Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Much To Say

If the Irish are great talkers, then the Shinners are the greatest Irish of all.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has admitted to running through his allotment of printer cartridges already, while his fellow Shinners have been proclaimed winners in the all-Dail printing competition.

Sinn Fein TD's are at the top of the heap when it comes to official printing costs, and everyone is wondering what it is that they're printing. It's all supposed to be for official government business, after all, and how many A4 leaflets can one political party produce in any given year?

Aengus O Snodaigh has been dubbed "Wolfe Toner" after running 434 cartridges dry in a two year period.

Clever name, but to hard-pressed Irish taxpayers, it isn't all that funny. Cost of those printer cartridges is estimated at E50,000. That's a lot of money for producing a lot of words in one constituency.

There are calls on Mr. O Snodaigh to reimburse the State for some excessive verbiage creation, but he's insisting that it was all government business and he wasn't printing things for other Shinners.

Opposition leaders are calling for an investigation, but all they have to do is match up paper use to cartridge capacity and determine if there's a correlation. Who knows, but maybe the Shinners were laundering printer cartridges to fund their ongoing war against British oppression in the north. Can someone verify the amount of copy paper used to see if the two items match up?

Unless, of course, they were clever enough to launder reams of paper at the same time. Then you'd have to see if there were tons of leaflets dropped in Dublin South Central.

The people in Mr. O Snodaigh's constituency say they never received enough leaflets to account for all that printing.

Could it be that he's really an aspiring author, sending off submissions to literary agents who require the first fifty pages and a three-page synopsis via snail mail?

That could account for all those printer cartridges, especially if Mr. O Snodaigh is a particularly determined writer who doesn't want anyone to know of his secret yearning to be published.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On The Menu: Cold Shoulder

The Irish are ascendant in Chicago once more.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny could have gone to California as part of his St. Paddy's Day tour of the States. He could have gone to Disney World.

He's going to Chicago.

The Irish Fellowship Club will play host to Ireland's leader on March 16 at a splendid dinner. There will be good food, and of course, there will be speeches.

Chicago's leader of the Catholic Church, however, has declined the invitation. Francis Cardinal George has a previous engagement at a local high school.

Not that he's been to every single dinner in his career as head of the Chicago Archdiocese, but he's been to most of them, and this is the first time he'd have the chance to dine with the man who tore into the Vatican for the sex abuse scandal......oh. Right.

So it's to be a big platter of cold shoulder from Cardinal George to Enda Kenny, to further express the Holy See's displeasure at criticism from a nation that was once under the Church's thumb.

The coldness evolved into a deep freeze when Ireland decided to close its embassy in Vatican City as a cost-cutting move. There is plenty of speculation that Cardinal George is snubbing Mr. Kenny on behalf of his pal, Pope Benedict, who doesn't take kindly to harsh rhetoric about pedophile priests and how the Vatican looked the other way while innocent children were damaged. Shuttering the embassy only served to highlight the tension, as if Ireland slammed its door on the face of the Catholic Church.

Maybe if the Cardinal were to read The Leaven of the Pharisees, he'd get a better understanding of why the Irish people are so infuriated, and why they applauded Mr. Kenny when he laid into the bureaucracy that moved perverts around from parish to parish and then covered up the whole disgusting mess that was left behind.

The Cardinal will be missing from the March 16 dinner, and everyone will notice.

Will Chicago's Catholics really care?

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Readers Than Writers

News flash from HarperCollins! They have determined that there are more readers than there are writers.

Who would have guessed it?

High school English teachers, probably, or those familiar with teen-aged girls and all their angst. But not, apparently, the thinkers at HarperCollins' children's division.

A few years back, the publisher created a web portal for young writers, thinking that it would encourage them to read and to buy HarperCollins products.

Inkpop never did amount to much of anything. HarperCollins has just sold it to Figment, another online writing community that has more members than Inkpop and is willing to pay for Inkpop's 95,000 subscribers.

The sale was precipatated by the realization that the website was a money pit for the publisher, and wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, which is generate revenue.

