Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Is The Query's Fate

I've been using WEbook's agent querying service, although the results haven't changed as compared to the old-fashioned, do-it-yourself technique.

To prepare for another round of queries with a re-written letter and a new hook, I looked over the list of who has already rejected the manuscript, and noticed that a few agents have yet to open the submission.

For e-queries, it seems reasonable to wait for a couple of weeks, or maybe a month if the agent has gone totally paper-free. They're not getting to their e-mail any faster than they used to when paper queries were more in vogue.

With that in mind, I'd say it's a good bet that Jesseca Salky at Russell & Volkening isn't interested in getting queries at all. Four months is more than enough time to consider it a rejection without the query even being considered.

Going with the three week cut-off, I wondered if Brandi Bowles was open to queries or just hadn't gotten around to reading the slush pile. It might not be the case at all.

She was working at Howard Morhaim's agency when I submitted the package through WEbook. Since then, she's moved over to Foundry Literary.

I'd like to move the query over to where she is now, but with WEbook, there's no way to do it. Just as well, since I sent the same query to Yfat Reiss Gendell at the same agency. Wouldn't want to query two agents at the same place at the same time and get put in their black book.

Does this mean that the query doesn't count? Can it be a do-over if I wait long enough for Ms. Gendell to not reply? I can't use WEbook, though, since they still have Ms. Bowles with Howard Morhaim, and would have to send the submission through the mail.

Where has the query gone, if the agent has moved? Is it going to hang in there for all time?

I wish I could take it back and pretend it never happened.

Not A Cake Walk

Having worked long and hard to develop a reputation, sisters Brenda and Mary Maher had reached the point where they could charge lofty prices for their baked goods.

They didn't make ordinary cakes that competed with Sam's Club bakery department.

Each cake they made was unique, decorated as only an artist could design, and for that skill and determination, they could turn a comfortable profit and invest in high-end equipment to make their products even better.

A fire that began in the apartment above their shop, Cakegirls, destroyed the entire building and all of their equipment with it.

Customers were expecting their expensive, elaborate cakes for upcoming parties and weddings. Orders taken in advance could not be met, in the blink of an eye, and the bakers are reeling.

Bad enough to lose a business, but to know that a bridal shower will be without a centerpiece of sweet artistry makes it that much worse. Maybe the food isn't great or the soup is cold, but a guest will sit through a lame meal when there's a delicious cake on offer.

How do the Maher sisters tell their clients that the dessert that was expected can't be made? Of course the customers would voice words of sympathy for the ladies' plight, but elaborate cakes take time to make and it isn't an easy matter to find someplace else.

In an effort to be good business people, the bakers will offer full refunds, but they know that it isn't about the money.

There will be those who are so upset at having their dessert plans ruined that they'll grumble about lack of foresight. There will be fury and rage, emotions that the already distraught bakers will have to field because they are in business.

From such grumblings come a loss of goodwill, the lifeblood of a solid reputation in any industry. Sure, the Maher sisters can take their insurance settlement and start again. They've had offers of baking space to get them through until they're back on their feet, but having had their heads bit off by outraged customers, they might very well be wondering if it's all worth it in the end.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where Literary Agents Don't Bother To Tread

Solid writing said the agents who declined to represent the manuscript. No advice can be given, there's nothing wrong with it, not for me.

From Inkwell Management came a piece of advice, to go directly to small indie publishers with the novel.

My first attempt to interest a little publishing house has been turned down after a four month wait.

They're busy, as you'd expect, so there's no editorial suggestions or reasons given. Maybe the book will appeal to a niche audience (those who wish there were good novels to read that tell a story in clear English without gimicks), but it's going to take some doing to find that audience.

I've reached the next stage of the querying process. Having run out of literary agents who are interested in historical fiction filled with characters they've never heard of because it's not their nation's history, I will shift my research to publishers who accept unagented manuscripts.

Where else to turn but the first place I went to when I needed a list of agents sorted by genre preference. has a tab that will bring up a list of small publishing houses, some of which accept fiction. One by one, starting with 'A' most likely, I'll prepare sample pages and synopses and start stuffing envelopes.

The cost of postage and the limits of the budget will dictate the schedule of submissions. Needless to say, I can't afford a blizzard of paper so I won't hit them all at once.

