Monday, March 31, 2014

Careless Indifference

As you sit in your cubicle on this Monday, feeling put upon by a world that forces you into menial labor when you'd be happier writing, take heart in the early career of Brendan Behan.

Not too early, of course. Not all the way back to the beginning when he was an IRA volunteer trying to blow up British things.

Before the storied author became known as a poet, playwright and novelist, he was trying to get by as a house painter. How could such a dull profession compare to what he had known as a younger man? From an early age he was a courier for the IRA, an activity that led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration in a juvenile detention center in England. Following his deportation and return to Ireland, he kept at his nationalist activities and was arrested again, this time for trying to kill a couple of gardai. He served time in the 'Joy for that one.

After being freed, Mr. Behan had to earn a living, but his head was filled with words that needed to be released. Like you, he went to his job but he was not happy. One of his clients, the lighthouse keeper in County Down, fired off a letter of complaint about the painter's slovenly habits and lack of ability, asking that Mr. Behan be fired. 

The man was no painter. He was a writer.

When he realized that, he lit out for Paris to become a writer. He continued to earn his keep by painting houses, writing in his spare time.

The fact is, unless you have a pool of money to draw from, you have to do something to keep a roof over your head, no matter how much literary talent you have. Until you write your own Borstal Boy, and people pay you for writing instead of slogging away at the day job, you have to slog away at the day job.

You could perform your job with careless indifference, like Brendan Behan, but you'll just have to find another equally dull job if you lose the job for behaving like Mr. Behan at the lighthouse. So, nose to the grindstone. Your writing will have to wait until you get home at the end of a long, dull day.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pre-Order THE LIBERTY FLOWER At Half-Price

THE LIBERTY FLOWER, the third novel from Katie Hanrahan, will be available on 15 April, 2014.

So maybe you won't have much money left after paying your taxes on that wretched day.

Yet you would not wish to deprive yourself of the enjoyment of reading a remarkable work of historical fiction, set in the opening decade of the great American experiment that is democracy.
Since the fall of Charles Town, Sarah Mahon has found success as a spy for the partisan militia, until Jack Ashford comes ashore. She soon learns that she cannot judge the enemy by the color of his uniform, because a willing man can be made to change his colors by the right woman. It is a discovery that her rebel father does not share. As she is courted by Lt. Jack Ashford of the Royal Navy, those she thinks are allies actively sabotage the relationship that would take Sarah away from the Low Country she longs to escape. A rash act of rebellion meant to cement an engagement will destroy her plans, but Jack is not so easily discouraged. Even after Sarah marries another to save face, the naval officer will not rest until he has claimed Sarah as his any cost.

Spanning the closing decades of the Eighteenth Century, the novel presents the struggle of a woman to gain a small fragment of freedom in an era of enlightened thinking that did not extend to the ladies. Sarah and Jack are separated by politics over which they have no control, their lives diverging and intersecting as an evolving world order sees them wavering between despair and hope. When Sarah is granted a second chance to realize her dream, she will discover that the yearning of a sixteen-year-old girl is radically altered by life's experiences, and the liberty she has gained after years of struggle may be too precious to abandon.  

Pre-order the digital edition of THE LIBERTY FLOWER at Smashwords now, and save half the price. The cash is probably caught under the sofa cushions, and it won't take much. Invest in hours of reading pleasure today and it will only cost you $1.50.

The sale is good until 14 April, 2014, so you'll want to take advantage of the special price soon, before it's gone.

Use coupon code XU43W at checkout to get the special pre-order price.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A University By Any Other Name Would Teach As Sweet

New name, same education
Friends in Chicago take pride in their town's habit of stubbornly refusing to acknowledge a change in name for structures in which they take pride.

The countless Irish who emigrated and sprouted new roots are the source of that mindset. What is happening at Trinity College Dublin proves it.

Ask a true Chicagoan where the Willis Tower is and they'll look at you as if you're in the wrong city. It's the Sears Tower, if you please, because that's what it was called first and nothing's changed about the structure. A foreign entity came in and bought the naming rights but no one asked the average citizen if they approved the change and so, there is no Willis Tower to be found in the city.

For centuries, the collection of buildings dedicated to third level education has been Trinity College Dublin. From the start, it was a Protestant seat of learning. The Catholics created University College Dublin for the faithful, who once found it difficult to gain entry in an era of blatant discrimination against Catholics in the largely Catholic colony of Great Britain.

Universities need to attract students from a broad background in order to flourish, especially if that university is to crank out graduates who go on to become masters of the universe who then donate generously to their alma mater. Public funds are limited, and if a college wants to erect a new chemistry laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment, that takes donations from the alumni.

Then there is the need to have the best and the brightest on campus, to keep the standards high while still filling slots. Employers often base their decision to hire, or not, on where the student went to school. A university with a stellar, worldwide, reputation is more likely to position its graduates in highly desirable jobs.

Where does TCD fit? It is not one of the world's top schools. It is not the worst, either, but it trails several other schools in Europe, from which it seeks to draw students. The average Irish kid knows how the system works. He or she would rather go someplace with a big name than settle for UCD if their parents can handle the expense. That's not the best way to build a brand.

So TCD is going to re-brand. The administration is, at any rate. The professors aren't buying it.