It isn't just the fact that most of the writing would have something to do with not getting asked to a dance or being ignored by the cool guy or not getting to sit at the popular table in the lunchroom. When you get right down to it, writing is hard work. Just because someone likes to read doesn't mean they'd love to sit alone in a room with a blank piece of paper staring at them, or puzzle over words and paragraphs and narrative arcs.

Reading is entertaining. Writing is a hard slog with little reward at the end.

HarperCollins understands that now. They're going to focus on their readers in the future, and leave the writing portals to others.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Women Writers, Male Historians

To showcase the writing of women, the Folger Shakespeare Library has dedicated an exhibition to female scribes who were active between 1500 through 1700.

Called "Shakespeare's Sisters", the new exhibit is meant to educate us all about the brilliant prose produced by the fair sex, back in the day when life was short and hard. We have to be educated via special exhibit because no one studies this body of work in the normal course of the average education.

You've heard of Shakespeare. Have you ever heard of Susanna Centlivre? She was a star in her day. Why isn't she as well-read as old Willie?

Who decides which authors are worth keeping in current memory and which are to be relegated to the dusty past?


After Ms. Centlivre's plays were performed, and she passed on to her heavenly reward, who would have decided whether or not to put one of her dramas back on the stage? Who would have included her in a course of study?

There's a bias towards men in writing, but it's men who established the education system and confined access to higher learning, for centuries, to men. With a prejudice against the accomplishments of women, they had no incentive to include the great female authors in the studies of literature or history, and so, the ladies became more and more obscure until we're left here thinking that women didn't do much in the literary world back in the day, before the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen broke through.

So teach the children about Shakespeare, but budget a little time for his quill-pals who were just as skilled and just as talented.....only female, rather than one of the guys.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More, More, More And IPG Doesn't Like It

Should you browse Amazon's e-book shelves today, you won't find anything listed that is distributed by Independent Publishers Group.

Amazon sells so many e-books that they won't feel the sting.

How long can IPG hold out? It's 5% of their business that's been excised, which doesn't sound like a critical mass, but even selling isn't exactly a license to print money these days.

What about authors whose books are distributed by IPG?

Up shit creek without a paddle is where you'll find them.

Publishers and distributors negotiate with Amazon in regard to pricing, commissions, and all things profit-related. Amazon, as you'd expect, wants to make as much money as possible by offering books for sale, books that the publisher pays to promote so that more sales are made.

It's the publishers and distributors who have to finance the operation. They take the risk on a manuscript selling, and then pay to market the product and get the product to market. All of that takes money, which is supposed to come from selling the book.

Considering the fact that e-books cost much less to produce, and can be a profit center for the owner, there's greater incentive for one side to seek more to recoup overall costs, and for Amazon to squeeze a few more drops out of IPG.

IPG and Amazon failed to reach a mutually agreeable rate, so the mighty behemoth said, "See yez!" and closed the door.

IPG distributed books are now off the Kindle shelves, until IPG comes to their senses and yields.

Or enough people complain to Amazon that they can't find Best-Seller Du Jour for their Kindle and what is the problem.

What's an author to do?

Is it any wonder that literary agents are, more and more, helping their clients to e-publish on their own? Use a platform like Smashwords and reach Kindles, Nooks, iPads, iPhones, et. al., and the author can have some control over availability.

Amazon would be happier with such a scenario. Then they wouldn't have to deal with distributors trying to maintain their cut. The authors would have to take what Amazon offers, whether it's 70% or 20% or a few pennies for the effort.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enter To Win A Free Book

We're giving away five copies of "Lace Curtain Irish" as a St. Paddy's Day prezzie to fans of Irish fiction.

It couldn't be any easier if we tried.

Click on this link, fill in the blanks, and you're entered.

We'll pick names entirely at random....unless you ask for a copy. Then we may be inclined to send it you to commemorate your boldness.

Off you go.

 A free book that sweeps you into Chicago as the first steel beams were being installed for the World's Columbian Exposition would be the highlight of your year. Delving into the lives that were lived behind white lace curtains is an experience not to be missed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Acceptez-vous Le Mardi Gras?

