Vegetarian Vampires

Publishing in 2016: Crowd-funding, blogging and more

Back in 2012, Seth Godin took on a daring venture. He decided to try and crowd-fund the publication of his book The Icarus Deception. Over four thousand backers answered the call and contributed almost $300,000 to the work’s publication. It was a resounding success. The campaign was a hit for several reasons. Seth Godin’s social media following was already huge. He had already been supplying them with new, daily, relevant blogs for years. The premise and pitch of the entire project was simple and easy to understand. It also proved Seth’s point that underpins much of The Icarus Deception: the creative economy is changing, and it’s up to artists to seek new and innovative means of funding their projects.

Since that time, self-publishing has only increased, and the publishing industry has continued to change. So too have notions of authorship. There’s now an entire industry that turns authors into Kindle Kings. These Amazon auteurs write genre fiction, market it, design it and have a direct and meaningful relationship with their readers. It’s a full time, exhausting job, but it has the potential to pay wonderful dividends if the books find their readership.

The trouble is, you don’t have a readership until you’ve published your first book. And you can’t publish your debut book without a readership. An irritating catch twenty-two. So traditional notions of writing processes are now shifting to fit the economy. No longer do writers toil away in private for years – un-funded and under-nourished – before releasing their magnum opus to the world. Blogging and social media serve a convenient double purpose: draft your writing while also building your readership.

There are cons to this model, of course. I’ve read a memoir that the author happily tells the reader was ‘originally based on Facebook posts.’ It won’t surprise you that the book was shallow and uninteresting. Too much of a focus on readership too early in an author’s process can severely erode creativity, undermining risk, and create cookie-cutter corporate work that rarely transcends the constraints of such capitalist pressure.

Still, when it works it works. And for some authors the new creative economy is a brilliantly positive event. When Jen McDonald, author of My Big Breast Adventure, started blogging about her journey through breast cancer recovery, she didn’t have an entrepreneurial intent. She was merely attempting to make sense of the messy pathway, and to connect with other survivors around the world. The blog took off, and its popularity only grew as Jen wrote more. Now, with thousands of words and an eager readership, My Big Breast Adventure has become the perfect candidate for a crowd-funding publishing venture.

[embed]https://vimeo.com/177037288[/embed]

Crowd-funding projects in this way puts complete control back in the hands of the reader and writer. The exchange of goods is only the first step. A reader is also getting additional rewards and personal touches that bigger publishers simply don’t have the means to provide. In the new creative economy, the reader and artists and more empowered, and this can only benefit writing overall.

Visit the Indiegogo campaign here to donate now. To hear Jen speak more about her work, and to listen to her first audiobook for free, visit our podcast here. Or visit the store now to buy Jen’s first work, Vegetarian Vampires.

For Pity Sake Publishing announces ground-breaking new project

For Pity Sake Publishing’s proud to announce a brand new project in innovative publishing. Jennifer McDonald’s wildly successful blog, Big Breast Adventure, which details her treatment of breast cancer, will be turned into a book with the help of a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. Founder and CEO of For Pity Sake Publishing, Jennifer McDonald, released her debut work Vegetarian Vampires in 2015. The book was the amalgamation of Jen’s popular blogs, which presented a humorous, down-to-earth approach to contemporary spirituality. As the final touches were being put on the Vegetarian Vampires project, Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer, and a whole new adventure began.

Told with her trademark humour and honesty, My Big Breast Adventure chronicles Jen’s path through chemotherapy, homeopathy, drug treatment, and a quest for wellness and meaning.

The popular blogs gained a close and ardent following. They included, among others, Jen’s oncologist, Dr Michael Copeman. Dr Michael says about the work:

“No patient going through cancer just wants ‘support’. At best, they would like the huge, scary roller-coaster called ‘treatment’ to stop and let them off. At least, they would like to meet someone else on the ride who can give words to the experience and make some sense of it all. Jen McDonald is that person.”

Critical reading for anyone going through a crisis, we believe this work is a critically important take on cancer treatment and recovery. And you can help.

Now a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, donate money to the Big Breast Adventure campaign to receive exclusive rewards, and to support this crucial book. Receive the finished book in time for Christmas.

