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Each writer finds their inspiration and motivation in different ways. When I am thinking about a scene, it helps me to gaze out the window in front of my computer at the lovely lemon tree that grows in the back courtyard of my home.
Recently I did an interview with Smashwords and thought you, my readers, might enjoy reading it:
Interview with Renee Benzaim
1. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in California in a large family. As an adult, I lived in North Carolina, Delaware, and Hawaii. Looking back, I can see that the “:California mindset” is different, especially from that of the East Coast. I think this influence gives my writing a less formal, more open style. Also, my crime fiction series featuring Robbery/Homicide Detective Annie Avants is set in Kern County/Bakersfield, California where I lived for many years.
2. When did you first start writing?
I remember the first long story I ever wrote. I was in the third grade and my teacher, Miss Steere, asked us each to write a story about something in history.
I chose to write about the Donner party and the tragedies that befell them as they tried to make it to the wild west.
3. What’s the story behind your latest book?
Right now I’m writing a series featuring Detective Annie Avants of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Most of my family worked in law enforcement and I majored in Criminal Justice in college. I enjoy listening to police calls and following the action.
The real Annie Avants is an ancestor and I wanted to feature her name and her roots – she’s originally from Mena, Arkansas – but I wanted to transplant her to California where I was familiar with the location. The two blended perfectly.
I just finished the second book in the series (they will all be stand-alone) DAMAGE CONTROL and am working on the third, SOUTHERN SECRETS. The first book, CAUSE OF DEATH, is available in many formats.
4. What motivated you to become an indie author?
In 2009 I published my first article on the internet. I didn’t realize it was possible and was amazed! I then took courses and published more and more, wrote several blogs, and just fell in love with the publishing side of writing.
Then, one day, I was reading something and I discovered indie publishing! I was shocked! The possibilities were endless. I researched how to do it and then wrote a couple of ‘how to’ books based on two of my blogs, “How to Make Compost” and “Can Men Get Yeast Infections?”. I was hooked. I followed them up with a short story I wrote several years ago, “Frog Crossing.” I’ve also included a cookbook named “Salsa!” which has many delicious recipes for vegetable and fruit salsas.
5. How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I love Smashwords! They enable me to share my books with venues I would never have thought of or knew how to contact. Most of my sales are through Smashwords and the various channels they submit my work to.
6. What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The most excitement for me is when I put all the pieces in my head together and it all makes sense. When I first start a project, my head is a jumble of thoughts and ideas. As I progress, things begin to fall into place. Eventually, it’s all there, it all flows perfectly, and I am happy.
7. What do your fans mean to you?
I want my fans to be my friends. I love talking to them and having them tell me what they liked and didn’t like about something of mine they read. I write for myself, of course, but my fans are the wonderful people I love to share my writing with.
8. What are you working on next?
I’ve just started the third book in my Det. Annie Avants series, SOUTHERN SECRETS. This book will take Annie out of Kern County part of the time. She will visit her hometown, Mena, Arkansas, and the hometown of Jesse Greyeyes, a Deputy District Attorney from Kern County, who grew up on the reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina.
9. Who are your favorite authors?
10. What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
When I quit writing each day, I stop right in the middle of a sentence, thought, or scene. When I wake up the next morning, I’m excited to get back into whatever I was writing. This makes it easy for me to jump start my day and makes me eager to continue the story.
When my husband brings me a cup of coffee in bed, that certainly helps set a happy tone for my day!
11. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have normal household chores, of course, and a wonderful husband who does most of our shopping and cooking so I can write. I read a lot and think about different aspects of what I’m writing. A lot of my questions are answered during quiet times, such as when I meditate or sleep.
We also have several cats and kittens that we enjoy and I spend some time crocheting, which I learned how to do from my grandmother when I was eight years old.
12. How do you discover the ebooks you read?
A book’s description and reviews help me make my reading choices. I pick a lot of books from the police procedural genre, mainly because I learn a lot. In addition, I look for non-fiction titles on the different topics I address in my books.
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Hop over to Good Reads and enter to win one (or both) of the Detective Annie Avants crime fiction series books.
The first book is the 5***** rated crime thriller CAUSE OF DEATH:
Meet Robbery/Homicide Det. Annie Avants and her partner, Det. Tom Weston of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. In this farm community, someone is abducting and killing young Hispanic females. His weapon of choice – black widow spiders. Cause of Death is a spine-chilling thriller that keeps you guessing until the last minute – and makes you wonder about the “normal” people in your life.
