Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bad Sex And The Irish

The brogue has a certain cachet with the ladies, and a cupla focal can sometimes turn a pretty head, but the Irish have a dismal reputation when it comes to sex.

Maybe it's the climate, the cold and rain, that puts a damper on sweet romance. Then again, an Irishman's notion of a pick-up line involves getting drunk out of his mind and then hoping for the best.

A word of warning to any ladies who might be looking for love in the wilds of County Limerick. That sot who's pitching inebriated woo at you is hoping you'll feel sorry for an eejit and give him your number. It's Irish courtship at its most pathetic.

It comes as no surprise, then, that an Irishman has won the Literary Review award for bad sex in fiction. Rowan Somerville has done the nation proud by taking the prize for some truly dreadful passages in his novel The Shape of Her.

He joins super-author Jonathan Franzen in being unable to write about sex without resorting to bizarre metaphors and unintentionally hilarious verbiage.

Not that it's an easy thing, to compose words to describe a moment of intimacy. Yet authors continue to put sex into their novels because it's a normal human activity and it would only be normal for characters in a book to engage in sex at some point in their journey.

That this award went to a man with family in Donegal does nothing for the single Irish male, who is already stigmatized by centuries of sexual repression. At least there's some hope to be found in Hollywood, where the brooding, quiet but handsome Irish lad gets the girl at the end of the romantic comedy.

Ireland is just like in the movies, ladies. And you can't believe everything you read.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Fishy Deal

The little minnow that was Riverdeep, now styling itself as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has swum into shark-infested waters. Even a mighty whale has to respect a predator.

Money has long been an issue for HMH/EMPG/Riverdeep/Greenwood/what-have-you. The merger that created the educational publishing materials behemoth was heavily leveraged and the Irish banks are all belly-up these days. Oil money is drying up. There's no other option than to cut costs.

One way to reduce expenses is, of course, not to pay for certain things. Unfortunately for HMH, one of those certain things is fighting back. With lawyers.

Textbooks utilize pictures to help tell the story. The younger the reader, the more pictures. That means photographers are needed to create a suitably illustrated book. Photographers, wouldn't you know it, like to get paid for their work.

You can't really blame Barry O'Callaghan, who created HMH. He was a member of the so-called "Golden Circle" that made loans to an Irish bank, backed by stock on the same bank. The people of Ireland now own the bank, or what's left of it.

So there it is. Those loans were never paid back, so how could you expect a man to know that going beyond the agreed print run means the photographer gets more money? They were paid once already, weren't they? And shouldn't they be grateful to HMH for being so successful that more textbooks were called for?

Some of the photographers have filed suit, but HMH is large and in charge. A mighty whale of a corporation has suites filled with lawyers in shark-skin suits, and if you're paying an employee, you might as well get a day's work out of them. It's a stretch for the plaintiffs, who aren't so deep in their pockets and are out the money they're owed to begin with.

So far, things aren't looking good for HMH. The judge hearing the case of Ted Wood v. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hasn't been the least bit impressed by HMH's legal arguments.

Ever pro-active, HMH has re-worded the fine print in the licensing agreement. If a photographer wants to sell an image to the publisher, it means HMH can print as many books as it likes and there won't be another paycheck showing up in the mail.

It's pretty much what they were doing before, until someone noticed and decided to make a stand against the biggest educational materials publisher.

A familiar stance to Barry O'Callaghan, it seems. He was once a little minnow himself, standing up against the naysayers who didn't think he could swallow all of Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin. While the merger isn't close to being fully digested, he's managed to keep it down, albeit from a lower perch than originally envisioned.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Book Download

The stock market is expected to climb today because Americans in their millions went shopping over the past weekend.

Consumer sales were up a few ticks as compared to last year, and the business community is ready to cling to the slightest bit of good news these days. But what are people buying?

Thanks to discounts, price cuts and promotions, small electronic devices are selling well. Do the buyers realize that they can download books to those same devices?

The Apple iPad is flying off the shelves. Listed at $499, it's cheaper than an entire laptop computer and it's far more portable. It has enough flexibility to make it functional for such critical tasks as e-mailing, sharing your vacation photos with everyone in your address book, and it's ever so easy to download a complete novel. Several complete novels.

On the spur of the moment, an iPad owner can access something to read, and at a lower cost than purchasing a hard copy. Granted, a Kindle is a fine e-reader, but the iPad does more. As long as iPad owners understand that they have an e-reader function among the many apps, we as authors have to hope that they'll take advantage of that ability.

Even those who are going for the latest in mobile phone technology can download books to their Android phone. Imagine you're held up somewhere, the train is late or you're waiting for an oil change. How better to kill time than to read a novel on the screen of your smart phone?