[embed]https://vimeo.com/177037288[/embed]

Visit the Indiegogo campaign here to donate now. To hear Jen speak more about her work, and to listen to her first audiobook for free, visit our podcast here. Or visit the store now to buy Jen’s first work, Vegetarian Vampires.

For Pity Sake Publishing proudly launches new podcast!

If you’re a regular subscriber to the blog, you may have already noticed some new and shiny posts popping up in our feed. We’re proud to announce that we’ve officially launched the For Pity Sake Publishing podcast, and it’s off to a great start. You can download it now, for free, and receive an entire audiobook.

 In our first episode, we talk to Jennifer McDonald, the CEO and founder of For Pity Sake Publishing. In our recently launched second episode, we begin unveiling Vegetarian Vampires, Jen’s stunning first work on the teachings of Deepak Chopra. We’ll be putting a new chapter up every week, so subscribe now to receive the entire audiobook for free!

 You can find the podcast episodes through our normal blog feed (as you’re reading now). But you can also find us on iTunes. Just click here. We think the podcast will be the perfect companion to your daily commute, walk, or quiet time. Stay tuned for more interviews with writers, publishing news, and other goodies.

 If you’d like to buy a physical copy of Vegetarian Vampires, check out our store.

A Brave New World of Publishing

Jennifer McDonald, the founder of For Pity Sake Publishing and author of Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them, recently appeared on Artcetera on FM 92.7. She spoke with the host Barbie Robinson about her writing, breast cancer journey and her exciting work as the owner of an independent publishing company. [audio mp3="http://forpitysake.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Jen-McDonald.mp3"][/audio]

Buy a copy of Jenny's debut self-help book here.

For more information on our Manuscript Appraisal Service follow this link.

Three Essential Tips for Writing Memoir

Memoirs are magic. Reading the story of another person’s life brings can be some of the greatest acts of intimacy that art is capable of achieving. At their most powerful, great memoirs bring comfort, for they are often lighthouses on our own turbulent journeys through crisis. To read how someone else navigated their illness, divorce, injury or trauma can be a fundamental part of how we heal ourselves.

But of course, when we’re writing them, we don’t know that. It’s impossible to tell, from the writer’s side of the fence, just how a memoir will affect its readers. The memoirist can only compile the pieces of their story and attempt to sew them together. It’s often an emotional and difficult process.

Some of you may already have been inspired by Jennifer McDonald’s Vegetarian Vampires, which marries anecdotal memoir with a modern day secular spiritual text. Jennifer’s next book, released very soon, will be derived from her incredibly popular blog The Big Breast Adventure, which is the upfront account of how she navigated her breast cancer diagnosis. With these works in mind, we have three essential tips for writing memoir.

Don’t forget your reader
First drafts of memoir can often be over-stuffed with extraneous info. When you’re just starting to stretch your muscles and get used to the idea of telling your story, you’ll want to put in everything. Often, re-drafting a memoir is an act of cutting and re-shaping the work to keep the reader in mind. The reader won’t need to know a lot of the information that you see as an inevitable part of your story. The reader, like all readers, will want to be entertained and enthralled. So from the rough foundations of your first drafts, you’ll likely need to start thinking very differently about your story. What’s important to the reader? What’s the emotional connection? What’s funny, inspiring or revelatory? Memoir is, of course, about you, but it’s equally about the reader.

What’s true and what’s real
While you’re keeping the reader in mind, you may be forced to make editorial decisions that stray away from what was ‘real’. Frequently, for example, two characters may become one. Or a week of blank time may become truncated into a day. The names (or even genders and physical descriptions) of some people in your life may change when they find their way to the page. In this way, reality is altered but the truth of the story remains the same. Often these decisions come about to make your story simpler. Sometimes they can also be employed to avoid legal entanglements. This line in the sand is tricky to navigate for some. Take James Frey’s ‘A Million Little Pieces’, famously set ablaze by Oprah’s Book Club when certain scenes from the ‘memoir’ were found to have never taken place. On the other hand, you have famous works such as Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, celebrated and sold as a piece of fiction, but which is entirely a very thin veil of his actual life.

Overall, the lesson to take away from this is to be careful with the truth. But you can be relaxed, at least a little, with what’s real. Character’s names, or locations or details may change, but the truth of the story must remain intact. Otherwise, it’s a work of fiction.

