Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Priorities Of A Writer

The first priority of a writer is to write.

That doesn't mean posting to the blog.

Work is pressing these days. My writing time is short. Too short, to the point of being non-existent, but I can't get through the day without putting some words down on paper. I tend to get distracted with the things running through my head and that's really dangerous when I'm driving.

So off I go, to work on a manuscript that was outlined long ago and then sat, unattended.

After that, there's a manuscript to be edited for Newcastlewest Books, a new novel from a new writer that we hope to launch in the autumn.

Too much to do in too little time.

I'll be back to the blog eventually. Somewhere in the world, someone will produce a grand gesture that's worth documenting.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prepare For A Long Weekend

As you pack your bags to jet off to the Hamptons---or more likely as you pour a cold one before heading off to the back yard, you'll want something to read.

To help everyone celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, Newcastlewest Books is offering a coupon for 40% off the price of an e-book that will take you back to another time in a city that hasn't changed all that much.

Navigate yourself over to here and order up a copy of LACE CURTAIN IRISH. Enter coupon code:
and take advantage of a deal that won't last long.

Then sit back with your Kindle or your Nook or your iPad or your smartphone and escape from the kiddies and all thoughts of whipping up a barbecue.

Turn back the clock to a simpler time, when an immigrant girl could dream of making something of herself in a booming city on the edge of the frontier.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creative Refinancing When You're Underwater

Buy a house and you're investing, whether you think along those lines or not.

For many, buying a house during a boom time turned out to be a poor investment. The value on the asset has declined, but the mortgage never keeps pace with those fluctuations.

Michael Farrelly took out a mortgage on his house so that he could buy a building site. Property was booming in Ireland and why not take advantage of a situation? The place was worth 300,000 euro. His son wanted to build a house near the father and the family farm.

The economy took a dive and interest rates edged up, until Mr. Farrelly could no longer meet the required payments for the house in County Westmeath.

Like everyone else facing the same problem, Mr. Farrelly tried to work out an accommodation with the sub-prime lender that turned the screws on him. The lender was not willing to settle for a single payment of 20,000 euro to settle the debt.

So the house went up for auction, a house without running water and no access to the road because Mr. Farrelly owned the land and why would he improve the place he couldn't keep by giving up some of his land for a path?

The house was clearly not worth 300,000 euro. It was essentially worthless, except to someone in the Farrelly family.

Mr. Farrelly's daughter went to the auction and bought the house for 76,000 euro.

Normally, a close family member would not be allowed to bid because it's seen as a way to undercut a lender. Buy something, let it go into foreclosure, and send a relative in to snap up the property at a fraction of the value, and the entire home mortgage industry would collapse through the loophole.

In this case, an isolated house that is only reachable by air could never be sold to anyone. GE Money had little choice but to accept what they could get, which was better than nothing.

They still intend to pursue the balance due with Mr. Farrelly, however.

In the meantime, the house has been kept in the family. The Farrelly clan is happy to put this nightmare behind them.

No one else bid on the property besides Mr. Farrelly's daughter, which was a clear indication to GE Money that it was her offer or nothing.

Keep that in mind if your home is going under the gavel and you can scare away any and all potential investors looking for bargains. Send in a distant cousin or find a rich uncle.

There's always a loophole if you look carefully enough.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do They Know About Shrinkage?

Every man who's jumped into a cold ocean knows about shrinkage.

Look at Barry O'Callaghan.

He took Riverdeep and dove into the warm waters of leveraged financing, gobbling up whales like Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt Brace, until he fashioned a publishing behemoth that become Education Media and Publishing Group HMH Riverdeep Greenwood etc., etc. etc.

Then he swam along, struggling to stay afloat under a crushing weight of debt piled on debt.

The waters turned cold.

State boards of education found that their budgets were being cut in the face of a global financial decline, powered in large part by excessive amounts of debt taken on by home buyers, bankers and governments.

Thus began the shrinkage.

The little minnow that swallowed publishing whales finally choked to death, a demise long predicted by bean counters who simply didn't find enough beans in the pot to feed a large beast.

As part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, what is left of Mr. O'Callaghan's creation listed its assets and debits. HMH, which began its existence as a whale, has become more like a minnow.

Granted, textbook sales have not improved in the past few years, and sales forecasts are not rosy. There still is no money to be found in states strapped to meet the basic needs of the citizens.

What effect might you expect in light of all those synergies that Mr. O'Callaghan realized?

