Thursday, December 31, 2009

Starting A New Decade

Here we are, on the edge of a new decade.

What happened to the last one?

In the past nine years, I decided to stop tossing my writing into the bin and made an effort to improve my writing skills.

I made a concerted effort to get a novel published. So where am I at now, as the decade ends?

Not published at book length, but I've managed to get the wordsmithing to a level that garners compliments from literary agents. The praise coming after the "not quite right for me" part of the rejection, to be sure, but there's clearly been improvements made.

If I continue along this trajectory, getting better at crafting sentences and paragraphs and chapters, I just might sign with a literary agent before 2020.

By that time, of course, there may be only one or two major publishing houses left, making it even more difficult to get a novel in print. And the notion of "in print" could have morphed into the creation of an e-book, which would sell for 99 cents, of which the author gets fractions of pennies in royalties.

Happy New Year, writers. Let's hope the coming decade is better than the last.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cromwell's Failure

When England's King Henry, the eighth of that name, decided to start up his own religion, he tried to force all of his subjects to switch over.

The Irish never took to his brand of faith, however, and when Cromwell came along, he tried very hard to force the issue. His vicious determination to destroy the Catholic Church in Ireland was a failure, although his name was added to the pantheon of Ireland's worst tormentors.

The Protestants, being the ones in charge, stole Church property right and left, converting some of the finer cathedrals into Anglican centers of worship.

Along came 1916 and the election of Sinn Fein in 1919 and before long, the Irish engaged in ethnic cleansing. Protestants who feared retribution for centuries of oppression up and left. In small towns, the Proties were "encouraged" to follow suit.

However, the Church of Ireland did not see fit to return the stolen churches to the Catholics. Instead, the ancient monuments were allowed to fall into disuse and disrepair, the Protestants too few in number to maintain such expensive structures.

The Church of Ireland is selling St. Mary's Church and attached graveyard to the Irish government for 1.1 million euros. Not a bad profit on land that was acquired via seizure at little or no cost. It will take many, many more euros to repair the damage that's been done by time and vandals.

The 13th Century church is a treasure of medieval architecture and will be a welcome addition to Kilkenny's tourist attractions, while the cemetery is said to contain some of the best examples of Irish Renaissance design. With public money funding the restoration, St. Mary's will become a national monument.

For all of Cromwell's notorious cruelty, the Catholics persisted. Now, one more Protestant church is abandoned due to lack of use, lack of parishioners and lack of support.

Just took a bit of persistence and an eye on the end game that was waiting on the distant horizon. Not unlike a notion held by some who would like to see their words put into print and their story shared with the reading public.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I've Always Wanted To Work For The Airlines

Janet Napolitano was thinking that the system was working, if you'd only look at the big picture.

Did you not know that able-bodied passengers are part of that system?

We're drafted into part-time employment with the airlines every time we board a flight. Face it, if you were flying and the plane crashed into, say, the River Shannon, wouldn't you much prefer to have a man possessed of a couple of muscles sitting at the emergency hatch? If you saw some old granny in the key seat, you'd be a bit nervous, wondering how the old woman could lift the door out of the way so that you could leap to safety.

Apparently, we not only are expected to flip up the appropriate levers and discard a heavy piece of the plane, we're to be prepared for hand-to-hand combat.

Look, I know that Limerick is called "Stab City" but just because a person flies out of Shannon Airport doesn't mean that they were in the city itself. There's plenty of country to County Limerick and precious little murder. Please, don't stereotype us and expect certain, shall we say, reactions to specific threats.

If a fellow passenger were to try to set the plane on fire, I'd be willing to get a few blows in for the sport. I'm willing to do my bit of Christian charity, but if I'm to be drafted into airplane security, will I reap the benefits of airline employee perks?

Free air fare? No? Still have to pay for my ticket, and I have to be ready to defend my fellow passengers?

Lovely that the system works, Ms. Napolitano. Would it be asking too much of those whose system is working to hand out an extra packet of peanuts to its part-time militia of passengers?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And To All A Blessed St. Stephen's Day

Is anyone concerned that there's a shortage of wren boys these days? No, you'll not hear a word.

