Monday, September 30, 2013



Day SEVEN of the release tour for my newest book, Temporary Anne, is up on Speculative Fiction author Sandra Ulbrich Almazan's blog today!  You read part six here the other day, so go see how the story went on.

Sandra is a UW-Madison (GO BADGERS!) alum with two patents to her name and, more importantly, she's the author of "The Catalyst Chronicles, about a scientist who travels to an alternate universe to sample her own grandfather's DNA, creating a clone who now must investigate his mother's death.  These books are amazingly creative, expertly written sci-fi that call to mind Larry Niven.

and, Temporary Anne is just $0.99 today, so Click this link to GET TEMPORARY ANNE!


"the After," a masterpiece about a woman whose life didn't begin until it ended in a plane crash and she woke up in an existence where everything is perfect... unless you don't happen to like perfect.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sexy free books! Just read to the part where you see giant eye staring at you.

Remember how I have that book, "Temporary Anne", that just came out and is incredbile? THAT'S STILL A THING.

And today I'm over on Jessica Bell's blog, with PART SIX of the story "This Is How I...", an amazing story that YOU are helping ME write.  So far it's got a beast, flaming spiders, a magical sexy Drum Major, and now a protagonist that is a disembodied head.  PLUS, 100% MORE QUIPS, thanks to "A Beer For The Shower"'s suggestion.

Jessica is the wonderful author of about a zillion books, including her latest, "Bitter Like Orange Peel,":

Six women. One man. Seven secrets. One could ruin them all.
Kit is a twenty-five-year-old archaeology undergrad, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. Life seems purposeless. But if she could track down her father, Roger, maybe her perspective would change.
The only problem—Roger is as rotten as the decomposing oranges in her back yard according to the women in her life

You can get a preview for Jessica's story in "The Hum of Sin Against Skin, a free short story.  "Bitter" is available for pre-order now, and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY RECOMMEND it.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO JESSICA's blog to read and take part in PART SIX of the horror story I am writing with your help.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO JESSICA's book site and order "Bitter" plus all her other great books!

AND, remember that "Temporary Anne" thing? You can buy it for $0.99 today OR PAGE DOWN TO SEE ABOUT A FREE HORROR BOOK IT'S THE ONE NEXT TO THE EYEBALL.


"Amazing to read. The man just oozes cleverness. And his descriptions of the demon world are the best I've ever read anywhere. Creepy as hell." Speculative fiction Author Rusty Carl.

 "It's fascinating. If you like horror, this is definitely a book worth reading."-- Fantasy/Spec fic author Andrew Leon

"Another chilling tale from the author of The Scariest Thing You Can't Imagine. ...Pagel's style reminds me a lot of Vonnegut's work in that while the narration seems jaunty with its humorous asides and such, there's a lot of hidden depth to that narration."-- Author PT Dilloway.

THANKS to everyone who's following the Temporary Anne blog tour!  

TEMPORARY ANNE is just $0.99 today!

If you didn't already get it click this link to download this excellent horror story.

OH, AND ONE MORE THING: For being so great and all, I am going to as an added bonus, let you get a complete book of horror stories, FREE, today.  "The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine" is full of demons tormenting kids, dead wives coming back from the grave, catacombs full of bodies, angry babies stolen by gargoyles, and more.  NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HEADLINE: “Time Travel Is Only Possible In One Direction, Scientists Say.” Subhead: “Balderdash,” Tim says. (Infinite Monkeys)

HEADLINE: “Time Travel Is Only Possible In One Direction, Scientists Say.”  

Subhead: “Balderdash,” Tim says.

