1 cover, Book 2 cover, Book 3 cover. Connect images to cover files and place appropriately in the xhtml hierarchy -- left hand side of screen.

3. Add front matter to Box Set and back matter to Box Set, or add same to each book individually--your preference

4. Generate TOC in Sigil: First go to each individual chapter file in Sigil for each book and number the chapters 1-10, start over for book 2 1-10, start over for book 3 1-10. Now each book has its chapters number sequentially within that book, not sequentially in the box set. Very important not to confuse the two.

5. My TOC file was duplicated twice (right-click "Add Copy") and positioned within the hierarchy at the beginning of each book. TOC for Book 1 contained links for each chapter, and at the end of those I added a link to book 2 and a link to book 3. Did the same thing for book 2: first a link back to book 1, then book 2's TOC, then a link to book 3. Repeat for book 3.

6. Now you can go to the page just after box seat cover and add a page with three links: book 1, book 2, book 3. Now your reader can select which book to go to. The way I set it up, each of these book 1,2,3 links connects to the TOC for each interior book.

7. Use Sigil to save the epub file

8. Open epub file with Calibre, make your mobi file forKindle.

9. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee and pat your back, put your feet up, try to do this math: 70% times full cover price (book 1 + book 2 + book 3) = price I'm going to set my box set at. Or something like that. Some people give them away, some price at .99 and up to 9.99.

10. Add the book to KDP. Use a blurb similar to this:

Books one through three of the popular Thaddeus Murfee series by John Ellsworth are offered in a box set at a discounted price. "The Defendants," "Beyond a Reasonable Death," and "Attorney at Large" have received a combined 1xx FIVE-STAR reviews from readers in less than three months. All three of the novels are consistently rated among the top-1x bestselling legal thrillers, and all three are among the most highly-rated novels on Amazon. Enjoy a quality set that will offer you more than twenty hours of pleasure and entertainment -- nearly x000 pages.

(Please, no complaints about the blurb. It's an example, not a suggestion).

That's it. You just made your own box set. BTW, Vellum can be downloaded free and you can pay $50 for a one-time use to make your box set. $50 Vellum, Sigil $0, Calibre $0

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chase, the Bad Baby just cut his first tooth!

That's right, Chase, published yesterday, July 21, just had his first sales today, July 22! It's an exciting time and I have very high hopes for this book about mister Chase. He is by far my most beloved character and I will always carry him in my heart.

Chase is probably like a lot of us: damaged or injured in some way through no fault of his own, yet challenged to live as fully as possible. Plus, he is an infant, which I think in most of us causes us to run to the scene of the "crime" and try to help him.

I love this baby. I hope you do too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Defendants # 807 Paid in Kindle!

The Defendants was published just six months ago and it has become Kindle's #807 paid in Kindle Store!

I am very proud of this book and hope you will want to read it too. It had a free day on Sunday and gave away 5,000 copies. Then yesterday it gave away 1500 copies before coming off the free and then selling 250 copies. Read it now, great summer fun!

Monday, July 14, 2014

While Amazon and Hachette Duke it Out...

Tell the truth, I don't like to take sides in commercial disputes such as the ongoing one between Amazon and Hachette Books. If I did like to take sides then I would go back to practicing law, where I got paid to take sides. But since I became a full-time writer I enjoy my freedom from commercial disputes and my freedom from having to represent people in various difficult life-situations, especially those I really didn't personally favor. That's right, when you're a lawyer you oftentimes have to take the "wrong" side in a dispute, the side you don't believe in, simply because someone has the money to pay you to do so. In other words, you take money to go against your personal beliefs just about everyday you practice law. Can you imagine a more self-destructive way of living your life? So I quit. That's right, I discovered how to get my writing published and sell enough books to pay the bills, which allowed me to unplug from disputes like the Amazon-Hachette miasma.

Sometimes, however, the best books are built around a character who is conflicted because he or she is somehow being forced to do some act that he or she doesn't personally believe in. In fact, sometimes the required act is even revolting. That kind of conflict can make for page-turning fiction that's fun to write and fun to read, even if the reality of living through something like that is awful.

Amazon or Hachette? Lots of writers are taking sides. As if the outcome of the dispute will add to or subtract from their personal fortunes in some meaningful way.

Sorry, but I've been there. As a lawyer I was forced to spend my time on causes I despised simply because I had bills to pay.

As a writer, I no longer have to do that to myself.

And after all, like always, it's only about money. If we don't know by now that there are things far more important than money, then we haven't learned a key lesson yet.

Sign me, Unplugged.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fourth Thaddeus Murfee Done!

The Thaddeus Murfee family continues to grow. Today I sent the first edit draft off to my editor. She will carefully go through and find all my hilarious errors and then send me back a marked-up copy. I can then go through and accept (yes) or reject (fat chance) her recommended changes. Most likely the book will be on in Amazon in about 2-4 weeks. The title is Chase, the Bad Baby.