In the meantime, I'll work on something else, keep writing, because I keep finding new story ideas where I least expect them, and my head just gets so clogged with words that I have to write or risk an explosion.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This Evil Twin Scenario Has Been Done To Death

Lisa Scottoline has a new novel coming out soon. The premise of Think Twice is the old evil twin plot device.

How many novels and movies have turned on the notion of an evil twin taking over the good twin's life and causing mayhem?

Ah, yes, but has anyone ever thought about marrying this tired out plot with Jesus?

There are no new stories, just fresh ways to tell them.

Now comes Philip Pullman, the bad boy of British novelists, with his take on the evil twin genre. How very clever and original. Jesus is the good half, and Christ is the bad half, and wouldn't you know it but Christ makes life hell for his brother.

In Lisa Scottoline's new novel, the good twin gets buried alive by the evil twin. What could Mr. Pullman do with that concept, in light of the Easter story? There you go, Christ buries Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb but he's not dead, see, and then Christ goes around pretending to be Jesus and Jesus has to kill his evil twin before he destroys everything and to hide the crime he claims he's risen from the dead.

A sound explanation for a notion that's taken entirely on faith by the Christian community. But that's not the only reason why Mr. Pullman's book made it into print while your manuscript languishes. The man has a platform and he can promote his novel like nobody's business.

A noted atheist gets attention and being outrageous adds to the lustre. By re-hashing a tired plot device and using the Son of God as the main character, Mr. Pullman was bound to get plenty of press coverage and, yes, mentions all over the blogosphere.

Reviews of Ms. Scottoline's newest product are pretty negative, picking at the evil twin thing because it's so overdone that it's gotten silly.

Mr. Pullman heaps insults onto organized religion with his prose, pokes just about everyone in the eye, and such a fresh approach will help him avoid similar criticism.

There are no new stories. Find a way to tell them again, and drive the reader into a rage so they don't notice how lame the re-telling is. It works for some authors.

No Jews Need Apply

World Relief's Chicago office is taking a stand. They're a Christian organization and from now on, it'll be Christian through and through.

No Jews need apply for openings. Seek employment amongst your own kind.

The evangelicals have a bug up their religious arses when it comes to Jews anyway. They'd like to convert them to Christianity and save their souls. What better way than to exert a bit of financial pressure?

Want a job helping those in need? Think you'd like to counsel refugees from war-torn lands like Darfur? Provide legal counsel to a recent immigrant? Accept Jesus Christ as your saviour and you're on the payroll.

Such a bright picture of salvation is marred by the piles of U.S. Government tax dollars that are dropped into World Relief's coffers. They are a legitimate charity doing the Lord's work and as such they are given aid money to use in their most worthy missions.

It's legal for them to discriminate against Jews and Muslims because World Relief is a church organization. Couldn't have some imam suing the Vatican for the right to be a Catholic priest, after all. Wouldn't make sense.

Legal or not, employees of World Relief are expressing their outrage by walking away from the group. So many have left that the mental health services offered at the Chicago branch were forced to shut down. Candace Embling, director of the Chicago office, was kicked to the curb for complaining about the discrimination.

How very Christ-like.

Non-Christians must sign a loyalty oath and swear to follow Jesus, an option that's been offered to those in hard-to-replace positions. Too many Jews and not enough Christians going in for psychiatry and the law?

Now that the "Christian Only" policy has been made public, World Relief is concerned about a drop in donations. It's not only a case of losing Jewish donations, but Christians who are offended by the hard-line tactic might seek to put their money elsewhere.

Is World Relief a church, or a charity? Those who have found help may not really care. After enduring hardship and fear, what would it be to turn a deaf ear to a proselytizing counselor, nodding and agreeing for the sake of getting settled in America, where you can practice any religion that suits.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Swimming Under The Radar

Fifteen years ago, Irish swimmers came forward and lodged complaints against their coach, George Gibney. They said he was a pedophile.

The statute of limitations came into play during his trial in 1994 and the case was dropped. Seventeen counts of sexual abuse were never prosecuted. With all of Ireland knowing what he'd done, trial or no trial, Mr. Gibney chose to decamp for America. As the national coach for Ireland, his face was too well known to even consider hiding in the land of his birth.

