Saturday, January 31, 2009

No One Died In The Making Of Counterfeit Money

So what if Sean Garland was printing up his own U.S. currency, aided by the North Koreans. No one died, did they? Not a drop of blood was shed, except for the occasional paper cut.

It's all so unfair, to arrest Mr. Garland and extradite him to stand trial for his harmless little forgeries. Murder is one thing, but counterfeiting? No blood, no foul, isn't that how the law is supposed to work?

Like the old Mafia dons when they're finally caught, Sean Garland is wringing his hands, crying over his ill health and he shouldn't be arrested and sent overseas for trial, the poor man, he's just not well.

For now, Mr. Garland is sitting in Cloverhill Prison, waiting for his upcoming court appearance. The government of the Unites States wants to try him for producing funny money, some very well-crafted artificial currency. In a most odd coincidence, Mr. Garland is the national treasurer for the Worker's Party. Raising funds by printing them, is that it?

Did he mention that no one died? No blood shed?

His fellow Worker's Party members want everyone to know that this whole arrest nonsense is nothing more than a ruse, to distract everyone from Ireland's economic crisis. They apparently believe that all of Ireland is up in arms over it, talking about it for hours, working themselves up into a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy. Everyone except the workers at the Waterford Crystal factory, who are a bit busy sitting-in at the shuttered factory, protesting its abrupt closing.

Eoghan Harris is certainly upset. This former Worker's Party stalwart, who insists that there's no love lost between him and Sean, thinks that the old IRA man was singled out. He didn't kill anyone with his counterfeit bills, did he? It was a bloodless crime, therefore, it's no crime at all.

And Bernard Madoff just made some poor investment decisions. It's a bloodless crime. Why, oh why, must old sick men be made to suffer?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Here's A New Tax To Introduce

Things have gotten so bad in Ireland that its debt is now ranked at the top of the risk charts. With the banks so heavily invested in the building boom that's gone bust, the credit crisis in the Emerald Isle has all but killed off the Celtic Tiger.

The budget shortfall is projected to reach an all-time, astronomical high. Multi-national firms are closing up and moving to Poland where labor is cheaper, leading to rocketing unemployment and the loss of tax income from both the former employer and the sacked employee. Where is the money to come from to fund national health, roads, schools, the dole, et al.?

The Central Bank has a brilliant plan. They've found a new tax, one that's worked well in the States but has yet to be introduced to Ireland.

Irish people, meet the Property Tax. It may be here to stay, so make room in your budget.

Why, if every property owner had to pay the government 1,000 euros annually as a property tax, that's billions that would flow in. The religious at CORI could stop harping about cuts to social welfare, the unions would stop roaring about cutting wages---much quieter in Dublin altogether.

Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, Brian Cowen has declared that it's pure speculation to talk about property taxes. The Cabinet will discuss it in due time and nothing's happening until the end of the summer, in the run-up to the December budget.

Imagine how happy the Irish people will be, with their budgets already stretched to the limit. For those without work, who are about to lose their homes in foreclosure, it must be heart-warming to know that there will still be money in the Exchequer to provide them with a council house and social welfare payments.

Maybe someone at the Central Bank can figure out, between now and September, how an already financially strapped populace can come up with even more tax money, and not send the Irish economy into a complete tailspin.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Importance Of Sample Size

The query wasn't working, since there were no requests after a couple of weeks went by. If an agent is going to ask for a sample of the manuscript, they'll do it quickly, and take their time with the rejecting.

After tossing the words around in my head, I decided to do a bit of rearranging. The opening of the second paragraph become the beginning of the letter, and the main conflict got a thorough overhaul. A day to settle, and then it was ready for sending.

Only three letters were sent out on a Friday, but there's only so many minutes in a day that are free for writing and submitting. Each agent needs their little personalization, that ending where you drop one of their author's names to show that you've done a bit of research.

Saturday morning, and there was a rejection from Stephany Evans of FinePrint Literary Management. Prompt, to be sure, but I could have waited until Monday. No need to be working on a Saturday. Even the Postal Service is looking to drop Saturday work.