Of course, the sales staff at the local electronics big box store has to be properly trained, but it's possible that more people could discover books if someone with enthusiasm showed them how to suck up words out of cyberspace and gather them into the palm of one's hand.

Books make great companions. The popularity of electronic gadgets could become a perfect match.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Marching For Exercise

Trade union members are tramping along the Bachelors Walk this lovely morning.

At least they're getting plenty of exercise. They won't get much else from their protest.

The pressure is on the Government to work out an austerity budget that will please the EU-IMF crowd. The four-year plan is needed by the end of today, give or take a few hours, so that the bailout can be deposited in the Exchequeur and the markets sufficiently calmed on Monday. Too much turmoil is not good for the markets, and the rest of the Eurozone will not tolerate more turbulence.

Sadly, it's the promises made to the unions that helped bring Ireland to the brink of bankruptcy. The costs of higher wages, early retirement, national health care and public housing cannot continue to be met in the face of reduced revenues.

Raise taxes on the rich and they either hide their money or move elsewhere. Raise the VAT and fewer people can afford to buy anything, which further damages the economy.

Meanwhile, the union members march to Ormond Quay, demanding that the Government listen to them, the electorate. It's gone too far, and the Government can only listen to the demands of the European Union that is paying for Ireland's underpinnings.

Billions to bail out the banks screams columnist Fintan O'Toole, but the little man is tethered to the big financial institutions and to save one is to save the other. It's the ugly side of capitalism at work, the opposite of the good times of big salaries and big houses and cars for everyone.

More for the working man and let the banks die of their own gluttony, the unions proclaim.

The working man was given too much, thanks to the Celtic Tiger that was fed by the same banks now failing. There's no more to give. Only so much meat can be picked off of dead bones, and the last scraps are gone.

Gardai are deployed, prepared to protect government buildings in event of rioting. There's already been rioting in Greece and England over budget cuts. The Irish aren't any more happy to find that the cupboards are bare and they won't get any more hand-outs.

The Government is taking its marching orders from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, not the people who elected them. Not unlike obtaining a mortgage, the bank tells you when you'll pay and how much you'll pay, or you can kiss the money good-bye.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Skipping The Frenzy

Stores all over were open at three in the morning, tempting shoppers with incredible deals (of which there are only three or four items available at the sale price says the fine print).

Under the influence of an ongoing food coma, I pass on the madness.

I'll be at work, as usual, but most will have the day off and there's no point in sending out queries or hanging around the Internet. Most people in publishing are away from their desks.

Maybe I can put some extra time into a re-write I've begun. But then again, the car needs an oil change and there's nothing like shopping's Black Friday for an easy in-and-out at the garage. The mechanics will be lounging around, glad of a job that prevents them being forced to go shopping with the missus.

Let's rest up this weekend, polishing revised query letters. Come Monday, the rush will be on to get material in front of the literary agents before they're off to their favorite holiday resort and half of New York City shuts down for a long break that extends into the New Year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Time To Pause

We're hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends. It's time to pause, to reflect and count our blessings.

Thank you, God, that I have a job and even though it's put a crimp in the budget, I can afford to entertain. Not lavishly, by any means, but everyone will have enough to eat.

Sing praise to the Lord that none of us have to travel by air this holiday season. No porno scanning, no sexual molestation disguised as a "pat-down". Our get-together is powered by the automobile.

Some of my guests will give thanks to the Almighty for inventing Thanksgiving Day football. Will the Dallas Cowboys continue on their road to recovery under a new coach? Of course I'll time the dinner around the game. Always seeing to the needs of the invitees.

There are so many things that I want, but career goals are on hold for the long weekend.

As for shopping on Friday, there's no need for me to plot strategy or plan ahead.

Thank God for the independent bookstore, where Sue is always ready with recommendations for all ages and interests. Her cluttered shop is truly a blessing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From Bad To Worse

One of the worst things that could happen in Ireland, in the midst of talks to set up a bail-out package, would be the collapse of the current coalition government.

It comes as no surprise to learn that the Opposition is calling for an immediate election and the Green Party is on the verge of pulling out of the coalition and Fianna Fail backbenchers are seeking the Taoiseach's resignation.

That would be the icing on the shite cake, to have the government collapse before the austerity budget is put in place. The EU and the IMF are in a bit of a hurry to finish up things, what with Portugal and Spain about ready to crumble. An election would only cause delay at a time when the markets don't want delay.

Politicians being politicians, they see things in the light of opportunity for their careers. With the public in an uproar, what better time for Fine Gael to take the reins of government, to realize their dream of being large and in charge.