Chase is the story of a baby injured at birth by the OB doctor's negligence. Sadly, sadly, it is based on a type of malpractice that occurs far too often. What happens is, a baby gets in trouble for various reasons while mom is in labor (the novel goes into the reasons it can happen in the examination of the expert doctor by Thaddeus) and the baby suffers anoxia--lack of oxygen. If this is allowed to continue for anywhere beyond thirty minutes, the chances of getting a "bad baby" skyrockets. Thus there has come into being a rule called "Decision to Incision," and this rule says that the ACOG standard for delivering babies in fetal distress from the moment the decision is made to go C-section, until the actual C-section is performed, should not exceed thirty minutes.

In Chase, the baby is allowed to go too long while in distress, and the negligent doctor gets sued.
What follows is the typical defense tactics in defending these bad doctors and the plaintiff's (baby's) lawyer's strategy in getting a good result--money--for the victim.

Along with Chase, Thaddeus is also dealing with the man who kidnapped Sarai in Attorney at Large.

Be sure to watch for Chase, the Bad Baby, on Amazon in the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Attorney at Large Sales

My third novel, Attorney at Large, was published three weeks ago. Already it is outselling the first two books. It has had a great sendoff! It doesn't have that many reviews, but what there are seem to be very favorable.

Attorney at Large required more research than the first two books. The first two were written about people and places I was already familiar with--downstate Illinois, Chicago, northern Arizona, southwestern Colorado. When I practiced law in Flagstaff I had a firm airplane because the distances between towns were so great and my criminal practice was so widespread. So the area and the roads, the mountains, the Native American tribes and some of their traditions and hallowed beliefs became known to me.

But much of Attorney at Large takes place in Las Vegas, in a casino, much less, as Thaddeus has now taken over a casino as a result of the lawsuit against the mob. The casino itself is a figment of my imagination, but the staffing and workings of the casino are the result of much good old research. Especially the parts on card counting at the blackjack tables. I found those portions totally fascinating and totally loved writing about them.

Thanks for buying these books. Your support means I get to write more of them. And for that, I am very grateful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Amazon & Antitrust: What Hatchette Wants

In the current Amazon/Hatchette business disagreement, the legacy pub side is making noises like there's some kind of antitrust behavior by Amazon that bears looking into by the DOJ. 
Here is an overview of the three core federal antitrust laws.
The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize." Long ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Sherman Act does not prohibit every restraint of trade, only those that are unreasonable. For instance, in some sense, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably, and thus may be lawful under the antitrust laws. On the other hand, certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal. These include plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These acts are "per se" violations of the Sherman Act; in other words, no defense or justification is allowed.
The penalties for violating the Sherman Act can be severe. Although most enforcement actions are civil, the Sherman Act is also a criminal law, and individuals and businesses that violate it may be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Criminal prosecutions are typically limited to intentional and clear violations such as when competitors fix prices or rig bids. The Sherman Act imposes criminal penalties of up to $100 million for a corporation and $1 million for an individual, along with up to 10 years in prison. Under federal law, the maximum fine may be increased to twice the amount the conspirators gained from the illegal acts or twice the money lost by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is over $100 million.
The Federal Trade Commission Act bans "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." The Supreme Court has said that all violations of the Sherman Act also violate the FTC Act. Thus, although the FTC does not technically enforce the Sherman Act, it can bring cases under the FTC Act against the same kinds of activities that violate the Sherman Act. The FTC Act also reaches other practices that harm competition, but that may not fit neatly into categories of conduct formally prohibited by the Sherman Act. Only the FTC brings cases under the FTC Act.
The Clayton Act addresses specific practices that the Sherman Act does not clearly prohibit, such as mergers and interlocking directorates (that is, the same person making business decisions for competing companies). Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect "may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly." As amended by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, the Clayton Act also bans certain discriminatory prices, services, and allowances in dealings between merchants. The Clayton Act was amended again in 1976 by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act to require companies planning large mergers or acquisitions to notify the government of their plans in advance. The Clayton Act also authorizes private parties to sue for triple damages when they have been harmed by conduct that violates either the Sherman or Clayton Act and to obtain a court order prohibiting the anticompetitive practice in the future.
As you can see, these laws have one goal: to protect the consumer of goods and services in a capitalistic economy. Odd, isn't it, that these are the same goals practiced and preached by Amazon itself. 
Antitrust and Amazon? About as much symbiosis as NFL football rules and the NY Yankees.

Monday, May 26, 2014

My legal thriller novels on Amazon are The Defendants, and Beyond a Reasonable Death and Attorney at Large.  The fourth Thaddeus Murfee thriller will be released August 2014 so please check back often.

John Ellsworth

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today marks a new day in my writing life.  At long last I have decided to shake the dust of the old town off my feet and enter the new town.  In my case the new town is the world of digital publishing or e-pub.  My medium is the Kindle e-Book, as of today.  Instead of watching the football playoffs I got busy and read up on digital publishing.  I decided to turn it into a Kindle e-Book and get it listed on Amazon for sale at the reasonable price of $2.99.  I would pay $2.99 to read this book, The Defendants, and I would greatly--hugely--enjoy the experience.  The Defendants is legal fiction and that's where I got the idea for this blog:  The Legal Fiction.