Officially, it will soon be Trinity College, the University of Dublin. Someone must have thought that had a nice ring to it, like Mansfield College, the University of Oxford. And there's no denying that Oxford is far above TCD in the league tables.

Changing the name won't improve academics or boost funding, but it will annoy the professors who have published (rather than perish) as teachers at Trinity College Dublin. They fear a name change will result in their brilliance getting lost in cyberspace as scholars search "Trinity College, the University of Dublin" and do not find those works published under the old name.

They will not use the new name. The administration can splash it over letterhead and website and wherever, but the rank and file will be TCD forever.

Like the Sears Tower in Chicago. There is no TC, the U of D in Dublin, even if the sign in front says something different.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dystopia Is So 2013

It's over for dystopia
HarperCollins is delighted that the film version of Divergent raked in over fifty million U.S. dollars in its first weekend at the cinema.

The publisher also took note of the smaller haul as compared to a previous young adult dystopian fantasy film. The Hunger Games far outshone Divergent. Reading those cinematic tea leaves, publishers have determined that YA dystopian is yesterday's hit and today's rejection.

The book fair underway in Bologna, Italy, is the place where children's and YA upcoming titles are bandied about. Literary agents attend to gain insight into what the publishers want going forward, so they know what manuscripts will sell in the near future. What it means for you, the writer, is that your perfect manuscript has become worthless if the theme is a future dystopia.

Hence the advice to write what you love, because you don't really know what the publishers will be looking for when your manuscript is ready for public viewing. If you thought to jump on the dystopia bandwagon when The Hunger Games was all the rage, you were already too late.

If you were persistent and stuck with realistic settings for your novel, you're in the right place at the right time. Agents representing YA or children's lit will return from their meetings in Bologna and hunt through the slush for something that suits the anticipated demand. That means authors who wrote what was not popular when they were doing the writing stand to benefit from either foresight or good luck.

Look back to the Harry Potter era and you'll see the same. Wizards were all the rage for a time, but like any other fad, it came and went. The same thing is happening to the fantasy genre, in which the reading public has seen all they care to see about societal collapse and would like something fresh and new. Publishers believe that fresh and new upcoming fad will center on realism.

Chasing trends never works because you can't hope to catch up. Books appearing now were manuscripts two years ago, not following a trend but starting a new one.

So write your passions and fears. Write what resonates with you, and hope that it will resonate with others at some future time, when publishers at the Bologna book fair issue a call for Middle Grade or Young Adult in your literary niche. If you land in the right place at the right time, you're in. If not, you're out. Which means you have to write something else, and try again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The thirteen-year-old daughter of Alicia Guerrero met a boy on Facebook and entered into a relationship that Ms. Guerrero did not try to block because she thought her disparaging remarks would drive her daughter closer to an unacceptable relationship.

Paper covers rock.

The boy turned out to be a 21-year-old man who also proved himself abusive. The daughter ran off with Erick Maya, but begged her mother not to press charges when the girl was finally located and returned home. Yielding to a child, Ms. Guerrero did not have the man arrested, but instead sought a court order of protection against him.

Scissors cuts paper.

There might have been a time when a father would confront the young man in question, perhaps in company with various other adult relatives, and use words or fists to convince said young man that he was wise to stay away. Sadly, there was no father to stand up for the girl. Only her substitute father, the anonymous government with its power to use legal words to sway minds and change behaviors.

Rock dulls scissors.

The courts, being overburdened, did not go after Erick Maya in the same way a biological father would go after any man annoying his daughter. The pieces of paper that came out of the various hearings never quite made their way to Mr. Maya because he was too hard to find. Like when he was in another courtroom, on trial for beating up a different girlfriend. And again, when he was being held in jail pending a deportation hearing. He was released because the County of Cook declared it would no longer cooperate with Federal authorities seeking to deport illegal aliens by holding them in confinement.

Paper covers rock.

Ms. Guerrero moved out of the city and into a suburb, to escape Erick Maya and protect her daughter by putting a wall of distance around her. Society is mobile. Erick Maya found the daughter and tried to resume the relationship under his belief that it was not over until he said it was over. One morning, he walked up to Ms. Guerrero's car as she and her daughter were getting ready to leave for school, and shot the daughter dead.

Erick Maya will soon face trial on a charge of murder. There were many opportunities to stop him, to put him away, but the paper that was supposed to be a shield was too easily penetrated by a couple of bullets.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hearsay Or Testimony

Oral histories are an essential part of preserving history. What better source than those who were there, who can describe their thoughts and emotions?

Oral histories are stories told to someone conducting an interview, usually the person who intends to use the oral histories to compose an overarching story of what happened when.

Researchers at Boston College spoke to those who were involved, in some manner, with The Troubles that plunged Ireland into a world of terror. Those who agreed to share their thoughts and experiences did so with the understanding that what they revealed was being kept in confidence. Only after they died could anyone know what they said.

So when the courts came knocking, asking after the transcripts and recordings, the researchers at Boston College discovered that their assurance of confidentially held no weight. They were not professional journalists allowed to protect a source. They were just a bunch of academics who could not hold back that which the Police Service of Northern Ireland wanted.