You'd think that someone so accused would be tangled up in the immigration safety net, but it's all based on the honor system and Mr. Gibney lied. Who wouldn't? Given the choice between an omission and deportation, it's not much of a puzzle.

At some point during his wanderings, he bought a condo in Orange City, Florida and thought he'd live a quiet life. Someone, however, figured out that the Irishman was not "Jon" but "George", and they let the neighbors know all about the accusations.

Very involved with the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus was George Gibney. Hiding in plain sight, acting the part of a devoted parishioner. Who would think that such an upstanding looking fella would be a child molester?

He went to Peru, he said, a volunteer on a mission to treat the eyes of children. Evin Daly of One Child International isn't buying the charity aspect. He's noted that Peru is quite a popular destination for sex tourists interested in children.

The neighbors are keeping a close eye on the former swim coach, close enough to know that he's gone from home most weekends and they'd like to know where the man's off to. The police have him on their radar, his attempt to swim below detection having been spoiled.

Will the Knights of Columbus be stripping him of his ornamental sword and cape any time soon? Or will it be a case of forgive and forget, in keeping with the actions of Pope Benedict himself?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Season of Rememberance

Lent is the season of rememberance, a time of somber reflection. A time to seek forgiveness for sins of omission and those commited.

147 pairs of children's shoes were hung on the fence surrounding the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin yesterday.

147 children died while incarcerated in St. Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack, one of the more notorious of the industrial schools that were run by religious organizations. Thousands of other individuals passed their entire childhood, up to the age of sixteen, behind tall stone walls. They were guilty of being poor. guilty of being illegitimate, and for such crimes as those they paid dearly.

This is the season of rememberance, of penance.

Those who made it through came out broken, their heads filled with nightmares that never go away.

The Pope sent a letter to the Catholics in Ireland. Those who have been made to suffer until the day they die were not impressed with his well chosen words. Where was he, where were his bishops, when complaints were lodged about the treatment of the children in the industrial schools?

What was done cannot be undone, but those who paid the price of so many blind eyes turned away would like the laws to be changed so that pedophiles face greater penalties in the future. They would like to see a sex offender registry and enforcement. They are asking to have some input into the disbursement of funds, rather than trusting to the State or the Church to do the right thing.

They tied 147 pairs of children's shoes to the ornamental iron railings. A little reminder, those shoes. Former industrial school inmates haven't gone away just because the Redress Board distributed a bit of cash around and the clergy said they were sorry.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Running Fast To Stay In Place

Amazon changed the way books were sold and every other book seller has had to adjust or die.

Eason's, a venerable establishment in Ireland, has gone live with their very own online shop, to offer to the world what was once available in a limited area.

It may not be quite the same as shopping on O'Connell Street, but the internet location can give you a sense of what you might find if you were to make the trip.

Should you wish to impress your friends and act as though you've traveled, you can stock up on pens and paper with the Eason brand name on the wrapper. The paper sizes are different, too, so scribbling notes to co-workers on A4 rather than 8 x 10 will be sure to get you noticed.

Not to be outdone by Amazon's Kindle, Eason's is offering the Sony e-reader and the digital books to go with it. Their prices are in line with their competitor, with some books available for E8.99.

They've devoted an entire section to Irish literature and books of Irish interest, which gives them a leg up on Amazon. Like all the smaller vendors, Eason's has to carve out a niche that makes it unique in some way. Business will be good if they can appeal to the millions of descendents of the Irish diaspora who are curious about the land of their ancestors.

Who wouldn't want a signed copy of Rachel Allen's Home Cooking on display when friends arrive for some traditional St. Paddy's day fare? You'll find such a treasure at Eason's online, perfect to mount in the kitchen cookbook rack to impress the guests.

There's fiction to be found as well, novels written by Irish authors whose works won't necessarily be found on the far side of the Atlantic. Take a chance and buy something. You may find that the quality of the writing beats out any piece of commercial fiction available in your neighborhood, and you'll be able to travel to Ireland in your imagination. The cost of the novel is far cheaper than the airfare.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nothing Is Sacred

After giving birth, an Irish woman could look forward to a prescribed Guinness every day during recovery.

Guinness, went their slogan, is good for you.

Donate a pint of blood? Good on you, and here's a pint to help build you back up.