But do they really want to be the party associated with cuts to the minimum wage and the curtailing of unemployment benefits under IMF recommendations?

Perhaps Enda Kenny harbors a notion that he can talk tough to the IMF and not be forced to give it all away for the sake of 85 billion euros of charity. He wants to be the Taoiseach who writes up the new budget that is relatively painless for the people.

Unfortunately, elections take time and the IMF wants things settled by the end of the month.

Politicians are being asked to do the impossible. The EU and the IMF are telling them to think of the Irish people and what's best for them, instead of dreaming of career advancement and greater power.

The old days are over, when TDs bestowed all kinds of expensive goodies on the people and reaped the rewards of re-election. The party's over, and it's time to pay up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

All That's Left Is Prayer

The European Union is going to bail out Ireland.

John Gormley of the Green Party, in coalition with the current government, is calling for new elections that will throw Fianna Fail out and put in Fine Gael. The end result will be no change whatsoever. Fine Gael would preside over the dismantling of Ireland, which wouldn't be good for any political party.

Everyone is largely in a panic over the corporate tax rate, which the government says is not a matter for discussion. Several EU members, notably France and Germany, have every intention of discussing. It's no secret that they'd like to raise the rate to meet their own, to stifle the competition that Ireland has represented for many years.

No matter who is in government, Ireland will be forced into an austerity program that will leave the citizens howling with pain. The minimum wage may well be cut to reduce operating costs, and the social partnerships that made union members happy will be axed. The promises made were unsustainable and the bottom has dropped out.

The national health care system will have to be trimmed to reduce expenses. Less housing, less benefits, less of everything.

All that's left to the people of Ireland is prayer.

Eamon O Cuiv is asking everyone to get down on their knees and ask God to make the new budget, the bail-out and the accompanying four-year plan fix the problems.

Father John Carroll in Wexford even composed an appropriate prayer.

Does it sound as if Ireland is going back in time, when the only affordable option for most was prayer? Once the new austerity program hits, it certainly will be like the old days, when salaries weren't particularly generous but you were happy to have work of any kind because the alternative was emigration.

And so, let us pray in the words Father John has taught us:

Continue to make your presence felt among us at this moment in our history.
Be close to all those charged with discerning the way forward for our nation and our people.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

To Save The Vodka Industry

Russian farmers faced severe drought this summer, and it's been said that wheat prices climbed because of their misfortune.

Cereal grains weren't the only crop to fail.

The potato crop was so bad that the Russians are accepting imports of Irish potatoes.

In Ireland, it was a bumper crop and farmers were expecting low prices in the face of steady demand and excess supply. The Russians, on the other hand, ended up with yields up to 85% lower than Ireland's.

A disaster in a land where vodka is precious.

So the Irish step in and save the day, with plans by the Meade Potato Company to ship up to 10,000 tons.

No word yet on the effect that Irish spud varieties might have on the flavor of Stolichnaya. You have to wonder if a slightly greenish hue may be seen in the distilled spirits, which could be at peak potency in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Dlya vashego sdorov'ya, you say? It'll be Slainte, Mr. Putin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overextended And Out

The Chicago Reader matters to me because it's part of my history.

I couldn't say if it's a quality weekly rag or a bundle of advertisements wrapped around an article or two. My vision is skewed because I relied on the paper to keep me informed during my college years.

Forever into infinity I will associate the Reader with nightlife and film festivals, along with intriguing works of investigative journalism. There were cartoons like "Life in Hell" by Matt Groening before "The Simpsons" made him rich.

What was playing at Facets Multimedia? All I had to do was pick up a free copy of the Reader and I had the answer to my question.

For almost forty years, it's been there for the taking, with its cheap ink rubbing off on your fingers. Almost all of that time, the paper was run by the founders, but a person can only put in so many years running a low-budget production before fatigue sets in. Once the Reader was sold off to Creative Loafing, however, it's been a rough ride.

Creative Loafing overextended itself with acquisitions, went bankrupt, and its newspapers ended up in the hands of the investment bankers.

Now comes word that Kiki Yablon, editor for the past few months, is leaving to take another job in journalism. Turmoil has re-entered the building.

It can't be much fun to work for an investment fund that isn't in it for a love of newsprint. The fact that an editor is calling it quits after a short time tells me that the Reader I know and love isn't going to be around much longer, or at least not in its current form.

A part of my past is tottering and I fear that it's about to fall apart. A touchstone of careless youth will disappear, following closely on the heels of my youth which wandered off when I wasn't looking.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hidden Fees

Literary journals often charge the writer an entrance fee, and then use the income to create a prize that is given to the winning entrant.