But the fact that some of Dublin's shops are open today?

You'd think the world was coming to an end.

In a way, the world has ended. In spite of reports that most of the migrant work force has gone back home, with the jobs dried up here in Ireland, the all-white faces of O'Connell Street are no more. There's other languages heard around the island, foreign tongues.

People like to go shopping on their days off. They like to walk, to look at what lovely shiny objects are available to feather the nest, and wasn't it just a matter of time until someone figured out that St. Stephen's Day was a perfect day for shopping?

In the States, it's the day when eveyone floods the shops in search of next year's Christmas decorations and cards and light strands. Sales, discounts, bargains to be found, so why shouldn't the Irish have the same access to the insanity?

Most will stay at home, recovering from hangovers or food comas, but anyone with a hankering to get out and stretch their legs has a place to walk that also has appealing scenery.

Sure the Celtic Tiger's dead, but the boom brought along changes that are not so easily reversed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When Literary Agents Avoid Love

You may have been perfecting your query letter since Thanksgiving, but literary agents don't fall in love with manuscripts during the last two weeks of December. The inability to love may even extend into the first week of January.

Holly Root of the Waxman Agency tweeted a subtle suggestion that anyone thinking about submitting to her should wait until after the New Year.

Agents like Kristin Nelson have closed the doors completely for the holiday season. No queries acknowledged, read, or fallen in love with.

I'm fighting off the urge to submit a manuscript that's been revised based on some agent feedback, but I know it's absurd to send off anything right before Christmas. Of course, there's always some go-getter agents working, but there's no way to identify them.

It would be a good time for writing, if it wasn't for the press of holiday duties. Today it's lunch in the city with friends, window gazing and a hunt for the guy who sells hot roasted chestnuts. All in the face of an east wind howling off Lake Michigan.

I'd rather be writing. Indoors. With central heating.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Holy Grain Has Been Located

The Knights Templar, keepers of the Holy Grail according to Dan Brown, have chosen a Chicago-area member to be their Grand Master.

Patrick Rea lives humbly in Tinley Park, an outpost of Irish-America. He fields numerous phone calls from those who seek the Holy Grail, and he's admitted to knowing exactly where the sacred vessel is located.

The man has a sense of humor, which is required when heading an organization that a novel turned into a secretive cult.

The Knights Templar began as a police force, set up to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Lands in the Twelfth Century. In modern times, they are a charitable organization that has shipped school supplies to Afghanistan and founded a clinic for maternal/infant health in Cameroon.

For all of Dan Brown's mastery of suspense, the Holy Grail that the modern day Knights Templar protect is the vessel of overflowing charity.

Treasure hunters can dig all they like, but the Knights aren't hiding this Grail underground.

As for those who call Mr. Rea, asking about the Holy Grail's location? He's been known to send them to the Tinley Park train station, where they are met by the local police force.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Public Television Made Public

Public television has a certain feel to it...a sense that the programs are not subject to ratings systems that reward the most mundane and inane.

A huge audience for reality programming? There are those who would much prefer a re-run of Masterpiece Theater, thank you very much, and that may not be an enormous audience, but it exists and must be served.

Public television stations hold fund-raisers to get the money needed to produce programs that appeal to a more literate demographic. Want to see a dramatic performance of a Charles Dickens tale? The suits at the likes of CBS or NBC wouldn't know Dickens from a hole in the ground. That's what public television is for.

Advertisers are looking for the biggest bang for the buck, and they want to know that enough people are watching P.O.V. or Frontline to make it worth their investment. Public television will now be subject to Nielsen ratings.

The number of eyes glued to Nova will be counted, but where those eyeballs reside will be just as important. Companies pushing higher-cost goods won't much care if their PBS ads don't reach the masses, as long as the smaller demographic they reach is the one with money.

A company can sponsor PBS programs for short time spans, as small as one week, and for PBS, that could mean raking in big bucks when Ken Burns has a new documentary available for viewing. There would be weeks when sponsors wouldn't be willing to fork over major cash, especially during pledge week when programs are interrupted non-stop and viewers flee.

Advertisers will soon know how large an audience they can reach. PBS will discover how many viewers they attract.

