Friday, December 28, 2012

A Time Of Renewal

With a new year about to begin, it's time to consider renewal.

Time has a way of erasing a multitude of sins. The days go by and memories fade, and then one day you find yourself miles from where you started. It's like being reborn, as if the past never happened.

The New Year is around the corner. A time of new beginnings and renewals is at hand.

Or, if you're Dessie Ellis, a time to remember those things once forgotten is at hand.

The former volunteer in the Irish Republican Army has been reminded that the British authorities once linked him to fifty killings during The Troubles.

He left his past behind and came to fashion himself as an elected representative from Dublin North-West, a dedicated member of Sinn Fein who once served a sentence for possession of explosive material.

The area he represents is clearly not troubled by the part of his past that clung to Mr. Ellis, or they never would have voted for him. In many parts of Ireland, being an anti-Treaty advocate is a positive thing, even if that Treaty was signed back in 1921.

The partition of Ireland has not yet been relegated to the forgotten past, not will it be any time soon.

When asked, Mr. Ellis declined to comment on recently released reports that painted him as a cold-blooded killer. As would any dedicated nationalist, he scoffs at anything the Brits claim as fact.

A new year, a new beginning.

The accusations will be flung at Mr. Ellis during debates in the Dail, used as a weapon to silence him when he stirs up trouble for Fine Gael. Those opposed to all things Sinn Fein (their socialist policies are hopelessly mired in the past, as if the Soviet Union never fell apart under the weight of it) will cry out against such as Mr. Ellis sitting in the Dail, but those who see Mr. Ellis as a hero, a man of action even if that action was morally wrong, will be quick to vote for him again when next given a chance.

The debates will continue, the latest revelation will fade into the past from whence it came, and the economy will flounder and shudder through another year of austerity and budget cuts, higher taxes and stagnant unemployment.

Some things just won't be changing in the New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reality Does Not End On A Blackout

The last scene of The Sopranos series became the talk of the office the day after it aired.

Was Tony whacked? Was it just an abrupt cut to bring the show to an abrupt end, one that lacked any true closure?

Real life ends for real mobsters in a different way, one that is conclusive and definite. And without a blackout.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was the genuine article, a hit man with a string of murders on his record, along with a long roster of extortion, racketeering and other miscellaneous charges from the world of crime.

He died on Christmas Day, in a jail. Not in a local jail near Chicago, but in a secure facility far away in North Carolina.

His own son testified against him, aware that his father was a bad and dangerous man who needed to be put away forever. That, perhaps, was the abrupt end in the real world for a real mobster. The judge handed down the life sentence, the felon was chained, hauled away and then locked up in a cell until death sets him free.

It's not glamorous. It's not quite so comforting an image as that of a father sitting down to a meal with family. But then again, real life is usually pretty dull stuff.

That's why writers embellish and make things up, to take real life experiences and make them more interesting.

Who would watch a series about a mobster sitting in a cell, waiting to die?

It's boring. Dull viewing. Dull existing. Real punishment, as compared to the artificial world of Tony Soprano.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Way With Words

You'd think that a man who made a living by giving sermons on a weekly basis would have a way with words.

Cardinal Sean Brady does have a certain gift, but it's not the sort of thing that would help fill the pews in the largely empty churches of Ireland.

The government is scheduled to finally tackle the abortion issue, a topic that has been forced on those who were long able to ignore it. When the whole world is looking at you after a woman dies due to complications of a miscarriage, a death that could easily have been avoided with an abortion, you tend to take some action and get out from under the heavy scrutiny.

The matter is one of abortion to save the mother's life. Doctors shouldn't have to wonder if they'll be arrested for performing the medical procedure when it's their opinion that it's necessary.

Yet there is the Cardinal in the pulpit, urging Irish Catholics to march against abortion.

A woman just died when an abortion would have saved her life, yet the prelate is concerned that elected representatives might not craft laws that would provide "...the best possible care and protection to a woman struggling to cope with an unwanted pregnancy or by the deliberate destruction of another human life."

You're thinking that not providing the abortion was a deliberate destruction of Savita Halappaavar's life, but the Church hierarchy doesn't seem to consider a woman's life as having all that much importance in the greater scheme of things.

