Monday, June 30, 2008

Translations Made Easy

The English language is the perfect fit for those unsure of their gender, since nouns are essentially sexless. "They think, therefore they are," one might say, and no one knows if they are men or women.

Facebook has had quite enough of that, and it has to end. With the popular social networking site going global, it's quite impossible to translate things in individual profiles. If the user doesn't specify a sex, and then posts to his or her page using gender-neutral words, there's confusion. The Facebook translator has to assign a sex, and it's anyone's guess these days if Taylor is a boy or a girl.

With its popularity among the college crowd, Facebook was facing endless criticism from university English departments nationwide. The default setting, when sex was unknown, relied on "they" or "their" or "themself", which created some grammatical horrors. Nothing can be worse than having university professors grumbling. From here on in, you have to pick a sex.

To avoid discriminating against those with chromosomes that don't match the external packaging, a user can opt out of sex selection. Unfortunately, the default settings will continue to create literary havoc for the transgendered, as if they don't have enough emotional trauma to deal with.

Users of Facebook are gradually being trained to use correct grammar, one step at a time. At this rate, literacy will be achieved within the next two hundred years.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Free News

Starting Monday, The Irish Times will be available on line for free. Anyone with Internet access can keep up with the latest from Dublin and all points west.

It's a case of keeping up with the neighbors. The New York Times tried going to a pay-to-read system, but they soon discovered that columnists thought to be worth the price weren't so popular after all. Money didn't flow in, and no one rose up in great protest over the fees. They simply went elsewhere for news. The entire paper is now free.

More and more newspapers are going to free on-line editions to attract and keep readers, since fewer and fewer are buying the hard copy. Advertisers are thinking Internet these days, and a newspaper must have an Internet presence to attract the advertisers who pay the bills. The green issue can be paraded. of course, save a tree and there's no newsprint needed...or unionized printers working the presses.

Simple economics, really.

Monday morning, if you've a hankering to see what Brian Cowen's been up to over the weekend and what Enda Kenny has to say about it, click on and read away. Then try to figure out how a paper can stay in business without charging for content, with nothing but advertising revenue to cover costs. Is it any wonder that there's no money in writing?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Publisher's Hours

Putting in half of a day's work on the Friday, and with sales declining you'd think a large firm would have all the employees putting in overtime to solve the problem.

Not so in publishing. No one's around to answer the phone come Friday afternoon. It's part of an old tradition, the sort of thing that the bean counters would have eliminated when they took over the business. When one is enjoying the leisure, it must be nearly impossible to give it up, and don't hard-working employees deserve a little time off for good behavior?

Go on and take off Friday afternoon. I'm taking off Thursday afternoon, and the entire day on Friday.

I won't be in the Hamptons, unfortunately, nor anywhere near a beach. But I'm nowhere near getting published either, so it all comes out in the end.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speed Is Of The Essence

When a literary agent updates their page at Publishers Marketplace, I'm sure they're looking for fresh meat. Why else would they put their name at the top of the list, if not to attract the unpublished?

With that in mind, I caught sight of Kathryn Green's listing. Her interests match up with one of my manuscripts, so why not give it a go? Click send, and the query was away. Within hours, she clicked reply and the rejection was in my inbox.

But what about the other manuscript I've started to re-query after a long absence? Will a new perspective help move it along? The beginning's been re-written, even more literary than before, so who's out there?

I cut and pasted the query into shape, following the submission guidelines, avoiding any and all attachments. Away goes the letter to Tracy Brown, whose only fiction interests are literary. A few hours later, and it's a no.

So, is it a quick response because the agents are on top of their incoming mail? Or is it a quick rejection because it's summer coming in and no one wants to deal with a heavy workload when Fridays are half days and the beach is beckoning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

India Is Lovely At This Time Of Year

Sure it'll never last, the old ones said, and now they can point to evidence that the Celtic Tiger has dropped off to sleep.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has crunched numbers and pondered their crystal balls, and come to the conclusion that Ireland's heading into a recession. Unemployment will creep up, from 4.5% to somewhere around 7% within the next few years. With job losses will come decreased consumer spending, as the unemployed have little to spend and those with jobs are afraid of blowing it all frivolously when it would be better to put the spare change away for the next rainy day.

