September Harvest ~ Nightmare or Prophecy?

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2021

I’ve finally returned to writing fiction. It’s a great feeling to have completed a novella. There was nothing to bake or melt and pour. In other words, no sweets were made and I only made a few batches of soap for an upcoming book.

The first draft of September Harvest was written in a month. It was the easiest and hardest book I ever wrote. During it, I was doing online retail therapy. I’d watched many videos about malls, dying malls, dead malls and abandoned malls. I watched and listened to the soundtracks of the past. Whether you call it Muzak or elevator music, it was wordless and brought back memories. Yet listening to it made me write better and helped create that long ago and far away era. And as I wrote the Northbrook Mall section, I thought it should live up to its name with an exotic landmark center court area. The Palm Beach Mall was my inspiration. Although photographed circa 1968, I imagined being in that mall back then. People dressed more formally than they do nowadays. Salesmen and managers wore suits and ties. Customers and retail employees had a more stringent dress code than that of 2021.

Being able to use the photograph wasn’t an option as it wasn’t in the public domain, and I’d already decided to change the “wonderfall” fountain to a standard cascading type of fountain. But the bridge over the pond surrounded by tropical foliage was an element that had to be in the Northbrook Mall. It was the landmark centerpiece and most noted feature.

The photo that inspired the cover.

Finding a cover artist to recreate the mall wasn’t an easy task. The first person I found via a search had the promise that all emails were answered in 24 hours. To date, my email has been ignored. I contacted another cover artist, but my suggestion wasn’t deemed possible. I kept looking and found a talented artist who had several images of buildings and people in her portfolio. I had quickly learned that some artists specialized in drawing animals, others in portraits, and some in drawing fantasy landscapes. Would I like a watercolor, oil painting or colored pencil rendition?

I wrote out detailed instructions and even included an excerpt from my novella which described the fountain area. I asked that the ladies on the bridge be changed to the main characters in the novella. A few days later, I received the image and here it is…

What is September Harvest About?

Laurie Caswell loves her life… but a nightmare leaves her terrified of the future…

It’s 1979 and Laurie’s living a great life as a bookstore clerk at the Northbrook Mall. She’s excited to go out with her boyfriend to see a movie, have a drink, and spend a happy evening together. When he leaves, she’s rocked to her core by a nightmare.

A nightmare of a future where her mall is dead, overweight, black-clad people cover their faces like common criminals.

People seem more focused on their light-up book-like devices than her, but the year 2021 holds darker, more sinister dangers. Dangers she desperately wants to wake up from and escape. Laurie just wants her normal life back… but whatever she’s experiencing might not be willing to let her go so easily.

Where to buy:

Amazon: September Harvest
Amazon UK: September Harvest
Apple: September Harvest
B&N/Nook: September Harvest
Kobo: September Harvest

Scribd: September Harvest
Smashwords: September Harvest
Vivlio: September Harvest

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Writing for Pennies: The Dawn of Internet Writing

By Lisa Maliga 

© 2001-2015

writefor$I’ve been an Internet Writer since 2000. I began writing articles for a company named Write for Cash, which bought nonfiction on just about any topic imaginable and paid a one-time fee ranging from ten to twenty bucks. The articles were input into the major search engines and were there for all to see. A byline was optional. Three months later, I was able to view some of the articles I’d written and at the very bottom was my name, along with the keywords I’d supplied in order for it to show up efficiently in the engines. By year’s end, the company posted a ‘closed’ sign on their site: “We have temporarily stopped accepting new proposals and articles so that we can focus on publishing our backlog of articles.” I scrambled to find a new writing opportunity.

penniesThemestream’s web site was brought to my attention. With 1,700 categories, many of my rewritten articles and several unpublished works could be placed on that site. The paltry two cents per click was bargain basement, but maybe if I posted a few, I’d earn something. I didn’t expect to be moving into a mansion or buying a Ferrari, but maybe there was a possibility of getting my work noticed.

themestreamAromatherapy was a popular topic and as the hits grew, I added articles and recipes about bath and body products. Unlike Write for Cash, I was could post short stories and essays. I never lost track of one important factor: it was vanity publishing. This was even more obvious when I finally sold a story to a paying [online] magazine and the editor suggested some revisions. Was I grateful? Yes! On Themestream I rarely received constructive criticism. I’d find 😉 and thank you notes on my comments box beneath the article. My ego was routinely massaged with kind words and trite phrases.

In addition to writing, I was also a promoter. The Lisa Maliga Advertising & Publicity Agency was unofficially launched as I surfed message boards, posted free classifieds, contacted friends and relatives, submitted each article to the major search engines, and used my new web site as a veritable linking system to my articles. One of my recipes was continually racking up the numbers and I promoted that one further by using link exchanges with fellow crafters.

The expert Themestream Writers/Promoters wrote about writing more articles, which would increase clicks and revenue. I did, sometimes posting as many as three or four articles per day. Two months later, I had almost 80. Not all were bath and body recipes, although those continued to receive the most reads. There was a problem with my missing paycheck, which I was to have received in early February. I contacted the accounting department, only to be sent a form email. My doubts about the legitimacy of the company in Silicon Valley intensified as I noticed that after midnight the clicks were minimal or nonexistent. As I’d been contacted by people in such diverse locations as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa, all places where at midnight Pacific Standard Time it was daytime for them, my nocturnal observations turned to suspicion.

On February 28, 2001, the death knell resounded throughout the Themestream community as a memo from the editors arrived in our mailboxes. It began by complimenting us, but around paragraph five the purpose became clear: “…we are implementing a significant change in how we compensate our contributors. Beginning March 1, 2001, 12:01 a.m. PT, Themestream will only pay for articles that are read by registered users.”

The memo assured the contributors of one thing: look elsewhere to earn money as writers. This affected every contributor. Especially those of us who had tried diligently to promote them utilizing every honest means cyberspace offered. While I didn’t mind surfing message boards in search of a person who needed a new craft idea, there were other things I could be doing with my time. Writing my new novel was one of them, yet it was put aside in order for me to act as an online cheerleader of my works in order to earn money.

I launched into the third part of my writing online adventure. I heard from disgruntled Themestream writers about The Vines Network, which paid up to three cents a click. As the labyrinthine site required lots of mouse movement to read an article, let alone publish one, the various ad banners that popped up informed the viewer/writer that someone was making money.  I posted about 20 of my articles, as I owned full rights. I was “posting” not “publishing.”  Payment for reading and rating articles, discussions, and creating new vines all guaranteed more income. After a few days, I ventured into my ‘info’ section to check my revenue. The number of page views was impressive – 997!  Wow, that was more than most of my articles over on Themestream. The earnings were less than stellar – fifty cents! I decided that no more articles would be posted on vanity sites. Like the article I had sold to a real e-magazine that paid me before it was published, I knew that writing for pennies didn’t mean navigating streams of themes or big bucks advertising vines of confusion – it meant writing for legitimate online and print publications.

I could relate to the late Jim Thompson, author of “The Getaway” and “After Dark, My Sweet” who wrote in his autobiography [“Rough Neck”] “I have many sharp memories of that winter in Oklahoma City. Of writing two novels and selling neither. Of selling 300,000 words of trade-journal material and collecting on less than a tenth of it. Of distributing circulars at ten cents an hour, and digging ditches at nothing per.” That was written during the Depression.

Have things really changed?

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