If you're stuffing yourself with 420 calorie paczki, then yes, you've accepted the Mardi Gras.

For me, it's a Mardi Gras of sending ARCs of Lace Curtain Irish to book reviewers and that means typing up personalized cover letters and signing books and all the rest.

Before long, Newcastlewest Books will (if the webmaster gets it pulled together) have information on how you can get an ARC of your very own, before the book is officially laid down.

Check out the give-aways at Goodreads, where we hope to run a pre-release promotion in which five books will be sent off to some randomly selected participants.

Want to know more about Lace Curtain Irish?

Visit Newcastlewest Books and read the cover blurb, or enjoy the first chapter of a novel that will transport you to the south side of Chicago, where Chicago politics was born.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting His Ginger Up

Keiran Folliard has his ginger up.

And it's all because of Pernod Ricard.

The publican is suing the French drinks firm for infringing on his exclusive rights to the name of a tasty cocktail that he invented and served at his Minnesota pub, The Local. A blend of Jameson whiskey and ginger ale, with a touch of citrus, the beverage was a huge seller, to the point that Mr. Folliard was one of the biggest sellers of Jameson whiskey in the world.

Pernod Ricard took note, and the next thing you know, they're promoting a cocktail called the Big Jameson Ginger. Promotions are designed to increase sales, and Mr. Folliard felt that the multinational corporation was profiting off of his discovery, without a drop of credit to his name.

Mr. Folliard holds the trademark on the "Big Ginger" name, so he sees Pernod Ricard in violation of the law as the conglomerate ruthlessly tramples on his rights. Pernod Ricard's legal team will, of course, point out that they've added a new word, "Jameson", into the mix so it isn't the same name at all, at all.

And as for mixing cocktails, is there really anything new under the sun?

While Mr. Folliard wants Jameson to stop using the name, it's likely that the distiller will fight the battle in court until the promotion has run its course, and then drop the name when it's no longer useful to them.

Look for a settlement somewhere down the road. Slainte!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Amazon's Fair Share

Even though Lace Curtain Irish isn't going to be released until St. Paddy's Day (hoping for the saint's blessing here), the book is already showing up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

So I'm wondering, if I tried to order it, would it ship, or does the distributor realize that we set our lay-down date and we'd like to stick to it, if you please.

But while pondering the infinite there, I noticed a big, big difference in price.

As in full price at Amazon.

While over at, they're passing the publisher's discount on to you, the consumer.

We've found that most of our books are sold through Amazon, which is the place most people think of when it comes to ordering books, or just about anything else, online.

They must realize it as well, because they don't seem to be keen on sharing the discount with their customers. Newcastlewest Books gets the same cut, whether Amazon or BN or your local indie book seller charges full retail or some other price, which means it's Amazon reaping the financial reward.

Being relatively new to the publishing biz, I can't say if that will change as we arrive at our official lay-down date.

Before then, I hope to have the "Look Inside The Book" feature up and running so that potential buyers can thumb through the opening pages and discover how brilliant a writer P. L. O'Sullivan is. And if those buyers choose to navigate over to to make the purchase at a lower price, none of us will be complaining.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Problem Of Big And Fat When Not Greek

Blame it on Nia Vardalos.

She wrote My Big Fat Greek Wedding and celebrated, with sweet humour, her ethnic heritage and all that culture clashes can entail. The film was a hit and Ms. Vardalos became a star.

The title came to mean something, like a bit of shorthand to describe something involving foreign customs that you've never witnessed because you're not Greek or redneck or what-have-you. So when Britain's Channel 4 needed a name for a new television programme, why not go with the tried and true?

Hence, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

The cameras follow Travellers in England, shedding some light into a very secretive culture that exists on the fringes of mainstream society. Few people know much about them, beyond the fact that they live on the side of the road in caravans and move about from place to place----hence the term "Traveller".

The children don't spend time in school because they're not in one town long enough for a term. The adult males work odd jobs, and have a reputation as criminals. To say they're not wanted is putting it mildly.