In addition, the ESRI has concluded that Ireland will once again begin to export people, as was the case not so very long ago. For those who are anti-immigrant, this may come as good news. Chances are, the people who will be the first to leave will be those who came here from Eastern Europe and Northern Africa, looking for work. Once the work goes, they'll go back home or off to some other country where the economy is humming.

Where are the jobs going, to cause such a jump in unemployment? Well, they say that Bangalore, India, is lovely this time of year.

Hibernian, a financial services company, is cutting five hundred positions in Ireland and moving them to India, where the costs are lower. A well-educated Indian with but the slightest of accents can be trained to answer phones and the average Indian IT geek will fix computer glitches for much less salary than his colleague in Ireland.

Companies chasing after cheap labor set up shop in Ireland, but as costs rose, they moved on to cheaper pastures. Now India is reaping the benefits of education coupled with low wages, and Ireland is left to find yet another new strategy to win the battle over the international conglomerates and their precious jobs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Post-Apocalypse Is Red Hot

If you're looking to resonate with a literary agent, you can't go wrong with the end of days. It's the apocalypse, baby, and agents are all over the plot device.

Not one, but two debut novels are set in this red-hot, all the rage time. America after the apocalypse, everything falling apart, gloom and doom. Don't you just want to dig into a good read like that? Neither do I, but literary agents think we do and they've got the publishers convinced as well. Now is the time to submit your post-apocalypse triumph, before actual sales figures come in and put paid to the notion.

Darin Bradley has penned Amaranth, due to be laid down in two years, by which time the post-apocalypse may or may not be of interest. It's a re-telling of Lord of the Flies, but without the Robinson Crusoe-esque elements of stranding, desert islands, and the like.

Not to be outdone, Alan DeNiro has come up with a post-apocalyptic setting and a dysfunctional family, a premise that set Colleen Lindsay to tingling over at FinePrint Literary Management. Doesn't that sound like a light-hearted summer beach read? Better, perhaps, for the cold and dreary days of winter, if the apocalypse is your cup of tea.

Why oh why are bookstores closing due to lack of sales while publishing houses see their sales figures decline? Why is that?

Mark Your Calendar

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress is slated for Ireland in 2012. Be sure to mark your calendars and make reservations. Someone has to go, but it may not be the Irish.

In 1932, Ireland hosted the 31st such gathering. The crowds at the Mass in the Phoenix Park were enormous, a sea of Catholicism and fervent belief.

Some of the more trustworthy inmates of the Magdalene laundries were allowed to attend, those who weren't likely to run away or speak out about the horrible abuse that was doled out to young Irish women who had the audacity to get pregnant outside of marriage, or to be so unfortunate as to be considered tempting to men.

As the truth leaked out, the Catholic Church took a hit and attendance has been in a steady decline. There's a general lack of interest in the clerical profession, with parishes being forced to merge due to a lack of staff to say Mass and hear confessions.

No huge crowds of Irish faithful are expected in 2012. The Church isn't the rallying point it once was, ten years after the island was partitioned and the Irish Free State was on its way to becoming a republic, broken free of England.

The pope's an old man, and no one wants to hurt his feelings. He's building another Eucharist Congress and it would be an insult if no one came. By 2012, you'd have to believe that the dollar to euro exchange rate would be more favorable to the tourist, and there's so much to see beyond the Eucharistic Congress activities. Keep the date open, and make your plans. Someone has to go, after all.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Reason For All The Rejection

From the wisdom of literary agent Nathan Bransford comes this important news. The reason why agents don't ask for your manuscript is because your query lacks the right factor.

An agent reads your letter, and if you've said something that resonates with them, you're in. If you've written something that is highly marketable and your query letter shows that you can compose a standard letter in standard English and follow the submission instructions, you're in.

His recent blog post only makes things seem that much more futile. We write what we like, what means something to us, but what happens when an agent looks at the synopsis paragraph of the query and doesn't find the story intriguing? There's no market for the book, so there's no point in not rejecting the query.