For some authors, it's worth a chance at getting the attention that comes with winning. For the rest of us, it's an expense we can't afford.

There are more than enough literary journals that don't charge a thing for submissions, and if the prize you're after is publication, it's the way to go.

Tin House, well known and well respected, doesn't charge a cash fee to submit. There will be a cost involved, however, if you choose to submit before the end of December.

You have to buy a book, and prove it.

The idea is to promote book buying at the local independent bookstore, to trickle a bit of life-giving cash flow into a struggling industry.

It's the sort of idea that was concocted in an office filled with those who have jobs that pay, or by those who still live at home with Mom and Dad.

Just skip your Starbucks for a couple of days and buy a paperback, they might reason. There are those of us out here in the real world who haven't bought a latte from Starbucks in years because it's too expensive and there's the household budget.

Part of the reason why bookstores are struggling is because people don't have extra money like they used to. Sure, I'd love to have an extensive library, but I've learned to settle for the limited selections at the public library. My taxes are paying for it anyway.

Buying a book takes a back seat to paying for the heat and light. And don't suggest I turn down the thermostat to 68 and then use the savings to buy a book. The heat's at 65 and if I came into extra money I'd spend it on natural gas before I'd invest in a novel that isn't very good.

There's the other side of the bookstore death spiral. Often, I'll pick up a book at the library and give up on it because I don't fall in love, as the literary agents say. I'm not interested in stories about people with angst living in Manhattan. I don't want experimental constructions that I can't quite follow. To lay out money for something like that makes no sense when you're watching every penny you spend.

So I'll hold off until January, 2011, when Tin House won't ask me to prove I bought a book so that I can submit. It's a noble thought, to be sure, but for some of us, it's out of reach.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take The Money

Imagine borrowing the money for a down payment for a home from your parents.

Now you owe them. They act as if they're happy to do it, even if they aren't pleased that you frittered away too much of your salary when you should have been more fiscally conservative.

But they have a stake in your existence by making that loan, and before you know it, your mother is calling you every day to tell you how much you can pay for a new suit, and you can't afford to buy steak for dinner. Your father tells you how much you can give to the kiddies for their walking-around money.

You don't want to live like that.

Neither does Ireland. But they may not have any choice.

The EU is about to force large wads of cash down Ireland's throat, all in an effort to prop up the euro so that other nations don't go under. The Irish government keeps insisting that it can make it on its own, get its own house in order, but things aren't progressing fast enough for the EU member states.

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen is already unpopular because he's being blamed for the financial crisis, but the house of cards was tumbling before he took office. He'd like to control the cost-cutting schemes so that he doesn't lose a vote of confidence and lose his position, but if the EU makes all the decisions on what gets cut and what must go, he can be sure the Irish electorate will send him packing.

Sadly, it won't make a bit of difference if Enda Kenny switches places with Mr. Cowen. Once the EU bails out Ireland, it owns Ireland, and the voting public can change partners but the dance won't be any different.

They can protest cuts to the health care system from one end of the island to the other, but cuts will be made because Ireland has spent itself into bankruptcy. He who pays the piper, as they say, and it will be the EU calling the tunes.

The EU will demand an increase in the VAT and the Irish will see prices rise. The EU will demand cuts in social welfare programs that its members believe are wasteful, and the programs will be gone. The Irish people and their elected officials will be painted out of the picture.

Members of the EU who have long been jealous of Ireland's low corporate tax, the vehicle that drove the Celtic Tiger, will casually step in and raise it. Corporations will flee to other tax shelters, leaving Ireland worse off and facing a more difficult time paying back the EU's loans.

A steady diet of spuds and buttermilk looms on the horizon, a return to the bad old days. And there's your parents, telling you they told you so when you went on that spending spree.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Modern Day Political Intrigue

The book group is reading Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen this month. How coincidental that Prince William is now engaged to long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton.

As for the book, I feel as if I've read it before, but there's been several novels published in the past few years that cover the same subject in much the same way. At any rate, it's been difficult getting through the book and when it's time for discussion, I know I'll veer off on a tangent.

We live in modern times, but why would the 21st Century be completely different from the Elizabethan era when it comes to royalty?

From historical fiction to non-fiction, you can follow the twists and turns that were matchmaking in the day when producing an heir to the throne was critical to the kingdom's stability. What sort of intrigue might have been involved for the Middleton clan?

I wonder if there were several mothers in the nobility who wheedled invitations to certain events so that their lovely daughters could meet and attempt to sweep the prince off his feet. Did some women call in markers to get their female offspring in the same space as royalty so that their daughter might one day be the queen of England?

