Authors’ Commentary on “DISCLAIMER”

Lawyers in HellAuthors’ Commentary on
 a story in Lawyers in Hell

Aaron “Monty” Montgomery was a highly-successful, well paid defense attorney for the drug cartels – until he lost a case and awoke in an elevator car headed for hell.  The regular denizens were bad enough: from impish elevator operators to a Welcome Woman who was anything but welcome; from librarians and lawyers to his first assignment.  Nothing prepared him, however, for his first opportunity: to defend Bram Stoker in a defamation suit brought by none other than Prince Vlad III Tepes Drakulya (better known as Dracula) or that it would plant him firmly in the middle of a power struggle between His Satanic Majesty and the ancient Babylonian gods represented by Pazuzu, demon son of the wind god.

Lawyers in Hell As a long-time fan of Janet and Chris Morris’s Heroes in Hell, both the book and the series, as well as Thieves World, the shared world anthologies of Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey (wherein I met Tempus and Niko and the Sacred Band of Stepsons), I was understandably thrilled when Janet asked me if I wanted to be a part of the resurrected Heroes in Hell series by submitting a 10,000 word or less short story for Lawyers in Hell. My first novel, Black Stump Ridge, had just come out so this was exhilaration on top of excitement for me.  Of course I said yes.

 There is one very nice thing about email: you cannot deafen someone when you scream “Yes!” at the top of your lungs.  Nor can the other person see how silly you look as you do your happy dance in your office.

Once I calmed down and emailed my desire to be a part of the project, I asked Janet when she wanted my submission.  She told me that the absolute deadline for submissions was April 15.  Then, she welcomed me aboard and introduced me to someone named Sarah Snyder Gray-Hulcy (who has a delightful story in here called “Orientation Day” that immediately follows mine), also referred to as “our Muse.”  Sarah was the keeper of the records and the person who would approve any historical characters I might want to use (this meant making sure I didn’t use a personage that someone else was using).  Oh, and Sarah would send me the new writer orientation kit.  Which she did.  In two emails.

I felt the first tinglings of concern as I skimmed through some of the attached documents that spanned almost three decades – from the original concepts and rules for writing in this shared world (back in 1986) through story samples and ending with sections of FaceBook chat conversations detailing interpretations of rules and standards.  I was overwhelmed.  The tinglings were rising into small rumbles of panic (not yet seismic, but approaching those values to be sure).  I was looking at a small encyclopedia of data that I had to read before I started a story for which I had no inkling of a plot; certainly no characters in mind.  My last published work was a novel.  The last two-and-a-half decades were spent working on long fiction.  The last short pieces I had written for publication were in the summer of 1988.  Or, was it ’89? It didn’t really matter as this was the end of the second week of February and I had to write a short story – from first draft to finished copy – within the next eight and one half weeks!

To make things more fun, Janet wanted a short synopsis to make sure I was on the right track and would I please submit the characters I wanted to use to Sarah for approval?

I was now beyond tinglings and small rumbles and had moved on to a full elephant stampede of terror trampling me into the tight pile of my office carpet.  I had no story, no characters, and what did I know about lawyers? Other than a couple of jokes and a book or two that I’d read, nothing.  Oh, and TV shows.  We all know what a reliable source those are.

“Get a hold of yourself,” I said.  I often talk to myself when I need clarity.  I also talk to my Teddy bear, Cubby, but that’s a different set of issues.  “You can do this.”

The idea of having Dracula file suit against Bram Stoker evolved (as so many of my ideas do) from a conversation I had with a friend of mine on the way to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons in a neighboring town.  Suddenly, I had two characters to run by Sarah.  Of course, I still needed a lawyer.  The first list I submitted to Sarah had only three names: Bram Stoker, Prince Vlad III Tepes Drakulya, and Johnny Cochran. 

Sarah’s response was pretty quick, if not entirely happy-making.  Bram and Dracula were okay; Cochran was a no-no.  There was concern that his still active law firm might take umbrage to my lampooning him in hell – lawsuit level umbrage.  So, Johnny was out. 

“How about Clarence Darrow?” I wrote.

“Sorry,” she wrote back.  “Someone else is using him.”

Rats! I had to find a lawyer and the boxes on my calendar were quickly moving closer to March.  I re-read the rules.  Aha! The rules said that I could have one fictional character.  So, I created Monty – Aaron Montgomery.  I wrote a short synopsis and a quick draft.  Both were approved with minor suggestions.  I went back to work and soon “Disclaimer” was a finished story. 

John ManningI got to do my happy dance, again (with no one in the office watching me except for the bear) when Janet accepted the story and told me that she was sending me a contact to sign.

And, that is the story of how I came to be a hellion and what it was like to write this story.  Am I glad that it happened?  Without a doubt.  Would I change anything? Believe it or not, I would not.  When Janet asked me to be a part of this project I did not see anything beyond the short story I had to create and deliver.  What I could not see were the changes that were about to take place in my life.  I am now busier, working harder, and more fulfilled than I have ever been before.  If Janet ever needs a Don Quixote to go tilting windmills for her, I will find my scruffy Rocinante and my dented armor and bent lance and ride boldly into battle.

Disclaimer, © Jason Cordova; Perseid Publishing, 2011
© Lawyers in Hell (Janet Morris), 2011, all rights reserved

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