 Tim’s response makes sense primarily if you understand higher-level theoretical physics and how wormholes in space might actually exist (although nobody has yet seen one or proven that one exists other), but secondarily Tim’s response makes sense if you consider that Tim is a large-ish (7’, give or take, although he says that they no longer measure things in relationship to other things and so the ‘foot,’ as well as the ‘meter’ and the ‘acre’, among other special measures, has been long forgotten, in favor of an entirely objective, absolute value of measuring things, the title of which is unpronounceable by man’s tongue, also not used very often where Tim is from), handsome-ish (why not? Genetic restructuring is available over the counter, through a variety of tablets, or powders if you prefer them mixed into your coffee), Neutron-propulsion-pack-wearing-ish (jetpacks will always be too dangerous, but who could be hurt by a 2-liter (that’s the only unit of measurement that time and ours have in common) pack of heavy water from which neutrons are plucked for propulsion? At worst, the pants get a little wet on the cuffs, but styles are such that most people wear boots), man who says that he is from the future?
But not just any future.
“Time travel,” Tim tells the people standing outside the coffeeshop, circa 2013, “isn’t just possible going forward, which, I mean, you’re ALREADY DOING THAT…”
*chuckles in the crowd and Tim nods appreciatively.*
“…but also backwards, except nobody wants to go there. Have you ever gone back to your parent’s house after graduation? That’s what traveling to the past is like: worse technology, people are smellier – no offense – and things are more expensive than you’d like to remember. Plus, your parents are on your case all the time.”
More laughs, except from the parents.
“More excitingly, and I’m here to tell you it IS exciting, is travel in alternative directions of time.  Travel to the LEFT. To the RIGHT. In SPIRALS!”
The crowd ponders this.
“It’s how I got this awesome hat,” Tim says, putting on the aforementioned awesome hat. It looks like a Viking helmet, but there is something off about the horns, which, on closer inspection, do not appear to be horns.
“They’re dinosaur teeth,” Tim says. “There’s this one era of time, about 67-degrees away from perpendicular to this one, and a little above it, where dinosaurs are doing the MOST AMAZING THINGS with arts and crafts.”

Monday, September 23, 2013


DAY FIVE of the Blog Tour!  As you know, I'm writing a short story, LIVE, as it were, based on YOUR suggestions.  Part 1 through four can be read here:

PART ONE appeared on Tina Downey's Life Is Good, PART TWO on Andrew Leon's Strange Pegs, and if you didn't catch either, click here to read PART ONE and HERE to read PART TWO.  Then Part Three was on Laws Of Gravity, PART FOUR on Rusty Carl's Blutonian Death Egg

1. Life Is GoodFriday 9/13
2. Strange Pegs: 9/16
3. Laws Of Gravity 9/18



Then I saw eight eyes, the smallest the size of bowling balls, the largest terrifyingly bright and shiny and close, looming over me and just below them a set of fangs as large as my legs but far far sharper.

Clikkerclakk, the fangs went.



And they jabbed down spearing down at me poison glistening from the tips of them, as I struggled helplessly to try to roll even the tiniest bit to the side.

One fang struck true: it dug into my rib cage, and I could feel the needle-sharp end of it piercing first the skin, then the muscles, and even as I became aware of what I assumed was each precious micro-second of what remained of my life, even as I felt the cooooooolllllllld poison spreading into my lungs, my chest, even then I realized that the other fang had clicked off of something...

...not something: My BOOK!

The Kindle (TM!) version of my book, tucked safely into my tuxedo pocket for unveiling at the Nobel Prize ceremony, the first-ever AUTHOR MODEL Kindle coming with a 3-dimensional (OH, IF ONLY THERE WERE SO FEW DIMENSIONS!) laser-engraved portrait of me on the back, pre-loaded with every one of my books all of which are available in the Amazon store for just ninety-nine cents every day, sorry, but you can't miss an opportunity to try to market yourself even when  


The poison starts working, from the fang that is still embedded in my chest, still spurting poison into me, and I assume it only takes one to get you.

My eyes flicker, although maybe that's the monstrous heaving spider above me blocking out the light as it tries to get the other fang in past the metal-and-circuits blocking it, or maybe that's that speck I saw, falling and falling and falling and growing larger, I can't tell because the pain as the poison shoots through my body is too great.

My back arches with agony, the spider's legs grab me, and the speck grows even larger.  

I have one hope.

Just one.

I make my left hand move, as much as I can.  I'm barely able to get it to my chest, barely able to feel the flat shape of the tablet tucked into the pocket.  