Guinness is good for you. Or was good, at any rate. It's not to be proclaimed so anymore.

Diageo, the conglomerate that owns the black stuff, has decided that it's just not in keeping with modern thinking to promote an alcoholic beverage in a way that suggests it's a medicine. Even if the claim is nothing more than a charming old marketing gimmick that no one takes at face value these days.

Blood donors will no longer get their free pint, which will save Diageo some money and that's what big corporations are all about. Not that they're admitting to it, of course. They'll hide behind political correctness and trumpet their ideals of health and wellness and responsible drinking, all while promoting the consumption of alcohol to one and all.

Some swear by Guinness when they travel to high altitudes, taken as an iron supplement with a better taste than the pills your health-nut friend thinks are so brilliant. It's kept Irishmen alive for almost three hundred years, so there's got to be some good in it.

Corporate strategy trumps all, and it's that strategy that is bringing a long-standing promotion to a close.

No longer will Guinness be marketed as "good for you". On the other hand, it isn't bad, either.

Disclaimer: Please drink responsibly.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blame On The Secular

If Irish society was more like it used to be, there'd be no clerical sex abuse scandal. Or that's what His Holiness in Rome has said.

He's sent a letter of apology to Ireland, to "propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation."

No magic bullet promised in the letter, of course. All can agree that healing will take a good long time. Getting the behemoth bureaucracy to move won't be a swift undertaking either. Consider how long it took the Holy See to admit that Galileo had it right after all.

But that isn't what really matters to Pope Benedict. It's this rapid secularization that's caused all the trouble.

"Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values" he says. Translation? When it was "pay, pray and obey", everyone was happy. There wasn't all this fuss about bishops resigning in disgrace and people refusing to allow their children to serve at the altar out of fear of what might happen in the sacristy.

Going to confession and daily mass and annual retreats kept the priests on their toes and kept them from straying from the Gospel. Once the parishioners slacked off, so too did the priests. When you get right down to it, the Second Vatican Council is at the core of the entire scandal.

Nice in theory, but anyone who's read about the goings-on Ireland's Magdalen laundries and industrial schools before anyone even thought about a Second Vatican Council would realize how bizarre and disconnected the Pope is from reality.

If not for secularization, the victims of the abuse that went on for decades would never have found the support and courage to come forward. The changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council had nothing whatsoever to do with bishops being mistaken in their interpretations of Canon Law. The fact that the clergy stonewalled the authorities and shifted pedophiles from parish to parish has nothing to do with Masses being said in languages other than Latin.

While the Pope comes down on the perps, he fails to slap down the higher-ups. The bishops who hid the pedophiles don't have to worry about facing God, to read the Papal letter to the Catholics of Ireland. It's as if they didn't do a thing wrong.

St. Peter didn't live in a fine house, with lovely red shoes to cover his feet. Perhaps the Church needs to emulate Christ and His Disciples a bit more closely, and keep in mind that while they are the Princes of the Church, they are royalty in a kingdom that's not of this earth.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blame It On March Madness

We're all hit with the gloom and doom clouds from time to time.

I'm feeling as if I'll never make any forward progress. Treading water here, staying afloat but not getting anywhere near shore.

Rejections pile up, literary agents say it's not the writing but the material that isn't marketable, and to top it all off, Irish-style health care is taking a step closer to infecting the American system. I'll end my life on a trolley in the hallway of a packed, dirty hospital where the only physicians available are those who aren't quite skilled enough to enjoy a bountiful private practice.

Why so depressed? Is it what's happening in the world, in my life, in my business? No, it's the losses that have left my NCAA tournament bracket a mass of cross-outs.

No one can judge which team will have a stellar afternoon and triumph over adversity to beat a team they weren't supposed to beat. The best you, the punter, can do is try to guess which group of young men is riding a wave of momentum and which might lose their cool in the heat of battle.

Every day I check the post, to see if the small publisher I submitted to last November has made a decision on my manuscript. I monitor my e-mail to see if the agent who's reading the full will call me to offer representation...or reject the thing.

The one bright spot would be a circle on my chart, a sign that I'm not a complete failure and I could at least pick a winning team. After yesterday's round of upsets, I don't even have that for comfort.