You could craft the world's most perfect query, but if a literary agent doesn't get all excited about your story, you're dead in the water. That might explain why so many novels are set in New York City and involve the sort of people you'll never meet in your lifetime because you don't live in New York and hang around with publishing types.

Query widely, Mr. Bransford advises, but you might want to write something that has that resonance factor. Check out the weekly deals listings at Publishers Marketplace and you'll see what's hot. And you'll see why your manuscript fails to resonate.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Remembering Taxation Without Representation

They don't study much American history in Europe. Sure they have enough of their own to fill the curriculum. The European Commission really should take a day or even an hour for a very brief journey into the past, if they're to ever settle the impasse that's reared up since Ireland voted no.

Long, long ago, in a colony far, far away, the colonists were up in arms, and eventually took up arms, because they were being taxed by a body that they did not elect. The angry colonists couldn't vote for the politicians who were making laws that governed the colonies, so they had no one to complain to, or run out of office for malfeasance and general stupidity.

The colonists, boys and girls, lived in America. They stomped and shouted, "No taxation without representation" and when the King of England didn't listen, they started a war and gained their independence and damned if they didn't create a super-power that the European Union would like to compete against.

The EU has twenty-seven members, not thirteen colonies, but the bureaucrats thought it was brilliant to only have eighteen voting council members. That meant that some countries would live with taxation without representation until they had their turn to have a commissioner. And the EU thought this was good because they never studied American history.

Ungrateful Irish louts could see the problems, but we must consider the fact that huge numbers of Irish louts made up the colonial fighting force in 1776 so they're predisposed, you might say.

After lots of hand-wringing and whinging and general dyspepsia, Jose Manuel Barroso thinks that maybe the EU Commission could have a representative from every member nation. Maybe Poland's Minister of State took him aside and had a little talk. The Poles, after all, were of critical importance to the American revolution, and that whole tempest in a 'taxation without representation' teapot became a part of their history as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Can't Sit Here

He's not a Muslim, you know. His father was, but all that Barack Obama got from the relationship was the melanin production. He didn't see the old man but the one time after the age of two. Everyone knows his mother was a white Protestant. No Islam in the mix, not at all, at all.

So when a couple of hijab-wearing Islamic ladies rushed to take up seats behind their beloved candidate as he addressed his adoring fans, it couldn't go unnoticed. Imagine that picture flashed nationwide, with a couple of women in sexually-repressive attire, supporting Mr. Obama. It would be another round of proving that he's Christian, and not anti-women's rights, and that takes him off-message. Candidates hate that sort of thing.

You can't sit here, the two Mohammedans were told. We won't tell you to remove your head scarves because that sounds so dreadfully prejudiced, but instead, we're moving you out of those seats and over to these that are well out of camera range.

Hebba Aref took offense at being moved to the back of the bus, as it were, and she spoke up, to complain about being treated like a hijab-clad chunk of radioactivity.

Thanks a million for your support, says the Obama campaign, with backers like you and your big mouth we're in trouble. It's all over the news. The Obama handlers orchestrated a lovely photo opportunity and created a new problem.

We're so sorry, they've said. We're so sorry. But the fact is, the picture that will be shown on television and newspapers won't have any hijabs in it. We're so sorry, we can apologize as long as you like, but the campaign got the picture it wanted and the organizers aren't sorry at all. They're sorry that you let anyone know, Ms. Aref, because until word leaked out, the orchestration was flawless.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All This Comfort Has To Stop

Have you looked at your electric bill? In the past eighteen years, the average Irish household has increased its power usage by 70%. That's a huge increase, and this coming at a time when we're all supposed to cut back.

What is most shocking about the elevated electricity consumption is the horrifying discovery that people are taking advantage of available power to increase their comfort. Yes, it's true. Irish people are making their homes more energy efficient but they're using more energy than ever, just to have lights on. It gets worse. Energy consumption is up so that the typical Irish resident can be warm.

Back in the days before the Celtic Tiger, there were many homes that were heated by a single stove and everyone was miserable with the chill. Now, an entire house has heat. It's outrageous.