And if the two don't mesh well, expect those pledge weeks to drag out for months.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Redistribution Of Assets

Adam Clayton of U2 is awash in money. His housekeeper/personal assistant is not.

She sought to even things out slightly. An amount almost insignificant, in the greater scheme of things. Mr. Clayton failed to notice for a very long time. Failed to notice until she'd redistributed 1.8 million euros.

Carol Hawkins of Dublin 14 appropriated 13,000 euros of the gentleman's hard earned savings back in 2008. She confessed to her crime, was forgiven, and allowed to keep working. Must have been quite a sad tale of woe that she spun. And what's 13,000 euros to a man of such vast wealth?

In an effort to further take from the rich and give to the poor. Ms. Hawkins got her hands on credit and debit cards. Why accept a paltry salary as a personal assistant when the boss has more money than he knows what to do with? Clearly, Ms. Hawkins knew what to do with it. She had needs that could not be met on her wages.

It's alleged that she withdrew 600 euros, twice each day. For thirteen months.

She was caught in November, when someone finally realized that the books weren't balancing and there was activity on the cards in Dublin when Mr. Clayton was touring the world. After admitting the theft, she denied that she'd used all that money to buy a condo in New York, or that she had bought into a horse syndicate to the tune of 900 euros per month.

An Garda Siochana is investigating. Ms. Hawkins has been barred from liquidating any of her assets, as Mr. Clayton has hopes of recovering some of his money.

From each according to his ability, to each according to her needs. Ms. Hawkins says she used the money as needed. If anyone's to blame in this case, it must be Karl Marx.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Poverty Of Literacy

The population of Laredo, Texas would hardly be described as upper to upper-middle class. Located on the U.S.-Mexico border, it's a blue-collar town.

Blue-collar people do read, of course. They have been seen in public libraries. They are known to buy books.

Barnes & Noble purchased the B. Dalton book chain and has been carefully culling its herd of excess stores. Having crushed a competitor, B&N claimed the winner's spoils. There isn't such a need in the B&N corporation for as many stores as they acquired, and so, the lone book store in Laredo, Texas, will have to go.

For a single shop, the place was profitable in that it made sales and could meet expenses. From a corporate stand-point, it's not profitable enough.

Eventually, Barnes & Noble would like to build a new place, eliminating the B. Dalton name in the process, but plans are not yet fully formed and it could be a year or two before everything falls into place. That would be a year or two when the people of Laredo could not walk into a brick and mortar store to make a purchase.

The loss of this small business won't put a dent in B&N's bottom line. Amazon will pick up some of the slack, but not all of it. There's the browsing factor that will go missing, the physical aspect of book buying on impulse that requires an actual book with actual jacket flap copy and genuine pages to turn---or not turn, if the first couple of pages don't grab the reader.

Blue-collar folks in Laredo who like to read and buy books will lose out, and all because a big corporation decided it wanted to get bigger, to maybe become the one and only book store chain in the universe.

While they build an indoor snowboarding park, the city of Laredo might consider portioning off a part of the new complex for an independent book store. Keep the rent low because there's not much profit in an indie shop, and promote literacy in a population that is growing increasingly illiterate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Golden Globes For The Irish

With a Golden Globe award in their trophy case, could an Oscar be far behind for U2?

Busy with their 360o tour, the Irish super group has been nominated in the best song category for Winter, heard on the Irish film Brothers directed by the brilliant Jim Sheridan.

Not to be outdone, Ireland's son Brendan Gleeson has also been nominated for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Into The Storm. Considering how much trouble young Winston's father created for the Home Rule movement back in the day, it's a wonder the man could stomach playing such a role.

Kenneth Branaugh of Belfast is competing against the Dubliner for the honor of being named Golden Globe's best actor in a television drama, for his role in Wallander, One Step Behind. My money's on Brendan Gleeson, assuming the judges take a look at his work in the black comedy In Bruges and realize how vast a range the man has as an actor.