Sunday evening, a second rejection appeared. Laney Katz Becker was getting an early start on the work week, but again, I could have waited for Monday. There's no rush.

What was I to think but that the new query was as ineffective as the one it replaced? Two out of three rejections, and within days. Not a good sign.

Monday morning, expecting another rejection, I opened the e-mail and found a request for the complete manuscript.

Monday afternoon, I sent out two more queries, hoping to be riding a winning streak.

Tuesday morning, there was a request for a partial manuscript.

Like any gambler, I know my luck will run out so I've decided to stop querying while I'm ahead. Until the itch strikes, which I know it will, and I'll be back at it. For now, I can relax, knowing that my query writing ability hasn't gotten lost, as I thought it had.

After a minute of relaxing, I can obsess over the odds of my manuscript submissions getting rejected. It's a good life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ambadassor To Ireland

So who will it be?

How about Caroline Kennedy? She's got the roots, they adore her father up and down the Emerald Isle, and she's in need of a quiet place to recover after the debacle of her Senate bid.

How about John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO? Bet he knows all the words to The Ballad of James Larkin. Everyone's in a union in Ireland, so Mr. Sweeney would fit right in.

Ambassadorships are handed out like prizes to those who did their bit to support a candidate. Usually they're wealthy, and held fundraisers that bankrolled the campaign. The more they've given, the choicer the spot, and if they gave by the boatload and happen to have Irish roots, it's off to Dublin.

The leading candidate, if rumor is to be believed, will be rather busy this Sunday. His football team is playing in the Super Bowl.

Dan Rooney, Hibernian-rooted businessman, owns the Pittsburgh Steelers so you know he's not hurting for cash. Along with Tony O'Reilly, he founded the Ireland Fund charity, making him a known commodity for the Irish establishment. And early on he supported the Obama candidacy, leaning on his friends to hop on board while annoying many Steelers fans who were backing John McCain. He's got all the credential ducks lined up in a neat little row.

The decision is typically announced around St. Patrick's Day, so there's time for lobbyists to put in a good word for their man.

Any chance that the new President will be spotted in Mr. Rooney's skybox come Sunday?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Piece Of The Literary Action

Before long, Google may be granted permission to scan every book on earth.

It's grand when you want to look up something from long ago, some ancient novel or newspaper article from the Nineteenth Century. A few keystrokes and you have what you need, the bit of information that will flesh out a scene in your historical fiction. It's not so grand if you're the author of a copyrighted book who thought there'd be royalties coming in but who's going to buy if it's free on the Internet?

The deal on the table would allow Google to scan copyrighted books, but they'd have to pay the owner of the copyright. Sixty-three percent of revenues derived from ad revenue obtained from a hit on the given book, or from a subscription to access the book, would fall into the author's lap.

So at a few cents per ad hit, that could amount to next to nothing.

At least if someone had to buy the book, or use the copy purchased by the local public library, there'd be something coming in to pay the bills for the writer. Instead, everything goes electronic, paper-free, making things much cheaper to produce. The author, however, has the same investment of time, while it's only the compensation that will be reduced.

Expect authors who are aware of the upcoming deadline to opt out of a Google scan. There's everything in it for the benefit of Google's shareholders, and nothing for an author to gain.

Monday, January 26, 2009

When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Policeman

A police officer arrived at the Gresham District station and said he'd been sent over from his district. Made sense at the time, what with the need for greater manpower in some parts of Chicago as compared to other, less crime-ridden sections. The lad was in full uniform, and no one but a credentialed police officer could buy a full uniform, so he had to be legit.

He signed out a radio and a ticket book, and went off with a partner to patrol the streets of the city's south side. He was there when his partner pulled over traffic violators. He was there when the pair were called to settle a domestic dispute. He worked side by side with a regular Gresham District officer for a full five hour shift.

"You look a little too young to be a cop," a superior said when the new guy came back to the station. "Let's see your badge."

No badge. No proper credentials. No bullet-proof vest, for that matter. The vest cover was stuffed with newspaper to make it look like the real thing. No gun either, but he did have the holster strapped to his waist.