The terrible spear that is the spider's fang is right there.  I feel its bulk heave onto me harder as it tries, again, to pierce the second fang through the military-grade armored coating I had insisted the device have.  Sure, Amazon had griped that each one would cost $10,000,000, but I wanted luxury! 

And lying there on my back trapped in a giant, webbed abyss as a horribly gigantic spider tried with all its might to get its fang through that armor, I was proven right.

Things were moving faster now and my breath was coming in gasps so here's exactly how it happened:






The Kindle that I'd commissioned from Amazon and the secret branch of the US Military that only Amazon, Apple, Google, and, for some reason, Kentucky Fried Chicken, have access to, came equipped not just with armor sufficient to protect it from a missile -- or giant spider,  apparently!-- attack, but a variety of other weapons, chief among which was a blowtorch.

Yes, we were promised jetpacks. And they're here.  





But they're only given to Nobel Prize winners.  Yep, even the poetry ones.

I digress.

The blowtorch jetpack (TM!) lit up and, it turns out that giant spiders are very flammable.  The spider atop me lit up like Burning Man and the Fourth of July had a baby, and it reared back, its legs erupting like torches, the fang pulling out of me, the eyes somehow looking both malevolent and dead, and as it did so, the Beast hit it, landed on top of it.

I was not there when the Beast hit the Flaming Giant Spider: the jetpack had enough power to push me off the web and up against the wall of the abyss, where, many feet away from the battle/conflagration that was suddenly underway, I clung to a small ledge, quickly downloading the app that would enable the grappling hooks.

The Beast, which must have been dropped out of the Drum Major's hat, hit the Flaming Giant Spider like... well, I would say a ton of bricks, but generally when you see a ton of bricks it doesn't have all those tentacles and arms and mouths and claws, so I'll just say hit the Flaming Giant Spider like the Beast, but this spider, even when it was on fire, was not one to back away from a fight.

Tentacles whipped around the spider, pinning it down near two of the three mouths, but the spider's spinnerettes were already whipping silk around the tentacles.

Thwipthwirpthwip and three tentacles were spreadeagled, glued to the edges of the abyss, and the Beast's open body, a sludgelike pile of scales and mush, was open to the spider's fangs, which were on fire and it wasn't even slowing down. I saw two of the spider's eyes had already burst open,  leaking gore and blood and spider-eye-juice as the web itself began to burn, and the spider danced its legs around the numerous burning spots to fix the web even as it dove in and jabjabjab the beast took numerous bites.

I, meanwhile, had foolishly not gone along with the Amazon customer rep's suggestion that the Author Version of my Kindle include an antivenom dispenser app (I'd gone for "Angry Birds Honey Boo Boo version" instead), and I had to take my eyes off the fight as I doubled over in pain and vomited, the spider's poison still in me.  I was shivering, suddenly, feeling as though I was buried in ice.  My hand quivered and I held with all my might to the grappling hook, hoping against hope that something would save me, as I couldn't figure anything out.

The spider bit the Beast again, but that seemed to only make the Beast angrier, and it roared and hissed and spit and used its two free tentacles to pull off two of the spider's eyes, leaving it only four to see with.  This seemed to confuse the spider for a moment and the Beast used that opportunity to wrench and arm free and begin pulling at the webbing.

The spider by now seemed a little slowed by the fact that it continued to burn, and it wasn't as quick to fix the rip in its web.  The Beast got two more tentacles free and used those to pull off two of the spider's legs, which it then began to use to beat the spider.

The Beast, I realized!

The Drum Major must have sent it down here to help me! 

I wiped my drenched brow.  My teeth chattered.  I felt my heart slow down.

The Drum Major was magic.

The Drum Major had already capped the Beast and then sent it to save me.

The Beast battered the spider some more, and then it, too, roared and I saw ochre spill out of the numerous spider-bites it had on its belly.  The spider collapsed onto its web, a burnt-out hulk of an arachnid still weakly trying to get one last bite in on the Beast, which seemed to stagger, if a pile of tentacles, mouths, and arms, could be said to stagger.

The web was burning in numerous places, bits of it falling further below into the seemingly-bottomless abyss.

As I watched, the Beast fell through, too, its weak howl echoing as it went down.