To cut costs, employees were given the sack (sorry, that would be synergies) and those who remained had to do more than one job. Reducing the labor force will eventually take its toll, and the bankruptcy court is putting all that shrinkage on display.

There's only so much one person can do in a work day. Which means there's so much that doesn't get done. A company not doing does not grow. Add in declining demand, and you have an over-sized company that has already pared costs beyond the bone.

Then there was the debt---a massive pile of debt that sucked the life blood out of a firm that could not possibly generate enough capital to meet the demand, even with all those synergies running loose.

The minnow swallowed the whale and died. After the bones are picked over in bankruptcy court, what remains might be sold in bits and pieces.

So you think you're a well-endowed financial guru who earned his chops at Credit Suisse? Cold water always causes shrinkage.

Hiding Behind The Irish

If you were craving bangers or rashers and you were in the Chicago area, you'd head to Winston's.

Owner Mike Winston not only makes Irish sausages, but he runs a little restaurant that serves up Irish cuisine. His business is located in the south suburbs of Chicago, where the Irish-Americans migrated as the old neighborhoods in the city became integrated.

So when a party booked his place for a lunch and said they were a pro-Irish organization, he thought nothing of it. There are plenty who maintain a link to the auld sod and support one cause or another.

On Saturday, as the Chicago cops were preserving order during the NATO summit, a large gang came into the restaurant and went after the very group that had reserved tables for a meeting.

Was the attack connected to the summit? Were they Occupy protestors creating mayhem?

The attackers planned their moves, but they didn't count on the local police stopping one car-load of attackers and arresting them as they fled the scene.

It turns out that a home grown start-up vigilante group from Indiana carried out the attack that did serious damage to Mike Winston's restaurant business.

The group holding the meeting may not have been pro-Irish, but they say they aren't the least bit racist. The attackers say they are against racism and so they beat the racists. How they found out about the meeting at The Ashford House remains to be explained.

You can argue about the right of an anti-racist to physically attack someone they disagree with, and you can debate the racism of the group involved.

What isn't a matter of debate is the ultimate victim in all this.

Mike Winston is just trying to make a living, catering to those who long for a taste of home or who can't afford to travel but would like to see what Irish food is all about.

He not only has to pay to repair physical damage, but he has to repair his restaurant's reputation. Who wants to go out to eat if they fear they'll be whacked on the head with a baseball bat during the appetizer course?

Stop in if you're anywhere near Tinley Park. Support a local business that was caught in the middle of two gangs of eejits.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When You Can't Beat 'Em

Waterstones has either joined up in a brilliant venture or gone over to the dark side.

Depends on how you feel about Amazon.

The brick and mortar book vendor is going to sell the Amazon Kindle in its stores. Perfect when you're looking for a last-minute gift and you can't wait for delivery.

But is Waterstones welcoming in their executioner?

The stores will offer wi-fi access, so a buyer could not only pick up a Kindle but could download a few books, with Waterstones getting a piece of the pie.

Because the buyers are in a store with physical books, it's conceivable that someone could browse the shelves and buy from Amazon, which is already happening, but they could make that purchase through Waterstone, which is currently getting nothing.

Bookstores are increasingly becoming display spaces for Amazon's online selections, but it's no way to run a business if you're planning on paying the rent on your space out of your profits on sales.

By joining up with a company that they cannot beat, Waterstones hopes to get something out of the current practices of the book-buying public.

It's all to the good for Amazon, which lacks a physical presence. Not that such a lack has hurt them, but it does limit growth.

Add to that the fact that Barnes & Noble has teemed with Microsoft to do the same for the Nook and you can see why Amazon would be particularly keen to get into the shops somewhere.

Down the line, however, will Waterstones be consumed by Amazon as the behemoth book seller expands its reach? Is this the first step in Amazon's quest to corner the book market?

First we take England....then we take Berlin...Manhattan's in sight.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not The Best Time To Query Dystel & Goderich

One little mistake made years ago and if you were thinking of querying Miriam Goderich, don't expect an answer.

She's swamped right now, because of a little mistake made years ago.

She signed on a new client back in 1991, an up-and-coming Harvard Law grad who was biracial in a white-bread university. At least it was something positive from a marketing perspective.

The client's father was born in Kenya, but Ms. Goderich slipped up and wrote that her client himself was born in Kenya.