The would-be officer turned out to be a fourteen years of age, a lad who was very keen to be a cop when he grew up. He's been charged as a juvenile with the crime of impersonating an officer, and don't think he'll get off easy. The boy has thoroughly embarrassed the Chicago Police Department, and they don't find the whole thing the least bit amusing.

There's concern, naturally, about how he came to acquire a full uniform, since that would mean that just about any miscreant could do the same, go around pretending to be a policeman while committing various crimes.

But you have to give the boy credit for taking things into his own hands, for finding a way to realize his dream.

That's a modern day Horatio Alger tale, the child from the downtrodden Englewood district rising up to become an officer of the law. He has to start young, if he's to make detective sergeant by the time he twenty.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Unexpected Critique

There are a few literary agents out there who ask for some sample pages with the query. Stuff them in an envelope, paste them at the bottom of an e-query, just send along a taste of the manuscript and they'll forgive a weak query letter if the novel is well-written.

You'd never expect much more than a rejection or a request for the first three chapters. Either the agent likes what you've written or they don't and that's that.

Much to my surprise, I received a rejection in response to an e-query, but the agent took the trouble to explain what she didn't like about the opening pages.

Clearly she read the whole sample and gave it a bit of thought. Paid a compliment to the skill of the author (ah, go on it was nothing really) and mentioned what she found intriguing about the opening of the novel.

Her problem was with the main character not being sympathetic to the audience. The reader wants someone to cheer for, to find commonalities with, and while that might happen beyond page five, she'd like to see it sooner.

Easy enough to shift things around, to cut out a few sentences that tend to repeat one important characteristic of the protagonist. Bring forward the character's weak point, the vulnerability that will appeal to a reader, and the beginning will shine with uncommon brilliance.

Now, should I do all that, the literary agent did make mention of the fact that she's very busy, swamped with existing clients, etc., etc. In other words, go ahead and do a re-write, but don't send it back.

Sometimes the writing can be flawless, but the agent just isn't interested in the story that's being told.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Home Repairs That Create Repairs

The Big Swede brought along the spade bit and I supplied the 2 x 4s. In less than two hours, we had the new studs installed.

"Ready for the plumber," he says as he packs up his nail gun.

He drills a hole through the floor so that I can move the wires for the thermostat, which were running through the wall where the new plumbing will go. No fool me, ah no, I wrote down the order that the wires had to be connected before I pulled the thermostat out.

The Big Swede dropped a string through the hole while I went below, to fish the wire through the new opening. Too lazy to get a ladder, I reached up to pull the wires out of their original location and managed to drop the bare wires onto the piece of conduit that just happened to be running in the ceiling.

"That's not good," says I as the sparks flew. Sure but it's nothing, and up I go to put things back as they were.

Black, red, yellow and green, I followed the order and screwed everything back in place.

No heat.

"I'm going home," says the Big Swede, whose wife was left at home with a long list of things she wanted him to be doing and him having to face a less-than-happy woman.

So I ring up my HVAC mate and after he gets done laughing, he comes over with a new piece for the furnace, to replace the one I fried when I dropped the wire onto the conduit.

"You should have turned off the switch on the furnace," he goes.

"I should have taped the ends of the wires," says I.

That's the problem with fixing things around the house. It only leads to more things in need of fixing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Do You Say Cead Mile Failte In Arabic?

Well, seeing as how the new American President is going to close Guantanamo in a year, and seeing as how the prisoners need someplace to go.....

There's plenty of rooms available, particularly in the west of Ireland, and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern would like to extend a thousand welcomes to the inmates of Guantanamo.

They're used to warmer weather, and Ireland's chill might come as a bit of a shock, but then again, the Islamic lads were picked up off battlefields in Afghanistan and it's plenty cold there in the winter.

The welcome mat is at the door as long as the entire European Union acts in concert to help the U.S. find new homes for those unwanted in their native lands. No one wants to return and be tortured, after all, when they could enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Irish countryside.

Oh, and Micheal Martin wishes to point out that the EU is talking about taking in the non-combatants, not the terrorists. Sweet Jaysus, don't be sending the likes of that Ron Jeremy look-alike to Dublin or Shannon, no, that's not what this is all about.