The Celtic Tiger may have expired, but Ireland can still lay claim to a pool of talented performers. With cuts in public pay, threats of strikes, high unemployment and worry, a little glimmer of pride gives a person some hope for the future. If Bono and The Edge are Oscar-worthy, it can't be that grim in Ireland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If It Reads Like A Random House Book, It's A Book

As far as Markus Dohle of Random House is concerned, if it walks like a book, looks like a book and sounds like a book, it's a book and Random House bought the rights when they signed a contract with the author.

Literary agent Nat Sobel doesn't see the analogy between e-books and physical books in the same light.

Back in the dark ages, before anyone really believed that one day we'd be reading books on a screen, authors granted publishers the right to print the book, in hardcover or paperback.

Now Random House has decided that, since they purchased a manuscript, it's all the same. They can publish the electronic version and not have to cut a new deal.

That's bad news for literary agents who represent authors' estates. It's the back list that Random House is planning to offer, the back list titles that were published without a thought to protecting the e-book rights.

Random House would like to claim that a contract allowing them to publish something "in book form" automatically means they have the Kindle business exclusively, but literary agents aren't on the same page. Is a Kindle or Sony e-Reader "book form"? Or is it a modified computer, a device wholly unrelated to books in any form?

The argument means a great deal to authors and agents, who make money off granting rights piecemeal. It means a great deal to new start-ups, where the business model is built on gaining e-book rights of old back list titles for sale to new reading devices. Random House, of course, would like all the profit for itself.

Eventually, someone will take Random House to court and sue, citing the success of RosettaBooks LLC, which won the right to publish e-book versions of old titles by William Styron and Kurt Vonnegut for three to six years.

Since that time period has lapsed, it could be that Random House is trying again, with a different judge and a fresh bank of lawyers, to grab up e-book rights without having to pay the authors another dime.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry Christmas From Santa Chavez

His country is spiralling down into an economic morass, but Hugo Chavez wants the Venezuelan people to enjoy a socialist Christmas. Inflation at 26%, manufacturing all but gone, but little Venezuelan children will find a present on Christmas morning.

The Romans understood the concept of bread and circuses. Bread's getting mighty expensive in Venezuela, so Santa Chavez figured on bringing in the distraction of a circus.

At a cost of $1.4 million, the Fidel Castro wannabe brought in 124.000 toys from China. What, you thought that all those lead-infused items returned from the U.S. would go to waste? Venezuelans were invited to Hugo's Super Sale Tent to pick up toys on the cheap.

Not given away, but sold at 'cost', without the profits tacked on by evil middlemen. The state newspaper proclaimed victory over capitalist toys. Kids don't much know the difference between knock-offs and the real thing anyway. The parents are thrilled to be able to give their offspring something for Christmas, and if they praise Hugo Chavez, that's the point.

For those who missed the toy sale, the items sold at a discount were available in nearby markets shortly after the sale ended. At regular prices, however.

Funny how capitalism pops up when someone figures out how to make a profit.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Open To New Queries But Not Yours

You have to wonder, when you don't hear back from a literary agent, whether or not your query fell into some black hole in New York City, to be reduced to atomic particles that float off into the atmosphere.

As for the unanswered e-mail queries, you always fear that some aggressive spam filter gobbled up your words and the agent has never even seen that letter you slaved over for months, struggling to use the choicest, most succulent words.

Send off those queries via WEbook and you'll gain some insight into what happens to your query.

It goes unopened. Unread. Ignored.

There may still be some bugs to be worked out in the system. At Writers House, agent Dan Conaway doesn't want e-mail queries, but he's signed on to the WEbook system which delivers queries via e-mail. Does that mean he won't open submissions sent through WEbook?

Scott Gould of RLR Literary hasn't responded to one of my queries, ever. By submitting to him through WEbook, I know if and when he even looks at the query. Should it remain unopened, I could safely assume that I'm on the Black List, my e-mail address listed in every spam filter in every literary agency across the country.

The first few queries sent through WEbook were answered in record time, so maybe I've developed some unrealistic expectations. Literary agents are busy, more so in these times of tight markets. There may be no significance to the delay that I've seen in the second round, in which all of the queries are still sitting around, unopened since last week.