With oil prices at record highs, it is time to change behavior and bring energy consumption back down to 1990 levels. Ireland must return to the thatched cottage, and get rid of the enormous mansions that have sprung up like mushrooms after a rain.

The number of occupants per household must go up as well, and it won't be long before the Dail will introduce legislation that forbids children from moving out of the house to set up their own quarters. The current figure of 2.81 occupants per household will have to change, to something like six or seven at the least. More homes with fewer people means more power used. There must be fewer homes, packed to the rafters with the extended family.

In addition, a national thermostat setting will be enforced. All homes can have one room heated at any one time, and that's just to keep the pipes from freezing.

All residents of Ireland must curtail energy usage. A quest for personal comfort must be sacrificed for the greater good. If you want to be warm, take a sun holiday to the south of France.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rejected From The Bottom Of The Barrel

There is a finite number of agents to query and I'm approaching the limit. After another partial was rejected because the agent thought it was more of a romance than women's fiction, and they don't do romance, I figured I might as well try the agents who rep romance. Who am I to judge what the genre is?

Within hours, I was rejected by Laura Bradford. Either the query is worthless, or my manuscript isn't a romance.

As far as I can tell, I didn't write something that Harlequin would pick up. There's more to the story than fluffy boy meets girl loses girl finds girl standard issue formula plot. The only romantic element is a somewhat happy ending.

Is it the query, then? Can't really judge that any more.

I've run across several agents' blogs that mention the tightness of the market leading to fewer requests for manuscripts. Publishers want the big blockbuster or nothing at all, so they're not looking at the debut author who doesn't have a string of awards and publications. That means an agent won't consider your manuscript if you aren't the editor of a literary journal or a professor in some MFA program.

Write something else while I query every last agent, and then start again. If my body got that much exercise, I'd be a walking skeleton.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just What We Need, Another Book Club

There's the answer for the publishing world. Sales are down, but it can't be the quality of the product because publishers have their fingers to the pulse of the reading public. It must be the lack of book clubs to promote their goods.

Let's start a club, says Elizabeth Wagley, the communications advisor to nonprofits around the world. All those leftist ideas are enshrined in the printed page but no one is buying. Now, it can't be that the reading public doesn't want leftist ideas because they're not leftist. No, indeed. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Join the Progressive Book Club and you're indentured for two years, just like all those other book clubs that bind you contractually. But instead of Danielle Steele, you'll get Steven Greenhouse. It takes a New York Times reporter to tell people how tough the American worker is having it these days. It will take the Progressive Book Club to get liberals to read all about it. Clearly the American workers aren't buying. They're too busy watching NASCAR, the low-brow Neanderthals.

Put out a product that no one wants and then create a club to promote its sales. There's a classic business model if ever I heard one. Where's the progress in that?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

In Search Of Continued Stress

Just when I was ready to pack it in, with no agents interested in the query letter, I get a rejection letter that has me turning in confused circles.

It was a no, of course, because they're all no in the end. This time the agent provided a few words of critique, so I couldn't complain, could I? We all want a little guidance, a hint about where the manuscript can be tweaked in the hopes that someone else might like it.

Again, it was the slow start that did me in. The use of too much description that paints a picture of place but slows the narrative. And here I thought I had conquered that particular problem. How wrong I was.

Might as well go back and edit the first couple of chapters, to erase the slow parts and make a concerted effort to avoid the addition of things that I think are necessary to tell the story, but actually aren't.

There was one other notation, however, and that's created a whole different problem. How can I re-draw the protagonist so that she's realistically layered? How to show, rather than tell, that she's young, giddy and very naive so her choices aren't founded on solid logic? Or is that even really a factor? It could be that this one agent was expecting one sort of character and found that mine didn't match up.

Pack it in, or keep going? Well, there's this other manuscript that I've started on and I might as well finish it. And then send out queries. The protagonist might be someone that a New York agent could better relate to.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I Take It That's A No

Micheal Martin went all out to promote the Lisbon Treaty for Fianna Fail and still the only people who listened to him were in Dublin. As for the rest of the nation? It's a no.

All across Ireland, the news is the same. It's a no, thanks just the same, for the Lisbon Treaty that would have turned Ireland's governance over to a bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels.