Embrace your voice
The success or failure of a memoir often relies on the author’s voice. Jen’s works, for example, are incredibly conversational and direct. One of the most famous and successful memoirists of our time, Stephen Fry, has an incredibly unique tone. We read these works not only for the story, but for the voice of the story-teller sharing it. We want to feel close to the person telling the story. We want to be an old, trusted friend, sitting at the bar with the author as they spin us a tale.

So attempts to hide your voice in impressive literary technique, or dry historical fact, are ultimately going to make your memoir limp. Think of the work as a story you would tell an old friend. Embrace your sense of humour and your pattern of speech. Your reader’s will be grateful.

 

You can purchase Vegetarian Vampires here, or read The Big Breast Adventures here. I also happen to have written a memoir, How to Be Happy, and it’s available for purchase here.

 

Five Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

With the second season of the Outlander series now gripping the world, and with the re-release of not one but two of Peter Yeldham historical fiction novels only days away, it seems fair to say that historical fiction is now very much in vogue. It seems we’ve monkey-swung from sparkly vampires (Twilight) to titillating BDSM (Fifty Shades of Grey) to re-examining our collective past. In truth, historical fiction never really went out of vogue. Technically speaking, the vast majority of Shakespeare’s works were historical fiction. It could be said even our most basic folk lore (Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, etc.) are a kind of proto-historical fiction that harkens back to a generic fairytale time tinged with nostalgia.

Still, there’s never been a better time to be a historical fiction author, and we’re thrilled to publish quite a few. But before you put pen to paper, you might want to consider a few critical tips that we’ve learned from reading our award-winning authors.

Researching and Reading Research is obviously incredibly important when writing historical fiction. There’s no quicker way to alienate a reader than to make them stop believing in the authenticity of the world you’re trying to create. So research and read. A lot. Read historical accounts of the time, and even dig into other historical fiction that’s focussed on similar eras of history.

Researching and Talking If you’re able to actually talk to living survivors of your chosen historical era, don’t be shy in asking to sit down and have a chat. A minute in conversation can illuminate areas that history books simply can’t tell you. The colour of the wallpaper, or the smell of a place, or the daily, mundane routines that shaped their (and your characters) lives.

Researching and other reading An extremely helpful tip comes from Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning author of Eat, Pray, Love, as well as critically acclaimed historical fiction The Signature of All Things. While it’s valuable to read history books, it can be even more helpful to read documents, novels or journals that were written in the specific time period that you’re setting your work in. This will tell you so much about the lexicon of the age, along with the concerns, dialogue and details of your characters.

Know when to stop researching This is the trickiest bit. Some historical novels feel more historic than novel, and can be too dense a read to be truly pleasurable. Always remember that your novel still has to operate under the same laws as any genre, and needs to create a compelling story with intriguing characters. The research will only take you so far. If you’re on the right track, you’ll usually feel a mounting sense of excitement as you’re researching, and there will simply come a point where you’re desperate to write. So write! The research will be there when you need it, and you can always return to hunt for extra details.

Be Authentic to the Politics of the Time …while not being too offensive to modern sensibilities. This is tricky, and most complicated around gender politics. Times past are often incredibly violent places to write about, and women are often treated abhorrently. It’s important to be authentic to this, and not create a rose-tinted version of the past that readers will find too sickly sweet. On the other hand, every reader has a line, and so much of narrative is frequently about the under-dog becoming a hero. Claire in Outlander is a classic example, who is subject to the subjugation of her time, but constantly subverts the gender norms for wonderfully entertaining results. Peter Yeldham often places an under-dog at the centre of the story, who is able to see with greater moral clarity than most of his peers.

Don’t know where to start reading? Why not try Peter Yeldham’s fantastic historical fiction around World War 2 in Above the Fold . Or if you’re in the mood for more sparkly vampires, you might be interested in Jennifer McDonald’s take on how Edward Cullen brought about a spiritual awakening in her memoir Vegetarian Vampires. Then again, you may be more into the Fifty Shades of Grey trend and want some page-turning romance. In that case, try Winterflood’s Passion by Diana Thompson.