Better to let a hundred women die than to risk a non-therapeutic abortion taking place on Irish soil. After all, it's only the doctor's word that the woman needed one. What if he's skirting the law, making a claim that isn't true? 

A woman just died for no other reason than the lack of concern for the pregnant woman. Not much of a surprise, if you look back a few years to the horrors of the Magdalene laundries.

Old attitudes and misogynistic practices are not easily erased by those who would fight to keep them firmly in place.

Maybe it's not a way with words, but a dismal lack of musical talent. The Cardinal is sadly tone deaf.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace And Joy

If you're even thinking of sending a query today, or God forbid, tomorrow, you're mad.

The holiday season is a time for peace and joy, good wishes and hope for the future.

So hold off on the queries until next year.

Enjoy the season, and don't end up in the drunk tank this Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Young Adult With Sex

In essence, that is what this hot new genre is.

"New adult" is the old "young adult" but with sex in it.

It's what you once called "adult" but we can't have such a one-size-fits-all category in these modern times. 

According to the savvy publishing reporters at the New York Times, it's all the fault of the publishing houses that we are afflicted with yet another genre. Those same publishers are operating from the theory that they'd hooked future adult readers with the whole Harry Potter series, which got them to read in the first place, and what better way to hold them than to create a new genre?

If the readers who began with Harry were to jump right into standard adult fare, they'd be liable to become lost in the tangles of complex sentences and deep thoughts. They could be disoriented by the situations presented, in which there are no vampires or werewolves or wizards.

And so, they would wander away, to become former readers.

Publishers are always open to anything that sells more books and increases their profits, so if readers want a different label for an existing category, they'll go with it. If that something has demonstrated success in the self-publishing arena, indicating a new trend, then it's a sure bet the big houses will take notice and take action.

The protagonists of new adult books are new adults themselves. Not unlike the majority of low-level workers in the publishing industry, fresh out of college and still filled with ennui. To say nothing of their dreams of financial wealth trickling away, causing much angst.

Clearly, such new adults should not be exposed to books in which the main characters are older than them. How could they relate to such as are not like them?

That isn't what fiction is for anymore.

We don't transition from children's books to teen books to adult books these days.  We don't go looking for more complex writing styles as we mature, believing that we get smarter as we get older and so should our books.

Instead, we exist within our tribes, consuming tales about ourselves (ourselves being publishing interns in New York City struggling to make ends meet and pay off student loans and find love or at least a gratifying sexual relationship).

So there is "New Adult" for the new adults in the world, who don't want to risk reading about some middle-aged woman facing a crisis such as they have never experienced.

Wouldn't want to stretch the mind or expand a horizon. Who's buying that these days?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Don't Give Half A Gift

You're out there doing last minute Christmas shopping or you're sitting there thinking you're done.

Electronic gadgets are all the rage and you have the selection well in hand, ready to wrap, but don't be so quick with the pretty paper and ribbon.

An e-reader or a tablet without content is only half a gift.

Don't be the person giving half a gift.

Load that device with three of the best pieces of historical fiction that you're likely to find.

THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES will introduce your lucky gift recipient to the dark corners of Ireland's recent past, providing them with a compelling story of triumph against a government policy that sought to create perfect citizens from those most helpless.

Don't forget to download A TERRIBLE BEAUTY for those who think they know how Ireland came to be a republic. It's a tale of one family in the business of rebellion, an accounting of their sacrifices and the pain of abandoning morality for a greater good.

Finally, there is LACE CURTAIN IRISH, another novel with an Irish theme but one that is set in Chicago among the diaspora, a stream of people who left their homeland and found success, but at a cost. For so many who were forced by economic pressure to emigrate, this one will resonate.

You can buy these novels up until the very last minute, with downloads taking almost no time.

And when you hand off that e-reader or that tablet, you're giving a real gift that provides entertainment right out of the box.

Don't give half a gift. Add books, at next to no additional cost. Your recipient will be that much more grateful for your consideration.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why The Catholic Hierarchy Is Ignored

So Ireland is a very Catholic country, a stereotype that has been around since England's Henry VIII tried to make them not so Catholic.