They wanted the words so they could prosecute those who were either fighting for freedom or committing a crime, depending on your side of the divide. An American court determined that the PSNI could have the tape-recorded oral histories, and so Ivor Bell was arrested and charged with aiding the murder an innocent Catholic woman who did not toe the IRA line.

So are those oral histories just hearsay? Conducted by a university researcher, could a jury conclude that the oral histories did not follow proper protocol for a police interrogation? Mr. Bell's solicitor would like the judge to think so, but given the flight risk of the average IRA member, Mr. Bell has been denied bail.

Can he receive a fair trial? The Catholics on the jury might not be willing to convict, swayed by centuries of colonial rule and blatant bigotry so ingrained that no trial will ever be perceived as fair. The Protestants on the jury would convict because Mr. Bell was active in the IRA and they'd like to see him hang on a matter of principal.

Then there is the collection of recordings. Could they be considered nothing more than hearsay? The PSNI can conduct voice analysis to prove it is Mr. Bell doing the talking, but is he giving testimony, making a confession, or relaying things he heard someone else say?

When the peace process was concluded at the close of the Twentieth Century, those in jail for political crimes were let go, with the idea that their release was also the letting go of the past. The past, unfortunately, did not quite go away, and the difficult issue of dealing with illegal activities in the name of rebellion will have to be faced.

Friday, March 21, 2014

We'll See How Much Water You Don't Drink

Transforming doesn't quite say it all
They're a thirsty bunch in Castlerea, County Roscommon. They say they haven't had potable drinking water for years.

Irish Water will just see about that.

The town is about to be blessed with water meters.

Not the water they've been asking after all this time. But meters to monitor how much of the water they say they aren't getting is not flowing through the taps.

The water that does arrive in Castlerea homes has to be boiled prior to use, and many people buy bottled water just to be on the safe side. How can you be sure that you've killed what's in it that would kill you?

So they've been paying for their drinking water all along. It's just the profit doesn't go to Irish Water, but to the shops and the bottlers. On top of that cost, the residents will now have to pay for the polluted water they use to flush their toilets and wash their clothes.

Not exactly the best way to promote water conservation via metering to make people aware of how much they use, and to encourage them to save money by being water-aware. They're aware of the water in County Roscommon. Very aware. But not in the same way as Irish Water.

Repairs are in the works, it's being said, and the folks will be able to drink the water by Christmas.

In the meantime, the meters are going in and it's not quite April. Funny, that. They can install an entire system of meters but they can't fix what's broken in the water delivery system.

Irish Water is proud of the progess they are making in getting water meters installed in every Irish home. No easy task, considering the animosity towards the metering program. That's how it goes. When people are getting something for free, they resent having to pay for it later. Especially when what they're paying for isn't safe and they have to pay for expensive bottled water on top of the newly introduced fees.

Irish Water could reduce usage by repairing all the leaks in the system, which is a large part of perceived usage. All the meters in Ireland won't help that, but it will point out to taxpayers how much of a valuable resource is wasted because Irish Water can't afford to fix the pipes.

Neither can Irish Water manage to provide water.

But it can find a way to charge for that water. So at least there's some progress being made.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Buy A Lower Tax Rate

Why pay 35% when you can lower that tax rate to 20% or less?

If you're a corporate executive, that's not a question you want the board of directors asking after you've finished your PowerPoint presentation on profit and loss for the annum.

Why not buy into Ireland?

Why not, indeed. Ireland welcomes you. Cead mile failte and if you could see your way to bringing a job or two, it'd be grand, so.

Passion to cut corporate expenses
Horizon Pharma, based in the States, is buying up a similar pharmaceutical firm in Ireland. And they're not shy about the reason. They want a presence in Ireland to take advantage of the lower corporate tax rate. Headquarters will remain in Deerfield, Illinois, a quiet suburb north of Chicago. For taxing purposes, the new entity that combines Horizon with Vidara Therapeutics, will exist in Ireland.

It's all to the good for Ireland, which is counting on CEO Tim Walbert to realize his plan to expand the firm's product offerings. That has the potential to bring in new jobs at the Vidara plant, and jobs are desperately needed. The country would rather accept a smaller slice of corporate profits if it can boost job growth instead, taking a longer term outlook at the benefits and costs of the tax policy.

If Ireland can outcompete on labor costs as well, it would be sound fiscal policy for Horizon Pharma Plc to make more medicines in Irish factories. Again, the return on investing that is this reduced tax rate results in more people working, and the more people finding jobs, the better the chances that Fine Gael can retain power. Why change things to suit the demands of foreign countries like France?

As for Horizon, the company can take the money they don't pay in corporate tax and buy up other companies or other products to further expand their portfolio of drugs. More medicines yields more profits and more profits are invested again and then the stock price goes up. Basic business strategy, and one that Ireland takes advantage of. Hence the nation's stubborn commitment to a low corporate tax rate.

Not that the United States can make too much noise about the issue. There is still no American ambassador in Dublin, over a year after the last one stepped down.

You'd think they didn't care about American firms finding ways to avoid paying American taxes by turning to Irish tax havens. They don't have anyone nearby to voice a complaint.

Hip-Hop To The County Jail

The State of Illinois is always happy when a Hollywood production comes to town. Locals get jobs on the set, and their wages feed funds into the union coffers which then are spilled into campaign coffers and so the world spins around.