No problem until Barry Obama from Harvard became Barack Obama the President of the US of A, elected in a cloud of controversy over his birth. The old 1991 promotional catalog didn't come up at the time, but it has since resurfaced and the buzz on the Internet is enough to drown out your little query.

Rather than spend time reading letters from potential clients, such as you, Ms. Goderich is busy answering e-mails from every news organization out there, repeating her explanation that she made a mistake and no one ever noticed.

You can bet she's had it with the controversy. She's in a foul mood by this time, and no matter how well polished a query you might want to fire off to her, she can't possibly give it a fair perusal. All this "born in Kenya told you so he's not legally President" rhetoric has put her off her game, distracted her from seriously assessing your plot points.

The storm will blow over soon enough.

American voters are more worried about their jobs and the economy these days than to wonder if Barack Obama was born in Kenya or found in a reed basket along the Chicago River by the Daley clan.

Sit on that query to Miriam Goderich for a couple of weeks.

Don't rush into something that won't end well. You get one chance to ask Ms. Goderich to be your literary agent. Approach her when she's in the right frame of mind.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Bag Too Far

Many a woman has treated her depression through shopping.

Carol Plunkett must be seriously depressed.

102 times, she's been arrested for shopping....and then not paying for the goods.

The Chanel bag was the last straw. She went too far.

Ms. Plunkett lifted a lovely Chanel bag from Brown Thomas, her gloom lifted momentarily by the acquisition of a luxury good that would have cost her 1,990 euro if she'd paid for the thing.

As she was cycling away from the scene of her treatment for depression, a garda noticed that the security tag was still attached to the handbag. Not being a medical man, he didn't realize that Ms. Plunkett was self-medicating. Instead, he thought she had stolen the bag.

When Garda Michael Grine confronted the patient, she pulled out a scissors and tried to demonstrate her illness, but he apparently thought she was trying to stab him rather than engage in self-mutilation.

Try to stab a garda and you're going to get arrested. Ms. Plunkett did not go quietly, but kept right on resisting, to the point that another garda had to restrain her so they could all have a nice ride to the lock-up.

The gardai must not have searched Ms. Plunkett because she managed to cut herself with a razor blade while in a cell. All that did was postpone the inevitable. She was charged with stealing the Chanel bag, her 103rd conviction.

Ms. Plunkett's legal representative says she's getting treatment for depression. At the moment, she's getting two years for theft, and the only treatment she's likely to get will not involve her old therapy of shoplifting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reading Into The Numbers

How often have you gone to get a book, only to end up with one of the classics because the current offerings didn't grab you?

There may be a reason for that, and it's all in the numbers.

A Dartmouth college professor analyzed the literary trends in modern writing, using a formula that counted up the use of certain words, such as "at" or "of" in the books of over 500 authors.

What Daniel Rockmore found was that our modern writers aren't relying so much on the old classics for their style. Instead, they copy the style of each other.

What are those MFA students, in that case? You'd say that they don't spend all their time reading the old stuff. Once they get established as writers, they read what is being published to keep on top of market trends, and the influence of the classics gets further diminished.

Contemporary writers influence other contemporary writers, resulting in a common style that you may not find as rich or fulfilling as a juicy piece of Emily Bronte or F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Author Lionel Shriver suggests that we don't all have the patience for the sort of navel gazing that fill the pages of Dostoevsky and Dumas, therefore those classics go unread and the influence of those authors fades.

But what are we getting instead?

We are swamped with authors bemoaning some personal issue and treating it as if it is of earth-shattering importance. Rather than ponder the implications of injustice, a la Dumas, we find writers delving deep into their own psyches to wrestle their own demons, assuming that the world is fascinated by the struggle or shares the pain.

It's more than subject matter. Sentences have grown shorter and less complex. You might pick up a book and think you've grabbed some YA by mistake, but the content is not for kids.

Like anything else, literature evolves over time.

Like all aspects of evolution, some changes improve survival, while others lead down the road to extinction.

Which way might literature go?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Job Of The Novelist

Gerard Donovan believes it is the novelist's job to write and use the words to pry open the eyes of those who don't want to see.

His fiction is intended to illuminate the dark corners where unpleasantness lies, to encourage readers to exit their comfort zone.

For that reason, the Irish-born author was outraged when a pro-Palestinian group tried to bully him into boycotting the upcoming International Writers Festival in Israel.

The Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign seeks to promote boycotts of all things Israeli, as a way to support the Palestinian cause. Keep in mind that the IRA didn't shy away from using violence, and you'll understand how a group of Irish people can stand shoulder to shoulder with those who think nothing of lobbing missiles into grade schools and homes...who would destroy Israel because its people are Jewish.

As part of their campaign, ISPC spokes-doctor Raymond Deane says he sent Mr. Donovan a letter, urging him to join the boycott and not attend the book fair. In the end, the doctor published an open letter because he says he never heard back and he's a man who wants answers.

At the moment, Mr. Donovan is dealing with cancer from his home in an isolated area in upstate New York. Anyone wishing to contact him need only contact his publisher.

Perhaps Dr. Deane is too busy railing against the Israelis to read Julius Winsome. It's published by Overlook Press.

As a man who believes that writers should not limit their works to boundaries set by others, Mr. Donovan is angry with Dr. Deane and the whole IPSC intimidation tactic. He had to cancel his appearance at the book event due to health concerns, but if he was physically able, he would have gone.

There are those who want to see both sides of an argument. There are those who don't think the Israelis are wrong, but are defending themselves. And in Ireland, there are many who are flat out anti-Semitic but hide behind a the facade of an Israeli boycott to hide their bigotry.

Singer Paul Simon took the heat when he went to South Africa to play with the musicians who were suffering under apartheid. He did more to help the country's artists than anyone who thought they were helping by staying at home, keeping the darkness dark in that corner of unpleasantness.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If We Can Have A Grexit Can We Have A Post-Chase?

Some Mondays feel more Monday-like than others, and here we are.

The wags have already coined a term for Greece leaving the euro. You'll see headlines about a "Grexit" but that's smacking too much of "Brangelina" and other cute word play.

If you're wondering about your own future in the euro zone, it isn't particularly amusing.

But with all this financial stress all around us, we need something to occupy our minds and escape from our worries about borrowing costs and market collapses and who do the Greeks think they are that they're too big to fail and Germany will cave.

What shall we call the abrupt departures that will soon decimate the trading offices of JPMorgan Chase?

Is it time to discuss the "Post-Chase" scene?

After all, the politicians are barking long and loud about the need for regulations, as if a few rules are going to fix things.

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules.

Or at any rate, no one is going to bother following new rules when they weren't concerned with the old ones.

Is it a "steeplechase" out the door in JPMorgan's London branch?

Once powerful traders are soon to be out of a job, but when a person's made millions every year, you don't exactly feel sorry for their troubles. Is anyone really concerned about how Ina Drew will pay the rent now that she's packing up her personal effects and clearing out her office?

Let's all worry about how we are going to meet the next mortgage payment and whether or not there'll be enough left to buy a soup bone from the butcher.

The freshly sacked Ms. Drew is welcome to dinner, but it might be stone soup and if she has a carrot or two, it would be helpful if she brought the vegies along.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The $2 Billion I-Told-You-So

Those who cared about JPMorgan Chase spoke up.

The suits didn't listen.

Because maybe, just maybe, the London Whale would pull it off.

Gamblers have a tendency to believe that the next big score is coming. One more throw of the dice. One more. Another. This one for sure. Until they've used up all their money and there's no getting it back.

According to reports, those who worked at the London branch of JPMorgan Chase, the unit that is credited with losing two billion dollars in bad investments, had complained about Bruno Iksil's activities.

He's heading for a fall, senior banker Bill Winters said, as far back as 2007, but who could hear one voice over the roar of an excited crowd that wanted Mr. Iksil to succeed. There was money for them riding on it, after all.

Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew made somewhere in the vicinity of $14 million thanks to Mr. Iksil's past bets on the market. Why rein in him?

Now Ms. Drew is also in trouble, like a co-conspirator or the chief investment officer who was supposed to be minding the store but was too preoccupied with the contents of her own till to notice that risky investments were being made en masse.

Over all, no one above Mr. Iksil paid much attention to the warnings issued by those in the trenches who could see quite clearly where the bets on risky derivatives were headed. Is there any satisfaction for them now, to say "I told you so" to all those deaf ears?

That "I told you so" is going to resound in the ears of stockholders, who don't like owning shares in a company that's run so poorly. They won't vote to retain a CEO who doesn't know what's going on as billions of dollars are wasted, billions of dollars that could be used for stock dividends to the stockholders.

Ina Drew and Bruno Iksil will likely be fired for incompetence, but will Jamie Dimon survive the coming storm?