But still. The general public wants to know what goes on behind the walls of those mobile homes, and Channel 4 has done well with the series that presents the unique style of wedding in the Traveller community.

Big, over-the-top and outrageously expensive, viewers can't get enough of the preparations, the glitz and glamour in the midst of culturally-approved misogyny. There's a second season coming. Advertising for that second season has caused an uproar in the London Travellers Unit.

Channel 4 offers a series that is bigger, fatter and gypsier, playing on the title. The Traveller support group calls it racist, adding to the prejudice and discrimination that the Travellers face already.

So blame it on Nia Vardalos.

It was her clever title that set the ball rolling, started the whole big and fat and 'insert ethnicity here' business.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Success For Free

Newcastlewest Books author Katie Hanrahan gave away one of her books yesterday.

By all accounts, the free download of The Leaven of the Pharisees was a dazzling success. Rising to #10 on the historical fiction list sounds like success to me.

The author doesn't make anything when those hundreds of copies are downloaded, but when you don't have a huge publicity department behind you, it's a lot of free publicity for an author. Rather like the barter system in this deal. Give a book, get noticed. No money changes hands.

Today is the last day for the giveaway. If you want to read about a period in Ireland that was hidden for decades, only to explode in the faces of the Catholic bishops who protected the institution of the Church rather than the most vulnerable believers, you can download a copy of the novel at no charge before midnight, Pacific Time.

You might wonder, as you read it, if the plot has any truth to it. The answer, sadly, is yes. The Leaven of the Pharisees is a well-researched historical novel that drew from the accounts of survivors of the industrial schools and the Magdalene laundries.

Not all historical novels deal with famous people. For the next several hours, and at no charge to yourself, you can read about the lives of the most ordinary among us, whose extraordinary experiences shook the foundation of the Catholic Church and continue to resonate in the halls of the Vatican.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Welcome To The French Revolution

Have the Wild Geese flown back to Ireland?

To listen to Michael D. "Rockin' In The Dail" Higgins, you'd think you were in France circa 1797.

He's a poet, you see, and his ear is keenly sensitive to words. And not only the sound and rhythm, but the meaning. Words like client fall harshly, and he'd like us all to stop using such terms.

It's just that we in business refer to those who come to us for services as clients. Mr. Higgins doesn't like that when it's those in public service referring to, clients? Service users?

In future, it's Citizen!

En garde, St. Vincent de Paul Society.

You aren't serving the public at large. You are serving citizens of the Irish Republic, and you're to call them citizens when you file your lengthy requests for funding. We won't allow the poor to be thought of as ordinary customers of some cold and calculating business. No, we are to use our hearts instead of our heads and call them Citizen.

Citizen Higgins hears "client" and he thinks "bureaucracy". That's what rattles the tympani of a man who knows only academia and never set foot in an ordinary business office.

In spite of Citizen Michael D.'s belief that the poor will be better treated if they are awash in the language of citizenship, those without are still approaching them what's got and asking for a slice of the pie. Them what's got had to work for their piece, and there's always a touch of resentment, whether the asker is a citizen or a client or a pyjama-wearing lazy sot. Changing words doesn't change hearts. It changes the meaning of the word.

Marie Antoinette became a citoyenne, but everyone still recognized her as the Queen of France. If they hadn't, why did they chop off her head?

A citizen with plenty of free time to spend obsessing over minutiae, Ireland's President is now picking nits in language, as if labeling someone a citizen will bring that person a bounty of hand outs from the government.

Oh, sorry. Bring them social justice.

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons! Marchons! to the social protection office and demand your fair share of the diminishing pie as a citizen of Ireland.

But not for too long.

In time, "citizen" will come to mean "pyjama-wearing lazy sot" and then Michael D. will have to find a new word.

How about...client?

Monday, February 13, 2012

When The Clueless Predict Sales

Publishers have an ongoing dilemma.

Before buying a manuscript, they have to figure out if a book will sell. They have no way to determine that except by sitting around a conference table and discussing, as if their past experience is enough of a guide.