I could barely hold on to my grappling hook/Kindle, over on my ledge.  My head burned, my throat was dry.

"Drum Major..." I mumbled, 

The spider lunged for me, fell short, crawled towards me across the flames.  It seemed determined, with the last part of its horrible life to make mine a bit worse.

My vision went spotty and I felt my heart beat... and then not beat again... 

My hand loosened on the grappling hook.

"Drum Major, help..." I whispered.

She would save me.

I was sure.

I would open my eyes, and she would be there, kicking the spider off the web and giving me an antidote and then use her Drum Major powers, whatever those were, to get us out of this pit.

With what little strength I had left, I opened my eyes.  The lids were too heavy.  They wouldn't stay up.

Blinkflaming web.

Blink: giant spider, weakly reaching a leg towards me

Blink: the web has torn, the spider drops through

Blink: the Drum Major!

Blink: falling past me, upside down and unconscious

Blink: then... oh, God, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo......................


Your turn! What happens next? What SHOULD happen?  Today, ALL SUGGESTIONS, yes I mean ALL OF THEM, WILL BE WORKED INTO THE NEXT PART OF THE STORY!


"Amazing to read. The man just oozes cleverness. And his descriptions of the demon world are the best I've ever read anywhere. Creepy as hell." Speculative fiction Author Rusty Carl.

 "It's fascinating. If you like horror, this is definitely a book worth reading."-- Fantasy/Spec fic author Andrew Leon

"Another chilling tale from the author of The Scariest Thing You Can't Imagine. ...Pagel's style reminds me a lot of Vonnegut's work in that while the narration seems jaunty with its humorous asides and such, there's a lot of hidden depth to that narration."-- Author PT Dilloway.

THANKS to everyone who's following the Temporary Anne blog tour!  

TEMPORARY ANNE is free again today!

AND, as an added bonus, I'm going to let you get a complete book of horror stories, FREE, today.  "The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine" is full of monsters tormenting kids, dead wives coming back from the grave, catacombs full of bodies, angry babies stolen by gargoyles, and more.  NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.  Get it free today by clicking here!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Paper Trail (Mom Wanted A Doctor: Or, Why You Maybe Shouldn't Go To Law School)

Mom Wanted A Doctor is a column examining the funny or at least interesting or possibly billable? OF COURSE IT'S BILLABLE aspects of being a lawyer.  Today's is:

The Paper Trail.

I have in my office a suit of armor, a $23 bag of jellybeans, many wind-up toys, a fish:

and very few paper files.

That was not always the case.  I used to have lots and lots and lots of paper files because it used to be that society demanded that people use paper to communicate things that were best commemorated in a way that we think of as "permanent" but which can be destroyed by a cup of coffee.

Used to be.

When law began, or so I like to imagine, it was practiced by guys who wrote longhand, on sheepskin, important phrases that sounded great:  "It is emphatically the province and duty of the courts..." or at least something about copyright infringement by having South Park do a parody of "What What In The Butt," which is an actual case that had to actually be decided by actual judges paid for by your actual dollars.  SOCIALISM!

But I digress.  The point is that back in the olden days, which for purposes of this essay is anything before about 1995, "law" was written by hand, or by typewriter, or by dictation, on actual paper with actual ink, which paper was then copied and mailed, by hand -- carried from the judge's bench to the waiting hands of an attorney by a dedicated government servant or at least an underpaid surly Fed-Ex guy whose only consolation was that this beats "Circuit City" for a job -- and then carried further, to be bound into books which were then stored in giant shelves at law schools and in courthouses and the fancier law offices, the kind where the partners' desks sit amidst a span of square footage that is larger than all but two of the places I have lived in my life, the kind of law offices where people who don't hire people like me spend 16 hours a day including Sundays, and are miserable, and generally balding, because of it.

I am balding, a little, but am not miserable. I have a suit of armor and all those toys.  But I digress again.

