Writer and Author

Tag: Non Fiction (Page 2 of 2)

Public Lending Rights come to Ireland…

OK I’m a bit slow on the uptake since PLR was actually set up in January but it’s taken until now for me to fill out the necessary form and sign up. I had known it was a big issue for the Irish Writers’ Union but had thought up until today it was still in the Governments “To Do” pile – along with legislating on fertility treatment or dealing with the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Well this afternoon I got an email from my publishers directing me to the PLR website.  I’m very excited by this news.  So far today it’s been greeted with looks of blank incomprehension from anyone I’ve bounced about it to.  You see PLR isn’t exactly the most glamorous of income sources an author can look forward to.  If the Irish rates (which aren’t mentioned on the website as far as I can see) are anything like the ones that have been operating in the UK for years the amounts we are talking about can be in cents rather than in Euros.  But that’s not why I’m looking forward to getting statements in the future.

PLR, you see, is paid on your book every time someone borrows it from the library.  It’s the only way you can really get an idea of how popular the book is for library users and it’s just another way of getting an idea of your readership.

Devil hasn’t been published in the UK yet, it’s due to go on sale there in May, but when it does I’ll be able to sign up for PLR there as well.  I might struggle to earn a fiver per quarter between the two but at least I’ll be able to do the maths and work out how often my book has been borrowed.

In this day and age it’s a comforting thing to know.  As the global economy continues it’s freefall and the headlines are full of financial doom and gloom it can be a dispiriting time to start out as a writer.  I’ve been told several times that people intend to borrow Devil from the library rather than buy a copy but up until now I had no way of knowing whether they actually had.

I’m still new enough at this that I get a kick out of seeing someone pick up Devil from the shelves and flick through it.  I’m always on the lookout for it in second hand and charity shops because that means someone bought it, even if they didn’t keep it (haven’t found one yet though – I’m hoping that’s an indication of my brilliance as a writer…)

Anyway, PLR is up and running in Ireland and online as well.  I’ll keep  you posted but it’ll be a while before I get my first statement…

On Being a News Subject rather than Reporting It…

Well Devil in the Red Dress has had it’s first public outing.  Yesterday’s Sun and today’s News of the World both talk about a “sensational new book” on their front page – when I first saw the trail for the News of the World got all excited and wanted to know who had written it!

It’s odd reading material from my book as a news story.  I’m so used to being the one reacting to the the news it’s weird being the news myself.  Writing a book puts you in a bubble where it’s easy to forget about the outside world.  You concentrate so much on telling the story that everything else melts away for the duration.  Now we’re getting close to publication it’s all about changing gear and getting out there and selling my tale.

To be honest I’m looking forward to it.  The more I looked into the details set out in the trial the more interesting I found Sharon Collins and Essam Eid.  I spent eight weeks of the day job covering Sharon’s trial for the national and local media, I knew all about the emails, the letters to the Gerry Ryan Show (one of the most famous talk shows on RTE, Ireland’s national radio service), the fact that her lover, one of her three potential victims was standing by her and proved as much by planting a kiss directly on her lips as he left the stand.

At the Central Criminal Court, Sharon was very much the leading lady and there were many days when her co-accused faded into the background, a “patsy” bobbing along in the wake of the great white defendant as his defence counsel put it in his closing speech.  It wasn’t until I started researching The Devil in the Red Dress that I came across the details of another leading lady on the other side of the Atlantic.

Teresa Engle’s trial for extortion in California yielded evidence just as lurid as that in the trial I sat through.  Arguing that she had been pushed into her involvement with Hitmanforhire.net and the subsequent attempts to extort money from the unfortunate “marks” she painted her “husband” Essam Eid as a kinky sadist who made her do all manner of depraved things in bed.  It was news to me, for example, that Eid had neglected to tell his first wife Lisa that he was in favour of polygamy even when he moved wife number 2 into the family house.  Teresa was always referred to as his wife in the Irish courts because that was what she called herself.