The hierarchy, lead by the four bishops of Ireland, have been trying their best to maintain the stereotype, but once the child sex abuse scandal hit, followed by revelations of what really went on in the Magdalene laundries, they've had a time of it.

In fact, they've lost ground, and now they've managed to take even more steps backwards.

The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar made international news, all playing out against a backdrop of that old stereotype of a nation mired in Catholicism. Ms. Halappanavar suffered a miscarriage that led to complications, yet she did not have to die. Because Ireland's abortion laws are more than restrictive, and not entirely clear, a life-saving abortion was denied her.

The outcry in Ireland has forced the hands of the Government to finally do something, to clarify laws and allow doctors to practice medicine as they were trained to do, rather than consult with solicitors or the local priest as to how to treat a patient.

And what do those four bishops say about all this?

"...the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed..." if new legislation is introduced, they have declared.

Under that carefully balanced current law, a woman died who should have lived. But for the bishops of Ireland, that's not a problem. Don't change a thing.

In a statement released before the government has even put legislation together, the bishops are sounding an alarm, warning their parishioners that they should be concerned that their elected representatives are thinking about changing the laws.

They must not realize that their parishioners are more concerned with the backward thinking of the Church hierarchy, and the growing irrelevancy of anything they have to say.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vacations Start Early In Publishing

Not that I'm in that category, but things are quiet in the publishing universe these days.

Christmas is a week away, but there's less twittering going on. Not as much news to be had at Publishers Marketplace, either, which means there's not much dealing. Whatever books needed to be out for the holiday market were put out earlier. Spring business hasn't quite begun.

The proofs for KING OF THE IRISH are in need of proofing, but I'm getting in the publishing holiday spirit instead.

That, and my brothers are taking the day off as well so why not join them?

We're off for our semi-annual (at least that often, but probably more frequent) pub crawl, to toast family and friendship and the remarkable variety of beers that are being produced these days.

If you aren't so lucky, then you might as well curl up with a good book, say, some historical fiction related to all things Irish.

Download an ebook. Order a hard copy. Make it a Newcastlewest Books sort of Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Agent Submission To Amazon

Amazon has been making inroads into publishing by starting up their own house, with former agent Larry Kirschbaum at its head.

It didn't take long for bookstores to declare that they would not stock an Amazon title on their shelves. Why help the competition that threatens to eat you alive? Especially Barnes & Noble, which is going head to head against Amazon online and losing.

The first big release from Amazon Publishing, Penny Marshall's memoirs, did not fare well in hard copy, to the glee of those who need the venture to fail if they are to survive. As anyone in the trade would tell you, getting a book into an actual, physical store is what drives sales. People see it, pick it up, thumb through a few pages. If it isn't there for touching, it's out of sight and out of mind.

As an author, would that not cause you to think twice before your literary agent submitted a manuscript to Amazon Publishing?

Maybe David Shapiro is completely in tune with the online world. He's editing his magazine there, after all.

Now he's written a book, and his agent Paul Lucas has sold Amazon Publishing.

It will make for an interesting marketing campaign, with no bookstores stocking the thing when it's laid down. All the buzz will have to be generated in cyberspace, but can digital experiences match that of picking up a book in a shop and cracking it open to read the first pages?

Thus far, it's all part of a grand experiment, to see which direction publishing will take and if a new competitor can make inroads.

Is Amazon hoping that demand for Mr. Shapiro's tome will force bookstores to stock it, pushed by their clientele who will demand it?

Or is it a case of Amazon outbidding everyone else, and Mr. Lucas taking the bigger payout for his client. After all, if the book goes anywhere, there's a better chance that a major publisher will pick up the next one, and then Mr. Shapiro can walk into his nearest bookstore and see his work sitting on the front table in a place of high traffic.

Mr. Shapiro has a platform to promote his upcoming debut, a large online presence with an audience. Whether or not that will be enough to generate book sales will not be known until it happens. Or doesn't.

Odds are, the losers in the auction for the book are hoping for the latter.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Viewing The World When Your Head Is Lodged Up Your Arse

The time has come for John O'Brien to step down as head of Dalkey Archive Press.

He's been at it a good long time and he feels that a younger person, someone with fresh ideas, should be at the helm of the publishing house best known for its offerings of literary fiction.