Back in the days of Henry VIII, it was all about political influence and favors. The family of the king's consort got all the plum positions in the royal government, along with the money and prestige that went with it.

Although not as corrupt, why wouldn't it be the same today? Will Ms. Middleton's extended family stand to benefit from the marriage? Maybe a cousin with an insurance agency would get to underwrite the fire insurance for Windsor and Balmoral Castles, no bidding required. An uncle in banking might have business thrown his way by someone hoping to get an invite to some royal party or other.

The possibilities are endless, as is the potential for speculation.

At least we won't have to talk about a book I may not finish in time for the club's next meeting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keeping An Eye On The Corporation And The Employees

As if work isn't stressful enough, there are new reports coming out which suggest it's going to get even more stressful.

You will no longer be able to ease that stress with a smoke or a drink because your boss will be watching you.

Corporations with an eye on the bottom line know that health care premiums are climbing ever higher and there's a powerful incentive to reduce costs and increase profits.

If you, the employee, would quit smoking lower blood pressure reduce cholesterol lose weight exercise regularly live a healthy life style.....You thought your only job was to be a productive member of the team, perform your duties and earn your paycheck?

You, the employee, are also expected to be relatively sheep-like and a bit thick, as your employer is being told that you would do all those things in exchange for a gift card.

To date, wellness programs for the laboring classes have not resulted in lowering premiums. No matter. Corporate officers have been assured by the insurance underwriters that if they would only just push the notion a little harder, coercing employees to be healthier will eventually show positive results.

It can't be just a few employees who embrace the healthy lifestyle program. All the employees have to be on board for cost savings to be realized.

Get ready.

You'll soon be under pressure to sign on with the wellness coach who will be setting up shop near the front door so that the smokers can be kept under watch. As if you don't have enough to do, between commuting, the kids and their schedules, keeping up the house and minding your aging parents, you can add a few classes to the mix.

And it won't just be your boss getting after you. Your fellow workers, who have been promised that their insurance costs will drop if they get everyone to the spin class at noon, will harass you as well. If you smoke, you'll be under pressure to quit. It you eat, you'll be under pressure to eat fruits and vegetables and low-fat items.

It's time to fight for your rights as an adult. Otherwise, you'll always be treated as a recalcitrant child.

I'm going out for a smoke.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Bad, Sorry

The European Union decided to regulate the sugar industry and Ireland lost an historic link.

The sugar beet industry dated back to the early days of the Republic, when Dev decided that sugar production by the Irish Free State was the way to get business moving in the periphery of the island. Sugar beet production became a part of Ireland's story, even after the factory was under the control of Greencore.

Then along came the EU and the last sugar beet processing plant was shuttered in Mallow, devestating not only the workers who turned beets into sweets, but the farmers who grew the beets. Greencore ended up with plenty of cash to compensate them for the inconvenience, while the workers got a pittance.

The Saw Doctors memorialized the loss in this song.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stop Believing You Don't Have To Live In New York

The New York Times has an entire article devoted to literary agents who don't maintain offices in Manhattan.

They're all shocked, absolutely shocked, that they are able to make it in places like....Brooklyn.

All the best writers are in New York City, and some of them are residing in places like....Brooklyn. Some of the major publishing executives reside outside of Manhattan. My, but how things are changing.

The agents believe that e-books are on the rise, which means their commissions are on the down swing. Not as much money to be made in the future with paper-free publishing, and considering the rents it just makes fiscal sense to do business elsewhere.

No one's saying anything about moving to Columbus, Ohio, are they?

The authors are in New York City, especially in places like....Brooklyn, because it's more affordable. Tunica, Mississippi has Brooklyn beat on the affordability scale, but there's no mention of the top writers re-locating to the Deep South.

But there is yet hope for all those other places outside of the five boroughs.

Having moved away from Manhattan, some literary agents have come to see that their clients don't all live within shouting distance. There are computers these days, with web cameras and Skype. There are mobile phones that keep us all in constant contact.

Shocking to discover that the location of the office doesn't matter much any more.

While it's sad to see that literary agents are still so focused on their own back yard that they're missing a great deal of the rest of the world, it's heartening to watch their blinders slip.

For now, if you're serious about writing, you'd want to be living in Prospect Park or an equally trendy, up and coming area. Within another few years, who could say? Manhattan may devolve as the absolute center of the publishing industry. And maybe then, there will be fewer novels published that are set in New York City and feature protagonists in the writing, editing or publishing trades.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More Talk And Still No Action

The Justice for Magdalenes group has been roaring for years, asking that the Irish government do something for the women who were victims of a social engineering program run amock.

