Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Writing on the Wall - Julie Morrigan - ebook


Sometimes, you follow a link, and you end up with a little gem. Julie Morrigan's The Writing on the Wall is one of those little gems. 

Despite publishing a short story writing competition (Narrator Magazine), I'm not a lover of short stories per se - I'd rather a 60,000-120,000 word novel to sink my teeth into. However, I noticed a small plug for this on Facebook from the owner of A Reader's Heaven, and figured that, for $1.49, what did I have to lose? The answer, it turns out, was nothing!

I found this collection of seven short stories from Julie, plus one from Steven Miscandlon, surprisingly entertaining. I don't mind a little 'alternative energy' type story from time to time - things from the other side, things that can't be explained etc, but I can't generally read a lot of it. So what's the difference here? Talent.

Miss Morrigan writes for a 21st century audience - she uses modern, realistic, yet intelligent dialogue (both she and Mr Miscandlon both slip a well-placed 'fuck' in here and there, no pun intended!), and realistic events such as going down to the pub to discuss what to do next, or having one character playing with his Wii, but it's all done with proper sentence structure, proper grammar, punctuation and spelling, and the most important thing of all: strong, character-driven plots. Like other modern authors who have finally realised that people don't care what colour the sofa is unless it's important to the story, she doesn't waste our time painting a pretty (or in some cases, ugly) picture. If it's not important - it's out! 

I won't tell you about the stories - that's not what I'm here for - but I will recommend that you go and investigate Miss Morrigan's book on Smashwords, and then if you're interested in more, visit her website. I'm not sure how long she's been around, but with quality writing like this, I feel she'll have a good chance of being around for a long time yet. Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mecca - a poem borne of commercial cynicism

Darren Robertson - 

I get very antsy around Christmas time, and it's not tied to any religious beliefs or lack thereof. It's tied to the issues I have with modern society telling me I must spend, spend, spend or my loved ones won't love me back.

Similarly, I have issues around Valentine's Day, and around Mother's and Father's day. I long ago told my children not to spend money on Mother's Day. If they love me, and appreciate me, then they can show me anytime they want, all year round. I don't want Hallmark etc dictating to them to go spend their money on me at a certain time of year as this benefits no one but the retailers, and places additional stress, both financial and emotional, on everyone.

So, in a fit of pique last December, I scribbled this poem out one Saturday morning just after getting out of bed. I've calmed down enough since then to share it with you. Am I just getting old and cranky, or am I seeing through all the smoke and mirrors of modern advertising/commerce etc?

a poem about commercialism in modern society
by Jennifer Mosher

It’s Saturday
family day
and time to pay.

The masses come
flooding in
as the doors open.

The big, the small
the young, the old
heading to their preferred spots
where they will spend the next few hours
in earnest devotion.

This temple
with its shiny floors
so beautifully decorated
built so the disciples
can honour their god
Mr Lowy.

Yes, it’s Saturday
and Westfield opens
for another day.

Don't get me wrong: I don't blame Frank Lowy for our modern day ills. He has just been smart enough to capitalise on everything that's been happening over the last 100 years, and to me, the malls which seem to eat whole suburbs are just representative of a lot of what is wrong with modern society. You see, when I read that Christmas presents are a relatively new thing (less than 150 year old tradition in the western world), and that most of the other days which we 'celebrate' by buying people stuff are all pretty much the result of modern commercialism, I get really cranky.

If I love my family, why do I have to spend time with them on Christmas Day in particular? Why is it that if I want to spend the day quietly doing housework instead, without having people over, it suggests that there's something wrong with me? Why can't we have a special day together when it suits us a family - regardless of the time of year? And why do we have to buy each other presents because someone died 2,000 years ago?! Seriously - how many people in the world today really celebrate Christmas with the true spirit that should be intended?

If you watch any American sit-com long enough, sooner or later there will be the ubiquitous Thanksgiving episode where everyone stresses out about Thanksgiving Day - who's going where, who wants to do what, what are they going to eat, why do they have to put up with Aunty Betty? And so on and so on. So why do it? And the Valentine's Day episode where some middle-aged woman ends up in tears because she thinks her husband isn't going to send her flowers this year?

photostock -
There is a liberation, an empowerment, in buying the things we want and need only as we want or need them, rather than having to adhere to modern society's, and in giving gifts to loved ones simply because we saw something they would like or need, and we buy it and give it to them because we love them - at any time of the year.

And on the rare occasions my husband buys me flowers, I love it, because I know it's genuine. He's long since learned not to buy them after a fight - you can't buy me back by buying me things, so don't even try. Give me flowers because you love me and because they make me smile, and for no other reason; don't do it to stop me being cranky with you - it will only make me madder!

So, that's my rant for the day, and probably safer to have it outside of the Christmas period, because it's easier to think more clearly. There are those who really enjoy the whole festivity of Christmas, and those who love to shop, and those who like to celebrate Valentine's, Mother's and Father's day. But if sit-coms nearly always have an episode about Thanksgiving or Valentine's and the inherent stresses, then perhaps we're just all fooling ourselves about how happy we really are, and need to look to deeper to the true meaning of what it means to live among our fellow human beings?