Queries submitted, queries left unopened. After a time, they'll drop out of the agent's inbox due to old age. It doesn't matter how they're sent. The non-response remains the same.

Friday, December 11, 2009

En Garde, Google

French president Nicolas Sarcozy has taken his glove and figuratively slapped Google across the face. En garde, Google. Monsieur Sarcozy will fight for French honor.

Google plans to scan all out-of-copyright books so that the world has access via the Internet.

The French, however, will not let Google steal away all that French culture, and then sell...quelle horreur....gauche Google ad space right next to examples of France's greatness.

If anyone is going to make money off of France's literary patrimony, it will be the French.

Like every other country on earth, France is struggling with the economic crisis. They too have a stimulus package to get the economy going, and their own book digitisation program is part of that jobs creation venture.

Yes, the French tried to create a search engine to challenge Google and that hasn't gone well, but this is French literature and centuries of knowledge that's to be protected from overbearing Americans with their massive IT skill set.

Yes, France has been scanning books still under copyright, and publisher Le Seuil has taken the government to court over copyright infringement. All done with the best of intentions, mais non?

The Americans will come in and loot France of its culture if they're not careful. If anyone's getting the income from Google ad clicks, it's to be France.

Vous aurez été prévenu, Monsieur Google.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Money With New Media

Were publishers as hysterical about the paperback book as they've become about e-books?

Hardcover books have always been more expensive. There's more material there.

Readers who were watching their bottom lines developed the habit of waiting for the paperback edition of the latest hot read to come out. They'd save a few dollars, still get to read the exact same words, but they had to exercise patience.

Publishers reaped what they could from those who had to be the first on the block to read the latest blockbuster, then the cheap version was made available.

How is this any different from releasing a given book in a digital edition?

E-books are cheaper, as anyone would expect, because they don't require the expense of paper and ink to produce. Since they are so much like a paperback in that regard, why is there such a debate about when to release digital books?

It shouldn't be shocking news that Harper or Macmillan have decided to hold back on e-book releases. After all, it doesn't make business sense to compete against one's own product.

Harper ceo Brian Murray believes that relying on income from e-books, selling for $9.99, would trickle down to fewer new authors being given a trial run. Publishing houses need the extra profit from hardcovers to take a chance on unproven talent, and the bean counters who run publishing wouldn't put up with quite so much risk when there's not a great deal of spare change in the kitty.

There's all kinds of e-book readers coming out, and that will lead to lower prices down the line. Eventually, more people will own Nooks or Kindles or Sony e-readers or whatever the computer geeks invent, and everyone will be looking for a bargain when it comes to books.

It used to be the paperback. Now it's the e-book.

Hachette plans to hold off on releasing e-books, to give the hard bound copies a chance to sell at a higher profit.

Good business sense. And it shouldn't be shocking. It's not a reflection of dinosaur publishers clinging to old technology. Until the market dries up for hard copies, until the e-book proves to be more profitable, there's no reason to abandon one niche for another.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Does This Recession Make Me Look Fat?

Anyone who's lost a job would be expected to be depressed, and no one would fault them for turning to comfort foods in search of consolation. Such behavior would lead to the pounds packing on. If there's a rise in obesity rates due to the recession, it's understandable.

The under-employed are adding to the fat tally as well. With budgets stretched to the limit, cheap food is replacing more expensive healthy eating. Instead of lean chicken, it's Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box.

Those with jobs are working more hours as their employers calculate that overtime is cheaper than hiring another worker. This leads to less free time for the worker, less time to shop and prepare balanced meals. Think a quick drive through McDonald's for a Big Mac instead of broiled salmon with a tossed salad.

The recession is making everyone fat, according to Harry Balzer, author of Eating Patterns in America.

Before anyone suggests exercise as a way to combat recession-induced obesity, they should consider the high cost.

For one woman, that cost is somewhere near $100,000.

In an effort to stave off waistline expansion, she went to the East Bank Club in Chicago and stowed her rings in her locker. After fighting against obesity with a brisk work-out, she came back to her locker and found that the lock had been cut off and her rings stolen.

She would have been $100,000 to the better if she'd just accepted the fact that obesity is up 1% and once the economy turns around, we'll all get thinner. Now she's filed a police report about the robbery, but her jewels are gone.