Note to said production companies and staff: When filming in Cook County Jail, do not bring drugs with you. And if you have a warrant out for your arrest, it is likely to be acted on and you may not walk out as easily as you walked in.

FYI. For next time.

Lee Daniels of THE BUTLER fame is in Chicago these days to film his new hip-hop themed drama. Hip-hop being what it is, he had to bring his crew to the jail to film some scenes for EMPIRE, which will air on Fox.

The jail being what it is, every single person who Mr. Daniels brought to the set had to be thoroughly investigated and searched. It's not like they were walking onto a soundstage or something. They were working at a real, functioning prison with real, incarcerated criminals who would very much like to get their hands on some contraband. This would include marijuana, for personal consumption or trade.

One crewmember drove in and did not realize that the marijuana in his car could get him in trouble. With all this talk of legalizing the drug, and with weed essentially legal in California, it's easy to see how such a mistake could have been made. The gentleman was promptly arrested for possession, and can't you just imagine the disruption to the shooting schedule that he caused? Time is money, people, and losing a worker does nothing but cost the production company money.

The smoker was later released, which suggests he was holding a very small amount of pot. A recent change in the law lets the cops give someone a ticket rather than jail time, which helps County Jail keep down the inmate population while gaining some much needed funding.

As for the outstanding warrant, that particular employee may have thought the domestic battery charge was long forgotten. It had been over ten years since he failed to show up for court-ordered supervision. Ten years since a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He probably forgot it himself. It isn't as if a small, local police force is going to make a lot of effort to track down someone on a relatively minor charge.

But when you're trying to enter the jail, for work-related issues, you should be advised that all those past indiscretions crop up. Everything is tied together on the world's computers these days. So if you have an outstanding warrant, you'll be arrested.

And he was. Arrested. Which meant the production crew was shorthanded with no hope of replacing the crewmember without experiencing an expensive delay.

The State of Illinois hopes very much that Mr. Daniels understands, and won't go tell his Hollywood friends that the area is unwelcoming to the film industry. The high costs of doing business in Illinois already say that loudly. No need to add another decibel.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ten Years For Getting The Genre Wrong

There have been memoirs touted as genuine recollections that turned out to be fiction. The authors were torn from their best-selling pedestals for the crime, but no jail time was assessed.

Such is not the case for best-selling author Kevin Trudeau. If only he'd penned his books as memoirs instead of non-fiction self-help tomes. He wouldn't be looking at ten years in prison.

The author wrote a book and then went on a book tour, in a way. He ran infomercials to push his book, sort of like those authors who get themselves interviewed on whatever television program will have them. So Mr. Trudeau did his own television show and interviewed himself. Can't that be considered the equivalent of self-publishing?

As it turned out, what he said on his infomercial was compelling fiction. That, as it turned out, is illegal, but only because he failed to use the proper label for the genre in which he was writing. His books should have been shelved with the fiction titles, where the public knows the contents are made up. Instead, he made the mistake of classifying his books as a collection of facts.

And now he'll have ten years behind bars to contemplate the error of his writing ways.

Prior to sentencing, he told the judge he was a reformed man and would never make such a mistake again. No more fiction masquerading as non-fiction. But when a man's spent his writing career doing just the opposite, it's near impossible for the judge to believe him.

That, and the fact that the author made a fortune off his novels marketed as non-fiction, only to claim he was flat broke when the government won a judgment against him for fraud and false advertising. No one believes him on that score either. His talent for writing believable fiction, then, has found its limit.

Mr. Trudeau is free to write another book while incarcerated, but whether or not he can attract a publisher is questionable. While he has a strong platform right now, being so much in the spotlight, he'll be largely forgotten after he's served his time. However, he's proven to be quite the pitchman and if he can maintain his scamming skills, he just might be able to sell his manuscript.

He'd be wise to promote it as a memoir rather than a self-help book for those about to imprisoned. The publishing world is more forgiving of liars when it comes to memoir than the Federal Government is towards fraudsters and cheats. Having your book pulled from circulation and pulped isn't anywhere near as severe as ten years in the pen(itentiary).

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm The Train They Call The Writer's Retreat

You've heard of the writer residency, in which an author gets an office and lodging at some prestigious university. There are places like Ragdale in Chicago's northern suburb of Lake Forest, where a select few get to stay in an historic home and just spend their residency days writing.

Think of it as a writer's vacation from an everyday existence with its laundry to wash, dogs to walk and dinner to prepare. None of those mundane chores figure in to a writer's retreat. Just the words. Just the creation of new literary works.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."
In an effort to boost train travel, Amtrak is now offering a writer residency on a moving train. How that would boost travel is unclear, unless the agency plans to offer as many residencies as needed to fill a given train. They advertise 24 residencies that must be applied for, but who knows what they'll do after they get the program established. And is it 24 writers per train route, times 52 trains per year? We all know that writers looking to break into the industry will pay all kinds of money for the chance to hone their craft, and what better place than a sleeper car filled with like-minded individuals. Think of the beta readers you could snag between Chicago and Los Angeles. The program has potential.

