Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crippling Economic Sanctions

Go back to the first colonists in North America meeting up with the natives. They established a relationship based on trade. Someone had something that someone else wanted, and the two parties managed to exchange goods in what they felt was an equitable manner.

Now hold a gun to the head of your potential trade partner and suddenly the equitability shifts very much in your favor.
Economic sanctions lead to hardship which leads to reaction. Tea, anyone?

Trade sanctions have long been used to coerce a government to do something it doesn't want to do. It did not just start in the Twenty-first Century, either.

At the moment, there is talk of the United States, a global economic power, using its strength in the marketplace to force Russia to stop doing what it has been doing, which is attempting to take over Ukraine before the European Union gets in there, with all its free markets and liberties and other dangerous notions. Russia is struggling economically due to the usual problems with cronyism and corruption, so the economy is ripe for toppling.

The gun that the U.S. could hold to Russia's head is a figurative one, of course. It is the weapon of economic sanctions that could do just enough damage to Russia before sending the world's economy into a tailspin.

England once did it to the United States when England was a global power and the United States was a collection of former colonies trying to find a way to get along.

How to get the Americans to go along with the plan back in the mid-1700s? Regulate commerce, of course, and control the purse strings. The colonists suffered financially, with businesses hurting due to a lack of free markets to take their goods in exchange for other goods or cash money. As England learned, the locals did not then toe the line scribed by royal decree, but rebelled.

So if the Russian people are made to suffer due to economic sanctions that cripple their personal wealth and ability to feed families, might they then rebel against their leaders and drive them out?

History has shown that it can happen. Wise leaders know it, and so they bend to the demands of the more powerful applying those crippling economic sanctions, but only enough to keep the peons slightly disgruntled. Hold off long enough to make others in the global economy squirm and it's like taking a few bullets out of the economic gun being held to your head.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writer's Retreat, With Birds

Your company for the summer
Bird Watch Ireland is selling a pair of summer jobs in the wrong way.

They're almost apologetic about the opportunity to go off to an isolated island, uninhabited by humans, to monitor the roseate tern population. No other people but the two selected for the job. No Internet access. No distractions. Just keep an eye on the birds from time to time and don't get into a holy row with your bird-watching partner because that person is the only other person around to talk to.

This, Bird Watch Ireland, is the perfect writer's retreat.

How long can it take in a day to slap a few rings on bird legs, count a few nests and look for bird eggs? Once you've handled these simple chores, you have nothing but time, and what writer doesn't need time like this to work on a manuscript. The distractions are few, and if you're on this island with another writer, the two of you could be each other's beta readers and really get something accomplished.

While you go about your work, you can mull over sentences in your head and then commit them to paper after the birds have gone to bed. In essence, you would be writing all day, without some boss interfering by giving you a new project or clients ringing you up asking after something you were supposed to get to them ASAP.

And best of all, this is not a retreat where you pay to attend. No indeed. The State will give you money, like a regular employee, a weekly paycheck. Can you imagine getting paid to write? It's like a dream.

There is little time to waste if you're to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Don't forget to bring lots of paper and plenty of pencils, or pens with an abundance of bottled ink. Night after night, nothing to do but work on a novel, one that might involve the isolation in which we all live despite a crowd of people (or birds) hovering around us. You could find out you're a literary fiction genius before August rolls around and it's time to go back to the madding crowd.

Surrounded by screeching sea birds, you could wax most philosophical. The makings of a great work of literary fiction are to be found here, if you act now to secure your position as tern minder by day, writer by night.

And when you return to civilization and write to a literary agent seeking representation, what could pique more interest than a mention that the manuscript was written on an uninhabited island off the coast of North Dublin? You'd get a few requests for manuscripts with that kind of unique feature, and getting a publishing contract is all about standing out from the mob.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Publication Day For THE LIBERTY FLOWER

Congratulations to Katie Hanrahan on the release of her latest novel, THE LIBERTY FLOWER.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, BN.com, Powell's, Waterstones, and just about any other shop that sells books. If it isn't on the shelf, please ask your bookseller to order a copy for you.

And of course you can download a digital edition for any of your electronic devices and be reading this intriguing page turner.

Opening in the tumultuous era of the American Revolution in the prosperous port of Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina, THE LIBERTY FLOWER follows the blossoming relationship between an American partisan spy and the British naval officer who sets out to win her heart.

Sarah Mahon and Jack Ashford are torn apart by politics and behind-the-scenes manipulations intended to keep them separated. Life and stubbornness have a way of intruding, however, and as the long war winds down and another begins in France, Sarah and Jack struggle to maintain a tenuous link that binds them together, even if circumstances seem to divide them forever.