 

Self-help for the help-reluctant

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘self-help’? Probably what I think – I don’t have time, it’s all the same gibberish, it’s too convoluted and complex to practically apply it to my everyday routine. I hear you. I understand the reluctance to read spiritual guidance – life is busy enough as it is, and I can barely follow common sense practices that I learned when I was twelve, let alone complicated spiritual teachings. But this is what makes Jennifer McDonald’s little book Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them a miracle for impatiently dubious people like me.

It is drawn from Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, a collection of seven laws that are renowned for their simple yet effective laws of nature that when followed and applied to your everyday thinking, can transform your life. He teaches all the fundamentals of spirituality, from daily meditation to practicing non judgement to the laws of karma – reaping what you sow, and so forth. But he also instructs to accept things as they are, to release yourself of expectations and to give and receive everything in life from possessions to love, as if everything can be thought of in terms of currency.

Many have interpreted his laws, but sometimes, for the busy student or the frantic parent, without a voice that one can relate to and examples that mirror those of your own life, spiritual guidance can be tough waters to wade through.

Divided into seven small chapters, Vegetarian Vampires takes Chopra’s laws and explains them with aplomb from McDonald’s personal experience. She is a small business owner and mother, and has taken these verbose and at times confounding laws and brought them down to earth for us mere mortals.

But what makes McDonald's interpretation of Chopra's laws different from every other commentary on achieving success in your life is her ability to take his laws, and through her honest, unique perspective, explains her failures and identifies where Chopra’s advice would have or did guide her to success. From everyday joys and issues, to deaths in the family, to dire work situations, to health issues - she explains how the laws got her out of it, or would have if she had been following them to begin with, helping you understand how to maneuver yourself easily from issue to issue. I have to say, I’ve already noticed subtle changes in my own life - stressing less, focusing more and reflecting on my experiences with a fresh perspective.

So, throughout this blog post you may have been dying to know: what in God’s name is a Vegetarian Vampire? And what do pale monsters on a diet have to do with applying spiritual practices to your life? Sorry folks, there will be no spoilers here. However, suffice to say, a few pages into the book where McDonald’s intent was divulged and her assortment of approaches to life unfolded, I was entranced. Her distinctive perspective on the tribulations we will all face at some point or have already bore is written with a relatable, humble, wise, humorous and supportive voice, and will make your head throw back with laughter and your eyes prick uncomfortably.

This little pocket-sized, self-help book includes something for those of all ages. It will live and breathe in your bag and your bedside table, until you start to notice changes in your life; a trigger in the mind to change its patterns, and once the mind has been changed, the reality changes with it.

 

 

You can buy your copy of Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them here!

Sarah's letter to the author of 'Vegetarian Vampires'

Dear Jen, Firstly, thank you for putting the manuscript for Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn from Them in my path at this time.

It’s such a fantastically rich book. I loved how it is structured for each day of the week. It almost reminds us that we can only ever take one day at a time, that it is OK to start small, start somewhere, just start. I LOVE your writing voice, the weaving of topical references with personal experiences and humour. I laughed while reading this book - sometimes a dry ‘ain’t that the truth’ or a ‘oh I completely understand’ chuckle - although the ‘What would Edward Cullen do?’ question at the end of Day 3's essay gave me a great big belly laugh.

There were so many things that resonated with me, and I think they are best encapsulated by these little notes that I made while reading:

  • What a fantastic reminder that we only have ONE life. We might try to categorise and section off parts of our lives, but what we do in our work lives affects the same ‘us’ as our personal lives.
  • I need more stillness in my life.
  • We have more sway over our own lives than we realise. How often do we hear people who have made ‘life changing’ decisions say ‘I can’t believe I didn’t do this years ago’?
  • What a liberating idea; we are the choices we make.
  • The section on Vegetarian Vampires and the fact that while some decisions might start out requiring loads of willpower but the choice becomes easier and easier the more times we make it, resonates with me. I have a condition that results in hairloss and am completely bald. When I first started going out in public without a wig on I had to consciously muster up a sense of courage and strength in order to be brave. Now, I don’t think twice about being bald in public, I don’t need to ‘be brave’ everyday. That strength is now a part of who I am.
  • All of this is possible. Of course we’ll stuff it up and make a mess of it and try to fight against that rip instead of letting go. But that’s when we need a book like this, to remind ourselves that that glorious mess of a journey is my life, my one life. I own it, and today I decide to embrace uncertainty, live lovingly and be myself on purpose. And laugh. Always laugh.
  • I need to read this book again. And then again the month after that.