Would you be more creative if you were looking out a large window at central Indiana flying by? Or would you find inspiration crossing Iowa on your way west? Would wifi access be as big a distraction as it is at home, or could you turn out the modern world while enclosed in an older form of transportation?

With meal service, a bed and outlets for your electronic gadgets, it would be like sitting in a mobile office where you could lose yourself inside your head for up to five days. Long enough to get the bones of a novel shaken out of your skull.

What Amtrak would like is a corps of writers who can boast of an army of Twitter followers. Said writers then tweet as they travel, extolling the glories of train travel, and their followers get the urge and the next thing you know we're all going by train. Why else does the application ask for your Twitter name, rather than a sample of your past work?

Of course, if the writer is busy tweeting then they aren't working on their manuscript, which is counterproductive when you're at a retreat, but there's nothing free. That sleeper compartment comes at a cost that isn't financial.

If you don't have the time for a full excursion, you can always land a job at some distance from your home and imitate Scott Turow. He wrote his first novel on the Metra train running from Glencoe to Chicago. And he had to pay for his ticket.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Job Opening: Comes With Official Residence

Since Dan Rooney stepped down and left Dublin, there has been no American ambassador residing in the Phoenix Park. It's a nice house, really. Quite large. Historic, in fact. Suited to entertaining large parties.

This could be your new home

What with An Taoiseach in Washington, D.C., for St. Patrick's festivities, you'd think that President Obama might have thought to give Mr. Kenny the gift of an ambassador in exchange for the lovely bowl of shamrock. That, however, did not happen. And after the warm welcome Mr. Obama received when he called in at Moneygall on his genealogy tour, you'd think there was some reciprocating due.

It's not there haven't been names put forward. Apparently the right name has yet to pop up on the Presidential radar.

Being an ambassador is an expensive proposition, which is why ambassadors are traditionally very well off. There is no end to the entertaining, which requires the ambassador to dip into his own pockets because the budget doesn't come close to meeting expenses.

Of late, it seems as if one of the key requirements for the post has been the financial wherewithall to make an enormous donation to the President's fundraising efforts, but once you've ponied up, would you have enough left over for the expensive social circuit in Dublin?

So the job is open, if you're keen to live in Dublin for the next couple of years. It's a lovely place, really, in spite of the climate which won't suit if you're accustomed to Southern California. More of a place for walking or hill-climbing, and the wearing of wool clothing to keep out the damp. But there is a thriving tech scene, aligned with Silicon Valley, and more than a few pharmaceutical manufacturers call Ireland home.

There is that whole tax haven issue, of course, which means you'd have to diplomatically press for an end to Ireland's low corporate tax rate while being diplomatically told to lower your own. All in all, it's just a lot of parties and speeches about how sad you are that the peace process in the Six Counties (that would be Northern Ireland when you're speaking to the unionists) has stalled after so much progress. Not at all difficult for the right personality, and with that grand pile to call home, you can't complain about the benefits.

An easy job, an expensive job, and a largely thankless job. But it comes with a very posh residence and if you're fond of golf Ireland is a great place to spend some time.

Applications are being taken at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. But don't expect a quick reply. It's been fifteen months that the post has been open, with no clear sign of its being filled any time soon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thank You For Entering

The giveaway has ended with over 1,000 readers hoping to obtain a pre-release copy of THE LIBERTY FLOWER.

Sadly, we have only 15 books, which will be on their way to the lucky recipients before the weekend ends and we're all busy celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

So thanks a million to everyone who entered the contest.

If you didn't win, you can pre-order the digital edtion at Smashwords and have a copy of THE LIBERTY FLOWER the minute it lands. There's always the usual places for hardcover copies, of course, and if your local shop isn't carrying a copy, please be sure to ask for one.

For the 15, watch the post as you'll be receiving a little gift from Newcastlewest Books very soon.

Thanks you all again. The interest in our books tells us that we're publishing the stories people want to read. Our readers inspire us.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free Book Giveaway Ends Soon

Would you like one?

One of fifteen copies of THE LIBERTY FLOWER, ready to leap from the box and into your book-loving hands?

The free book giveaway at Goodreads will be ending soon. On Friday, to be exact. And then you'll just have to buy a copy, which I wouldn't mind at all. The e-book will be available on April 15, when the book is laid down, if you can't manage the full price on the hardcopy.

Ready to give it a try? Go HERE and take your chance on a free book. Go HERE to read the opening pages if you want to know how a tale of love in the time of revolution gets started. Just go, now. Go on. Go on. You know you want to read Katie Hanrahan's third novel because she is such a talented writer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Small Nation That Could Never Be Got To Accept Defeat

So said Eamonn de Valera after Winston Churchill's long whinge about Ireland's neutrality during the Second World War. Which the Irish called "The Emergency", so clearly there were differences of opinion.

Ireland's first Taoiseach called out his British counterpart by giving a brief lesson in Irish history. The island nation had been beaten down by English rule for centuries, but it never gave up. Never accepted defeat.

You could say that this abiding principle is what is motivating Irish developer Garrett Kelleher to rise up from the depths of financial disaster, beaten down by his creditors, but determined as ever to build that feckin' Spire.
The Spire Will Rise...Maybe...Possibly
In 2008, when Mr. Kelleher first announced plans to build the tallest skyscraper in North America, he obtained financing from Anglo Irish Bank. Plenty of other developers with big dreams also dipped into Anglo's coffers, and when the property bubble burst, Anglo went down. The Irish State ended up with the past due loans, which it then sold on the cheap in an effort to reclaim something for the Irish taxpayer.