In other words, they take a flying leap of faith and hope they don't land short of the mark.

According to the New York Times, publishers are queueing up for the right to buy Amanda Knox's memoir.

As usual, the suits want to know if it will sell and make them money, and how much money, so how much could Ms. Knox be offered, and how bad does the house want it, etc. etc.

Editors dissect the market, the emotion of the reading public, and try to take the temperature of public opinion. Raging fever or cold interest in the experiences of an American college student accused of murder, only to be thoroughly exonerated? Do potential buyers think she killed her roommate, as alleged by Italy's most whacked-out prosecutor, or do they think she got away with murder?

Giuliano Mignini managed to stir up a whirlwind of negative press against Ms. Knox, and the Italian public believed what they read. In the minds of the major publishers, that means the Italian public is still against Ms. Knox, so maybe she wasn't really and truly exonerated.

Where does the Italian public stand?

Ah, la bella figura.

The publishing houses who back off from the auction of Ms. Knox's memoirs may not understand the concept. The Italian public was humiliated on a very public stage when the world saw their prosecutor as an incompetent fool who spun plots out of thin air, and the more bizarre and reprehensible, the better. They'd prefer to say nothing more, to offer no other opinions on the case.

In short, they'd like it to go away.

That doesn't mean they believe that Ms. Knox is guilty of the crime. They just don't want to be reminded of the fact that they stirred up a huge fuss over a complete fabrication.

So could you please not publish Ms. Knox's memoirs and remind everyone all over again about a prosecutor who was convicted of abusing his office and who completely botched the "Monster of Florence" case before that? 

Any publishing house who thinks the American public, and readers in the EU, wouldn't buy the book because the editors are afraid Ms. Knox might actually be guilty are clueless.

They really should get out of New York City more. Maybe pop into some independent book shops in out-of-the-way places and see what real people like to read.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And What About Those In Steerage

Would you like to sit down and enjoy the same meal as the doomed First Class passengers of the Titanic?

Sorry, but you're too late to the party.

Noel Loughnane of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology dreamed up the dinner recreation as a way to raise money for the RNLI Galway lifeboat.

Times being what they are, with so many cuts to so many worthy causes, Mr. Loughnane realized that a fundraiser was essential. As a lecturer in the culinary arts, he also had the creative energy to dream up a remarkably unique theme. Tickets for the March 21st event were priced at E100 each for the eleven course meal (with appropriate wines), and they sold out in days.

Students in period costume will fill the institute's training restaurant with the right atmosphere, while guests will feast on the same bill of fare as those who consumed salmon with mousseline sauce without knowing it was their last meal.

So that's E6,000 for the lifeboat fund. Considering that the vast majority of the First Class passengers made it into lifeboats, however, I might suggest that GMIT expand the night's offering at a reduced price.

Diners could be accomodated in small classrooms, perhaps, to mimic conditions in steerage, where they would feast on whatever swill was dished out to the lower classes. The price of admission would be commensurate with the lack of luxury, naturally, but cram enough bodies into those cubicles and there's untold profits to be realized. The lifeboat station could be subsidized for the next ten years if Mr. Loughnane organized things like a White Star Line executive.

The many steerage passengers who died for lack of a lifeboat would appreciate the gesture.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Mea Culpa With Crossed Fingers

Well played, Cardinal Egan.

A bit of confession is truly good for the soul, isn't it? The man in the red hat has declared that he didn't mean it when he apologized for the sex abuse crisis in his Bridgeport, Connecticut, diocese ten years ago.

For feck's sake, it was just because he had to say it or there'd be such an outcry that he'd never have been elevated to cardinal. We can all understand that level of cynicism among those with ambition.

As the Bishop of Bridgeport, he was brilliant. His parishes needed priests of any sort to minister to the flock, and by God he provided them. How dare anyone criticize his decision to protect the pedophiles and not turn them out for public prosecution. Who'd say the Mass, eh?

What's a few damaged juveniles psyches anyway, as compared to the greater good of protecting the Church's image?