Go to this link to enter the CAUSE OF DEATH giveaway: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/67790-cause-of-death
The second in the series is the 5***** rated suspense mystery DAMAGE CONTROL:
Detectives Annie Avants and Tom Weston tackle one of the most perplexing murder mysteries since they became partners. The crime victim is a well-respected attorney. He has gone missing and the only criminal evidence is his car with blood on the passenger seat.. Before they can understand the criminal mind of the killer, another person goes missing! Is a serial killer stalking Bakersfield?
Go to this link to enter the DAMAGE CONTROL giveaway: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/67795-damage-control
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I am happy to let you know that you can now download – for free – a sample (30%) of the second book in the crime fiction series about Detective Annie Avants, DAMAGE CONTROL.
Please click on this link: FREE SAMPLE OF DAMAGE CONTROL!
You will be able to download the first 30% of the book in several different formats.
DAMAGE CONTROL will be published on September 30, 2013. It is available for pre-order until then.
Have you read the first book in this series, CAUSE OF DEATH? If not, you’re in luck. Between now and September 30th, you can download CAUSE OF DEATH for free. When you are on the book page for DAMAGE CONTROL, look over to the sidebar on your left. You will see CAUSE OF DEATH listed. Click on that link. You can then download it for free by entering this COUPON CODE at checkout: DU79K
OR, click this link and it will take you right to the CAUSE OF DEATH book page:FREE CAUSE OF DEATH!
Happy reading! And, as always, I would love to hear your comments.
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The first draft of DAMAGE CONTROL was finished today! Now comes the fun part – revision, editing, and beta readers! DAMAGE CONTROL is the second in the crime fiction series about female detective Annie Avants, who works for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in Bakersfield, California. The first in the series is CAUSE OF DEATH which is avilable at amazon, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.
Here’s a synopsis:
DECEPTION – POWER PLAYS – MURDER
Detectives Annie Avants and Tom Weston tackle one of the most perplexing murder mysteries since they began working together.
The crime victim is a local, well-respected attorney who has gone missing.
There’s not much criminal evidence to go on. His car was found an hours drive out of Bakersfield with blood on the passenger seat.
No body has been found.
His staff is in a quandary. He had a new trial scheduled to begin the next morning. Everything was set to go.
And then, he just disappeared.
A mysterious package left in the restroom of the Kern County Courthouse leads our detectives to believe that the attorney is dead.
And now. . . another person has gone missing!
Will our detectives find the answers before a media frenzy erupts in the Kern County/Bakersfield area? Will the FBI be called in to help? Will they come to understand the kinds of criminal minds that lead someone to be a serial killer and narrow the list of suspects?
This fast-paced crime fiction detective thriller will keep you reading well into the night to find out ‘who dun it?”
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There are many scenarios that can take place to settle your case between the time the Complaint is filed and the actual Trial. In fact, a majority of the cases which didn’t settle BEFORE the Complaint was filed settle before Trial.
For instance, if the other party (Defendant) is being represented by the attorney for his/her insurance company, the attorney might make an offer to settle when he realizes that your claims are valid and will reach or exceed the defendant’s insurance policy limits. Or he might make a settlement offer based on a reasonable amount that satisfies you and your attorney, and you will accept. There are many opportunities for the two attorneys to confer during this period and they know it is to everyone’s benefit if they can settle the case before it goes to Trial.
The attorneys will also be meeting with the Judge assigned to the case during this period. They will have to attend a Case Management Conference, Mandatory Settlement Conference, and Final Case Management Conference at the least, before the trial. These conferences keep the Judge apprised as to the status of the case and if someone is dragging his/her feet, the Judge can impose sanctions.
Two methods to bring forth a settlement are Arbitration and Mediation. Both can be very effective and both require your presence.
Mediation is facilitated by a mediator. The Court maintains a list of mediators, usually attorneys or retired judges, or you and the other party can agree on a mediator. During the mediation, the mediator meets with each side separately; the parties are not together.
Here is some information about Mediation:
The mediator functions somewhat like a “hostage negotiator” in the sense that he talks to each side, separately, in an effort to bring about a resolution that both sides can agree to. He or she will go back and forth between the parties, making suggestions, making offers and counter-offers, discussing the pros and cons of the case, until, hopefully, both sides come to an agreement. After an agreement has been reached, the attornies will prepare the necessary settlement documents and the case will be finished.