Minister Martin is quite certain that people voted no because the voters didn't know enough about the treaty to go out there and support it. Lack of information is at fault.

That would be lack of information nationwide, since every constituency failed to support the newest wrinkle in a unified Europe. Could it be that there actually was plenty of information out there, and it didn't support Fianna Fail's pro-treaty position?

Voters might not have known much about the treaty when they went to the polls, but they knew one thing. There were no benefits to them to cede control over their lives. They had no great desire to be told what to do by foreigners who had never set foot in Ireland before.

Contrary to the minister's opinion, it looks like the people of Ireland had plenty of information about the Lisbon Treaty. The suits who run the EU can call it a constitution or they can call it a treaty, but the thing was defeated before and now it's been turned down again. That is the information that the citizens of Europe would like to send to the politicians.

U2 Can Be Richer

Sometimes you have to be there at the right time. Take Adam Clayton of U2, for example. Not too long after the noted graffiti artist Basquiat shot up for his last high, the bass player spotted one of the young man's pictures in a New York gallery.

The entire band bought it, and the painting was hung in the recording studio in Dublin's Docklands.

Anyone can get tired of looking at the same thing for twenty years. U2 has decided that the Basquiat can go now. They've seen quite enough of it, and it probably won't work in the new studio that An Bord Pleanala doesn't seem to think should be built as designed.

If you're in London on 1 July, and you can convince the doorman at Sotheby's that you're a serious bidder, the Basquiat painting that so entranced U2 could soon be hanging in your living room.

Worried about the size, and whether it will fit? The catalogue lists the canvas as 6 feet square, done up in acrylic, oil stick and bits of collage for good measure.

No one's talking about exactly why they're selling now, but considering the fact that the opening bid is expected to come in at around five million euros, well, it goes without saying. You can make money by investing in art, but you have to buy the right art at the right time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To Each According To His Need

Everyone's the same. Everyone gets the same rate of pay. Everyone is equal in Cuba.

Okay, Fidel's napping? Can't hear the truth, can he? Why upset a sick old man? No one want to burst his little bubble, not when he's reaching the end of his days.

According to Cuba's vice minister of labor and social security, the whole equal pay thing doesn't work after all. Tried it for fifty years and there you are. A little mistake.

Who would have guessed that workers wouldn't go for the "according to his need" part of Marx's philosophy? With everyone getting the same wage, no one gave a toss about quality. No one ever had a minute's worry about waste, and as for doing a good job, well, why bother putting in an effort that won't be rewarded?

There's not to be a great change, of course, or the people will get confused. In the future, Cuban employees will be guided by a revised dictate. From here on, it's to be "according to his work." More work will equal more pay.

Only the one word has been changed, so Cuban authorities can still say they have a communist system, just one that is more equal than others.

The lengths that bureaucrats will go to give themselves a raise and make it sound justified and reasonable....if this keeps up, they'll have a middle class on the island and how will they make that not come out like Animal Farm?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If You See Lake Delton, Send It Home

Anyone who grew up in the Chicago area knows the Wisconsin Dells. For generations, it has been the prime vacation destination for families with young children.

No Dells vacation was complete without a visit to the Tommy Bartlett water show, with the perky water skiers doing acrobat tricks as they glide atop Lake Delton. Resorts perched at the edge of the lake catered to the weary city dwellers, providing an abundance of clean air and a close-up view of fresh, calming water.

With the recent storms, Lake Delton began to rise, until it rose so high that it overflowed its banks. The surge made its way into the Wisconsin River, and once the flow began, the force of the running water did the rest. Lake Delton overflowed and it just kept going, cutting a channel that connected it to the river.

Lake Delton has run away. At the start of the summer tourist season, Tommy Bartlett's shows have no water on which to perform. Fishermen have no lake in which to cast their lines.

Worst of all, tourists have no lake to sit next to as they relax. Lake Delton ran off to be with the Wisconsin River, to be free and unconfined. All that's left is a mud flat bottom and a sprinkling of dead fish.