Honestly, what was he supposed to be doing with Laurence Brett, the serial abuser, besides follow orders? Cardinal Egan had his pedophile priests under control, and if Father Brett abused other boys when he was cycled out of Egan's diocese, well, it isn't the bishop's problem when he's gotten rid of a pervert.

When you get right down to it, it's the fault of the press for reporting this stuff. Everyone was happy when the abuse was hidden.

Can't we just get back to pray, pay and obey?

So the apology is officially retracted and Cardinal Egan can bask in the glory of his tenure as the Bishop of Bridgeport. He did so much good. Can't we just sweep all that bad back under the rug like good little sheep?

A Time To Write And A Time To Refrain From Writing

Before Lace Curtain Irish can land in sales catalogues, I have to approve the galley.

That means reading every single word, searching for typos and various other mistakes. I have to read very carefully, word by word, to be sure that pages or sentences or paragraphs weren't missed when the manuscript was transmitted across the Internet and its digital image turned into real paper and ink.

As much as I'd rather be working on the edit of another manuscript, my business partners are counting on me to get the proof-reading done in a timely manner.

Today I won't get a chance to put some fresh words down, to re-work sentences and edit out large chunks of sloppy narrative.

Instead, I'll do my bit so that we can set up our book give-away and send copies off to the book reviewers and the book bloggers who'll have us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Are There Even Any Children In Paris?

To make urbanites even more guilty about their pathetic parenting skills, we now have Pamela Druckerman piling on.

Due to her extensive experience as a mother in Paris, the New York Times journalist has penned an entire book that heaps praise on the French maman while raising an eyebrow at American (that would be New York women) and their horrible offspring.

Her book, Bringing Up Bebe, is a collection of Ms. Druckerman's observations as she compared her maternal instincts to those of the natives. Of course, she found the French to be superior in raising respectful children but that might be because the French are actually parenting, and not trying to be Junior's best mate.

After spending nearly a week in Paris, however, I'm inclined to wonder if there are actually children in the nation's capital.

They weren't in the restaurants, that's for certain. Not once did we see a miniature human being at any one of the bistros or brasseries.

No surprise, of course, that there were no wee little ones at Sunday Mass. If it weren't for the tourists, the churches in Paris would be largely empty.

Not until New Year's Day, as we strolled along the Champs Elysees, did we spy any miniature French people. I'm left to wonder if the Parisians send all their children away to school immediately after birth, to be trained in polite manners and dining etiquette.

Is that the real secret?

Being tough, taking the role of the heavy, is the unpleasant part of parenting. You can't control your children if you're more concerned with them liking you. What better system than to have someone else do the dirty work, while the parents go out for dinner with adult friends or linger over a croissant at Paul?

That's why God invented nuns and the Catholic school system, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No, Ernest Hemingway never said that his home town of Oak Park, Illinois, was a burg of broad lawns and narrow minds.

What might he say of them now that the village is suing a former property owner for failing to make repairs to a home that the Oak Park Fire Department caused?

James Bogard hopped on the real estate investment train just before it derailed. Stuck with an investment property he couldn't flip, he took an offer from a developer and thought he'd gotten out from under without too much damage to his fiscal health.

Alas, the developer bought it for a tear-down and promptly turned the empty house over to the Oak Park Fire Department so that they could use the house for training purposes. The building was coming down anyway, so why not let the firemen get some much needed practice in venting, rescue, and the rest.

Double alas for Mr. Bogard. The deal fell through---after the fire department had put gaping holes in the roof, punched holes in the walls, and filled the place with smoke to replicate a fire.

As proof that no good deed goes unpunished, the Village of Oak Park sued Mr. Bogard, insisting that he as the homeowner had to fix the place up. And not even a letter of thanks from the firemen who reaped the benefit of trashing the place.

The case has been dragging on for the past three years, with Mr. Bogard pointing out the fact that the fire department is at fault for the damage. Shouldn't they have run a quick title search to verify that the developer who gave them access to the house was actually the owner before taking an axe to the roof?