Back then -- pre-1995, when giants like Abe Lincoln practiced law -- lawyers had to write things on paper and make lots and lots and lots of copies.  There were copies to go to the court and copies to go to the clerk and copies to the other side and when you got your copies from the other side you had to make copies to send to the client and you always keep a copy of everything you send to the client, so that a simple motion would end up using a forested area roughly the size of West Virginia.

Those papers would all be put into other paper -- file folders kept in larger file folders and then in 'red ropes,' which are even larger, accordion-style file folders which were then put into bankers' boxes, which are made of even thicker, stronger, more oppressive paper, the end result being that my office, and many lawyers' offices, looked like it belonged to that Perfesser character on that cartoon about birds. "Shoe," I just remembered it's called.

It's funny, because they're birds! No, wait, that's not right. 

Working with all that paper was depressing: my office looked nothing like the offices of such famous lawyers as, say, that partner guy on "Legally Blonde." Not least because while I have a suit of armor, I do not have a Reese Witherspoon. (TM!).  My office was filled with papers: stacked up, and in files and in baskets for me to read and baskets for people to pick up and distribute to other people and on my desk and in my hands and AIIEEEEEE! Sorry, flashback.

The point is, there was a lot of paper and it was messy and it was time-consuming to keep it from being messier and things looked like junk piles AND it was difficult to find what you were looking for.  Let's say you (I) were on the phone and you (you) asked me (me) to look at a letter I (I) wrote you a few months back.  That letter would be in a stack of papers about an inch thick, in a file folder nestled among 5, 12, 15 other file folders that was tucked into 1 or 3 or one THIRTY-ONE no I'm not kidding BOXES, and I'd have to go find it.

Which was a lot of work, which meant I'd rather sue you than go get that letter, which is why there were so many lawsuits in the past.  I assume. I don't know why other people sue other people.  I know why I sue other people: because I get paid to do so.

With computers, and electronic storage, the end of that era started coming around because then, if you and I had that same conversation -- why are we having it again? -- I would simply look on my computer and find it and call up an 'image' of the letter which I could reprint and send you if I wanted to.

TIP FOR NONLAWYERS: Nonlawyers are always complaining to people about 'the original' this and the 'wet-ink' that, that latter one being a phrase I hate.  But the rule in court is that copies are every bit as admissible, genuine, believable, and hence case-losing-able, as the 'original,' a rule that makes sense because of the definition of the word "copy."  Look it up. You're not paying me.  Copies of originals in fact are only not admissible if the person objecting can give a good reason why a copy shouldn't be treated like the original.

FUN FACT FOR NONLAWYERS: I don't even need the actual paper contract that my client signed to prove my client signed a paper contract.  So I DO NOT EVEN NEED A COPY OF YOUR PAPER to win.  It's like sorcery!

As I got better and better at using these "Computing Machines," or, as I understand some call them, "smartphones", I realized I needed fewer and fewer actual papers in my actual office or in my actual hands, and I have spent the last year or so trying very very hard to reduce the number of times my hands must touch the leftover corpses of dead trees.

Or did you forget that's what paper is? It's a piece of a corpse of a living thing on which you tend to draw doodles.  (I do mostly triangles, for some reason.)

Which has brought me to the point where I am today: I have an almost-paperless office, and the few stray bits of paper that make it into my office -- letters from people who think it is still 1882, faxes from people who know that electronic transmission of information is possible but who haven't yet realized that means email is a thing, too -- are almost immediately scanned into a computer for me to read and work with and the original paper spirited off to The Faraway Mystical Realm Of Offsite Storage.  In my inbox, off to the left of my desk, by the end of each day I usually have just a few papers that have been dropped off, and most, if not all, of those, are from courts.

(One of the papers in my inbox is a drawing, made by Mr Bunches, of "Harry The Helpful Horse." I leave THAT there because (A) it serves as the bottom of the inbox, telling me what things I have looked at and what things I have not: things I have looked at but not dealt with, yet,go UNDER Harry, while things atop Harry need some attention.  As I go through the inbox each day, Harry helpfully tells me how far down I need to root.)

But most of the papers are from courts -- judges and clerks writing to me, and other people involved in the case, to deliver information in the least efficient way possible.  Or at least the least efficient way still existing. If we were to resurrect the Pony Express and carrier pigeons, regular US Mail would seem efficient and modern. -Ish.