He's also a man with a sense of humour, unlike so many others in the publishing industry who are too intellectual and intelligent to get a joke. They've now been reminded that one should, on occasion, remove one's head from one's arse.

The job was posted on the company's website, and an army of the high and mighty flew into a tizzy of outrage. To wit, it said:

    The Press is looking for promising candidates with an appropriate background who: have already demonstrated a strong interest in literary publishing; are very well read in literature in general and Dalkey Archive books in particular; are highly motivated and ambitious; are determined to have a career in publishing and will sacrifice to make that career happen; are willing to start off at a low-level salary and work their way upwards; possess multi-dimensional skills that will be applied to work at the Press; look forward to undergoing a rigorous and challenging probationary period either as an intern or employee; want to work at Dalkey Archive Press doing whatever is required of them to make the Press succeed; do not have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press (family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc.); know how to act and behave in a professional office environment with high standards of performance; and who have a commitment to excellence that can be demonstrated on a day-to-day basis. DO NOT APPLY IF ALL OF THE ABOVE DOES NOT DESCRIBE YOU.

Do not have any other commitments, such as family obligations, Mr. O'Brien quipped. It's funny stuff, the sort of thing that anyone who understands the heavy weight of obligations that come with running a large company or keeping a spot when you've been looking for work for months. Why not have a bit of a giggle over something that gets joked about? thought it was a serious job posting. They took the thing literally.

That's how it is among the literati, thinking they are the smartest kids in the room, thinking deep thoughts.

All while their heads are stuffed up their arses.

Doesn't it sound like Dalkey Archive Press in London would be a grand place to be working? Who wouldn't enjoy being around people who don't take themselves so seriously that they can't see a joke coming straight at them?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nostalgia And The Business Model

Back when dinosaurs roamed the streets of Oak Park, local high school students found their way to a record shop that was tiny, cramped, yet packed with all the music their parents hated.

It was conveniently located near a head shop, to make that part of town almost notorious.

Forty years on, the head shop is long gone and Val Camilletti is struggling to keep her doors open.

Digital music publishing has all but killed the record store, where a kid could hang out, discover some new artist, and expand their horizons beyond the confines of the suburbs.

The 45 is long gone. The CD is almost extinct. As for vinyl, well, that's another story.

Young people who were raised on CDs are discovering the unique sound that comes from a vinyl record. They're buying those old albums, in a nod to nostalgia perhaps, but also to experience music in a different way.

Then there are those who might have visited Val's Halla in their youth and have harbored a desire for some particular LP since those long ago days. If they find that album somewhere, in all its black plastic glory, they snap it up and add it to a collection that is as much a record of their life as any diary.

If you still have a spot in your heart for vinyl, for the old record store and the owner who possessed a wealth of knowledge about bands and music genres, you'd want to help support Ms. Camilletti.

At present, friends are trying to raise funds to help her keep her doors open, to pay the bills and perhaps improve her web presence.

Not everyone can get to Oak Park, Illinois, to browse her inventory. But anyone with a computer can click through a selection that was impressive then, and is extensive now.

Nostalgia among the baby boomers is a growing business, and Ms. Camilletti didn't survive this long without having a good business sense. But there is another aspect to this nostalgia thing, and that is the chance to introduce yet another generation to a sound that they just won't get from those earbuds stuffed into their heads, the sound that requires a turntable and speakers.

It's an experience worth preserving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Britishness Of Northern Ireland

When solicitor Pat Finucane was murdered in Belfast in 1989, the Catholics knew in their hearts that the loyalists had killed him for his stance in support of the IRA hunger strikers. They knew that the loyalists had not acted alone, that the government itself was involved.

They couldn't prove it. The authorities denied it.

Mr. Finucane was simply not British enough to be allowed to live. In fact, he was the antithesis of Britishness in the the north of Ireland, where being Irish is crime enough to see a man killed.

Shot at the dinner table, to be exact, in front of his wife and children, shot by loyalist thugs who were hell bent on preserving the Britishness of their corner of the Empire.

So heinous a scenario as that could not be whitewashed or covered up by "official" statements and assurances at the time. Even after a man was tried and convicted, the Catholics wouldn't let the matter rest.