Europe would like the inmates with no history of terrorist activities, if you please. Amnesty International estimates that fifty men have been cleared of charges, but since they'd face torture if they went home (what were they doing in Afghanistan, their own security forces would like to know) they're stuck in no-man's-land.

Sure the Irish would love to give shelter to fifty Arabic speakers, provide them with a place to live, food to eat and a few euros to buy souvenirs. Considering the state of the economy, Mr. Ahern couldn't have made a more wise suggestion. In Enda Kenny's mind, that is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Case Of The Unfortunate Train

The daughter of a Chicago laborer wouldn't have attended any cotillions, nor would she have gained experience at dealing with a long dress and the idiosyncrasies of the dance.

Michelle Obama's designer frock included a short train, which looked fine when she was walking forward or standing still.

The problem came about when the dancing started and the poor woman was made to step backwards. On to the unfortunate train.

The fabric became an unholy nuisance, always in the way as the First Couple tried to be suave and smooth. With the train impeding movement, President and First Lady appeared more like partners at a grade school dance, shuffling from side to side and avoiding any semblance of a proper foxtrot.

Little was said last night as the attempt was made, at one ball after another, to show some decent moves.

President Obama has remarked repeatedly on his lack of rhythm (he is half-Caucasian, after all) and inability to dance well. He'll take all the blame for last night's fiasco, chalking it up to his own fault, when it was obviously the fault of the unfortunate train on his wife's ball gown.

Now there's a man who understands diplomacy and keeping the peace.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New U2 And Ireland Hears It First

Fans of U2 have been waiting for five years, and at last a new album is ready for release.

Irish listeners got the first listen of the first single, but those international types who are media savvy knew that they had only to tune in to RTE 2fm and share the joy. Thanks to a bit of on-air banter, the Colm and Jim-Jim Breakfast Show won Bono's heart and won the radio world's grand prize.

Dave Fanning, a disc jockey at RTE, has long been a U2 supporter, and that support has been rewarded. He's the man who gets first crack at playing all the new releases, and Bono et al. continued the habit this time around.

Get On Your Boots will be officially released on February 13, followed on the 27th by the new album No Line On The Horizon. If you can't get to Ireland to make your purchase, you'll have to wait until the second of March when the rest of the world gets its U2 fix.

In the meantime, you can wander over to U2's website and have a free listen.
Sales are expected to be brisk, in spite of the current economic downturn.

Sometimes you need a little food for the soul, even if your belly is empty.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Be Of Service To Others

You've been told by himself that you're to be a Jesuit today.

Go out there and serve the community, the forty-fourth president said. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, perhaps.

A man who sits in a church for twenty years for the sole purpose of gleaning political points wouldn't realize that the Jesuits beat that whole service notion into young skulls since St. Ignatius Loyola started the order. Be of service to others. That's what you're on this earth for, young man, and when you're not serving you'd best be studying Latin and Greek to mold your brain. Be of service to others.

If you don't make a habit of attending religious services, you might not realize that there's a regular schedule for serving at the soup kitchen and the emergency homeless shelter. Not just today, on Martin Luther King Day, but on an ongoing basis. That's what community service is all about.

Be of service to others for one day, and you'll find that it's a monumental pain in the arse. Be of service to others in the Jesuitical style, and you'll find that it's still a monumental pain in the arse, to give of your precious free time. It's just that, if you follow St. Ignatius's dictates, you won't get all dewy-eyed when some politician makes a recommendation that has all the production values of Hollywood, along with its utter lack of sincerity.

Some revelations aren't startling if you're living them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Highly Selective

Joy Harris doesn't like anyone's query. Now that's selective.

Is it worth it to even try? She doesn't even bother with a website, which suggests an agent keeping a low profile. You'd get the impression that she doesn't actually want you to contact her.

Consider the statistics. According to the data at, she's been sent thirty-six queries and not asked for one single submission. She hasn't requested one extra page, let alone the first three chapters, and certainly hasn't asked for a full manuscript.

On the bright side, however, if you should mail her a query, she'll reject you within a couple of weeks, and it's always nice to get a response of some sort in short order.