This writing life is a misery sometimes, but like a drug addict, I can't seem to stop.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not Resonating On The Same Wavelength

In order to target agents, I choose my reading material based on the acknowledgement page.

Not enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing, so I pick up novels that tell me who thought the words were of such quality that the manuscript was one worth representing.

With my latest venture, I think I may have figured out why Elizabeth Weed never responds to my queries. It also has me wondering if my problem lies in the way that I write and what I think is worth reading.

Clearly, we're not resonating.

The flap copy of Therese Walsh's The Last Will of Moira Leahy promises a debut novel about sisterhood. That's classic fodder for women's fiction, upmarket no doubt as that's what Ms. Weed is after.

Authors know that they have to hook the reader's interest straight off, and Ms. Walsh opens with her narrator telling us all that she lost her twin. How in the world did she lose the girl, you the reader asks. I've got to turn the page to find out.

Turn that page and you'll find lots of dialogue. Line after line of dialogue. I'm not particularly chatty, but I understand that conversations can be used to move things along. In fact, dialogue moves the narrative quite a bit faster than internal dialogue and descriptions, so the second and third pages fly by.

Another tease presented itself. The narrator seemed to be hallucinating, imagining that the child she was talking to bore a marked resemblance to her sister as a child.

Keep turning the pages, and there's more.....more dialogue. Do people really talk so much and say so little?

From a first person narrative, the second chapter switches to third person and goes back in time. I find that I have to turn back, since I can't seem to remember the name of the surviving twin, and with that, my interest in the book begins to wane.

I plow on, through all the "As you know, Bob" moments that I skim over to save time. Authors know that they should research facts, even in a novel, but they shouldn't dump all that info. Yet Elizabeth Weed was untroubled by this violation of story-telling etiquette.

Often, agents ask for the first fifty pages as a sample of the writing, so I struggled through fifty pages before I gave up.

Just in case, I thumbed through the remainder, looking for a page that wasn't heavily peppered with quotation marks. Talk, talk, and more talk. I lost track of who the characters were, what role they played, and which one was supposed to provide the romantic element. I lost the thread of the story, but I don't think I ever really had a grasp of it to begin with.

Whatever Ms. Weed found in the manuscript, I don't see the attraction. Was she swayed by the author's website? The author's degree in psychology and residence in New York? As a reader, I look for a good story, an engaging tale that I can get lost in and escape from the pressing concerns of the day. Is this not what literary agents think will sell?

What matters is that Elizabeth Weed thought this sort of thing would sell, hence she would take a pass on my manuscripts. Colm Toibin's The Master wouldn't have stood a chance with her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's About The Story

Sorry, said Melissa Jeglinski of the Knight Agency. While she's looking for historical fiction, my particular story didn't resonate.

Not the writing, but the subject matter. The story didn't meet up with her requirements.

It could have been the setting that didn't appeal to her. No English castles or Regency drawing rooms in Hampshire could be found in my manuscript.

Just as likely at fault is the era in which the story takes place. The Regency period is huge, and you might have noticed an avalanche of books set in Elizabethan times. That leaves a lot of years unwanted by Ms. Jeglinski.

Not that all the agents who reject via WEbook give a clear and decisive response. Can't say what Miriam Altshuler didn't like, since she opened up the submission on WEbook and then didn't respond. Neither did Lorin Rees. Marcy Posner took one look at the log line on the submission and didn't go any further.

Busy agents, searching for the next blockbuster that will put Phillipa Gregory to shame. That's the subject matter that resonates with agents who are in business to make money, not art.

All I can hope is that some day, some well-established author will introduce the time period that interests me, and there's my manuscript, all ready to go.

But it's St. Patrick's Day. I'd be better off spending the day with a steady stream of well-poured Guinness and a few curry chips to ward off potential hunger.

Monday, March 15, 2010

To The Letter Of The Law

It's all right there, in black and white.

The clergy weren't obliged to tell the gardai about the pedophiles in their midst. So for those of you calling on Cardinal Brady to resign, keep in mind that he followed the letter of the law back in 1975 when he helped to cover up the heinous crimes of Father Brendan Smyth.

It wasn't his job to dial the phone after he interviewed two victims and found their reports highly credible. Someone else above him could have made the call, but there was no law per se that required such action.