It depends on how much time he has before the next stockholder meeting, to dance around the issue, apply patches, and slap a coat of whitewash on the JPMorgan facade.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How To Deal With Austerity

For too long, governments spent money and gave away all sorts of prezzies so that people would vote the politicians back in, year after year.

Now that the bill's come due and the party is over, all those who rode the pig's back have fallen into the muck and how does one return to prosperity when the hand-outs have stopped?

The face of Atkins Ireland, Tom Lyons, found a very clever way to pad his salary, and without having to do much hard work.

The State didn't need so much traffic and transportation advice after the Celtic Tiger expired. The big project that Mr. Lyons was to head in Dublin was put on hold due to austerity measures. So Mr. Lyons took action and opened up his own string of businesses in Limerick City.

What could be more lucrative than a string of brothels?

Mr. Lyons and his partner, Ms. Zelandia Silva of Brazil, were in the world's oldest business, a proposition that brought in enough money to pay for the many apartments that became job sites.

The gardai had been keeping an eye on Mr. Lyons for the past two years, during which time he must have been living rather well for a man whose employer was losing State-sponsored business and cutting back.

But what's a man to do when the source of his capital turns off the spigot?

You have to pay the mortgage. You have to eat.

And there's always the outside chance that a transportation project might be deemed so important that it can't be cut, no matter how austere the government wishes to appear to be. You need a second job that won't interfere with the first. Running a brothel is perfect for the situation Mr. Lyons was in.

Before long, he'll not have to worry about paying his bills, since the State will cover his housing and meals and medical care for the next several years.

After that, he might be able to re-enter the consulting business.

Who wouldn't want to take advice from a man who found a way around the problem? Human trafficking and traffic control---isn't there some sort of link in there?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Man Without A Clue

Every now and then, a character pops up in the real world and you want nothing more than to put him in a story.

He's so perfectly clueless. So blind to what is going on around him.

Imagine writing from his point of view. You could mislead your readers and arrive at a surprise ending that they won't see coming because they were relying on this clueless narrator and the man's blind.

Such a character is Peter Savva.

He's contesting the divorce action brought by his wife which dissolved a thirty-four year marriage.

In Mr. Savva's mind, his wife is clearly out of her mind to want to leave him. He asked the judge to order psychiatric tests of the woman before finalizing the divorce, so sure is the man that his darling could not possibly be sane.

They've slept in separate rooms for the past eight years, but she needs her space and it means nothing of any significance, according to the man who wants to rationalize everything. It isn't the marriage that's broken down, but the missus. She's had a nervous breakdown of some sort, as evidenced by her seeking a divorce.

The judge didn't see that Mrs. Savva had any sort of mental impairment whatsoever. She was merely fed up with her husband, the children were grown and out of the house, and she wanted out as well.

Not one to give up in the face of certain defeat, Mr. Savva has vowed to carry on his quest. He wants a judicial review of England's divorce laws.

The laws make it too easy for a woman unduly influenced by her mother, or her solicitors, and there's the husband left to twist in the wind when he doesn't want to be wife-less.

Now, to put this character into a scene and see where the pen takes him....

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Infected With Poetry

A panel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sat down to determine what will become of books in the future.

Will everything be found in wikis and search engine results?

Some say that the traditional research book, filled with bits of knowledge, is going the way of the telephone book. We're all looking up phone numbers online these days, but if you found a number in Wikipedia, would you trust it?

Or will there be a new platform for the peer-reviewed journal that is reliable like the old-fashioned journal but easily accessed by all who seek information?

Bob Stein thinks that his SocialBook is the future of publishing. Writers and readers, getting together, changing the text, producing a book....sounds like a workshop gone mad, and if you've ever read a heavily workshop-ed manuscript, you know what kind of drivel comes out.

I don't know that I'd do much reading if that was all that was out there. Maybe it's designed more for instructional texts rather than novels.

Are we headed towards a digital future? Many have declared the hard-bound book to be dead, replaced by the e-book. That's not a startling revelation, considering the amount of revenue publishers are receiving from digital sales.

Book Expo America will introduce a new offering this year at its annual get-together, and it's all directed towards self-publishing, which has been revolutionized by the e-book.

Clearly, BEA recognizes that traditional publishing is changing, as the major publishers skew heavily towards what they think are blockbusters. Readers have to go out hunting for their own entertainment, for their preferred niche genre, and e-books are inexpensive. An important consideration when you're taking a chance on an unknown author.