There are times in the agent search process when your letters are met with silence. At least a snail-mail query to Joy Harris would make some sound and let you know that you're alive and the postal system is functioning.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Want Chips With That?

Athlone is a small enough town, small enough that the owner of the local Supermacs might have known all about the sixteen-year-old girl who was allowed to work more than four hours per day, and after ten o'clock at night.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is based in Dublin, and would have had no idea that the young lady was supporting her family. Being in Dublin, they might not have much cared. The law's the law. Sixteen-year-olds can't work long hours and that's all there is to it. If her family can't pay their light or heat bills, well, the law's the law.

Judge John Neilan heard the case that was brought against the Supermacs. He determined that the bureaucrats were a bunch of feckin' eejits and the Supermacs was doing a good deed.

Times are getting harder in Ireland, and things are only going to get worse. Judge Neilan is aware that emigration is expected to climb, as people go abroad in search of work, and as far as he's concerned, trying to stick to the letter of the employment law was another way of telling Ireland's young people to pack their bags.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cutting Behavior In Minnows

The whale-swallowing minnow that styles itself Education Media and Publishing Group is exhibiting some troubling behavior. The little fish is cutting itself, over and over, in a bid to deal with extreme stress.

The Wall Street Journal claims that 700 cuts have been inflicted in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt arm (or fin, if you will). It came out some weeks ago that HMH wasn't buying new adult trade manuscripts for future publication, which suggests a bout of literary anorexia on top of the self-mutilation.

Sure there's a chance that someone would snap up the adult trade division, as if there's any kind of deal going down anywhere in the world these days. Credit Suisse might have a new fish on the line that's interested in hooking a segment of HMH, but who would be willing to take a chance, unless it's someone who thinks they could buy cheap, sell off the remaining assets, and make a profit as they walk out the door.

Until such a sale becomes reality, the minnow will inflict another gash, starve another day, hoping to slim down to a fighting weight. There is a risk, of course, that the minnow could become too weak and find that it can't keep up with the competition. Those who purchase educational materials are always looking for the newest, most innovative products, and if HMH isn't putting out new and innovative, sales won't climb.

Barry O'Callaghan's dream of owning the biggest educational publishing material conglomerate in the world is in danger of turning its belly to the sky. Unless he could somehow convince the U.S. Congress that he's in need of a bail-out.....HMH Bank and Trust, anyone?

A Little Reinforcement Would Help

While I wait for a couple of agents to decide if they like the current manuscript on submission, I know that I should get to work on a revision of an older work. If only I could get some kind of positive response on the queries that were sent out weeks ago. If only I could get another short story accepted, instead of being under consideration in the event that someone else pulls their piece and a slot opens up, only to be rejected in the end.

Eric Simonoff of Janklow & Nesbit liked the old manuscript, and back in the day when an agent had time to work with a new writer, I might have gotten representation. Those days are long gone, and I'm lucky to have gotten a bit more than a standard "Dear Author" rejection. Cutting at the front end and fleshing out the back end is needed to balance the sweeping epic.

The source material is sitting on the bookshelf. All six hundred pages. An exhaustive study of the Dublin lockout of 1913. Six hundred pages of information to be culled, to compose around fifty pages of manuscript.

That's the problem with historical fiction. You have to do research, find events that can fit into a story and then build a work of fiction on a frame of fact. The manuscript covers a multi-generational time span, and there's not enough between the Home Rule movement and the Easter Rising to make for a nice third of the total pages.

Sure there's plenty of things that happened that I can fit my characters into, but I have to sit down with a huge book and find those things that will work. I have verify that the historical people were in the place where I need them to be, interacting with my made-up people.

I'd be far more inspired if I felt that it was worth the time. If I could move out of the starting gate and make at least one lap this time around. Can I get a little positive reinforcement here?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Shouldn't He Be Lifting Weights In The Yard?

When you think of prison inmates, you envision desperate men milling about a confined yard, pumping iron furiously because they've nothing else to do.

Then there's the minimum security country club prison in Florida, where Conrad Black is pumping a keyboard with venom.