If anyone happens to spot Lake Delton, the Wisconsin Dells would like it to know that all is forgiven and please come home. In the meantime, engineers will be called in to figure out how to get the lake back. After all, if a bunch of Victorian-era engineers could reverse the flow of the Chicago River, surely in these modern times they could get the Wisconsin River to send Lake Delton back home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For All The Peat In Lough Boora

Ireland's running low on fuel. According to Gabriel D'Arcy of Bord na Mona, there'll be no more peat come 2025 and that's the end of the peat-burning electric plant. Have to switch over to wind and hope that it's never calm.

Mr. D'Arcy wants to do right by the climate, and he'd like Ireland to set an example to the world. After all, the peat bogs trap CO2, while burning it to generate electricity spews carbon into the atmosphere. Waste not, want not.....if only people would stop wanting electric power it would be so much easier.

You're full of it, said botanist David Bellamy. All the talk of man-made climate change is a cod. It's based on junk science, utilizing selected statistical data, which skews the results towards whatever the scientist wants to prove. A proper experiment cannot do so, but must take the good with the bad and discover if the hypothesis is supported.

Take, for example, the fact that the average temperature has scarcely risen in the past ten years, while 250 billion tons of carbon were put out. Doesn't that strike anyone as odd?

And while we're on the subject of the bogs, the botanist pointed out a simple observation. By looking at the pollen preserved in the bog's layers, anyone can determine that the earth's climate has changed back and forth over time. It's been warmer. It's been colder. And it has nothing to do with how much CO2 man emits. As for the Sahara Desert, it's getting smaller, in direct contrast to predictions that it would get bigger.

So why is Bord na Mona going forward with their gradual elimination of peat as fuel? The climate change bandwagon is great fun to ride upon, but no one is much interested in preserving ecologically significant sites these days. There's a real, justifiable benefit there, but it isn't anywhere near as trendy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

To Compensate For Low Attendance

If the pews aren't filled, there's no one in the seats when the collection basket is passed around.

That's a fundamental problem for the Catholic Church. Parishioners who come to Mass every week give money every week. A church can boast a roster of thousands, but attendance is the key. The more bodies, with wallets, that are there on a Sunday, the more money that flows into the coffers.

The clerical sex abuse scandal, and the resultant fall-out, caused a great deal of harm and drove people away from the Church. As a result, in a nation like Ireland, so predominantly Catholic, the percentage of weekly Mass attendees has dropped. It's gotten to the point that parishes have to look elsewhere to generate enough funds to pay for the heat and electricity.

For the past fifteen years, the diocese of Cashel and Emily has taken advantage of genealogists who would like to trace their Irish roots. Want to look at the microfilmed records of births, marriages, deaths and the like? Pay the archbishop. Dr. Dermot Clifford holds the copyright.

The Association of Professional Genealogists was outraged, to be denied free access to what everyone else provides for free. The National Library must have been feeling very small indeed, to have to tell someone that if they wanted to know about their ancestors, it would be seventy-five euros to the Archbishop before the microfilm reader could be fired up.

The National Library has reversed the policy. If you want to see the archives, have at it. It'll only cost you the price of a trip to Dublin. As far as the lawyers are concerned, the Archbishop can't claim copyright and then charge for access to records that are public.

Ah, for the good days of pray, pay and obey.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Brokenhearted I'll Wander

Two rejections yesterday came from queries that included the first three chapters. It's rather expensive, sending all that paper in the mail, but if the query's marginal and the pages are good, that's better than sending out a dozen marginal queries and getting rejected.

The writing didn't excite. Not drawn in. All the usual phrases. The writing didn't make the cut.

There may be a spark of creativity, but it's not enough to start a fire. It's close, but it's not at the top of the peak and it never will be. Not enough talent for writing, for telling a story. Coming up short, like the lad who's five-foot-six dreaming of the NBA. No matter the talent for hitting the three-point-shot, he'll never play professionally.

Sometimes you have to step back and listen to what's being said. Sure, write if you enjoy it as a hobby, like some paint for relaxation with the knowledge that their canvas would never be sold or hung in a gallery.

To produce a novel that is deemed publishable requires more talent than I'll ever possess.