Judges and their clerks are still wedded to paper.  It is as if the counties which the judges serve have stock in tree farms, or sawmills, or whatever part of the chain of paper production YOU find most romantic to associate with this essay.  Office supply stores, perhaps.

Judges send paper notices to tell us lawyers when we must be there in court, or when we must phone the Court.  Judges and clerks require that we submit our arguments on paper to them, with paper copies to the other side.  Courts then take all that paper and consider it and then send us more paper to tell us what they think of it all.  Then we file more paper with the courts to tell them what we think of what they thought. (Politely, of course.)

ASIDE:  Have you ever stopped to consider that the phrase "With all due respect" actually implies that you have no respect, and are merely paying lip service to the idea that you are supposed to respect the person you are claiming to address with the aforementioned complete amount of respect that personage is owed? I try not to say that phrase. 
At the appellate level, the appellate level being the part of the Courts you only reach when something has gone terribly wrong for someone, things are even worse, in that at the appellate level you can't even just file one copy of all that paper.

When someone appeals a decision made in their case, here is all the paper that is used:

1. The person appealing files at least three different sheets of paper in two different courts. (Plus a cover letter! Don't forget that!)

2. The clerk of the court you are getting out of to appeal takes every single sheet of paper including the one you just filed, and sends it to the Clerk of the Court of Appeals.

3.  If you didn't have enough paper already, you need to use MORE paper to order it, asking the court reporters to prepare transcripts of everything that was said in all the important hearings in court, and filing THAT paper, too, and giving paper copies of all that paper to the lawyers.

4.  The appellate court will then issue a few pieces of paper itself, such as a document telling you what caption, or heading, should be on all papers you send it.

5.  One side then files their "brief," which it never is, and an appendix, containing copies of many of the papers that have already been filed with the Court.  The other side gets to respond, and must re-file any papers they think the Court should particularly look at but which haven't already been submitted in triplicate.  The original party then gets to file MORE arguments.

6.  Finally, the Court will issue some paper.

Here is the kicker: when you file things at an appellate court in Wisconsin, you must also electronically file that paper, so there would be no need to file both a paper copy and the electronic copy, right? Right.  But you still have to do that.

NO WAIT HERE IS THE KICKER: Not only do you file an electronic version that is available online and anyone can read it anywhere in the world right there on their computer screen (or, true, print it out on paper and read it) but in Wisconsin you must file anywhere between THREE and TEN copies of the thing you just electronically filed with the Court.

Most 'briefs' are about 25-30 pages long, so every court case argued in a Wisconsin appellate court adds about 1,000 pieces of actual physical paper to an already voluminous court file.

I tried to find out how many cases a year are decided by Wisconsin courts.  I couldn't find a number, so let's just say it's a lot.

(To top it off, they still bind all those decisions into books, later on, sometimes several sets, even though the opinions, delivered on paper copies to the lawyers, are also available electronically.)

I tried, one day, to think about the reason for filing that many copies.  The only answer I could come up with is that the appellate judges and justices didn't want to have to print their own stuff off their own computers, and didn't want to read the things on computers.  That's a reason, I suppose.  Not a good one.  But a reason.

Is paper actually more permanent than electronic records? Fire versus power outage, I'm not betting on either side to lose, really, although "power outage" sounds more temporary.

Sometimes, I look around my office, with its jellybeans and armor suits and Fish the fish swimming around in his tiny tank and picture the mountainous stacks of paper that must be accumulating.  I like to picture them growing higher and higher, rather than sprawling out.  As impressive as an array of papers spread out over an area the size of Kansas might be, in my mind, the idea of not one, not two, but ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, towers of papers growing ever higher -- precariously, dangerous-looking but somehow not, like how staircases always looked in Dr Seuss books -- and ever higher, a testament to... nothing? To how we used to do things?



I froze, standing stick straight as uniformed men funneled around me, fixed on the Drum Major's steely eyes. A sucking sensation tugged at my gut, curling upward, like the smoke essence of my very soul leaking through our connected stares.

I didn't want to look down.