The Spire project debt ended up in the hands of Related Midwest, a developer with an interest in doing the Spire deal, but under their control. As it turns out, Mr. Kelleher's Shelbourne Development was forced into bankruptcy by Related as part of that effort, but Mr. Kelleher still has a few of his stubborn Irish fingers in the pot and is doing his best to get himself some financing to push out Related, bring in an ally, and still make a little money out of what looked like a lost cause.

The ability of the Irish developer to get his Spire project moving again will depend on the ruling of a bankruptcy judge in Chicago.

If Shelbourne Development can reorganize its debt, a judge may be willing to allow the Kelleher plan to go forward, leaving Related to accept a debt payment they don't really want. What they want is the prime site, with the future potential to rake in massive amounts of money from rentals on flats so unique they are beyond luxurious. Starchitect Santiago Calatrava designed every little thing, down to the pulls on the doors, and with the demand for housing on the rise in Chicago's downtown area, Related could command some very high prices. So naturally Related is calling Mr. Kelleher's proposal a fool's errand that won't work because the financing won't be there as claimed, etc., etc.

A small nation that could never be got to accept's an adage that could well describe the stubborn Irish people. A little bankruptcy certainly is not enough to get Garrett Kelleher to abandon his plan to build a 150-storey building on Chicago's lakefront. The machinations of a big firm based in New York City is as nothing compared to centuries of British colonial rule.

Monday, March 10, 2014

An Expensive Analysis Of A Train Wreck

Secretly, you're hooked on Teen Mom 2 and more than once you've taken in the doings of the Kardashian klan. Admit it. We're only human, and we are fascinated by train wrecks.

Not $5 million worth of fascination, however. No more than $1 million for one particular disaster crafted by human hands and human foibles.

Literary agent Scott Waxman thought that Lindsay Lohan's train wreck of a life was worth an enormous amount of money. He signed on the troubled actress and made the rounds of the publishing houses, looking for someone willing to pay that enormous sum for the opportunity to publish an analysis of that wreck and how it came to be.

Only HarperCollins was willing to pay the reduced rate of $1 million for Ms. Lohan's memoirs, partially based on her personal diary penned during a recent stint in rehab. So you might say she's not exactly the most interesting woman in the world.

Publishers want to know that they'll earn back what they invest in an author, and it would be highly unlikely that the memoir would generate all that much profit. Ms. Lohan's incursions into rehab are old news, considering how quickly news comes and goes in the modern, speed of cyberspace, world. At this point, do enough people care to learn how she reached the bottom, after reading all about it in the tabloids? Apparently not. Hence, the heavily discounted sell price.

With a contract in hand, Mr. Waxman will put Ms. Lohan together with a ghostwriter because that's the only way this book will actually get written in a form ready for publication. The publicity machine is already in gear, with various teases appearing. Ms. Lohan will be interviewed by her mother on the Oprah network, you might have heard, and there's a clip of the Oprah commenting on the failed rehab with an "I-told-you-so" comment ready for quoting. Tell me more. Show the collision in slow motion.

A sturdy platform indeed for the former child star turned alcoholic druggie, and one that Mr. Waxman will use to the limit. As long as his client stays clean and sober, she'll be put to work making the rounds of all the talk shows that will have her, pushing her book in every venue where those who are fascinated by train wrecks are likely to gather.

If she falls from grace, even that can be used to promote the memoir. And don't discount the analysis that television psychiatrists and so-called experts can provide in such a case, with the memoir serving as a starting point for further analysis of how a person could go wrong.

As for HarperCollins, they will "encourage" Mr. Waxman to ensure that his client produces what was promised, beyond the few sketchy pages that were the basis of the offer. The publisher wants all the juicy detail to entice the buying public to buy, and if Ms. Lohan has to bare her soul or throw her parents under the oncoming train, that's the price to paid for a six-figure publishing contract. HarperCollins isn't coming up with that much cash for an examination of a minor fender-bender.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Premise Is Dead

You don't know who is tweeting when you follow a tweeter. Say you're a regular reader of someone claiming to be an insider in a literary agency, hoping for tidbits of knowledge about the publishing game---or 140 character comments that reveal the ruthless side of publishing with a touch of humour.

In a similar vein, a lot of people were following someone who claimed to be working at Goldman Sachs, and who wouldn't like to know what the big money men are up to?

The writer who styled himself @GSElevator collected a large coterie of followers, which is enough to get anyone noticed by a literary agent like Byrd Leavell. It's all about the platform, and when you can claim thousands of fans, it's a naturally occurring market to be tapped. Sure it helps that the writing was witty, and reflected a talent for observation. At any rate, @GSElevator ended up with an agent and a contract to turn his series of tweets into a full book.

And then the power of Goldman Sachs put out a hit on the tweeter and it was revealed that @GSElevator didn't even work at Goldman Sachs, which meant all the tweets were pure fiction. While John LeFevre is now saying that the outing was all part of his overall marketing plan, he is either spinning or stumbling over the unintended consequences he did not anticipate.