Friday, June 06, 2008

People Will Always Get Sick

Like death and taxes, you can count on people falling ill and needing health care. So what does that have to do with the fact that people aren't reading as much as they used to?

Meredith Corp. publishes books and magazines. You've heard of Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens? Sadly, the ladies aren't home so much any more, and there's less spare change around these days for anyone to shell out needed cash for a fancy magazine.

The publisher will be scaling back in its book division, where sales have declined. Three percent of the work force is to be made redundant, to go along with the elimination of the children's book unit. They'll stick to their strong suit, the Better Homes and Gardens items, and give up on a weakening market.

If there is less demand for its books, where does Meredith Corp turn to make a profit? Their employees know publishing, so where's the future demand? Where else, as the population ages, but health care?

Fewer people are reading, but the demand for medically oriented materials will grow. Meredith Corp is buying up Big Communications, which does the marketing for numerous health care-type businesses. Even better, Big Communications has experience in the digital sphere, which is said to be the next big thing.

People will always get sick and health care industries will want to promote their products to the medical professionals who need to know about new products. When you're too old to lift a spade, and don't have the physical ability to paint the dining room, you won't be snatching up the latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens. But you'll be glad that your primary care physician is reading up on the latest statin.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth

Betting at the track is best left to the experts. Sure, you might go watch the horses run around and place a small wager here and there, but all for the fun of it. You don't expect to win because you wouldn't know a thoroughbred from a plow horse.

Next time you go, you'd want former taoiseach Bertie Ahern at your side. That man can place a winning bet.

As the Mahon Tribunal continues to investigate Mr. Ahern's unusual financial dealings, it has come out that he won eight thousand pounds sterling during 1996, and all of it from betting on horses. Can you imagine that level of success?

He had quite forgotten his dazzling ability to pick a winner when he testified earlier. He thought that the lodgements in question were salary checks, but of course he wasn't paid in pounds sterling so where did the money come from? He has since recalled that he won quite a bit of money from gambling, which proceeds were paid out in cash, and like a good father he put it into his daughters' accounts.

Do you think he's taking Big Brown at the Belmont Stakes, or has he gotten a different tip...straight from the horse's mouth?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Blind And Faithful Followers

Davy Carton of the Saw Doctors wrote a song after Bishop Eamon Casey was found to have a son in California and a mistress in Ireland. Quite the scandal, one that has yet to be forgotten, and one that damaged the authority of the clergy when they tried to speak of morality and following God's laws.

Titled "How'ya Julia", the tune features lyrics about the blind and faithful followers. They're worried and distraught, the song goes, because the poor man got caught.

That's what you'll hear from the parishioners of St. Sabina's in Chicago. The blind and faithful followers are worried and distraught, and the only thing that's bothering them is the poor man he got caught.

Even Father Michael Pfleger is only sorry that he got caught spewing rhetoric that is dazzlingly non-Christ-like. If he'd known the cameras were rolling, he'd never have spoken as he did. That's to be done in secret. After all, he promised not to bring politics to the pulpit. Funny, that. All the pedophile priests promised not to interfere with little boys as well, and didn't they all go back on their word?

What Father Pfleger has done is little different from the clerical perverts who broke their vows and said they'd never do it again, only to abuse the faithful once again. It's a compulsion, an addiction, and whether it's an addiction to children or an addiction to the crowd's adulation, it's abuse all the same.

So the blind and faithful followers on the South Side rail against Cardinal George, protesting the removal of a priest who abused his office. Bishop Casey has his blind and faithful followers as well, those who point out the good that he did and can't you just brush the bad under the rug ah sure it's not so bad as all that.

Father Pfleger is supposed to make a retreat for a couple of weeks, during which time he might re-read the New Testament. He will then discover that Jesus might not have approved of the actions of the Pharisees, he never stood in the temple and mocked them for the amusement of the disciples.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On The Learning Curve

Office buildings in New York City are so large that many have their own zip code. Countless tenants occupy the spaces, a rabbit's warren of cubbyholes that masquerade as suites. Forget to include the literary agent's suite number in the address on the query, and chances are, that agent will never get your query.