With a peace agreement in place and the unionists sitting in government with the nationalists, a new investigation was launched and a report has been read by Prime Minister David Cameron.

To the surprise of no one, this newest look into the crime has demonstrated that England colluded with loyalists to murder Pat Finucane, and then they diligently went about the process of hiding what they had done.

They couldn't let someone without the requisite level of Britishness continue to support others like himself, who wanted to end the partition of Ireland and reclaim their Irishness. So those in MI5 who knew the loyalists wanted to murder Mr. Finucane kept their mouths shut. The RUC protected the criminals, going so far as to recruit one of them as a Special Branch agent.

Mr. Cameron has apologized on behalf of his government. Mr. Finucane is still dead. Ministers, officials, or others who might have been involved but are still living remain anonymous and uncharged.

And the loyalists are reduced to rioting over the decision to not fly the Union Jack every day over the City Hall in Belfast.

Maintaining Britishness through brutality hasn't worked in the past. It won't work in the future.

Neither has maintaining Britishness through population mass worked, judging by the latest census figures. The Catholics are nearly equal to the Protestants in number.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Your Mileage May Vary

Every now and then, a literary agent or a publisher will get a query letter from someone who claims to have a great idea for a book.

All they need is someone to write it for them.

That is not how the writing business works. So please don't be confused by the deal that author Wilbur Smith recently struck with his publisher, to crank out his ideas as written by a select group of ghost writers.

Mr. Smith started out writing the old-fashioned way, by coming up with a plot and then putting all his own words down on paper.

As it turned out, his novels struck a chord with the reading public back in 1964, and he went on to sell over 120 million copies of his various books.

When you sell that much of your own work, your publisher is more likely to give you an advance of 15 million pounds for your next batch. And they won't object much if you get that next round out at a faster clip than is humanly possible. That is, if you have to hire other writers to actually put flesh on the bones of the plot you devise.

Despite the hype of NaNoWriMo, a good book is not penned in a month. Two good books can't be written in a year, either, unless more than one writer picks up part of the burden.

It's the formula that's worked for Clive Cussler and James Patterson.

It is not, however, the norm.

So don't read about Mr. Smith's big payday (and trophy wife) and think that you've found the publishing niche of your dreams.

More than rare is an author who has the ability to rise to blockbuster levels, and even rarer is one who can hire a stable of writers to put out best sellers.

And remember, those big names started out as nobodies, toiling away in solitude, hoping that what they wrote would resonate with enough readers to get them another contract for another book.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Spring Release From Newcastlewest Books

Less is more.

Presenting the cover of the upcoming release from Newcastlewest Books.

Simple, elegant. We're thrilled to bits with the artwork.

The novel is a work of art as well. We'll be posting more about it in the coming months, but suffice it to say that it is a work of historical fiction, set in Chicago in the 1890's, and the political shenanigans that went on then are still going on today.

How often can you read a piece of fiction, detailing a story that is over one hundred years old, and find countless connections to the present day?

Chicago politics was corrupt then, and it's still corrupt now.

It's a book that you'll want to read, and give to friends who would like to be enlightened as to what "The Chicago Way" means and how it came to be.

It's a story of the Irish diaspora that settled in the city and took over its government by means not always wholesome.

There will be free books given away but we'll be sure to let you know well in advance.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Literary Catfight

While revenge may be a dish best served cold, getting back at the woman who you blame for your humiliation,is usually done in the heat of the moment.

Publishers will have to decide if they want to enter the literary catfight.

If there's money it, they will.

But would you read the wit and wisdom of "Tampa Kardashian"?

Jill Kelley famously styled herself as an honorary consul worthy of diplomatic immunity when she was named in connection with the David Petraeus adultery scandal.

She has fired off angry letters to the mayor of Tampa, Florida, reflecting her belief that she is an important person who should not be treated with disrespect.

At present, she is pushing a tell-all book to New York publishers, promising to reveal all sorts of juicy scandal about her arch-nemesis, Paula Broadwell. After all, why should Ms. Broadwell reap the benefits of writing a book? Two can play that game.