But what else might be considered a book?

How about some DNA?

Christian Bok wrote a poem in DNA and injected it into a bacterium.

So in the future, might we all be infected with poetry? What if we were inoculated to protect us from lethal word combinations or cliches?

It's something to think about. But how would we read what is inside our cells when we've become the book?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Fly Away Home

Four hundred years ago, Rory O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill fled from Ireland and found refuge in France.

Along with the soldiers who followed them into exile, they fought for the country that gave them shelter at a time when England was trying to force everyone into the Anglican fold.

Patrick Sarsfield was one of the Wild Geese who flew from his native land after the Jacobites were defeated. His troops became France's "Irish Brigade", men who distinguished themselves in the countless battles of the Seventeenth Century.

Now it seems that the French are in search of refuge, preparing to take flight from Francois Hollande and his promises of a 75% tax rate.

There are plenty of empty houses in Ireland, erected during the boom years and now abandoned. Finding a new home would be easy.

Any French millionaires who require a safe haven are welcome to move to Ireland.

It's all part of the European Union so travel is as easy as booking a flight on RyanAir. The food isn't so grand as what you might find in Paris, but when you can jet into the city for less than 50 euro, what could be better?

You'd be saving plenty of money on your taxes, as compared to giving up most of what you earn to a gaggle of lazy sots who want the government to give them lots of free stuff that you'd be paying for.

Perhaps M. Hollande didn't take into consideration the ease of movement for residents of the EU when he promised to soak the rich. They've been making noise about going away and keeping their money for their own uses, which might put a crimp in the financial plans going forward.

So come to Ireland.

It's the least the nation can do for residents of the land that took in the Wild Geese. Some tax credits for purchasing foreclosed homes, perhaps? A bonus for moving money into one of Ireland's troubled banks that are in need of further capitalization?

Surely someone sitting in the Dail can get creative, just like they got creative when they dropped the corporate tax rate and brought a windfall to the Exchequer.

France's millionaires are looking for a place to go, just like the Wild Geese. Time for Ireland to return some old favors.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Stop Obsessing And Just Write

How often have you been told to stop checking your e-mail every hour after you've sent out a batch of queries?

You were wasting your time all along, and now there's proof of it.

None other than the University of California at Irvine has tabulated data that shows you've been putting unnecessary stress on yourself with all that obsessing.

Not only that, but if you'd stop logging on so often, you'd be more productive. All that time you waste in scanning the inbox could be better used in writing your next novel or short story. It is a verified fact, so no more excuses.

Take that e-mail vacation that has been recommended by leading experts. Send off the queries and forget about them. Outline a new story. Research a new topic. Put some words down on paper.

Stop obsessing over a literary agent's time schedule and dreaming of one of them asking to read your full manuscript. You are wasting valuable time, and unless you're independently wealthy or don't need to work, you know full well that there isn't enough time for writing to fritter it away.

But you knew all that before, didn't you?

You've lived it, every time you write a new query letter that you hope is more effective than the last. Every time you send out a batch of five and check an hour later in case you happened to catch an agent working on their inbox.

The study reminds me of another one done some time ago, in which scientists "discovered" that women were more likely to engage in sex if they had a few drinks in them.

As if the average man didn't know that, and had known that since alcohol was invented.

Don't obsess. Go write. You'll feel better about yourself, and isn't writing more rewarding than eyeballing a computer screen, waiting for the message to pop up on Outlook?

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Law And The Broken Heart

Madly in love was Matthew Wales.

Like many a man under the influence of hormones, he showered his beloved with gifts. It's the way of males of many species, attempting to lure a female into their lair, pulled along by biological imperatives that modern humans have skewed from procreation to recreation.

It's all about having sex is what it is.

But the female is often fickle. She has her own biological imperatives that again relate to procreation, although the female being the child producer, she looks at a man with a jaded eye and a sparkle of practicality.

At some point, Stella Conlon and Matthew Wales broke it off and he moved out of her flat.

Mr. Wales, being a solicitor, then turned to the law to alleviate the pain of his broken heart.

Sadly, civil law has little recourse for a love affair gone wrong.

He wanted his gifts back, since Ms. Conlon was no longer performing her end of the bargain in regard to the quid pro quo.

However, Ms. Conlon, a legal assistant, was no slouch when it came to wielding the sharp sword of justice.