His Lordship is a "columnist", as it were, for The Daily Beast, a website that's overflowing with news and gossip and opinions. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Mr. Black is able to spew bile through the ether and spout off about the vast injustices done to him. Blame Tina Brown for the whole thing.

The few left at the Chicago Sun Times, the newspaper he all but destroyed through theft, must be delighted that their former owner is now in the trenches, composing op-ed pieces and hoping that someone will read them.

They are most likely not in agreement with his opinion of Patrick Fitzgerald, the man who brought down the Black house of cards. Chances are, they don't subscribe to the notion that Mr. Black is a victim of the Fitzgerald juggernaut that bulldozed juries and muddled the unsolomonic (i.e. stupid) jurors. And they can't be happy that the website lists Mr. Black's credentials yet fails to mention that he's currently residing in a cell at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex.

Sure a writer will always seek to write, and Conrad Black has an impressive bibliography. Those who have actually read his pieces on the website, however, wish that he would spend his time lifting weights in the prison yard rather than rattling off sentences that run to half a page of whinging.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Hint Of Silver Lining In A Dark Cloud

Library usage is up.

As times get hard, people return to their local library. Maybe they're only there to use an Internet job search program on the public computer. They're there.

Reading is up a tick.

If you're out of work and you want to escape from the worries, a book at a public library is free and available and very effective. After you've scanned through the job boards on line, and the building's warm and inviting, you're likely to sit down with a book and pass the time with words that take you away from where you are.

In spite of the positive spin on a bad publishing future, Elyse Cheney is out of the office.

Out of the office until the fifth of January, and here it is a week later and her auto-response still claims she's out of the office.

No doubt she's at the big library in New York City, observing the unemployed to see what they're choosing. Market research is a slow process, but an effective agent knows what's in demand and what's going to sell in the near future.

Remember, it's all about escape. No one wants to read about financial wizards who fall into clever traps and lose it all and end up pan-handling outside of Grand Central Station.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Dance Of The Political Veils

So history was made in Illinois. A sitting governor was impeached. Considering how many of the dishonorable gentlemen have gone to jail, the process would seem to be getting more efficient.

Talking heads spouted off, parsing the words of the press conference that followed the vote. Is he mad? Is he serious?

Rod Blagojevich is dancing.

He'd like a partner, of course. He mentioned Rahm Emanuel.

The point of the press conference was to curry favor with the public, who haven't grown thoroughly cynical. But in Chicago politics, it's the name dropping that says it all, the briefest mention of someone who will be taken down if the miscreant isn't supported.

Rahm Emanuel's seat in Congress will be won in a special election, and the new representative will get there in the same way that Rahm Emanuel got there---via the Chicago machine. Jimmy DeLeo, reputedly the Mafia's representative to Illinois state government, is organizing the Democratic slate, just as he did for Mr. Emanuel.

Blago knows all about the machine, since he's a creation of its churning. And he let everyone know that if he goes down, he'll take someone down with him, someone who's close to the President-elect who would like a flawless inauguration.

It's all a dance, choreographed and performed with skill. Rod Blagojevich will not dance alone, and his potential partners are running for cover.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Concert That Isn't

U2 and Slane Castle---an Irish band in a famed Irish venue. Except it's not about to happen.

Have you been to Put down four hundred euros for a July 1st concert? Congratulations. You've been scammed.

There is no concert at Slane Castle on the first of July.

LiveNation is the sole promoter of U2 and they're the only ones selling tickets to concerts that are scheduled and this isn't their website and they're not selling tickets.

The Garda Fraud Squad is getting to the bottom of it, but the website is owned by someone in the States and that makes it a bit more difficult to put an end to the scam. On top of that, the website host is in India and the phone numbers on the site are based in England. It's a job for Interpol.

Lord Henry Montcharles, who owns Slane Castle, didn't find out about the fraud until his people started fielding phone calls for information. He's asked that the website take down the fraudulent offer, but when last he checked, it was still there.