Father Smyth was nabbed eventually. And convicted on 74 counts of abusing children. Over the course of 35 years. Who could fault the eminent Cardinal for not acting in his capacity as a decent human being to bring the priest's reign of terror to a halt? Granted, the abuse went on for another 18 years after the Cardinal learned of the situation, but by law he wasn't required to do a thing. So he didn't.

No, he wasn't trying to protect the Church. He was merely following the law. To the letter.

As for Christ's teachings in regard to the importance of the spirit of a law, of the sins of omission....Cardinal Brady would much prefer that you ignore all that catechism business until you're sitting in the church, being asked to donate money to help pay for the lawsuits that resulted from the decades of child abuse that went on without anyone lifting a finger to stop it. Then it's pray, pay and obey.

Cardinal Brady won't step down unless the Pope himself tells him it's time to go.

Catholics aren't waiting for the word. They're fleeing in droves, voting with their feet since they have no say in Church business.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Minnow Recruits

From a tweet via @irishpublishing comes this most intriguing posting on

HMH is hiring!

All those synergies realized have now proven to be too much synergy for the Dublin office. Perhaps Mr. John Paulson has noticed that there are too many empty desks, or too much work not getting done.

You might think that Riverdeep had plenty of techies on hand to manage all that digital interfacing, but it looks like Mr. Paulson is ready for more.

If you currently reside in a city where Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt once employed you, or have lost your home due to a synergy realization, you might want to consider a move. Dublin is lovely, really. Of course you would be competing with thousands of Irish tech types who were all laid off when the Celtic Tiger expired, so it would be wise to have the job in hand before setting sail.

You're Very Welcome From Dublin

As he wakes in his hotel suite in Chicago, Brian Cowen will find that the weather is similar to what he left behind in Ireland when he departed for his St. Paddy's tour of the States. It's raining. It's cold. Not a soft day today by any means.

He'll walk in the parade, along the wide expanse of Columbus Drive that parallels the lakefront. From underneath the protection of a black umbrella, he may notice the tall boxes distributed at precise intervals along the curb, standing guard over every single square inch of available car-parking space.

Ireland is flat broke. There's not enough money coming in to meet the high cost of a government that wants to meet the citizen's every need. The non-descript payment centers may provide a much needed spark for Mr. Cowen's ponderings on the red ink spilling out of the Exchequer.

Not a penny of revenue drops into Chicago's coffers from those parking meters. Instead, Mayor Richard Daley leased the rights to collect the fees to a private company, which in turn paid the city many millions of dollars for the seventy-five year contract.

Chicago is flat broke. There's not enough money around to meet the high cost of corruption and sweetheart deals in the City That Works. Taxes are astronomical and people are moving out, to other states. An Taoiseach Brian Cowen can well relate to that scenario.

As he dodges the rain drops, he'll consider the possibility that the private parking meter firm would be interested in the concession for all of Ireland. Pay to park on every road in the island; in front of every shop and pub from Donegal to Youghal. What might that be worth? A billion euros perhaps? Enough to put the slightest dent in the deficit?

Mayor Daley could take Mr. Cowen for a tour of the Chicago Skyway, a toll road that has been leased for ninety-nine years. A much needed billion dollars arrived in the city's treasury with that clever scheme. Why not install electronic tolling along every major road in Ireland and lease the streets?

This junket may be all about boosting tourism and perhaps enticing a business or two to set up a tax shelter in Ireland. Mr. Cowen may very well come away with some fresh ideas to ease the burden on his ministers, all under fire as one budget cut after another is announced.

What do the people of Chicago think of the lease arrangement?

Parking fees skyrocketed, and so did the tolls on the Skyway. But it wasn't their taxes being raised, was it?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Welcome But Not Going Unnoticed

The Irish tourism industry is promoting the whole cead mile failte business during this most Irish of seasons. Plenty of good deals, you're all very welcome from America and Europe and Asia.

Welcome, yes, but don't think the neighbors aren't aware of the strangers in their midst.

Ireland's population is, by and large, pale of complexion. Excepting the black Irish, of course, but they're only on the swarthy side. And they tend to be rather hairy. But they look Irish. They blend in with the crowds.