Not only is the recession making us fat, but combatting the fat is making us poorer, so it's looking like a continuous loop spinning around fat asses nationwide.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Literary Payola

Long, long ago, it was the custom of record companies to pay radio stations to play their records. Disc jockeys, station owners, whoever---they were bribed to increase air time of certain songs, to the benefit of the recording artist.

The practice was declared illegal and prosecutions ensued.

Why isn't the same thing illegal in book vending?

Publishers pay ridiculous amounts of money to Barnes & Noble, in the neighborhood of $30,000 according to Adam Penenberg at For a bribe of that size, a publisher can expect to place a key title at the front of the store, to catch a book buyer's eye the minute they enter the big box retailer.

If the marketing gurus deem it worth the money to have a certain book shelved facing out, with the attractive cover up front and personal to the potential buyer, B&N or Borders are happy to oblige for a fee.

According to Mr. Penenberg, every place you find books, you'll find literary payola, and that includes the rack of paperbacks at the local supermarket.

What does it mean for a writer? If your publisher isn't convinced that your particular work of art isn't destined to be a blockbuster, a la Dean Koontz, you won't get the marketing budget and your book won't get the payola treatment. And so, your book is sure to fare poorly because it's not getting the promotion.

Since no one seems to be heading towards the State's Attorney's office, it means an author might have to cough up some big money to counter the publisher's bribe. Up the ante, so to speak, in a bid to claim some prime real estate in the book store or at Amazon's website.

Knowing that the books up front were placed there on purpose, doesn't it make you want to bypass the front tables and confine your browsing to the shelves? Just to stick it to the whole marketing concept that figures you for an instant gratification sheep?

The Results Are In

At the end of last week, I gave a try. So what are the results at the beginning of the following week?

No different than anything I've seen with a do-it-yourself approach. But there's more data for my amusement.

To my surprise, the agents read the material in record time. No waiting for weeks, trying to determine if enough time had passed to yield a "no response is no" rejection. From my submission chart, I could see that real action was taken.

Elyse Cheney read the submission right away, but she only looked at the bio, brief synopsis and query before giving up on it. Didn't bother with the writing sample, so I can assume that the query didn't float her literary boat.

An agent with Levine Greenberg was quick, looking over the brief synopsis and manuscript sample before clicking on the reject button. Didn't even bother with the query. The last couple of submissions I sent to them via the form on the website never got any kind of reply, so I'm ahead on that count.

Another submission was read but not responded to, so even with the convenience of WEbook, no response probably means no.

And, of course, one submission has been ignored so far. Who knows, maybe within the next few weeks something will happen, but I won't hold my breath.

Still no requests for more material, but I know for sure that what I sent was acknowledged, which is more than you'd get from a standard e-mail submission that often doesn't get answered.

Using a go-between has provided some new information that I couldn't get otherwise. Other than that, it doesn't make any difference.

Even so, it's amusing to see what parts of the submission different agents read and how soon they get to the submissions and all that. And who can complain about free entertainment?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Query Middleman

If it hadn't been for Colleen Lindsay's twitter about WEbook, I don't know that I would have given the query service a try.

The FinePrint Literary agent is giving WEbook a one-month work-out and what's to lose if I give it a try as well.

For now, it's free. You fill out the forms and follow the directions and the next thing you know, you're submitting queries to agents who have signed up to receive queries from WEbook.

The service says that they look over your submission, which includes an author bio, a VERY short hook, the query letter and a partial manuscript, before moving the whole thing along to the agent. You have to pick your genre, so the idea is to compile a list of agents who want to be queried for what you write. Targeting is so efficient, don't you know.

How does it differ from a do-it-yourself process? Not very. You don't have to look up agent e-mail addresses, since clicking on a link brings up a screen where you insert your letter and it's already addressed. You still have to write a proper query letter so there's no easy way out at that end.

The author bio is a bit more involved than the standard closing paragraph of the query letter, but what agent will care about your education if you're writing fiction? And what kind of credentials does a writer need to write fiction, anyway, besides a mastery of the English language and a vivid imagination?