So if you think you're one of the lucky few to score tickets for a premier U2 event, you might want to contact your local authorities and your credit card issuer. You've been had in a modern day version of scalping.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Perfect Time For A Carbon Tax

1900 Dell employees in Limerick just learned that they'll have no job by this time next year. What better time for Eamon Ryan, Minister for Energy, to introduce a new tax?

No job, no income, budget stretched to the limit? You're clamoring to pay more for your carbon footprint, begging for another financial burden to be added, and Mr. Ryan has heard your plea.

It's time to reduce Ireland's dependence on fossil fuels, and putting people out of work is just one way to reduce the nation's carbon footprint. Social welfare payments can only be stretched so far, and if it's even more expensive to heat the house you're about to lose in foreclosure, you'll use less and be thrilled to bits at the opportunity to help the planet.

A carbon tax on electricity production will come in handy when the bill collectors come around to call. You'll be sitting in the dark, in your cold home, and it's ever so easy to pretend that no one is home. A carbon tax will practically pay for itself in Limerick once Dell closes up shop.

Eamon Ryan believes that the carbon tax will be applied this year, as multinational corporations pack up and move away, in search of cheaper places to build and operate their factories. His timing couldn't be better.

Funny thing, though. There's no talk in Poland of carbon taxes and such.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Minnow Has A Sinking Feeling

How dare Moody's downgrade Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!

And who is Standard and Poor's, to state that Education Media Publishing Group is one of Europe's ten most likely to default?

Granted, the buyout was highly leveraged, but not so high as Moody's seems to think. Officials with HMH hold firm to the belief that earnings will see see growth in the double digits for the year just ended. So there.

The little minnow that swallowed the whale isn't sinking to the bottom, in spite of all the begrudgers and the nay-sayers. All the loan covenants aren't creating stress on liquidity, not at all.

Besides, if HMH can sell its trade division, that's a nice income right there so who's sinking to the bottom of the publishing pond?

It's not as if Standard and Poor's is all knowing or anything, and Moody's rating service has come into question now that the financial sector tanked in spite of positive ratings.

As long as there are people in need of educational materials, there's a glimmer of hope.

A Plan To Repatriate The Poles

For a time, Ireland was an emigrant magnet. People came from all over Eastern Europe, as the Irish had once gone to Australia and America, in search of work.

For a time, the Irish were alarmed at the strange faces and foreign tongues in their midst. They feared that the Poles and Lithuanians were only there to take advantage of social welfare and would become a burden.

How to get rid of them all? So many foreigners, so much change. Could they be paid to go home?

Dell is considering a move out of their facility in Limerick. The computer maker has indicated an interest in relocating to Lodz, Poland, where labor costs are lower. Of late, Dell has been struggling to compete and they have to decrease expenses. Cheap help and an educated work force can be found elsewhere and 2000 jobs in Limerick are on the line.

So the work is going to Poland. The workers can follow, and leave Ireland to the Irish.

Not quite what anyone had in mind when they complained about the immigrants in their midst. Not at all what anyone had in mind when minimum wages were raised, with a promise that the workers would find prosperity on the back of the Celtic Tiger.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Moving On Over

Were they cleaning the office because they were closed for the holidays, or was it the result of moving out?

Joanne Brownstein of Brandt & Hochman responded to a query that I mailed last May. And she's sorry it took so long, but I'm not surprised that a stack of queries could get lost in a literary agent's office.

I'd assumed it was lost in the mail and had already checked it off as a rejection. Having my suspicions confirmed wasn't important, but Ms. Brownstein took the time to reply just the same, via e-mail.

Now, was it a form rejection?

Beyond a mention of the office cleaning and the discovery, her rejection letter was boilerplate, but there's always something for an author to pin a hope on.

Thanks for the query, good luck, and here's our new contact info.

So there you are. The writing couldn't have been too pathetic, or she'd not invite me to query her again, in her subtle manner. We're off to Kansas City, Missouri, and here's where to mail the queries in future, she implied.

Where? you're asking yourself. To 909 Walnut Street, Suite 1207, Kansas City, MO 64106.

And I'm asking myself, why would a literary agency move to Kansas City, Missouri? Is someone retiring from the business? Needing to take care of elderly relatives? Is it worth it to submit to Brandt & Hochman?