And for all those years, their requests have been brushed away by a sweep of words.

The Irish Human Rights Commission has weighed in on the issue, and they have added their voice to a growing outcry.

Women and girls who were locked away and made to work at hard labor without pay should be compensated, according to the IHRC report. The government should make a full and complete investigation into the treatment those same women received, and at the very least, an apology should be issued.

The last time the forgotten Maggies approached the government, seeking inclusion in the redress scheme for victims of the industrial schools, they were told that it was the religious congregations they should be approaching. The Irish government had nothing to do with their incarceration at all.

Except, as it turns out, the State was often complicit in the drive to rid Irish society of illegitimate children and unmarried pregnancies. According to the IHRC report, the State may also have been in violation of its own statutes regarding forced labor, to say nothing of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The IHRC report also calls into question the amount of control the State had over the laundries, given that hundreds of women who died while incarcerated in the Drumcondra facility at High Park were buried without proper death certificates being filed. When the nuns needed the ground, they dug up the bodies and cremated the remains, again all done without going through proper legal channels.

At the moment, the Irish government is struggling to stay solvent. It's doubtful that the Dail can consider any amount of monetary compensation when the cupboard is utterly bare, but it would cost nothing for them to simply say, "We're sorry." And to never let it happen again.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You're Fired, My Son

You've heard of priests being removed from active ministry due to substantiated allegations of sex abuse. It turns out that only His Holiness in Rome can actually kick them out of the priesthood completely.

And not all of them have filed the necessary paperwork.

There must surely be enough trauma involved in the investigation and the court trial and all the rest. Added to the abuser's burden is the requirement that he petition the Pope to be officially de-frocked.

Little wonder that many haven't gotten around to it in a timely fashion. The Chicago Archdiocese, however, has run out of patience with the procrastinators and is doing the work for them...whether they like it or not. Letters are in the mail.

It's not just the pedophiles who are clogging up the works. There are deacons who don't have the time for deaconing and have given up their privileges. A busy man might not bother with official protocol, formally telling the Catholic Church know that he's hung up his stole for good.

Then there are priests removed from active ministry because they got married. They're of the "once a priest always a priest" mindset, while the Archdiocese figures there's a limit to that particular line.

What happens if one of them were to officiate at a wedding? In the eyes of the Church, it's not a valid union. Living in sin? Bringing forth children outside of a Church-sanctioned marriage? That's a one-way ticket to hell.

And it isn't like the average Catholic could be protected from such a scenario unless the Archdiocese goes after the recalcitrant priests. After all, married Episcopalian priests can convert to Catholicism and remain clergyman...with wives. Marriage is a sacrament, after all, and far be it from the Church to make trouble when it wins a point for its side.

Booting out the clerics who believe in a married priesthood is one way to provide cover. Since no one wants the pedophiles to remain priests, the faithful would be all in favor of forced de-frocking without realizing who's getting the axe at the same time.

What has some concerned is the fact that six or seven former priests, convicted of sex abuse crimes, would be released from the retreat house in Mundelein, Illinois. No longer priests, fully laicized, but where would they go? Not to your neighborhood, you're hoping.

Laicizing the perverts would save the Archdiocese some money, but the burden would be shifted to the general public as the ex-priests would be indigent. No job, no job prospects, and no place to lay a weary head. Will they register as sex offenders wherever they end up?

Or will a forgiving Church cut them some slack, keep them under guard at the retreat house, and be satisfied that they'd found a way to slap down the anti-celibacy advocates?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Change In The Air

I sent off a few queries over the weekend, and would have submitted one to Nathan Bransford but he's quit the business.

This time, it wasn't me who sent him packing.

Thinking that Janet Reid at FinePrint Literary Management might be interested, I checked her website for query preferences and was reminded that she once had her own agency. A one-woman operation couldn't make it in today's publishing climate and she joined forces with a bigger firm so that she could survive.

New agents at old agencies are always good for querying, and I sent one off to Bernadette Baker-Baughman. She used to have her own agency as well, but now she's toiling under the auspices of Victoria Sanders.

There are many, many single-agent shops that have merged into larger firms. The overhead is high and one agent can't easily bring in enough revenue to cover the little things like office rent, utility expenses and the like. Even if they work from home, there's always rent to be paid and the phone bill doesn't pay itself.

It could be that all the gloom and doom talk about publishing going the way of the dinosaur (evolving into birds) has me feeling that my chances of getting published have flown out the window. Fewer agents to query, fewer manuscripts being accepted, and fewer published novels appealing to my reading interests.

Time and business adjustments have left me behind.