I’m looking forward to talking about the weird symmetry that I found looking through the evidence against these two convicted women.  Both of them got involved with a dodgy marriage  – Sharon ordered a Mexican proxy marriage online while Teresa claimed she married Essam bigamously in a Vegas wedding.

Both of them accuse the partners they were so keen to snare of all kinds of sexual perversions (although the only claim that has had any evidence to back it up was the fact that Eid was in the habit of having threesomes with wives 1 & 2 – it was the one thing the wives agreed on in their statements to the FBI).

Finally both women had a staggering determination to get what they wanted. Sharon Collins would trawl the Internet to find someone to bump off her lover and his two sons when he refused to marry her and give her and her own two sons a claim to his millions.  Teresa Engle on the other hand was so desperate to have a baby that she left her husband (who hadn’t told her he’d had a vasectomy), took up with a raging drug addict for a decade with whom she had the longed for baby, then dumps him and goes back to husband number 1, who was a better financial bet to play the kind of happy families she had always wanted to.

It’s a bizarre symmetry but one that gives the ballad of Lying Eyes and Tony Luciano an easy narrative flow that real life doesn’t often have.  Maybe if Sharon Collins had met Teresa Engle under different circumstances (other than when Teresa turned up to give evidence against her) they could even have been friends.

When gardai first heard Sharon’s alibi, a woman called Maria Marconi who she claimed had been teaching her to write a novel but may have really been dating her blackmailer, they thought she and Teresa could have been one and the same.  The description Sharon gave the gardai matches Teresa in all respects other than her hair.  Sharon would tell of her friendship with Marconi rather wistfully…perhaps she could have found it with Teresa Engle.

When I start publicising Devil properly I’m looking forward to telling people about these two mirrored lives and everything else I found out when I researched the story behind the Hitman trial.  But it’s not the same as reporting news.  It’s telling a story certainly but it’s something that other people will report.  It’s all a change of perspective and one that I’m looking forward to.  It’s a great story after all…and one that’s been great fun to write about!

At the Starting Line!

Well The Devil in the Red Dress is about to get it’s first public outing!  Tomorrow and Sunday it will be serialised in The Irish Sun and the News of the World!  To find out more about the story…have a look at The Story Behind the Book at the top of the page.  After so long sitting in front of the computer it’s a little strange to see things start to roll but here we go!  The countdown starts from here!

Getting Started…I Hope

Well the blog should be up and running now.  Any more technical glitches will just have to wait until I get home.  I know that once we set foot back in Ireland it’ll be back to madness.  The Courts are back on October 6th so I’m back in the day job.  Sharon Collins and Essam Eid will be putting in an appearance on the 8th and that’s when the circus will really get started.

There have always been high profile cases through the Irish courts but since Joe O’Reilly was sentenced in July 2007 there has been one after the other.  Anton Mulder, Brian Kearney, John O’Brien all came before the Collins, Eid trial and all can still sell papers today months after their various convictions and acquittals.  We have moved without noticing it into a time where criminal trials are hyped almost as much as Hollywood films in the Irish media.  I should know.  To a certain extent my job depends on it!

Collins and Eid is a special case though – and I’m not just saying that because I’ve written a book on it.  The fact that no one died and proceedings had more than a tinge of farce to them meant that this was less of a guilty pleasure than the family tragedies that normally hit the headlines.  That’s not to say that people weren’t hurt as a result of these proceedings, it’s simply that we didn’t have to listen to the post mortems of their grief in quite the same way.

There’s also been a delayed conclusion.  With a murder trial there is only one possible sentence on conviction.  As soon as that verdict is handed down whoever’s in the dock knows they are about to start a life sentence and an appeal will be formally refused.  With conspiracy to murder there is a need for a separate sentencing as no fixed penalty has been set out.  So we will all gather on October 8th and wait with Collins and Eid to hear their fate and there will be headlines and TV programmes and books and some people will wonder publicly whether the whole things has perhaps all got a bit too much.