Perhaps Ms. Kelley is more upset about her personal finances getting an airing when her connections to General Petraeus and other high-level military figures were examined. When you're in arrears on your credit card bills, your husband is a well-paid surgeon and you live in a large home, people talk about you in ways that are not complimentary.

That being the case, it's easy to dismiss her attempt to sell a book as a bid to raise cash to fund her lavish lifestyle.

Sure there are publishers in New York who would buy her manuscript, doctor it and lay it down for a quick buck, but those aren't the sorts of publishers who pay large advances.

Maybe if Ms. Kelley can expose the seedy underbelly of McDill Air Force Base, or present a frightening picture of military readiness to engage in sexual hijinks rather than war, she might have something.

But if her book is nothing more than a literary catfight, there wouldn't be much pressure on the publishers to tussle over an auction. There wouldn't be much interest from the big publishing houses, especially when they'd have to consider legal issues of slander and the like.

So maybe there'll be a new book coming out soon, with Jill Kelley as author.

Then she can check her Amazon numbers against Paula Broadwell's, and the fight can go on.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Disrupting The Disrupted

After Barry O'Callaghan's attempt to create the world's largest educational publisher fell to bits, you'd think that the educational publishing market could be described as disrupted.

It wasn't exactly smooth sailing before he nearly drove Riverdeep, Greenwood, Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt to utter ruin, but the fall-out from his massive debt-financed deal did nothing to calm the waters of educational publishing.

There are still those who believe that there is profit to be made in educational publishing, in spite of ever shrinking school budgets that limit new purchases to few and none.

Joel Klein of News Corps' Amplify unit is one such starry-eyed executive who sees gold where others have found fairy floss.

Like Mr. O'Callaghan, he is convinced that education is crying out for electronic devices and digital content, a niche worth billions.

It sounds lovely, to create a world in which students have tablet devices where now they have dated, rotting textbooks. Imagine the children of America, learning from material that can be updated with a simple download. Where teacher training is a click away.

Mr. Klein intends to drum up sales for Amplify and become the industry leader. Sure the group is losing money now, but once the Federal government starts funding that Race To The Top program, that's when Amplify will turn the corner.

Amplify is going to change education, he says.

Those who once toiled at the publishers that become EMPG have heard that tune sung before, but with a distinct Irish brogue.

Education needs changing, and Mr. Klein has noted the dismal record of achievement that American taxpayers are currently getting for their money.

At present, however, there is no money.

It doesn't matter that the current President has a plan for education reform. The unit of government that approves the use of government funds isn't exactly on board, and there is no stomach for more spending when the national deficit is equal to the nation's gross domestic product. And over-all unfunded debts are equivalent to approximately the wealth of the planet.

As much as Amplify might plan to increase market share, the market is highly competitive with other educational publishers who are all heading towards a digital future.

Whether Amplify will win the race or come in dead last, only time and improvements to economic outlook will tell. If such improvements don't come to pass before Amplify has lost so much money that the Murdoch clan decides it's time to kill the unit, it won't matter how much Mr. Klein wishes to bring order to disruption.

He'll be out of a job.

Like Barry O'Callaghan.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kobo Comes To Ireland

As you'd expect, this deal has come just in time for holiday gift-giving, but isn't that always the case?

Kobo e-readers will now be available at Hughes & Hughes locations across the island. Mostly in Dublin, but it's a smallish sort of island after all.

So if you're wandering around Ennis (that's across the island right there), wondering what to get for a special someone in your life, you could walk into Hughes & Hughes, purchase a Kobo, and download three excellent works of historical fiction in no time.

You wouldn't give an empty e-reader to someone, would you? It's only half a gift without books inside.

If you've hesitated to purchase from Amazon because you support local book sellers, then the Kobo e-reader is for you.

Then there's the Kobo app for your smartphone, which will allow you to download books to a device that is always in hand. Next time you're waiting somewhere, whether it's the kids or a long commute, you'll appreciate the convenience. And with Kobo, you can link to your e-reader so you can pick up in your reading where you left off, wherever you find yourself.

Digital publishing is a growing piece of the market, and partnering with Kobo will give Hughes & Hughes a bit more of a chance to carry on. If they can't sell you a book, they can sell you the reading device and link to your account so that they derive some benefit.