Arbitration is somewhat different. The parties have agreed on voluntary arbitration in an effort to settle their case. It can be “binding” or “non-binding.” If it’s binding, the parties have agreed to bide by the decision of the arbitrator. If it’s non-binding, and one side doesn’t like the decision of the arbitrator, that side can opt to go to trial.
After the arbitrator is decided upon, each party sends the arbitrator an Arbitration Brief, basically outlining their case. At the arbitration, usually held in a conference room, each side presents their case to the arbitrator. The arbitrator then has a certain amount of days in which to render his decision. If his decision is binding, or if it is favorable to both sides, the case is over and the settlement documents are prepared. If it is a non-binding decision and one side disagrees, then the case is headed for trial
Only about 5% of all civil cases go to trial. Usually by the time discovery is finished and all efforts have been made to settle the case have been explored, the case will have settled.
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The other party’s attorney, or insurance company has sent your attorney a Deposition Notice. They want to take your deposition. What exactly does this mean? A Deposition is a chance for one party to ask the other party questions, under oath, and/or to produce documents or other things.
The Defendant (other party) can send out a Deposition Notice as soon as they file an Answer to your Complaint. They must give you at least 10 days notice and the deposition must be held within 75 miles of your residence if the lawsuit is in the same County where you live, or within 150 miles of your residence if the lawsuit is in another County, and they want to depose you in that County.
A Court Reporter will be transcribing everything that’s said during the Deposition and will be the person who administers your oath or affirmation. The Deposition may also be video taped. If the Defendant wants to video tape the Deposition, they must say so in the Deposition Notice. Be aware that everything you say will be the same as if you were saying it in Court. If you answer a question in your Deposition one way, you must answer it the same way in Court.
The Deposition Notice will list any documents or other things that the Defendant requires you to produce at the Deposition. Unless your attorney objects, you must produce these items.
A Deposition is usually held in an attorney’s conference room or, sometimes, at the conference room of a hotel. The Defendant can be there with his/her attorney. If your attorney deposes the Defendant, you can go also. In fact, it’s important that you go, if for no other reason than to make a positive identification of the Defendant. In one case, an attorney deposed a Defendant and the Plaintiff didn’t go with him. When they appeared in Court, the Plaintiff took the attorney aside and said that the Defendant wasn’t the person who was driving the car that hit him! The Judge wasn’t happy.
One purpose of a Deposition, besides getting the answers to more questions and documents, is to size you up. The Defendant’s attorney wants to see what kind of witness you will make in Court. How will you appear to a jury? Can he get you upset or angry and make you appear unstable to the Jury? Do you present a good appearance, or do you have tattoos on your neck and a pierced tongue or nose? It’s ok to have tatoos and body piercings, but you want to minimize these things at your Deposition and Trial.
Here are some things to keep in mind for your Deposition:
After your Deposition, you will have a chance to review the transcript and make any changes, which will be sent to the Defendant’s attorney. You will sign the Deposition after you have reviewed it and made any changes.
The Deposition, along with all the other forms of Discovery, becomes a part of your file and if it is necessary to go to Court, these will all become very important parts of your case. So treat each thing you must do seriously, so your answers don’t come back to haunt you in Court.
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The lawsuit has been filed, the other party has answered, and now, the Discovery process begins. What precisely is Discovery? It’s exactly like it sounds – a chance for each side to “discover” information about the other party. There are several forms of Discovery listed below. We will discuss the first four in this article:
Normally, the first Discovery your attorney will receive, and send, are Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, and Request for Inspection of Documents, Things, and Places.Sometimes, Requests for Admissions will be sent also.
Form Interrogatories are simply a standard list of pre-printed questions, in several categories, for you to answer. Your attorney will go through the questions and put a check mark next to the ones he wants the other party to answer, and the other party will do the same. The time limit to answer is 30 days. Here is a list of some of the categories of questions on the Form Interrogatories:
Even though a particular item is checked, your attorney may have grounds to object to their request. Special Interrogatories are simply more questions that weren’t on the Form Interrogatories.
Request for Inspection of Documents, Places, and Things is a way for one party to get the other party to provide them with copies of documents or other items in their possession, such as photographs. Sometimes one party may want to inspect something in the other party’s possession, such as the vehicle.
Requests for Admissions are a list of statements that you, or the other party, must either admit or deny.