The seven jihadists who were arrested might have felt welcome in Ireland. The purported ringleader was said to have arrived from Algeria about ten years ago and had quietly resided without drawing attention. Don't imagine for a minute that the native born locals weren't aware of the presence of a foreigner in their neighborhood.

So many black faces on the streets. I've heard that muttered many a time, the tone not filled with cead mile failte at all. So many Polish, so many strangers, there's no room for us Irish. The newly arrived from Croatia, Libya and Palestine could never blend in with the crowd.

Neither could a blond-haired Yank lacking the less-than-chiseled features of a potato-eating populace. The gardai have reason to believe that Jihad Jane spent some time on Irish soil during a recruitment drive. Just the fact that Americans are presumed to have plenty of money to throw around, she didn't stand a chance of not being noticed.

Maybe in Dublin there is more diversity, but the would-be assassins set up shop in Waterford and Cork, where the local mindset is a bit more insular. Grannies up and down the streets where they lived would have been aware of their comings and goings, of how many cars parked in the road near their flats or how many other strangers came to their doors.

Welcome to Ireland, but the gardai in the station probably know you're there from the minute you arrived. Gossip travels fast.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Exit The Tough Market

These days, you're likely to get a rejection from a literary agent that mentions the tough market for fiction. Not much demand, that sort of thing, and you move along knowing that you're not about to write some scholarly tome. Which you'd never be able to sell either because you don't have a platform.

What's a literary agent to do when the publishers aren't interested so much in fiction?

Quit accepting fiction submissions, as agent Kathi J. Paton has done.

Her agency specializes in non-fiction, according to her revised Publishers Marketplace page.

Fiction's gone. There's no market for it. Why take on an author, spend valuable time promoting and pushing, only to be told by the acquisitions editors that there's no market for today's fiction?

Ms. Paton is looking for writers who are specialists in the field in which they write. No amateurs need apply. Only those with a strong and sturdy platform are welcome to submit.

One less agent to query. One less rejection to field.

Less opportunity for writers who can tell a good story to get their product to market.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Unemployment Insurance

The argument began in the usual form.

He gets in the way because he has nothing else to do. He putters around, looking for things to dismantle and reassemble so that he can say he's 'working around the house'.

So he gets in the way, lumbering to and fro, moving directly into my path.

With time on his hands, he surfs the web on our one computer, unaware that my home-based business requires the use of the computer. He is out of work. He keeps me from working.

The petulance, the self-pity were there in his voice but I'd heard it so often already that I cracked. There was silence for the rest of the afternoon, extending past dinner.

I didn't care. There was nothing to say. He's out of work. He gets in the way.

Let's get out of the house, he said in the morning. He's cooped up, with nothing to do. Let's get out of the house. I can't drop what I'm doing to walk around the hardware store, listening to his grand plans of home remodeling when I know we can't possibly afford to invest in a new kitchen.

He's out of work. He's looking for something to do but he's driving me out of my mind.

I smoke more these days. I run errands in the middle of the day to get a break from the constant togetherness that is forced on us by his unemployment.

If we can get through this, I think, but I know that our relationship has been strained beyond repair. We will carry on as a family, while the space between us will grow as I drift away in search of a quiet place where I can think and imagine and craft stories.

The unemployment insurance will see us through, until his boss calls him back when the weather improves. We'll get by while I deny every request to buy one thing and another, leading to more arguments that strain my patience beyond endurance.

There is no government subsidy that insures against the stress of so much time together. There are no unemployment benefits that can patch up what's broken.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Timely Edits

James Joyce was all artsy and cutting edge and experimental when he penned Finnegan's Wake.

Written during the Great Depression, it's no wonder that he was trying to find a new form. At the time, many were questioning the old forms of government and economic policy, with socialism and communism glittering brightly on the far distant horizon. Surely there had to be a better way, the downtrodden cried, and Mr. Joyce went off to find a better way to write the novel.

It's pure gibberish, of course. No one can make their way through it, yet the book remains in the great pantheon of great books. I suppose if you've made your mark in the literary world and then produce a pile of shite, no one would dare call you on it lest they risk looking the eejit.

Not many would dare to call out the Emperor on his lack of clothes.

In an effort to repair some of the experiments gone wrong, scholars Danis Rose and John O'Hanlon have made some much needed corrections to the original.