But in the meantime, I’m on holiday.  When I was a student in Bordeaux I always daydreamed of returning one day to work on a book.  Now as I sit by the window in our rented apartment gazing out of the window onto all the old yellow stone leaving it to the very last moment before I get ready to go out to dinner with the husband I’m conscious of how close I came to that.  The book may have actually been written in Dublin but I still don’t have an end for it, and won’t until that sentence.  So I’m technically still writing it.  Looking back over this post though, the sun’s playing havoc with my syntax and sprouting flourishes in every clause that probably shouldn’t even be there.

There’s a church here called St Pierre, not far from our apartment.  It’s a quiet little church, all vaulted ceilings and candles.  To the right of the door there’s a statue of a saint I’d never heard of – Ste Expedite.  The statue is of a very pretty Roman legionary holding a cross that says Hodie, the Latin for hello and stamping on a crow that’s cawing Cras meaning tomorrow.  He’s big in Chile and New Orleans apparently.  He’s also the patron saint of procrastinators, and computer hackers.

I discovered all this when I googled him after we’d wandered in to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.  There’s also some doubt about whether he actually existed or whether he was simply some random bones that had been labelled expedis, basically First Class Post, when they were shipped out to some French speaking nuns for cataloguing.  But Rome decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Ste Expedite seems a very appropriate saint for this current endeavour.  I’ve certainly done my fair share of procrastinating and I like the idea he may or may not have existed, rather like Sharon Collins’ alibi, Maria Marconi.  There’s even computer hackers in there as well.

Well I’ve rambled enough.  There’s an evening going on out there that I’m ignoring and the husband is looking a little irritated.  I should probably try to focus on actually having a holiday before there’s no more time for procrastination.

Hello world!

I’m always reading that writers should have a blog, somewhere where they can maintain their presence on the Web and hopefully embed their names into the brains of the unsuspecting book buying public.  I’ve hovered around the edges of cyberspace for a few years now, dipping an anonymous toe in the water and failing miserably to get any attention whatsoever.  Now I actually have a book on the horizon and I’m not just one of those annoying people who tells all and sundry about the opus they have stuffed under the bed, I thought maybe it was time to try and do things properly.  I can’t promise I’ll never raise the opus under the bed again but for the next few months I actually have a real, proper actual book to publicise so I’d better focus.

You’ll see in the bottom right hand corner a rather fetching book jacket.  That’s mine.  It’ll be out before Christmas and (shameless plug warning) that pretty little JPEG links through to Amazon – just in case you feel the urge…

By the way, the book is about a trial that recently hit the headlines in Ireland and around the world.  It was pretty quirky as conspiracy to murder trials go…a Co Clare housewife who saw red when her millionaire boyfriend wouldn’t marry her and hired a hit man over the Internet to kill him and his two sons.  The only problem was that the hit man she picked was a particularly inept Egyptian poker dealer who had a slight problem with following through.

To cut a long story short (and it is a very long story) the poker dealer turned up at the sons’ house and offered them a chance to buy themselves out of the hit.  He demanded €100,000, they called the gardai.  Once the investigation started it discovered that the poker dealer and his girlfriend had tried the exact same scam in California a couple of weeks before they touched down in Ireland.

The trial went on for eight long weeks this summer but the most extraordinary thing about it was the correspondence between the hitman and the housewife.  She called herself Lying Eyes, while the Nevada side went by Tony Luciano.  In July Sharon Collins was found guilty of both conspiring to kill P.J., Robert and Niall Howard but also soliciting someone to kill them.  The poker dealer, Essam Eid, was found guilty of extortion.  They’ll both be sentenced in October.

Anyway that’s quite enough plugging.  There’s plenty of time for that later, this is just the practice!

It’s going to take a while to really get this blog up and running so I suppose this is just a taster while I get on with messing around with themes and widgets and extra pages.  Once I’ve got that sorted I’ll settle down to trying to make this something other than just another author blog…although to be honest that’s exactly what it is.

If you’re visiting now, come back in a week or so, I promise the site won’t look quite so bare.  And I promise next time there won’t be quite so much hard sell!

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