Friday, March 9, 2012

21st century marketing - crowd funding with IndieGoGo

Well, it's crunch time. My beloved 'baby', the free online, creative writing competition that is Narrator Magazine, has to start earning its keep.

Unfortunately, because something is free online, people seem to think that it doesn't cost anything to make, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I love Narrator, but it does cost to produce - in excess of $5,000-6,000 per issue. Not the printing, because we've managed to work out a print-on-demand method at a price that covers the cost, but:
  • the website domain names and hosting
  • the website maintenance
  • the proofreading
  • the layout
  • the images which we purchase to spice the entries up with and make the whole thing more attractive
  • the admin overheads of recording entries as they come in, printing and filing forms and cross-checking with various databases
  • recording the People's Choice Votes
  • compiling the ready-to-go Narrators into different file formats for the various distribution channels we use (printable double-page spread for printing, pared down Word doc at Smashwords, single page PDF for uploading to The MoshShop and, just to name three) and soon ePub
  • compiling the secret guest judge's file with all the entries without names
  • sourcing a secret guest judge every quarter
  • getting the entries to the guest judge in a timely manner so they can get their choices back to us at least a week before Narrator is released
  • answering telephone and email queries
  • marketing and promotion etc. 
So far, Narrator has been subsidised by the other services and products we've been delivering via MoshPit Publishing and Mosher's Business Support, but this isn't sustainable. Time spent curating and creating Narrator is lost billable hours from our core business - and in this economic climate we can no longer afford to donate those hours to a project which is not returning at least the cash equivalent.

And then there's the prize money - nearly $2,000 every quarter. We've been blessed in that the wonderfully supportive Paul Phillips out at A Reader's Heaven in Lithgow understood the potential and purpose of Narrator at a very early stage and has kindly sponsored third prize for the next few quarters - that takes the sting out of the tail. But try to get other sponsors? 

We have a great, well-loved product, with huge potential, great 'discoverability' (thank you, Mark Coker - that concept helps stop the panic when a client's ebook isn't a best seller within three weeks!), but we are not sellers of advertising and have struggled, so far, to engage a reliable, effective sales person.

Narrator is green, it's free to enter, free to read online in various formats and from various online outlets, it's full of variety, it keeps the contributors happy, you can buy one print issue or subscribe to four, and you can read all sorts of different stories, poems and essays - there almost literally is something for everyone.

In the eight original issues we've published so far (five Blue Mountains, one Central Tablelands and two NSW/ACT), we've published 200 items from 98 different contributors. We're publishing people who've never been published before, and publishing people who have been published plenty of times - new and emerging writers mixing with professional writers - giving everyone a place to get their stuff out there in the public eye. We've even had entries from as far away as the USA, and an enquiry from an ex-pat living in Germany - so even though we can't accept entries from them at this stage, it means Narrator's potential for discoverability is certainly there!

We've also doubled our readership by converting to a statewide issue, rather than a regional one - doubling readership equals double exposure, which is better for everyone. With proper financial support, we can aim to double the readership more often as this will provide much needed funds for marketing.

And if we can keep the NSW/ACT issue going, but properly funded, then we can look at getting the Victoria/Tasmania issue up and running, and then the Queensland one, and then the South Australia/Western Australia/ Northern Territory issues. And then the one-off genre issues - we have a whole list of those! Science Fiction, Juniors, Romance, Gay Pride, Comedy, Gothic - and more. So many ways to bring writers to an audience, but so hard to attract businesses who could benefit from advertising to this market.  

So this is it. We need to secure at least $5,000 by 30 April to bring out the Winter edition and pay the (currently un-sponsored) prizes to the winners of the Autumn edition. 

However, we're punting for $15,000 to keep it going for at least another two or three issues, because without that, we'll be doing this again next quarter, and then again the quarter after. 

So, if you think the idea of providing an outlet for the Australian indie writing scene to develop in a supportive and open environment is a good idea, then please, have a look at our IndieGoGo campaign, and even if you don't see any advertising packages that interest you, just please send the link onto anyone or any business owner you know who may find it interesting or worthwhile - the more people who know about it, the more likely we will find the support we need to keep going.

Thank you.


Monday, March 5, 2012

It's 'Read an ebook week'!

If you've never read an ebook before, this week is your chance to take the plunge - at minimal cost.

We are offering several of our best sellers at 50% off for THIS WEEK ONLY at Smashwords. You can buy them in all sorts of formats - ePub, PDF, .mobi for Kindle, you name it.

Visit Smashwords and look for the 'Read an Ebook Week March 4-10' specials link at the top of the menu bar at the left-hand side of the page. Use that link to find ebooks by all sorts of authors, at all sorts of prices, with all sorts of discounts.

Better still, go straight to our MoshPit Publishing authors:
Julie Jones
Kate Shayler
Paris Portingale
Aristidis Metaxas

Use coupon code REW50 to buy their ebooks at 50% off for THIS WEEK ONLY.

Go on - what are you waiting for? 
Get into the 21st century today!

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