Reading on a tablet device isn't as fulfilling as a physical book, with the feel of the paper and the slippery sheen of the cover, the physical sensation of turning a page, holding your place with a finger and feeling the weight of the pages. But when you're sitting on a train or a bus, it's rather pleasant to have something to read in a smaller form.

Christmas will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Fighting Against The Current

In A Terrible Beauty, author Katie Hanrahan presented a vivid picture of Ireland on the precipice.

Before the Easter Rising of 1916, two sides were manning their respective barricades, to fight for their beliefs.

Those two sides are fighting today, fighting the same battle, almost one hundred years after the world thought that the issues were settled.

Over time, the faction in Northern Ireland that wishes to remain a part of Great Britain has been losing ground. The Empire isn't what it used to be, and the world doesn't look on empires with the same admiration and awe that was visible when Victoria reigned.

Now another blow against loyalism has been struck, and the unionists turned to the streets, to violence and rioting, in a throwback policy meant to show their strength.

It worked for them back in 1914, didn't it? They created themselves an army, ready to take up arms to prevent Home Rule. Except that these days they've got Stormont and Northern Ireland's own assembly doing a bit of governing, putting a little distance between Belfast and London.

The Union Jack doesn't always fly over the government buildings at Stormont, and the Belfast City Council decided that they wouldn't fly the Union Jack over the City Hall on a daily basis either.

The result was a riot by unionists, outraged that a symbol of their power will come down.

Gangs stormed the building, attacking anyone who got in their way. To make their point even more clear, they attacked a Catholic Church in a nationalist area, just to show that they are the lords of the Six Counties and the Catholics shouldn't get any ideas about equality.

The nationalists learned years ago that violence didn't win them any friends in the international community. The unionist politicians recognize that fact as well, which is why they condemned the violence.

There is no sympathy these days for a faction that seeks to suppress religious liberties, that attempts to segregate a group of people because of their faith. Still the loyalists fight to preserve their ever shrinking turf, fighting against a current that is running against them.

The beginning of the fight is laid out in A Terrible Beauty.

As for the end, it's yet to be written, and it looks to be a long way off.

Monday, December 03, 2012

An Apple By Any Other Name Would Not Smell LIke Garlic

What with Ireland being desperate for cash, it's no wonder that the Revenue probe has reached into every possible crevice in search of tax dodgers.

It's also no wonder that anyone who can is trying to dodge their tax burden. For businesses, margins are slim and if it's a question of not paying the government or not paying your employees, it isn't much of a choice.

The employees will notice the empty pay packet. The government, not so much.

Businessmen do get caught, however, and the courts throw fines and custodial sentences at them, but the latest case has raised some legal eyebrows.

Paul Begley runs his family-owned produce firm, the largest in Ireland. Being a savvy man, he noticed that the import duties on apples from China was next to nothing, while the fees for importing garlic were astronomical.

Where to cut costs?

He had the garlic labeled as apples, paid the apple fare, and thought he'd been rather clever.

Not so clever as he needed to be. Mr. Begley was found out, he admitted his guilt, cooperated with the Revenue people, and stood ready to take his punishment.

The judge, apparently more incensed over the fraud than previous such cases, handed down a sentence of six years.

Mr. Begley wasn't trimming expenses during the downturn, unfortunately for him. He was manipulating labels during the boom years, back in 2003, and he called his apples 'garlic' at least four times through 2007.

Even so, the sentence seems a bit harsh.

Mr. Begley certainly thinks so.

He has appealed it, the longest stretch ever given for deceptions such as his, citing the severity that is not in keeping with previous practice.

Whether or not the judiciary panel will have mercy is hard to determine. Things being what they are these days, with weepy tales of grannies facing a frigid winter because their heating allowance must be cut, Mr. Begley may face a steep uphill climb.

The taxpayers are angry, and their mood is not improving with all the talk of austerity budgets and cuts to welfare programs. The politicians will look to appease those voters, in the hope of retaining their comfortable seats in the Dail.

Mr. Begley's time for his crime may become the new normal for the next round of miscreants apprehended for dodging their taxes. Heads on pikes are always good for the business when business is attracting votes.