Mr. LeFevre works for Citibank so he does indeed know about the world he passed off as elevator gossip. But it was sold as Goldman Sachs gossip, and sold as non-fiction. His outing killed off his premise. With the premise dead, his book deal was snuffed out as well.

Touchstone was going to publish his book, and now they are not.

They might be worried about legal challenges or libel suits or such, what with this work of fiction having its origins in a Twitter feed that was not sold as non-fiction. More likely that Touchstone is now worried about sales because what they thought they would be selling no longer exists.

Subtle satire is fine but it's tough to sell satire after the fact.And it's even tougher to promote a book not written by a Goldman Sachs insider when the twitter feed was quite the opposite premise. Mr. LeFevre says his book was meant to cast light on Wall Street finagling, but in a more lighthearted and readable style, which is commendable. However, his publisher was sold a bill of goods that did not live up to the hype. Think mortgage loan derivatives and you can see why Touchstone thought better of their initial offer. They didn't want to get stuck holding some worthless books that did not sell because the premise behind the original purchase was no longer valid.

The publisher has returned the manuscript and literary agent Byrd Leavell will now have to find some other publisher willing to take a different look at a book that cannot be marketed as was originally planned. Instead of playing up the Goldman Sachs elevator tweets, the agent will have to sell the manuscript for what Mr. LeFevre now says it is, an inside view of Wall Street banking in general.

The premise of the book is dead but a different publisher might be willing to try to revive the manuscript by replacing the marketing angle. That other publisher, however, might not be willing to pay what Touchstone was willing to pay the author. That's the price of the unintended consequence, or the cost of a deception that was unmasked at the wrong time.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Not The Example Of Fact-Checking That A News Organization Is Looking For

Not an acutal picture of the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
The ratings have been dropping at CNN and the once proud news network is turning to special programs to boost the ratings and get some eyeballs directed at their offerings. Advertisers don't buy ad time without those eyeballs, and it's the advertising that brings in the revenue.

What subject could be more fascinating, and garner more viewers, than a show about modern day Chicago? After all, the President arose from the political machine that runs the town. His former chief of staff, as well as President Clinton's chief of staff, is now the mayor of that fine city. All the hype that promoted a relatively unknown Senator from Illinois who wanted to be POTUS was generated by a Chicagoan who worked as the spokesperson for Mayor Richard Daley, who himself was the son of another long-serving mayor.

All that political swampiness makes great theater, right?

Wouldn't you know that a Chicago Tribune reporter would go and do some fact-checking on CNN's effort, and find something so very wrong that Chicagoans are laughing at CNN.

To promote Chicagoland, CNN created a web presence with a few still photos for visuals. Liam Ford did a bit of googling, because it's so easy to google an image these days, when he came upon a picture that didn't look right.

No one had a camera on them in 1837 when this picture was supposedly snapped. Chicago in 1837 was still largely a swamp built on the banks of the Chicago River, and it didn't bear any resemblance to the Old West style of architecture that Mr Ford saw in CNN's presentation.

So what did Google have to say? CNN took a still picture from the Hollywood blockbuster In Old Chicago, startting Alice Fay as Mrs. O'Leary of cow fame, and put it up on their website. They said it was a picture of Chicago, but it was a picture of a movie set.

So much for fact-checking, CNN.

It's the little things that eat away at your credibility, small errors that are easily corrected before being posted where Chicagoans can see them.

Would it come as any surprise if certain conservative competitors use this as an example of a news organization that can't get its most basic facts right because no one bothers to check them? Or will it give some credibility to critics who lambaste Chicagoland as inauthentic, a concoction of CNN's uninformed staff?

How can you do a show about the way that Chicago is run without talking to the men who really run it? Where's an episode featuring Toots Caruso and his Chinatown crew?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Entitled

Where did we go wrong, cry the parents of Rachel Canning. Our sweet little girl has grown up to be a bit of a wagon (that's Irish for bitch). Even a private investigator determined that she was spoiled, and whose fault was that? The very people now reaping what they sowed.

For Mr. and Mrs. Canning, an attempt to clamp down on their daughter's activities has resulted in her filing a lawsuit against them, seeking damages for kicking her out of the house when she turned eighteen. How dare they? She has more education to be paid for and without the family home, where is she to go for school holidays?
The Entitled Demanding the Entitlement
With her sense of entitlement severely pricked, Ms. Canning turned to the courts, where all victims go to seek restitution. She believed in her cause and the justice of her plea. She trusted in her friend's father to pay her legal bills, and can't you just imagine the story she told him, filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth, to get that kind of money out of him?

The Canning family has rules, as do most families, especially those with girls of a certain age. Like most teens, Ms. Canning did not like the restrictions placed on her, especially since she was of age and wanted more freedom over her movements. A curfew of 11 pm? That simply would not do, and as for chores, isn't that why people hire Mexican immigrants to do the work Americans don't want to do?

The New Jersey judge who heard the case sided, not with the poor downtrodden child, but with the parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Canning are not obligated to support their adult daughter, even if she firmly believes she has been cheated. Neither do the parents have to pay any sort of weekly stipend to support her when she lives away from the family home. It was her decision, rash as it may have been, to seek shelter with a friend instead of accepting the house rules

As for paying her university tuition, Ms. Canning plans to continue the suit to win at least that much, but as her father claims there is a fund set up to cover her expenses, there is actually nothing to fight over. Her college costs will be covered, no matter where she chooses to live. It's just that she has to pay her own living expenses if she doesn't live at home and toe the line.