A work of historical fiction with a strong romantic element, THE LIBERTY FLOWER is an exciting look at the world in a time of international conflict, when the United States was a weak collection of squabbling states and England ruled the waves, along with commerce and international trade.

On this day when you're paying your Federal taxes, it might ease the sting a bit to read about those who were there when this grand experiment that is American democracy was first born.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ongoing War For Independence

Look how civilized we all are. Inviting the Queen to come and celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising with us. No hard feelings, we're all one big happy family here in Ireland.

Except for those less than happy with the 1922 treaty that kept the six northern counties under British rule. There are many residing there who don't see the rebellion as anywhere near finished.

Is This Fighting Necessary?
 What has Professor Diarmaid Ferriter upset about the invitation extended to the Queen is the fact that the government did not consult the committee that is charged with developing a proper and fitting memorial for the centennial of the uprising. This hundred-year remembrance only comes around once, and you wouldn't want to get it wrong. The history happened already, but it's up to the history professors to frame incidents in a context, to study the nuance and put the rebellion into the frame of its era.

What would happen to all that if the Queen of England shows up with some wreath to lay at the tomb of the rebel leaders who were shot down under the orders of her ancestor's government? No hard feelings, Ireland, and can't we all just get along?

Professor Ferriter is particularly concerned that the Queen's presence might give people the idea that the whole thing was totally unnecessary. England was about to grant Ireland some freedom and allow Home Rule, which was the driving issue behind the rebellion. It was coming, some might say, so all those people lost their lives for nothing. A lot of bloodshed, and then the civil war after that, and it was all a waste of human life.

From there, then, would come the belief that those who sacrificed themselves on Easter Monday, 1916, did so to no purpose. They died for nothing.

And what kind of a centennial celebration would it be, to commemorate a complete waste?

Unfortunately, the State cannot very well un-invite the Queen, who has given every indication that she's delighted to attend the upcoming celebration. That leaves damage control to the historians, who very much want to present the past in a way that does not denigrate those who genuinely believed that the British were all talk and no action when it came to Home Rule.

There is a history there as well, a history of Home Rule bills that passed Commons and were killed in Lords, or Home Rule bills postponed for one reason or another.

That's the context in which the historians wish the rising to be seen. Just because the Queen is coming doesn't mean that context has no significance to the events that followed. It just means that what happened in the past should be remembered, but not used as a weapon to keep a feud going far beyond its natural lifespan.

But then again, there is that whole issue of a united Ireland and the counties of the north that still call Elizabeth II their monarch....

Friday, April 11, 2014

To A Friend On The Death Of A Child

I was shocked when your sister rang us up with the news.

In that corner of my head where irrationality and dreaming reside, I hold a hope that you'll be telling me it was a mistake, that the boy who crashed his motorcycle was someone else who borrowed your son's bike. That the lad is back home after spending the night elsewhere.

But we both know that is nothing more than magical thinking.

There will be no words when I see you this evening. What words could be uttered that would ease even a microscopic speck of the pain? There are no words, but we will babble the usual phrases as if expressions of sorrow could mask a deep wound.

You may ask me if I think your son suffered in that brief moment between flying through the air and his head striking the ground. If he felt pain when his neck snapped. That may be the moment our priests describe as the descent into hell, that short span of time when we hover between earth and heaven. I will say that the boy I watched grow up, whose baptism I attended, never knew what happened. Death was instantaneous, painless.

Your wife was against the bike from the start, and don't we all recall how she railed about it over the past two years. But you wanted him to have the things that were denied you, the indulgence and even the attention. For the love of God, don't blame yourself for what happened. She may. She probably will, in her hurt and her anger and her powerlessness. A mother unable to protect her child. She may lash out, and you will have to take it.

The cracks in the foundation of a marriage are tested at times like these, when the oldest child has died in an accident. Your other three children need you to be solid, to be firm, even if you are crumbling. Even if your wife is too shattered to keep it together. What we fear is that this will drive you two apart if you do not make a conscious effort to unite in the face of a profound tragedy. You cannot let that happen.

Some will tell you that time will be a great healer, that life will go on even if you have a gaping hole in your heart. Even if you don't want to go on.

It is true, but right now, you can't see beyond the end of this day.

Tomorrow, the sun will rise and then it will set. Spring will turn to summer and winter will descend, with all the year's reminders of happy times now gone.