When your attorney receives these items, he will make copies and send them to you with detailed instructions on how to answer. A lot of the information he will already have, but you must answer each item as completely as you can. If you reference any documents in your answers to Interrogatories, you can attach copies and list them as Exhibits in the answers. If the same documents are asked for in the Request for Inspection of Documents, Things, and Places, your attorney will say in those answers that the documents have already been provided. You don’t have to provide them twice.
For the Request for Inspection, you must provide any items that your attorney doesn’t already have in your file. For example, if you have new medical documents or prescription receipts, or photographs that you have taken of the vehicle, you must provide them. They may ask for a copy of the Police Report, but they can obtain that themselves so your attorney will usually object to that request.
If you have a problem with any of the Discovery, you can make an appointment with your paralegal and he or she will help you complete everything. You must then sign a Verification, which your attorney will prepare, stating, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing answers are true and correct.”
When you have finished, your paralegal will review everything and call you if he or she has any questions or needs any further information. Once your paralegal is satisfied with your responses, he or she will prepare them in the proper format and give them to your attorney to review and sign. The main thing to remember is that each question and request must be answered or complied with to the best of your ability.
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Photo Credit: Peter Skadberg
Your attorney has sent a Demand Letter to the responsible party, his attorney, or his insurance adjuster with no response or acceptable settlement proposal before the time limit to respond ended. Your attorney advises you to have him or her file a Complaint on your behalf. What exactly does this entail?
The Complaint is a formal document that your attorney will file with the Clerk of the Court to claim your legal rights against the alleged responsible party. You will be the Plaintiff and the other party will be the Defendant.
With the Complaint your attorney must file at least one Cause of Action, usually more, depending on your situation. A Cause of Action spells out the reason you are filing the lawsuit. For example, the Motor Vehicle Cause of Action states, “Plaintiff alleges the acts of defendants were negligent; the acts were the legal (proximate) cause of injuries and damages to plaintiff; the act occurred…” and then the attorney will give the specific facts of the accident. (Judical Council of California form PLD-PI-001(1) Rev. January 1, 2007).
Here is a partial list of the damages the attorney may list on the Complaint:
Your attorney will also prepare a Summons which will be filed with the Complaint. The Clerk of the Court will stamp the documents in, assign a case number, and return the originals to your attorney along with however many copies your attorney needs. A file for your case will be set up at the courthouse and will contain a copy of every document pertaining to your case.
After your attorney receives the Summons and Complaint back from the Court, he will have someone, usually a process server, serve the documents on the other party. After service, the process server fills out a Proof of Service of Summons and returns it to your attorney, who must file it with the Clerk of the Court. The Summons advises the Defendant that he/she has 30 calendar days to respond, in writing, to the Court and have a copy of the Answer served on you, via your attorney.
In the Answer, the Defendant can generally deny each allegation of the Complaint, or deny some of the allegations specifically and admit others, or he can use Affirmative Defenses, such as Assumption of Risk or Contributory Negligence.
After the Answer is served on you, via your attorney, the next phase begins – the Discovery phase. Discovery is exactly what it implies – a chance for both parties to “discover” information about each other. Discovery has many facets, some of which are:
The Defendant can serve Discovery on you, via your attorney, immediately. You can serve Discovery on the Defendant ten days after the date they are served.
NEXT: Personal Injury Lawsuits – Part 5 – The Discovery Process
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Before your personal injury attorney can settle your case, you must have completed all of your medical treatment and all the reports and records must be received by your Paralegal and Medical Legal Assistant. You will need releases from every healthcare provider in order to show that it is ok for you to return to work, if appropriate. If you missed work, your Paralegal will send for a statement from your employer stating the number of hours you missed from work and your salary, along with a calculation of the amount of money you lost. This all takes time, so be patient. Some healthcare providers respond quickly, others are slow. Here is a partial list of the items you should provide to your Paralegal and Medical Legal Assistant as your treatment progresses:
When all the records are in and your file is complete, your Paralegal and attorney will meet and prepare a Demand Letter. This letter will be sent either to the other driver, his/her attorney, or his/her insurance representative. In this letter, your attorney will recap following:
The attorney will give the other side a fixed amount of time to respond to the Demand Letter. Oftentimes, the insurance representative or attorney of the other driver will call your attorney with a counter-offer. It is your attorney’s responsibility to present this counter-offer to you. Your attorney can advise you on the counter-offer, but the final decision is always yours to make. If no response is received or no acceptable offer to settle is presented, your attorney will discuss the next step with you – filing a lawsuit against the responsible party.