Quite a remarkable story. It's like seeing a future edition of the Saturday Irish Times, if you've been following the exploits of Ross O'Carroll Kelly. Rachel Canning is Ross's fictional daughter Honor all grown up. Which would suggest that you read him now, and see how one child could be shaped into a piece of entitled outrage. The columns are hilarious. The real life adventures that Mr. and Mrs. Canning now face are not. At least to them. Some of us are roaring with laughter, though.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Required Reading In The Vatican

Here's an interesting news beat for someone fluent in either Italian or Latin, with an ability to root out the most mundane and seemingly inconsequential tidbits to fill out a weekly journal.

If you land a job as a writer for this planned weekly, you'll have a captive audience for your prose. Relatively captive, that is. You can count on the underlings in the vast bureaucracy that you'll be writing about to snap up each edition. A wise employee stays current on what the boss is up to, because promotions require that sort of study.

Soon to be on a magazine cover every week

Silvio Berlusconi may be in hot water, but he's covering his arse in the afterworld. His publishing empire, Mondadori, has announced plans to start up a brand new weekly magazine devoted exclusively to the Pope. His Holiness Weekly. Can you see God smiling already?

Imagine the sales potential on this one.

What bishop, cardinal, nun or priest wouldn't be an avid reader? Every cleric wandering through Vatican City will have to be seen holding one, if not thumbing its pages while crossing St. Peter's Square.

And then there's the old ladies who worship all things Catholic. They would want the latest issue of "My Pope" prominently displayed in their homes, to show guests how truly holy they are.

Does the Pope say and do enough to fill out a magazine? Mr. Berlusconi is counting on it. So maybe there's plenty of room for a writer, like you, who doesn't mind flashing a bit of creative license.You have to keep the readers coming back for more, don't you, so your skill at stringing the narrative along could be made to pay.

There will be weekly quotes and wise words from the Pontiff himself included, to bolster the faithful. And if God should shine His light on poor Silvio Berlusconi, who is bringing all this to the world, then it's an investment worth the cost. Even if it doesn't turn a profit at 50p per issue.

Well, of course it's going to be cheap. Freelance writers aren't paid much at all. But you, the writer, are going for the byline and the publication credit, right? To put into the bio paragraph of your query letters when you try to snare a literary agent for your novel?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Regulations Against Common Sense

You've heard it countless times, that smoking will kill you. Don't smoke. It's bad for your health. It takes years off your life.

So imagine the outrage when Ireland' s health service bureaucrats discovered no less than three people in their 90s who were puffing away in their Co. Offaly nursing home. Their ages fly in the face of the dire warnings and it won't be long before someone makes a cheeky remark about government control and what's so bad about the occasional ciggie if these geriatrics are still going strong.

Here's to your smoking ban, HSE
What would happen if word of this longevity filtered out of Offaly and down to Dublin? Youngsters all across the nation would be lighting up in defiance, because clearly HSE was wrong about their declarations. Then it's pure smoking anarchy.

In keeping with the ever-spreading ban on smoking, HSE has decreed that smoking will be forbidden in nursing homes, the law taking effect next week.

So those three smokers in the County Offaly nursing home? They're going to have to quit.

When you hit ninety, you'd imagine there's little to look forward to beyond the occasional drink and a cigarette to go with it. And if you've been a smoker who has lived that long, would you want to go on living if you couldn't have a few puffs from time to time?

The families of those geriatrics have taken their case to the HSE, to have an exception made for their elderly relations. Anyone who's tried it, or been around someone in the throes of withdrawal, realize that smoking is nearly impossible to stop. It seems cruel of the government to demand that three of its citizens just up and quit, as if that wouldn't have a damaging effect on their health.

And what's the harm? For Christ's sake, these people have surely earned the right to smoke rather than be made to suffer the pangs of nicotine withdrawal. Is it being done because HSE can't afford to pay someone to haul the old folks to a permitted smoking location outside, a couple of times a day? Is HSE afraid that dragging them out in all sorts of weather would result in someone coming down with pneumonia and then dying because of some bureaucratic insanity?

Not a pretty picture for the HSE. Better to force the elderly to suffer quietly, craving that cigarette after dinner for the pleasure it brings, when there's precious little pleasure in being stuck in a nursing home, waiting to die. These are regulations we're talking about here, and as any government paper-pusher can tell you, regulations must be carried out without exceptions unless those exceptions are spelled out legally.

To prevent HSE from looking utterly ridiculous or petty, Edenderry Councillor Noel Cribbin has taken up the case and is working with HSE to grant that legally approved exception.

Why not treat the elderly with respect and give them some allowances to ease the misery of getting old and ending up in a nursing home where you have no control over your last dies because you're at the mercy of a government agency that doesn't have common sense written into its rules.

Letting three old folks have a cigarette once in a while won't convince everyone that smoking isn't bad for your health. But making them quit might convince people that the HSE is bad for their health and those who run it are in need of replacing.