Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

At a recent conference the keynote speaker said that 14 was the number of deliverance so that 2014 would be the year of deliverance. All I can say is: Amen to that. During an audience participation segment the speaker asked us (a group of about 40 women and 1 man) what did "success" mean for us. One woman stated that for her it meant being grateful. She had a point. No one gets anywhere in life by his or herself.  Thanksgiving is one of the times we reflect on our blessings. And it's time to consider mine.

I am thankful for my ever supportive and the opportunity to return the favor as he works on a large appeal due on December 16. My boys are both a source of joy and frustration. I am not thrilled about the questions about sex that are starting to appear on a somewhat regular basis. But heck, they are that age and I'm grateful that they feel comfortable coming to me to ask those questions. I'm  a romance writer, right? I should be able to field those questions. Right?

Despite serious health issues my father is still with us. I am humbled by the many many sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and I and for the person they helped me become. While it wasn't my Mom's idea, or even desire, I am glad that they sold their house near Tampa, FL to move into their house in Orlando, FL where my brother lives so he could help with my Dad's care while I was hundreds of miles away. I am eternally grateful to my brother for what he does for our parents, and his long-term employment with Disney so we can get into the park for a lot less than we would otherwise. I am sure my sons echo that last point.

I am thankful for the invitation to become a staff member for Superstars Writing Seminar. I've written about this before so I won't belabor the point but I am eternally grateful to the friends and fellow Tribe members I've met over the years at Superstars. Being part of the Superstars Tribe and the Flash Fiction Online family has done wonders for my confidence in myself as a writer and person.

When I left a second firm in less than 9 months in February, my clients came with me. I can't thank them enough for that leap of faith or their patience with me as I figured out going it on my own. One individual spent several hours tracking me down through three firms and my Linked In profile because I'd worked for one of his company's vendors more than a decade ago, and when they had a problem of a similar nature I was the one they wanted to handle it. I helped several clients get the benefits they were due and that, in turn, made their lives a little better, a little brighter. There are very few things better in life than knowing you were able to help someone who needed it. I thank my clients for giving me the opportunity to serve them.

I am humbled by all of you who spend a little bit of your week with me on this blog.

So, while 2013 has been full of challenges there was a lot of good too. I hope life is kind to you and your family and your life is full of things to be thankful for.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fool Me Once...

Shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This bit of conventional wisdom is particularly applicable in the law. If you need to sue someone for fraud you have to prove - in lawyer speak (and real person speak) - that the person made a misrepresentation of a material fact (he lied to you), when he made the misrepresentation he intended for you to rely on it (he wanted you to believe the lie and do something), you reasonably relied on the misrepresentation (a reasonable person would have believed him, and he tricked you), and you were damaged (you did what he wanted and, usually, lost money).

I've litigated and settled several fraud claims over the course of my career and I'm likely to deal with many more before I retire in the distant future. Resolving fraud claims poses a special problem. If you sue someone for fraud once, you are unlikely to "reasonably rely" on any lie in the future. It's that whole "fool me twice" issue.

In one settlement, the defendant (read as "the alleged bad guy") wanted my client to give up its claims against him before she paid the settlement amount in full. When I wouldn't concede the point with my opposing counsel, the defendant (you know how to read this now) called my client to plead her case. Among other things, she said that if my client released the fraud claim my client could trust the defendant to pay everything she owed.  Fortunately, my client is a big believer in "fool me twice." My client's response was that it was my client's word to release the claim after being paid that they would be trusting.

It's unlikely that a court will help the second time someone defrauds. Why? Because we sued the defendant for fraud. If the person had fooled me once, I should not trust that person anymore. My reliance on his word is no longer "reasonable." While there are some limited exceptions to this they are usually limited to cases where there is a physical or mental disability or where the relationship between the people are so close the continued reliance is acceptable. Fooled me twice is my fault.

Yet, human nature is such that most of us want to trust. Most of us want to believe that the first time was just a horrible misunderstanding. We give scammers our money. Sometimes we let them "sell" us the same bill of goods more than once - i.e. now that you bought our critique of your novel, we think you need some editing services, let us recommend. . . (another one of their fraudulent companies). There's so much noise out there it's hard to tell the truth from a flim flam.

Most of the time we get fooled twice. If we didn't the cliché wouldn't exist. Maybe the best we can do is be a bit more like Malcolm Reynolds (care of Firefly and Serenity). When Mal has to work with someone who's double crossed him before he goes into the deal knowing that he's likely to be bit again. 
Still, fooled me twice isn't a fun place to be. My client had the right of it in the one settlement negotiation. If someone's fooled you once, don't trust them again because . . .well, you know.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fun with Children and Electronics


Okay, I'm not advocating that we combine children and electronics. It seems to me that a child cyborg is the way to Armageddon, but that's another blog post. No, I'm talking about ways that technology  and its limitations can make for a hysterical car ride.

I work about 60 miles from my house. The distant isn't too terrible until you factor in two things. Some days I have "kid duty" meaning I need to pickup or drop off my sons that their schools. Then there's the "usual" D.C. Metro Area traffic.