She said that the lovely ring was given as a token of love. The Rolex watch was a Christmas gift. The oil painting was another gift. Just a bunch of prezzies from one lover to the other, in the way of humankind down through the centuries.

There's the problem, and it's the very point that tripped up Mr. Wales and saw his suit tossed out of court.

Men give gifts to women, and have always given gifts to women they wished to bed. When said woman decides that the man isn't all that, she gets to keep the gifts.

Mr. Wales could have saved himself a great deal of trouble, to say nothing of court costs, if he'd only sat down one afternoon and watched a few episodes of Judge Judy.

With that kind of exposure to the law, the dogs in the street could have told the poor man that he'd gambled on Ms. Conlon's fidelity and lost. He can't get back at her by demanding the return of things he gave her of his own free will.

It doesn't work that way.

One way or another, son, you're going to be paying for sex. It's rooted in our DNA, going back through evolutionary time when sex was all about preservation of the species and females were the ultimate arbiter of which genes were carried on and which were left to grumble over a pint in the local.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Just Enough

He did just enough.

When victims of pedophile priest Brendan Smyth came forward, the future Cardinal Sean Brady did only what he was supposed to do, within the structure set forth by the Catholic Church.

Because of a documentary presented by the BBC quite recently, Cardinal Brady has had to explain his response to the families of abused children who filed complaints.

He took down the data. He told the person within the Church he was supposed to tell.

And that was the end of it.

Never once did Cardinal Brady dream of going to the civil authorities to report instances of sexual assault against children. It wasn't part of the rules he was operating under as a loyal member of the Catholic Church. He'd never have made it to Cardinal if he'd rocked the boat, now, would he?

In 1975, Cardinal Brady was not required by Church authorities to do more than what he did. In his mind, he did enough, adhering to a protocol that he did not question.

Looking back, he admits he was a cog in the machine that deferred to those on high, that maintained the code of silence. That allowed the abuse of children to continue, year after year, decade after decade.

Victims of Father Smyth are calling on Cardinal Brady to resign over his lack of a moral compass. They are of the opinion that, even as long ago as 1975, if anyone was made aware of a pedophile that person would do all they could to stop the abuse. Even if it meant doing more than expected of them.

Now the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, is asking the Cardinal to step down.

There are times when doing just enough is far too little.

It is no excuse to blame one's bishop for not following through.

As children, we learned about the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their beliefs. Now the Irish people are asking Cardinal Brady to sacrifice his career, to follow the same path and demonstrate with clarity that he believes in all those words he's spewed from the pulpit. To atone for his sins of omission by doing penance in the form of a resignation.

The time has come for the clergy to practice what's been preached.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Fraud Or Fact Or Fiction

The lawsuit against Greg Mortenson has been thrown out. Those who thought they were defrauded when they picked up Three Cups of Tea can't get their money back.

It was author and climbing expert Jon Krakauer who exposed the falsehoods that pepper the pages of the memoir. He spoke to those who were involved in the episodes portrayed in the book and discovered a rather different picture emerging.

Three Cups of Deceit laid out the case against Mr. Mortenson, but a judge did not find merit in the complaint. There was no conspiracy to inflate Mr. Mortenson's accomplishments for the sake of bringing him more money.

That does not mean, however, that the book is factually correct.

Mr. Krakauer is waiting to hear from the author himself about the discrepancies and outright lies.

Penguin Group, which published the memoir, claims it will be conducting an investigation into the allegations, but whether that will go forward is debatable. They don't have to return anyone's money, so they have no real incentive to get to the bottom of anything.

The charitable organization that Mr. Mortenson founded to raise funds and build schools in Pakistan removed him as executive director when the memoir seemed more fiction than fact. His inability to keep adequate records in relation to expenses incurred while promoting the Central Asia Institute resulted in a state investigation, which no doubt hurt fundraising among those who wondered exactly where their donations were going.

He will continue to receive a paycheck from CAI, and he will continue to represent the charity. Will he be dogged by the allegations that will trail behind him, or will it all just dry up and blow away?

How much of Three Cups of Tea is fact? How much is fiction? Or is it all a big fraud?

Book buyers will have to decide on their own. The court has left it up to them.

If you're planning on purchasing the Mortenson memoir, however, you might want to pick up the annotated version that Mr. Krakauer composed. Sort of like a study guide to help you navigate through the fiction to find the facts.