Won't know unless I try.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Last Chance To Complete Your Crystal Set

There was a time when owning Waterford crystal was a mark of economic success, but those days are behind us.

The Irish firm that produces the famous cut glass objects has gone into receivership. If you had a notion to some day own a complete set of wine goblets for eight, or you've had your eye on a candy dish, it's time to take action.

The company, which also makes Royal Doulton china in its Wedgwood line, has been losing money for the past five years, and the current economic crisis is a final nail in a coffin that's been under construction.

Buy up what you can, what you've always wanted but feared you couldn't afford. Soon it will be gone, and the pieces that you own today will become that much more precious. Soon, there won't be any more and the county of Waterford will suffer the loss.

In Need Of A Word Fix

Why have I been so short-tempered of late?

Point a finger at the past two weeks, and mumble about the schedule I've kept and who wouldn't be cranky? All the visits, the relations spending a few days, the entertaining of guests, and anyone would be tired out after such a time.

Blame the holiday season, but the real reason is the lack of writing.

All the words are going around my head, desperate to escape onto a piece of paper, yet there's not been a free minute for release. I haven't had a chance to sit down for my daily hour or two of writing, and like any other addict, I'm suffering from withdrawal.

My fuse has burned short. I'm so happy that the Christmas season is now done and over. It means I can get back to the re-worked query. It means I can do the re-write on an old manuscript to bring it up to date for re-submitting to the new agents who weren't around for the first round of queries.

Holidays are grand, but sometimes they drag on too long.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

All Politics Are Local, All Decisions Are Not

Sorry, Mayo County Council, but you've overstepped. You might think that you know what's best for the people of Mayo, and you might believe that you're acting in the best interests of your own friends and neighbors, but the Minister for the Environment knows far more than you ever could.

John Gormley is so put out over the actions of the Mayo County Council that he's about to introduce legislation that will consolidate zoning decision-making power in his own green hands. Can't have local people making these important plans, not when there's a Minister sitting in Dublin who should have such authority.

Too much land is being zoned for development, in Mr. Gormley's eyes. We need green space, and if county councillors can't figure that out, someone has to do the figuring for them.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, however, doesn't agree.

Sean Fleming, the committee's chair, is quite confident that Mr. Gormley has more than enough power already, and it's not fair to the local citizens when their elected council gets overturned behind closed doors without public meetings. If the people of Mayo want to allow new houses to be built, and Mr. Gormley doesn't, what right does he have to deny the people?

That's Paddy McGuinness's view. It's Gormley's way or the highway, the Mayo County councillor believes, and where's the give and take, the compromise that gives everyone a chance to get something in the end?

The people in Clare thumbed their west-of-Ireland noses at Mr. Gormley after one of his directives, and the councillors in Monaghan and Waterford are under pressure to adhere to the Minister's notions of proper planning. Laois and Rathdown have already felt his green power to overrule.

Give a man an inch and he'll take a mile, and then he'll tell the people who own the mile what they can do with it. Until new legislation returns decisions to the local level and puts Mr. Gormley in his place, that is.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Resolved To Another Year Of Futility

You won't get published if you quit trying, so you keep going.

On the other hand, chances are you'll never be published anyway, so all that trying is entirely in vain.

Contacting agents has become a hobby of mine, which puts the process in a different light. Some people build model railroads. They have no hope of ever being employed in the rail industry, but that makes no difference to those who pursue the activity.

On Monday, the publishing industry cranks up for another year, a year expected to be as bad as ever. Fewer new titles will be bought, fiction will be an even harder sell, but if trying to be published is your favorite past-time, it makes no difference. The queries will go out and the rejections will come in and the circle will spin around for the length of 2009.

Scott Gould at RLR Associates will still not respond to my queries, in spite of the SASE enclosed. I'll still be waiting to hear from Laura Blake Peterson at Curtis Brown. It's been over three months already, and I don't expect things to change.

And on Monday, I'll send off a new query to Stephen Barbara, who will be starting his first day as an agent at Foundry Literary + Media. Chris Park never sent back the SASE, so I'll try someone else. Nothing changes.