Mr. Bogard is suing the Village, seeking compensation for the damage and a removal of the fines that the Village levied against him for those same damages. He'd like the Village to make good on his losses, which include the inability to rent the house when he couldn't sell it. Considering the fact that the fire department made the structure uninhabitable, it's a fair claim.

Village officials aren't talking, but what can they say after pulling such a bone-headed manuever?

How about, sorry, forget the fines, please go away and stop calling attention to a case of bureacracy run wild. It distracts from the town's elite position as the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Hit The Road, Mac

Writers are able to foster a sense of belief in their readers.

With the right collection of words, an author can make a reader suspend their instincts and inclinations to not believe whatever plot device or character quirk the writer has devised.

If you were on Twitter and found a tweet from @CormacCMcCarthy, you might allow yourself to believe that the reclusive writer had actually gotten himself a Twitter account.

Author Margaret Atwood believed it to be so.

Alas, all good fiction must come to an end, and the fake Cormac McCarthy has hit the road. Michael Crossan, an unpublished writer from bonnie Scotland, admitted that it was him who set up the account and started tweeting.

From the start, the account took off to a degree that Mr. Crossan never expected. He sent one tweet to Ms. Atwood, as Cormac McCarthy, and she excitedly proclaimed to all her followers that Cormac himself was out there in the Twitterverse. Then Twitter's own Jack Dorsey added further support, by proclaiming to the millions that the recluse was on Twitter and doesn't Twitter have all the great authors sending off those short bursts of characters.

All along, it was only Michael Crossan.

Three days into his literary exercise, he was found out and his Twitter feed is no more.

Mr. McCarthy's publisher has stated that the real author of The Road doesn't so much as own a computer. The man doesn't even write short stories, so to believe that he'd be tweeting is a bit ridiculous.

Pity Mr. Crossan hadn't taken a page from the Columbia College professor's on-line masquerade as the fake Rahm Emanuel during the Chicago mayoral race.

At least he played it for laughs.

And got a nice book deal out of his tweets.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Beloved Toys Meet The Disposable Society

The result of said meeting is a fatal collision, in which the beloved toys have lost.

Melissa Nolan is closing her doll shop and hospital because there isn't enough business in Dublin to pay the bills.

It's more than that, you'd expect.

Once upon a time, little girls were given dolls as toys to play with. If they were judged mature enough to exercise great care, they would receive a fanciful confection of porcelain and elaborate costume and real hair. Such items were cherished forever, and brought to the doll hospital for repair.

The closest we have today is the American Girl series, but those pale in comparison.

Girls aren't limited to domestic-themed toys these days. The future women of the world enjoy video games, and they're as likely to be out on the soccer pitch as they are to be found playing house.

Yet there remains a fascination with dolls and all their paraphernalia. Witness the financial success of the American Girl and the Cabbage Patch Kids before that, to say nothing of all things Barbie.

What's particularly sad about the loss of Ms. Nolan's shop is the fact that a doll store has occupied those premises on George's Street since the 1930's. The Great Depression didn't kill it then, but the Great Recession has done its worst.

The Nolans hope to find someplace else to re-open, some other storefront where the rent is in line with the shop's limited income. Surely there will always be a market for dollhouses and miniatures and clothes and a custom-made doll that's like no other in the world.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Business As Usual Isn't A Good Thing In This Instance

Romance authors seeking publication could once try their luck at Dorchester Publishing, a small house that cranked out bodice rippers and, one would assume, turned a profit.

Then things turned sour.

Authors reported missing royalty checks, or not getting paid at all. Dorchester had excuses. There was some shifting in strategy, suggestions of turning entirely to e-books. All along, they insisted they were still a going concern.

How can a publisher be operating when the editorial staff is close to non-existent?

With the departure of Chris Keeslar, there are five people left running Dorchester, a few of whom hold editorial staff positions.

Oh, and there's still a marketing and publicity coordinator. Ms. Hannah Wolfson put out an announcement on the heels of Mr. Keeslar's departure, claiming that it's all "business as usual". The usual, of late, isn't so good, when authors don't get paid. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it's probably fairly accurate.