So the first time you fire off your submission to Elizabeth Winick of McIntosh & Otis, you check the submission guidelines, stuff the envelope, and wait for six to eight weeks. The time passes. You hear nothing.

Could it be that you forget the suite number? No, they don't have a suite number in their address. Perhaps it was a typo. Easy enough to make a mistake in the zip code, and the letter could never have gotten delivered. What with cost cutting at the postal service, they might not bother to return the thing as undeliverable.

You query other agents. You write something else. Again, you think that Ms. Winick would be the perfect agent for your latest manuscript. The query gets sent, you wait six to eight weeks, and then nothing happens. No word.

Hard to imagine, but it's in the realm of possibility that you forget to enclose a SASE for her reply. No harm in trying again, this time double checking every single step of the process. You wait six to eight weeks. You realize that you will never hear from her unless she's interested.

No matter that you've enclosed the SASE for her reply. No e-mail queries accepted, but the "no response means no" that applies to e-mail will be brought in. Saves time and money, to not have to stuff the rejection letters into author-supplied reply envelopes.

Another step on the learning curve has been scaled. If they'd state on the website that Ms. Winick doesn't reply unless she wants more material, you'd save yourself a stamp, but you've learned that some travellers in an industry that deals with communication aren't great communicators.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Writing Meets Automobile Repair

From a Kiwi author's perspective, writing a novel is like tinkering with your car.

Lloyd Jones, author of The Book of Fame, is in Ireland for the Listowel Writers' Week, where he has given out his advise to those who would like to write.

You, the author, are under the hood, and you're observing the engine, the carburetor, the radiator. You don't see the car. It's your readers who see the car, and they don't pay any attention to the inner workings.

Of course, the writer has to keep his reader in mind when he's tuning the engine of his manuscript, because Mr. Jones believes that the two must collaborate to make a novel work. But like an auto mechanic, the writer will be somewhat detached from the work at hand. It's a collection of parts that he puts together and makes the thing go. Like a car owner who loves his wheels like a child, it's the reader who provides the emotional element of the novel.

Participating in writing groups proves the truth to Mr. Jones's analysis. Writers are forever raking over their words, all in an attempt to provide the reader with a cathartic experience or a few hours of entertainment. The author doesn't read their own words in the same way as their readers, any more than your mechanic feels anything towards your misfiring pistons.

Like so many other successful authors, Mr. Jones is a firm believer in routine. He writes at the same time every day, to achieve the continuity that is so necessary to put a novel together. Sadly, for most would-be authors, finding a period of time every day is nearly impossible, and may explain why there are far more published authors of the male persuasion. When you've got someone else at home to do the cooking, the cleaning and the general office work, it's much easier to budget an hour of uninterrupted work.

Vote Yes For The Lisbon Bunch Of Idiots

The new and improved Lisbon Treaty is waiting for approval, and Ireland's heavy political hitters are encouraging a resounding 'Yes" vote. Ryanair's Michael O'Leary may not be joining in the march towards an all-Europe constitution.

Why vote yes when you'd be agreeing to government by a bunch of European idiots and bureaucrats? Already the European Union is pushing to include the airline industry in the carbon trading game. Come 2011, and airlines have to cut emissions to 90% of the current level, or pay a tax. With technology to achieve emissions cuts non-existent, it's obviously nothing more than a stealth tax. The airline passenger would end up paying more for their ticket.

Mr. O'Leary has noticed that it's only in Europe that the carbon transfer scheme is running, so it's only the European companies that have an added financial burden that adds a cost not shared by the rest of the world. Everyone is hurting, with oil at an all-time high, so why punish the Europeans over some nonsense?

Already, Irish cement manufacturers and power generating firms are looking at buying their way out of emissions reductions that they can't hope to meet. Almost 90 million euros worth of credits will have to be paid for, and it's an expense that will be covered by everyone who uses cement or turns on a light in the house.

While you sit in your darkened room, dreaming the impossible dream of a cheap flight to sunny Spain, think how much it's cost you to make the grand gesture of reducing CO2 emissions. Throw as many euros at the carbon atoms as you like. Not one less will be emitted, but your wallet will be lighter for it.