How well does the service work? My trial run produced a very quick rejection from one agent, so it's not entirely different from past experience without a go-between.

What I do know is that the agent read my bio, the brief synopsis, and the query.

Thanks to WEbook, I know that a second agent read the whole packet, from bio to manuscript sample, and then....well, maybe it's one of those "no reply means no" sorts of things. Everything got read, but there wasn't any request for more. Nor was there a rejection. Yes, not at all different from doing it yourself.

Eventually, WEbook will charge for the service, possibly after it catches on with writers or draws a lot of members. The thing is, it won't be worth paying for.

Except for knowing when and if an agent reads the submission, there's nothing about the site that makes a big difference. Sure, it's easier to submit a query, but it's not such a difficult thing to do in the first place. It's fantastic to know if your material has been received and looked at, but to pay money for the information?

There's all kinds of query blasting services out there that practically spam literary agents. WEbook is more fine-tuned and requires more of their users, but you can find agents for your genre at and that won't cost a thing.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Blarney This And Blarney That

The Irish agree that global climate change is a serious issue. 82% think it's almost as serious an issue as poverty, and something needs to be done.

Just not something done by the Irish people.

They talk a good game about the use of alternative fuels, but when it comes time to pay the higher price, they're steadfastly against it. They complain about the government and private industry not doing more to combat climate change, but they aren't willing to meet the financial demands that are required to lower the carbon footprint of the Emerald Isle.

It's not that the Irish invented blarney. They're probably aware of a new study that shows we're all in for another ice age, and it's the melting Greenland ice sheets that spell our doom.

How do scientists know this? Geologic evidence points to a past incident of melting that dumped millions of gallons of fresh water into the oceans, thus disrupting the flow of warmer waters into the North Atlantic, leading to an ice age 12,000 years ago.

Perhaps the Irish aren't so keen to dig deeper into their pockets because they understand that this melting was not caused by man at all. No carbon dumped into the atmosphere, no fossil fuels causing havoc with the climate. It happened because that's just what the earth and the sun do when they get together.

So, without any human influence, the northern ice sheets melted and diluted the North Atlantic current and created a massive the span of a few months.

And it might happen again. No reason not to think it couldn't, when it's happened before. And if it does happen again? There's not a thing man could do about it.

Risk financial meltdown because the earth is warming and a group of scientists say man is causing it? Or accept the scientific fact that the climate changes, has changed in the past and will change in the future, and it's not homo sapiens, the mightiest of the beasts at the top of the food chain, who can control the climate.

Little wonder that the average person isn't entirely buying into the urgent need to change lifestyles and make great sacrifices. All that effort, the sun holidays cancelled or the thermostat lowered to near freezing in the house, and will it really, truly make a difference? It's the element of doubt and the desire to be warm and comfy that leads to all that blarney about doing something to stop a phenomenon that looks to be perfectly normal and unstoppable.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Limits To Being Free

Rupert Murdoch was making noise some time ago about charging for news content on the Internet. Google has just decided that they understand what Mr. Murdoch was talking about. Not all news content accessed via Google will continue to be free.

It's Google that's been making the money off such content. The revenue from the Google ads aren't going to the news organizations that invested time and money in research and writing, while Google doesn't pay a single cent for the material that crowds out its advertising space. Anyone with business sense can see that the arrangement was grossly unfair to the producer and highly beneficial to Google (what a scientist would call a parasitic relationship).

You'll get five free clicks in the future. Visit a news publisher's site and you can read five separate stories. On your sixth click, you'll be sent to a registration page where you'll have the opportunity to pay for your curiosity.

Josh Cohen of Google sees it as all to the good. Google still gets the free content that fuels their search engine. Rupert Murdoch and his ilk get some revenue to compensate their labors. If you took advantage of a Google search and read an entire newspaper cover to cover, you'll soon discover that your unlimited browsing has a limit.

Want to read one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers for free? You'll have to march yourself over to the local public library and wait your turn.

Otherwise, you'll have to pay up for your Google search results. The days of unlimited and free access to all information has reached its limit, and it's the hard reality of money that's created the barricade.