Dorchester is reorganizing and trying to re-invent itself, searching for a niche that's in need of filling when book sales are down. By the end of February, according to Ms. Wolfson, a plan will be in train.

That plan must not include a blog for the Dorchester community, because it's been put to sleep. Submissions have been closed for some time, but it only makes sense. Who would want to submit to a house that has acquired a reputation of short-changing its authors?

Do not go gentle into that good night, and Dorchester is clearly raging against the dying of the light. The problem is, when the patient is terminal, there's no amount of medicine that can save it.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Shorting The First Communion Money

There's an old phrase that's used to describe someone who acts is if you're crushing the life out of him when you remind him it's his shout at the pub.

He's still holding on to his First Communion money, it's said of the tight-fisted. Never parts with a penny.

Now it's the government's turn to become tight-fisted about the money it doles out for the needy about to make a First Communion or a Confirmation.

Joan Burton is taking a long, hard look at how much the Exchequeur is giving to social welfare recipients to cover the cost of the Big Day.

The State is suffering from empty pockets, and those looking to cut back on expenditures are wondering if the government really needs to give a family E242 to pay for clothes for the kiddies.

In Ireland, the whole Communion/Confirmation business has gotten out of hand, becoming occasions for lavish and over-the-top spending. Fine if you've got the cash, but for those on the dole, it's the taxpayers' cash funding a religious event that wasn't ever meant to resemble a miniature wedding.

Community welfare officers are going to reduce the stipend to E110. It's enough to buy a new set of clothes for the guest of honor, which falls into line with the Church's take on the explosion of expenses related to the religious observance. In other words, quit worrying about putting on a holy show and concentrate on God.

Those with the ready cash, however, will continue to try to out-do one another.

And those at the bottom will complain mightily, that they can't have what someone else has.

Those would be the Sinn Fein supporters.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Reverse Evolution, or, Planet Of The Chimps

You think it's funny, do you?

Those chimps that represent every doofus you've worked with, they make you laugh every year when runs the ad during the Super Bowl game.

Admit you. You are guilty of finding humor.

There are those who aren't so much as chuckling. Maybe it's because their collective heads are lodged firmly up their collective asses.

Chicago's own Lincoln Park Zoo wants Careerbuilder to pull those ads AT ONCE and NEVER RUN THEM AGAIN!!!

The head of the zoo's Fisher Center, home to many primates on display, is beyond upset when he sees the noble chimp used in such a fashion, as an object of ridicule.

In Dr. Steve Ross's mind, showing chimps in suits will make us less likely to want to preserve and protect the species. Using chimps in such a frivolous manner will only result in a further erosion of chimp populations. At least that's what he's gotten out of a study from Duke University that claimed use of chimps in commercials takes away our concern for the fate of chimps in the wild.

Dr. Brian Hare, who led the Duke study, is worried that all those Africans watching the Super Bowl will be led to believe that chimps are in high demand as advertising stars, and they'll all go out and try to capture every last wild chimp.

Those of us who live in the real world, well beyond the boundaries of the Ivory Tower, find that concept almost as funny as the commercials themselves. Desperately poor people in Africa, watching American television? Do they train chimps to pedal bicycles attached to generators to create the electricity to power the 52 in. plasma screen?

The two professors have cited statistics that show the ads are less effective than those that employ scantily clad female humans or cute little jingles, but has found that the ads are highly effective at boosting business and creating brand awareness. They aren't about to drop an ad campaign that's working for them.

So that means the college profs have nothing left but the instillation of guilt, in the hope that the public will feel their outrage and turn on Careerbuilder.

That's not likely to work, either, but it's a whole lot easier to create a tempest in a teapot than to actually put together a public awareness campaign that rides on Careeerbuilder's coat tails. Less troublesome to call for a boycott than to teach the viewing public about the threats to chimp habitat and population, about the realities of wild animals that cannot be turned into household pets.

But then again, these are college professors we're talking about. They're not accustomed to doing the dirty work, like teaching. Isn't that what the T.A.s and instructors are for?