Cover your home with photos of your son. Do not be afraid that others will think you mad if you express a fear of forgetting his face, the sound of his voice. This is a time of madness.

It is a time for prayers and fellowship and the support of a community that mourns with you.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Character Without Any Redeeming Features

When you create an antagonist for your short story or novel, you can make the character more compelling by making it more human. Yes, this is the enemy of your hero, but everyone has some redeeming characteristic that can be used to tone down the evil. Even those on trial for the most heinous crimes will be depicted as worthy of our sympathy due to some fatal flaw or emotional issue beyond one's control.

Unless, that is, your antagonist is a stockbroker from Davy Group in Ireland. In that case, you'll have nothing redeeming to insert into the character because the firm has proven itself to be so thoroughly ruthless and cold-hearted that even the finest defense counsel in the world wouldn't paint a pretty picture.
Churn and burn the most vulnerable, that's the Davy philosophy
James Haughey was a mentally disabled young man whose parents died far too soon. Stockbrokers with Davy saw an easy mark in the unfortunate orphan, who was so utterly incapable of managing his own finances that he had no idea how much wrong was being done to him.

Mr. Haughey had an inheritance of €5 million to see him through the rest of his life. Davy convinced him to borrow €1.75 million with a portion of his inheritance as collateral. The stockbrokers then invested the loan proceeds into high-risk ventures, after claiming that the client was all in favor of going the high-risk route. At the time, Mr. Haughey was being treated in a psychiatric hospital and wasn't capable of making any sort of financial decisions at all, but when there's a broker's commission at stake, who's to know any different? The man's parents were dead and he wasn't going to kick up a fuss.

Bad investment after bad investment, Mr. Haughey's money was churned and burned through a variety of deals that reportedly could have cost him up to €30 million to get from under the losses.

But the broker made money, so what's the problem?

An Irish court has ordered Davy to reimburse Mr. Haughey in the amount of €2 million, after issuing a scathing rebuke to the firm. It's another black eye for Davy, which already has suffered several bruising over the past few years.

Sure they say they've put safeguards in place to prevent it from happening again, but this was after they claimed in court that they had no idea Mr. Haughey was so bad off as he turned out to be.

Could you write a story and use a Davy stockbroker as an antagonist? What redeeming quality could you find, beyond the fact that a special place in hell is reserved for the crew who covered over a gross abuse of a highly vulnerable individual?







Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Maybe This Time


A theme song is appropriate, to set the mood. Music can give you a clue as to what is about to happen when the event unfolds. So we've chosen "Maybe This Time" as the backdrop to the latest incarnation of Jann Wenner's officially sanctioned biography.

The man who invented Rolling Stone magazine has led an interesting life, and one that the general public would be keen to read. The rag is about to turn fifty, and it's those in the over-fifty demographic who do most of the reading and book buying these days. That same demographic grew up on Rolling Stone, an icon of their youth and a symbol of a lost era. Before there was an AIDS epidemic and smoking weed was highly illegal and thoroughly counter-cultural.

Mr. Wenner has danced at this ball before, however. He sat down with Lewis MacAdams, a longtime friend, and spilled out his heart until about half the book was done. Then the subject decided he couldn't do it after all. As you can imagine, Mr. MacAdams was anticipating literary success and financial benefit, only to lose a great deal of his time at no profit. Mr. MacAdams no longer considers Mr. Wenner a friend.

Then along came Rich Cohen, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. His literary agent worked up a deal for a reported one million dollars, but again Mr. Wenner couldn't go through with it.

Maybe this time. Joe Hagan will get lucky. Maybe this time Mr. Wenner will stay.

Joe Hagan is also a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, so he's no stranger to Mr. Wenner either. He, too, has signed on a literary agent to shop the potential biography and PJ Mark of Janklow & Nesbit has a writing sample in his office for publishers to peruse. Asking price? Now it's up to around one point five to two million dollars, give or take.

Maybe this time?

Two publishers have been burned on the book. Will a third take a chance with a big advance that may not pay out?

Mr. Hagan swears to Jaysus that it's going to happen. He's already delving into the magazine's archives, with unfettered access. The subject of the bio really, really, really wants his story told because he's getting on in years and doesn't want his story lost to death. So this time, it will happen. No half-finished books, no proposals going nowhere.

But what kind of guarantee can an author give the publisher? A return of the advance after the money is spent? Maybe, if the advance is small enough, with the bulk of the author's pay-out to come from royalties on a finished product that is laid down and selling through before Mr. Wenner again decides that this isn't the time for an unrestricted expose of his life among rock's glitterati.