By poring over manuscripts and notes by the author, they crafted 9,000 edits that should make the prose a bit less dense. Although any author making up his own words and rules of punctuation can't be helped by minor edits. Some experiments simply don't work and need to be scrapped.

The new edition, available for E300 at a book shop near you soon, is said to make the syntax more clear, in the way that Mr. Joyce intended and which the original printer failed to replicate from the original manuscript.

So the Joycean scholars can merrily doublin their mumper all the time, with fresh fonts and trusses on the ruptured syntax.

Finnegan's Wake will be more readable, which isn't saying much. You'll still want your crib notes and reader's guides at hand to make sense of it.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Celebrating World Book Day

Shane Hegarty left that book there on purpose. If you're passing by in St. Stephen's Green, please pick it up and read it.

People have been asked to put a book out in a public place so that others can share in the pleasure of the written word.

You might have access to a rack of paperbacks at your local commuter train station. Help yourself. Leave another book behind, in place of the one that caught your eye.


Running out to the shopping mall? Take along a book and put it down on a bench, with a note that invites anyone passing by to turn the pages. Sharing the pleasures of reading may go a long way to reminding those who don't think they have the time that it's worth while to slow down sometimes and get lost in the fantasy of fiction.

Concerned about the weather? Pop the book into a clear plastic bag and zip it up. Books can go anywhere and never need to be re-charged.

In Ireland, the free-form book exchange program is to run the month of March. Why not join in? If you like, you can register your book at and track its progress, to follow it along on its journey from hand to hand.

What aspiring author wouldn't want to promote reading?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Another Grand Slam For Denny's

Most businesses would be satisfied with celebrating St. Paddy's Day, but not restaurant chain Denny's.

No indeed.

They're celebrating.....The Great Famine.


Two million people either starved to death or had to risk their lives on an ocean voyage to a strange land, to start again in America where they had nothing. Now that's a cause for celebration.

The Hibs (that's the Ancient Order of Hibernians for those of you keeping score at home) threatened a boycott (another Irish invention) and Denny's retreated as quickly as a landlord facing a gang of irate tenant farmers armed with scythes.

The advert has been pulled, but not before Denny's left a bad taste in many an Irish mouth.

I don't think an offering of all-you-can-eat green eggs for St. Patrick's Day would do a thing to make amends with the Irish community and the descendants of the diaspora. The best hope for Denny's at this point is to trust that few saw the commercials in the first place, having avoided viewing with a touch of the remote control.

They had problems a few years back with racial discrimination. Perhaps they could show how much they really care and celebrate something like, oh, say, slavery?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Someone Else's Responsibility

Is that the flame of indignation that burns so brightly, Bishop Brennan? Is it the fire that should burn in every Irish Catholic when they think of the child abuse scandal that has severely damaged the Church?

No, it might be the warm glow of a brass neck.

Having railed against the guilty clerics in his own fold, the Bishop of Ferns has now asked his faithful to dig deeper into their pockets and come up with the money needed to pay the victims of clerical abuse.

It's their responsiblity, you see. Given by God Himself.

The insurance company finds that their God-given responsibility reached its conclusion after they'd paid out about one-seventh of the costs incurred thus far. So, parishioners of the Ferns Diocese, it's up to you to pay the remainder. God said so.

Not asking much, this bishop. It breaks down to E60,000 per year for twenty years from the 100,000 members of the diocese. Just drop a few extra euros in the collection basket and we're good to go.

Considering the current state of Ireland's economy, it isn't likely that many have extra cash lying about, let alone enough cash to meet the mortgage payment and buy food for the week.

Then there's the change in attitude that faces the Catholic Church. The days of "pray, pay and obey" are long gone, and the congregations are asking questions of the religious board of directors. The shareholders were never allowed to look at the books before, and they're less likely to throw good money after bad now that they've had a glimpse into the inner workings that saw pedophiles shunted from parish to parish in a shell game.

So, no, Bishop Brennan. The diocese can go into receivership, as happens to all other mismanaged companies. Sell property at a loss, lay off employees, and act under the direction of the likes of Deloitte and Touche until the bill can be paid. The parishioners didn't incur one penny of that debt, the Church leaders did, and it's their responsibility entirely.