What more can I do than keep trying? Write another manuscript on a different subject, and hope that the publishers catch up to me at some point?

Giving up doesn't feel right for me. Like the small mammals who scurried around under foot before the mighty beasts were wiped out by their own mass and inefficiency, I can maintain an existence and then burst on the scene when the dust settles, manuscript in hand. And about six others under the bed, waiting to be dusted off.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Going Hungry On Suffolk Street

Restaurants serving organic foods are few and far between. With the shuttering of Nude, it's that much fewer and farther between.

Bono's brother Norman was the owner of the trendsetting cafe in Dublin. The problem is, trends have gone the way of the Celtic Tiger and Nude is no more.

The lime green signage popped up around Dublin as the Irish found more cash in their pockets. Joining the rest of the developed world, they discovered a penchant for fresh food, well prepared. Some even tried vegetarianism and headed to Nude for meat-free meals.

The Tiger is on life support and Mr. Hewson's dining venture has given up its last breath.

No matter how tasty the fare, when you're worried about losing your job you aren't so inclined to pay E8.00 for a bowl of soup with a muffin on the side. An entire can of soup can be had for less, and maybe it's not organic but it fills the belly.

University students flocked to the place, but it's the university crowd that manages to find the cheapest places to eat on a tight budget. Just because they filled the tables doesn't mean they spent enough on food to keep Nude open.

Over the past few years, those same students who might have patronized Nude were on their way abroad, looking for jobs that didn't exist in Ireland. The clientele departed, and not enough tourists arrived to take their place.

The restaurant operated at a loss, running specials at a cut rate to attract clients but losing too much money on the deal to create an uptick.

In the end, there wasn't enough ready cash around for spontaneous purchases of smoothies, organic soups and vegan muffins. Ireland is one of the European Union's problem children, a nation with a tower of debt that threatens to collapse the EU.

As for Mr. Hewson's brother, the band is prospering, with a new U2 album due out in plenty of time for holiday gift-giving. There will likely be a tour to promote the music. Does the band need a food and beverage coordinator, perhaps?

Friday, November 05, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream Productively

I woke up well before the alarm went off.

The words in my head were shaking me awake.

For some time, I've had a sense that the opening chapter of the manuscript I'm currently working on was in need of...something. It didn't feel quite right.

And then there's the whole First Five Pages thing to consider.

There were simply too many names popping up within a four page span, and it's a direct violation of one of Noah Lukeman's key rules. But how to correct the matter?

Did I really need to name characters who'd appear later? It took a long time to realize that I could get by with a description to place their importance in the story without confusing the reader with a long cast of characters.

With that problem solved, I opened up other issues in regard to setting up the conflict that drives the protagonist. Putting in too much back story is forbidden, but some back story is necessary to explain why the man is at the point he's at, a willing participant in a political assassination.

Some of it was in my head as I opened my eyes before sunrise. The words won't let me sleep so there's no other option than to crawl out of a warm bed and sit before a glowing screen, typing new words to replace the old.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Scrooge Lives In San Francisco

Given the gay culture that imbues San Francisco, it comes as no surprise that the city's ruling citizens would ban an item aimed at children.

They're a childless lot, by and large, so they have limited experience with the offspring of the breeding class. Easy enough to wipe out the Happy Meal when you're not the one looking into the tear-moistened eyes of the dejected ones you love more than life itself.

Parents don't know what's good for their children, but a group of elected officials do. So they've banned the distribution of toys with children's meals. It is illegal for any restaurant in San Francisco to include a little lagniappe with the burger and fries.

Restaurants can avoid prosecution by modifying the food to suit the standards of those same elected officials. That means a limit on calories, sugar, fat and what have you. Again, it's because those who reproduce biologically don't have a clue.

While there are some parents who have the strength to say no to a child who's demanding something the parent doesn't want them to have, there are others who want to be best mates, not stern parents. They won't say no, but if the government gives them a sound reason to refuse, why, it's Daddy and Princess both being made to suffer and won't that make their bond stronger.

On the other hand, the restaurant can charge Daddy one penny for the toy that used to be free, and the Happy Meal is back in business.

Will the anti-toy stance have a positive effect on childhood obesity?

It would if the city fathers ordered that the free toy be placed at the top of a steep San Francisco hill, and the child made to walk up to the top for the prezzie. It isn't so much the food the little ones eat as the lack of exercise they receive in a litigious culture where physical education is frowned upon because someone might get hurt and then sue the school.

Banning the Happy Meal is going about things the wrong way. Better if the wise folk who run San Francisco had mandated that restaurants serving children install treadmills so that the kiddies could be forced to run a mile or two to burn off the calories they consumed.