You have truly given with love in this book. Much love to you, and thank you once again.

Sarah Peters PhD Theatre Student, University of Southern Queensland

Sarah Peters Headshot

 

 

Vegetarian Vampires- The Book!

My life was very different eight years ago, long before the Big Breast Adventure. I was working 10 to 12 hour days in-house with a huge, complex and demanding client who shall remain nameless (OK, it was Qantas). My mother-in-law had just passed away very suddenly sending shock waves through the family, my daughter was progressing through those challenging pubescent high school years and my son was struggling with an as yet unidentified learning difficulty. To say life was busy and stressed would be the understatement of the millennium.

Because I never had time to read anything other than newspapers and business magazines during the average working week, it wasn’t until we took a much-needed family holiday to Hawaii that I actually picked up and tried to read Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. In my haste to get through some non-work related reading material in my time off (oh, the pressure!) I skipped the introduction and started straight into the first law – Pure Potentiality. This chapter only runs for a few pages (as they all do) but it took me hours to read it, just trying to get a handle on what the man was on about.

Fast forward a few years by which time the work-life balance thing had become a complete joke.  By this time I’d abandoned the 12 hour days in favour of short-term in-house gigs for individual clients and had even had therapy for a while. Nevertheless, the stressed-and-running-around-list kept mounting with a dyslexia diagnosis for my son; the sharp deterioration of my Brisbane-based father’s health precipitating a move to a nursing home, and my widowed father-in-law in his 90s living alone in Canberra.

Somewhere in amongst all of this, the little book I had taken to Hawaii to read (only getting through the first chapter) literally leapt out and fell at my feet during an attempt to restore some order to the bookshelf beside my bed. Seeing this as a sign, I started to read The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success once again, not skipping the introduction this time.  This turned out to be the smartest move of all because the introduction frames the purpose of the book beautifully, just as the Afterword provided a neat summation when I finally reached it – I’ve been a fan of reading both ever since.

I also started carrying Chopra’s neat little handbag-sized book around with me reading each day’s law on the day it was meant to be read. I quickly found the daily texts that had me baffled on first reading were now providing tools to either face the day ahead, if I read it in the morning, or to make sense of what had gone down during the day if I happened to read the passage at bed time.

I guess I can credit this little book with kick-starting my blogging career, such as it is. In trying to make sense of the many guru-like recommendations in it’s pages, I started writing down my thoughts and the connections I was making between Chopra’s commentary and the tribulations of my daily life. By doing this I was merely trying to make sense of the Seven Laws myself and perhaps help some other people along the way. What these blogs became, however, is a sort of non-guru/normal person’s guide to applying these spiritual notions to real life  I’m delighted to tell you that they’re now available as my first book – Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them – the self-help book for people who don’t read, or even like, self-help books.

And I’ve learned two really big things on the path to getting my first book published – and I don’t mind sharing with you good people. Firstly, I wrote every blog post in the book except for the last, Saturday’s Law of Dharma or Purpose in Life – before I knew I had breast cancer.  I was editing the manuscript for publication last year when I was going through protracted chemo and radiation treatment. One could be forgiven for thinking this might have changed my perspective somewhat but it didn’t – and for that I am deeply thrilled and very grateful. I feel like I am walking proof that all this ‘woo-woo’ talk really does stack up when the chips are down. And as my writing coach and editor, Dave Burton, so eloquently put it in Vegetarian Vampire’s Afterword, “What good is any of this, after all, if it’s not useful when we most need it?” Now there’s a smart boy.

The second big thing I learned is that blogs can turn into books – and as the owner of a fledgling publishing company I think that’s truly awesome.

And now a special offer for my dear readers – buy a copy of Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them for A$30.00 and I’ll twist my publisher’s arm to throw in a second copy for free. I’ve even sign them both to whomever you want. Just leave a comment on this blogpost.

Oh, and one final thing – watch this space because now we have a taste for this ‘getting books published’ caper, the next one entitled The Dalai Lama in My Letterbox about (you’ve probably guessed) the Big Breast Adventure will be hot on Vegetarian Vampire’s heels.

All the breast!