Rush hour in DC is anything buy usual. At my first job as a lawyer, my boss use to complain that he never knew when I would be there was an hour swing in my start time. Now, I left the house within a fifteen minute window every day, and back then I had to drop both boys off at daycare on the way to the office. If it rained, if the sun shone, if there was an accident, if there were three accidents, f it was Friday or Monday, my travel time varied widely. And don't even talk to me about what happens around here when it snows. One day I called in saying couldn't get to the office because after two hours of commuting I still had at least two more hours to go. If I add a kid pickup or drop off into the mix my commute goes up at least an hour and a half one way.

Now, lots of people have worse commutes. I'm not seeking sympathy. Well, not a lot. But what an hour and a half to two hours of commuting each way with children in the car means is a lot of time with bored children.

We plan for long commutes. The boys are encouraged to bring their electronic game systems with
them because talking about our days only takes up about 15 minutes of the ride. The other day my husband and I divided and conquered to take advantage of the HOV lanes. Mikey and I headed into an hour and a half commute.  On this particular trip, Mikey's game system ran out of power. Ah, the joy of ADD kids who forget to charge electronics. But there's also a backup plan for this. My smart phone has many many game apps. Rather than play one of those, Mikey decided to play with the voice search function. You know, the function when you say "I am hungry" into the phone and it pops up a web search of nearby restaurants. Hilarity can ensue when the voice recognition algorithm misunderstands what you've asked.

Mike wanted to know how many turtles there were in the world. After much rephrasing of the question we learned that the population of pet turtles in the United States was 1,991 million. Singing "la la la la lala la" confused the search request. At one point it appeared that we'd so "frustrated" the search function that it gave up. The last 45 minutes of the drive flew by.

We arrived home with tears in our eyes from laughing so hard, and more than a few story ideas in my head from search requests that went horribly and hysterically wrong. I'm almost looking forward to today's commute.

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Day I Will Wake Up and It Will All Fit Together (after I use a jigsaw to recut the peices).

Royal Pavilion In Brighton
We all dream of that magic moment when life suddenly comes together and we get the thing we've always needed - even if we didn't know that was what we wanted. The overnight success story is part of the American Dream. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, though. If you pull the curtain back, you'll find out the "overnight success" was years and lots of hard work in the making. I'm not a big believe on waiting for things to happen. In fact, I hate waiting. I'd rather be doing something. As James A. Owen says in his book Drawing out the Dragons there are two kinds of people: those who things  happen to, and those who make things happen. If given a choice (and we're given a choice every day of our life), I'll make things happen. So, that's one of the many reasons I attend the World Fantasy Convention.

I knew this year's WFC would be a challenge since it was going to be in another country (England) and very few people I knew were going to be attending. Do you know what I found out?

I was worried about nothing.

Turns out I knew lots of people. People I'd met over the past few years at WFC and maintained loose contact with since. I recognized even more faces than that. One of the great things about WFC is you can go up to anyone, yes, anyone, and start a conversation. A lot of those conversations start with "Were you at" or "Didn't I meet you at WFC in _______?"

Going so far outside of my comfort zone allowed forced me to make things happen.

I saw landmarks that I'd only read about. I walked the streets of Mayfair. We saw a musical. Did you know that if you buy a video game in London it won't work on a game system bought in the United States? We found that out. A very helpful sales clerk at Hamley's allowed us to return the game despite (or maybe because of) our stupidity. I spent the day rambling around London after the boys got on the train to Heathrow, and explored Brighton. A friend, Matt, became acquainted with an antique bunny in the hotel bar (no bunnies or people were harmed in the making of this picture).

Did you know the beach at Brighton is comprised of large pebbles and not sand? Or that when the surf hits the coast it hits so hard that the spray shoots up more than five feet? Or that people surf off the Brighton coast? I didn't until I went.

When your small group of friends is otherwise occupied, and you don't want to sit alone or go up to the room and call it a day, you talk to people you don't know. You have no choice. Even if you manage to find a place to sit by yourself it isn't long before someone you know walks by or someone asks to sit with you. I met a lovely couple who live less than ten miles from my office by way of a mutual friend who lives on the other side of the United States. I talked with publishers, agents, editors, and to writers at all points in their writing careers, from superstars to people just starting out. I talked to fans and readers and  book dealers. I talked to so many people for so long that I lost my voice. And, of course, the collective group ran the hotel bar out of all its beer and mixers by Sunday night.

Okay, so swinging back to the topic - all the pieces in your life magically fitting together.

I believe that people come into our lives for particular reasons. Each person we meet, each interaction, is another piece of the puzzle that makes us who we are and life worth living. When you take a new piece out of the box, you often don't know where it goes or  how it fits with the other pieces. Heck, sometimes you can't tell if the piece represents a cloud, foam from the ocean's surf, the molding around a building or a cow. It takes work for the pieces to fall into place. Sometimes it even takes the handy application of a jigsaw to recut a piece.

If you don't go out and acquire the pieces, you'll never complete the puzzle. If you don't try to put the pieces together, you won't wake up one day and have it all fit together.

So, when one day I wake up and it all fits together that moment of serendipity will be because I spent the time to make the connections (gather the puzzle pieces) at places like WFC.