Put the toy on a stick and dangle it under their wee little noses. It's a concept that works with dumb animals.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

November Means Word Counts

Ah yes, November. NaNoWriMo is upon us.

As you sit on the commuter train with your official NaNoWriMo coffee mug, laptop open, your fingers fly across the keyboard. Your novel comes into being in regulated chunks, a set word count goal that you must complete each day or.....lose bragging rights, I suppose.

The notion of sitting down in the month of November to pen a novel got its start in San Francisco. Where else could such a bizarre idea have surfaced?

Participants sign up and set their daily goal, and then set about meeting it. While they work, they can proclaim their status as NaNoWriMo writers with all sorts of goodies, like web badges for decorating social media sites.

What comes out at the end might be treasure, but it's more likely to be trash if the novel even gets finished. Most quit well before the conflict is resolved and the protagonist triumphs.

For those of us who have been writing daily for years, without word count goals because we know how unrealistic a goal it is, the month of December is what counts.

That's when the NaNo authors, thinking they have the next best seller, start flooding the inboxes of literary agents. Literary agents get aggravated, and it's a tsunami of rejections.

If you've worked hard on your manuscript, spent months polishing the writing and revising one chapter after another, you don't want to be the victim of an agent's foul mood. December is no time to be querying.

Sure there's the holiday season at the end of the month, giving you only a couple of weeks to get your manuscript noticed. Those couple of weeks, however, are periods of heavy NaNoWriMo querying and your well-crafted query letter is as likely to go unnoticed as it is to stand out for its quality.

If you're ready to query, it's time to pull the trigger and hit the Send button. Waiting until next month could be a mistake.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Librarians Do It With Words

As a young man, James Klise wrestled with his sexual identity, so he's more than familiar with the misery of bullying in high school.

As a librarian, he used words to express his experiences during a time of intense peer pressure to conform, coupled with a driving urge to fit into acceptable slots.

His debut novel is out from Flux and it's speaking to gay teens everywhere.

Mr. Klise uses fiction to present the problems faced by a fictional young man who we assume is a stand-in for the author himself. And like his own life, he can say that it does get better with time.

So much better that Mr. Klise forgot what it was like to be a gay teen in high school until he took a job as school librarian and the memories came back.

In Love Drugged, the author brings the reader into the head of a gay teen who doesn't want his secret discovered, and it's Mr. Klise's real life experiences providing the air of authenticity that resonates with his readers. But this is a book for young adults and kids today don't want preaching, so the author uses a touch of dark humor to ease the sting of reality.

While Mr. Klise would be happy if his novel helps gay kids deal with the stress of being different, he's hoping that straight kids will find the book informative as well. At least if they develop a better understanding of how hurtful an offhand remark can be to someone not like them, there might be less insult and more consideration.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Terre Haute Is Lovely This Time Of Year

Destitution is a matter of perception in the case of Steven Green.

After bilking his investors of millions, he claimed to be destitute and the government had to pay for a lawyer to represent him at trial.

Convicted of wire fraud, the con man from Winnetka, Illinois would normally be incarcerated at the Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Feds aren't heartless and they try to lock up felons at the facility nearest to home so the family can visit easily. That makes Indiana the best choice for Steven Green.

But Mr. Green would like to jailed in Florida. The weather is so much nicer there, and there's no ghost of Timothy McVeigh flittering along the corridors. Who wants to be locked up in the same place that an American terrorist drew his last breath?

As criminals get no say in the matter, it isn't a question of Mr. Green asking the judge nicely. So he's out to prove that he's actually a Florida resident and the Terre Haute location simply wouldn't do.

After telling some whopping lies to clients who handed over a few million dollars to fund Mr. Green's lavish lifestyle, it's no problem to tell another.

Mr. Green told the Feds that he's a permanent Florida resident, even though he's only just moved to a very plush condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. You wouldn't think that eight weeks at the Portofino Island Resort would constitute permanent residency, but the felon believes he can pull one over on the Feds.

After all, he got them to pay for his attorney and he's not so destitute that he can't pay $2,600 per month for his resort home. Unless, of course, he's stealing that as well.

The taxpayer-funded attorney says it's a reasonable request from Mr. Green and he should be locked up in Florida for the next 78 months. It's up to the Prison Bureau to decide if the convict is to be allowed to play them for fools, or call his bluff.

While they're at it, the Federal Bureau of Prisons might want to know how Mr. Green could also afford to hire Federal Prison Consultants Inc. to send off a report from a psychologist that supports the convict's request for a Florida cell.

Where is the money coming from?

That's what the victims of Steven Green's schemes and theft would like to know. They'd like their money back.