Sound good? It should.  It's the story I'm writing with YOUR help -- the story being "This Is How I...", a story about how I started out accepting the Nobel Prize(s) for literature only to have a Beast attack the ceremony followed by the Drum Major attacking the Beast followed by... well, you'll have to read it to find out.

And read it you can!  Part FOUR is up today on Rusty Carl's blog The Blutonian Death Egg.  Rusty is an awesome writer whose best work is "A Dead God's Wrath," a story of demons and murder and magic set in the old West, and I have READ IT and it is PHENOMENAL.

Click HERE to go to Rusty's blog.

Click HERE to go buy "A Dead God's Wrath" for just $0.99.

Temporary Anne is a horror story about a woman so desperate to avoid Hell -- the fate for the evil she's done during her life -- that she makes things infinitely worse after her death. CLICK HERE TO GET IT FOR JUST $0.99!

To celebrate the release, I'm doing a blog tour.  Here's the schedule for the rest of it:

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Most Dangerous Game(s) (Infinite Monkeys)

The Most Dangerous Game(s):

Razor-sharp Monopoly.

Hopscotch in Mozambique

 Fiddle Contest With The Devil (unless you are Johnny.)

 Ms. Pac Man Just Read Your Emails To Princess Peach

 Don’t Break The Ice (Because Dad Has A Hangover And Doesn’t Want Any Noise)

Regular Monopoly but everyone else has guns and they own only railroads and utilities.

Risk: Real Life Edition

Mumblety-Peg. Seriously. You have to pull a knife from the ground with your teeth, after it is thrown at you. Look it up.

 Running With Rock Paper Scissors

 Chutes and Ladders Assembled By Carnies.

Grand Theft Auto: Real Life Edition

 Flaming Chess

 Bear Hockey, which is like regular hockey only the bears cheat.

 Name That Tune! (I’m not at liberty to say why, but take my word for it.)

 Thumb Wrestling. OK, it’s not dangerous but don’t you kind of think that thumbs are gross?

 Life: Real Life Edition

(Ignore this it's a validation code not part of the story)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Swear To God (Mom Wanted A Doctor, Or Why You Maybe Shouldn't Go To Law School)

Recently, I entered the annual column contest at McSweeney's.  I did not win.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to still write the column.  I'm just not going to write it for McSweeney's.

The column is called, as you've guessed, Mom Wanted A Doctor: Or Why You Maybe Shouldn't Go To Law School.  It'll appear here from time to time.

Swear To God:

One day, we started talking in our office about the ‘oath’ administered by judges, notaries public, and sometimes lawyers ourselves (!) before someone testifies in a case. 

We started this discussion because I had to warn one of my associates that many court reporters do not like to ‘swear people in’ via telephone. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve gathered it has something to do with the statute under which court reporters are allowed to make people promise to tell the truth, etc., and an interpretation of that statute which doesn’t allow them to do so telephonically, because (I guess) at some point a lawmaker thought that the power of the oath might not be transmittable through copper wiring.

We weren’t discussing that belief, but rather whether an ‘oath’ was even necessary.

The law generally requires that everybody who says anything in a deposition or court be sworn first, admonished that God, or an affirmation at least, is watching them so they’d better be really,really, honest.  The law won’t let somebody say their name on the witness stand without first having them promise they’ll be square with us.

Generally, but not always. 

In civil cases, i.e. cases where only money is at issue, almost every witness is pre-sworn before talking to anyone, even in pretrial proceedings like depositions.  In criminal cases, by contrast, cases where someone can be locked up and maybe executed, witnesses prior to trial are generally just interviewed, although they still must swear to tell the truth if, and before, they talk in court.  

So if it’s dollars you want, we have people double-sworn, but if you’re just talking about maybe locking someone in prison for a while we’ll take people’s word for what happened.  

So we place at least some emphasis, in legal proceedings, on whether a witness promises God (and us, too) that they’re not lying. But should we? In real life does it make it any more reliable if someone swears to tell the truth before they talk to you? 

In real life, of course, the answer is no. In real life, someone who professes, sincerely and verbosely, before they even begin talking, that they are telling you the honest-to-God truth, is almost always deemed a liar.  

Consider any situation you’ve ever been in where someone had to insist that they were telling the stone-cold (as nobody says) truth: you were pretty convinced they were lying, weren’t you? Of course you were.  Methinks he doth protest too much, and all that.

There are, in fact, only two places where we routinely require the speaker swear they are telling the truth: legal proceedings, and kids’ arguments. “Swear to God,” we used to challenge the other kids when we thought they were lying, which they always were because lying, to kids, is second-nature [Only lawyers would dare pick on LITTLE KIDS for being liars, right?][I already know I’m going to Hell]. In every other aspect of life, we simply ask people and believe them.  When does the next bus come? Is this movie any good? What’s a cronut? We take answers to these queries on faith, without a profession of faith upfront. Even marriage vows are made without first being sworn under oath, and marriage vows are probably pretty high up there on the list of important things we say to other people.

The question of whether testimony is reliable absent an oath first came up for me when I had to question a witness by phone in a pretrial deposition. The reporter didn’t want to swear the witness over the phone, as the witness was in New Jersey or someplace, while we were in Wisconsin, but there was nobody in that other place to swear him in. 

I did not understand why the reporter had this problem, as I’ve seen judges swear people in over the phone.  Once, a judge told a witness (telephonically) to raise his hand and swore him in.  After the witness was sworn, the judge said “Did you really raise your hand?” and the witness said he did. He was under oath when he swore he’d raised his hand as he took the oath, so we believed him. (I spent some time wondering if the oath would have been invalid if the hand hadn’t been raised.)

Court reporters, I should note, are apparently deemed authorized to invoke God’s wrath via oath because they can type your words fast. I, on the other hand, get to swear people in, if I want to, not because I went to law school but because I paid $75 for a lifetime appointment as a notary public. (I also got a stamp.) Judges get to swear people in (I am not 100% sure of this) because they are judges.

To avoid an impasse at my own telephonic deposition, the other lawyer and I reached an agreement, one we “placed on the record,” which is to say, we agreed to something, then told the court reporter to start typing, and then said what we’d agreed to, making it official because it was typed.  The agreement was this: I would administer the oath, telephonically, but we would agree that the witness’ testimony was given as though he were actually sworn to tell the truth, even if it were to later turn out he really wasn’t sworn properly.

So you can tell that by then, we were unsure of how effective a telephonic oath might be. Our agreement could have been paraphrased as: “we’re going to act like you’re compelled by God to tell the truth even if maybe through some trick of Alexander Graham Bell’s phone lines are Godless wires existing in a faithless limbo but we made it sound more lawyerly.

This, as you’ve gathered, is ridiculous. What if the witness hadn’t even been pretend/stipulation sworn? Would he feel free(er) to lie to me? Would we end up at trial and I’d be pointing at a transcript of this Q&A session and he’d say “Oh, yeah, I told you all that stuff but, you know, I wasn’t sworn, so I just made some junk up?

This problem gets even more ridiculously nonexistent when you realize that anything a witness said outside of court, even unsworn, is admissible against that witness in court, so if I’d just talked to this guy and had the reporter write it all down, but then this witness came into court and said a bunch of different stuff, everything he told me would be read into the record, anyway and jurors (you! Maybe!) could sort it all out without worrying about what parts were under oath and which were not.  (This is how police interviews with witnesses work in criminal trials. Police do not administer an oath to the witnesses they interview.)

As it turns out, we settled that case and it never went to trial, so our experiment in stipulated truth exists now only as an old transcript sitting in a dusty file for six more years, at which point we’ll shred it and life will go on.


Temporary Anne:  

Once voted "Most Likely To Eat The Soul Of Her Own Descendants!"

A contemporary horror classic, "Temporary Anne" presents the terrifying tale of a woman who avoids eternal damnation by sending others to take her place, scrambling to avoid the minions of Mephistopheles while searching for a way to allow her ravaged body to serve her indomitable will. The frightening images -- demons made of ice, babies' souls consumed -- will stick with you for as long as Temporary Anne exists -- which is FOREVER.

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