Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Guilt Factor: Motivation by Fear and the Means to Empathy

For me, the need to write has always had a face.

Whose face that is and what expression it wears varies. Typically, it's been the face of a writing professor that's haunted me during those long middle-of-the-night writing sessions. It doesn't matter how fair or kind the professor is; for some reason (maybe it's the dark and caffeine jitters), my imagination paints them with a steady frown, causing my stomach to knot over every word with the thought that they might be unamused by my metaphors. Other times, the face has been warmer -- that of a close friend, perhaps -- but with eyes sad and disappointed as they strain to find some value in my work. More recently, the face has been the loved one abroad, patient and smiling; it invokes a twinge of pain in me as I remember my promise to write novels in his absence, while his cheerful voice says, "It's okay, don't feel too bad about it."

There has always been a sense of guilt associated with my work, and that guilt has always felt personal because I've associated it with important people in my life. It's not that uncommon of a trait among overachievers, I suppose. How often have we psychoanalyzed the artist driven by a neurotic need to please an ever-dissatisfied parent or mentor, even years after the latter's demise? Whether it is for God or husband or mommy dearest, history is full of creators desperately striving to impress someone.

Why? Isn't love of the art enough?  

For my part, guilt in its worst moments has caused the writing process to be miserable. Mainly because those disappointed faces in my mind are entirely fictitious, not at all founded upon reality. I'm naturally self-critical to begin with, and for some reason or another I often project that criticism onto others. Even if any of the people whose faces I see tell me my work is fine, a small corner of my subconscious doesn't believe them, doesn't want to believe they're being honest in their praise. There's a fine line between constructive encouragement and being too nice, and I'll be damned if I can tell the difference.

But whether those frowns are fabricated or not, my fear of disappointing others says something interesting about the writing process, I think. I would like to believe that love of writing could be its own motivator, but for me it isn't so. Even as one who thrives on solitude, I find myself needing others in my writing -- for validation, for support. Call it insecurity (and I'm sure it is, partly), but I suspect that it has more to do with empathy. While "writing for the self" is a popular trend these days, and valid in its own right, I think it fails to see what makes great literature great: its ability to evoke something in another person, to touch something deep in his roots and make him see a commonality between himself and a stranger on a page. Writing gives the guise of speaking as an individual, when in reality it speaks of humanity.

While I have no grand illusions about inspiring millions, I can't bring myself to pull the "misunderstood writer" card and write without any regard to what others think. It goes against what has impacted me as a reader, and consequently what I can only hope to achieve as a writer: if what I write doesn't inspire, if it doesn't resonate with someone, I have failed.

But I know I don't have to please everyone, nor do I want to. In his part-memoir, part-advice book On Writing, Stephen King explains that "you can't let the whole world into your story," but you can -- and should -- let in those who matter most. According to King, every good writer must have an Ideal Reader (I.R., for short); someone for whom you write, someone who, in flesh or in spirit, is always "going to be in your writing room." As King points out, sometimes a writer's Ideal Reader (like the neurotic patient's mommy dearest) is miles away or many years dead. It doesn't matter. An I.R. gives the writer a tangible audience, a direction for the writing process; someone who the writer wants to make think, laugh, cry, and feel deeply. "And you know what?" King adds. "You'll find yourself bending the story [for them] even before the Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence."[sic!]
It takes a certain empathy to write with another person in mind, and to know that person well enough (at least, to think one does) to impact them. And that's marvelous, because empathy -- seeing and valuing each other's common humanity -- is what writing's all about, isn't it?

As for myself, I've found that guilt is not such a terrible thing to live with after all. That fear of disappointing my reader is what forces me to analyze my own work critically; it makes me take a second, third, and fourth look at everything, asking myself, "Is there anything else I can do to improve this part?" Having someone else in mind, moreover, often gives me a reason to write on my darkest days. As a naturally self-deprecating self-critic, I find it easy to conclude on a bad day that I'm not worth the time or effort to write. But, because I'm a compassion-driven person, someone else is always worth the work.

So, in spite of its bad rap, I don't mind living with guilt. If a visitation from a frowning face is what produces the work, so be it. Maybe, someday, I'll finally make that face smile. 
Emma Moser 

Twitter @em_mo_write ♦

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ghosts and Psychics In Ireland

When I began my novel, A Cry From The Deep, I had no idea that my characters would includ ghosts and psychics. It was the land that spoke to me, as well as my protagonist, Catherine Fitzgerald, a scuba diver on assignment to cover a treasure hunt, who took me in this direction.
I’be been blessed with much travel, so it’s not surprising that the places I’ve been end up in my stories. My husband, Rob, and I visited Ireland in 2006 and to say that I was blown away by its beauty is an understatement. 
Ireland is so much more when you see it for yourself. I tried to capture what I saw in my novel, A Cry From The Deep, when Catherine Fitzgerald sees the land for the first time.

As if the drive wasnt challenging enough, she also had to contend with the distraction of the picture postcard scenery. Though the skies were grey, the greens of the landscape were unlike anything shed ever seen. It was as if God, the artist supreme, had selected every green paint available on the market and then some. There was kelly green, avocado, forest, willow, apple, lime, and mint. One green flowed seamlessly into another as it marched over the hills and into the beyond. She passed thatched cottages behind old stone fences, neon coloured pubs by the roadside, and new mansions set back on large properties. She even welcomed the times she had to stop to let farmers cross the road with their flocks of sheep. The gentle landscape was a welcome contrast to the frenetic pace of New York.”  from A Cry From The Deep

Because A Cry From The Deep, is a time slip story of a love so powerful it spans several lifetimes, it had to have ghosts and psychics. When Catherine Fitzgerald, about to join an underwater hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada, buys an antique Claddagh ring, she is troubled by nightmares and visions that set her on a path to fulfill a promise of love made centuries before. Set in Provence, Manhattan, and Ireland, this romantic mystery exposes not only two women’s longings, but also the beauty of the deep, where buried treasures tempt salvagers to break the law.

Thanks again,  Siggy. I know you love Ireland as well. 

Diana Stevan 
For more about me, please visit me at, or my Facebook author page at  
The link to my book title is

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Helen Holt and Historical Perspective on our Legacy

I have two posts to share with you that speak to the same topic: our legacy as Pen Women. One is an obituary for Helen Holt, whose biography by Patricia Daly-Lipe was published this year by the Pen Women Press, and whose life story is an inspiration. As April Myers, Pen Woman Magazine editor put it, “We should have a national day of mourning” for this remarkable Pen Woman. The second post is an extensively researched article by Jacksonville Pen Woman Siggy Buckley on the NLAPW’s history. Quoting from a 1970s special centennial issue of the Pen Woman magazine, Siggy paints a beautiful portrait of some of the women who overcame adversity to give future generations (that would be US now!) a reason to be Pen Women. –Treanor Baring (editor)

Helen Holt, 1913-2015

“When it comes to doing things for others,
some people stop at nothing.”

These words are not just a frequent aphorism of Helen Holt. They are a true reflection of her 23 dedicated years as a public servant. Helen’s list of accolades is nothing less than remarkable. Yet the 101-year-old icon and first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia was not at all shy to admit she became “a professional woman by necessity.”
Helen Holt unwittingly became a trailblazer for women in the political arena. The real irony is that she never gave politics a second thought until she married the youngest U.S. senator (1935-1941) from West Virginia, Rush D. Holt, Jr. in 1941. Helen was immediately involved in her husband’s work, and Rush was quick to teach Helen “how to work with men and to feel comfortable working with them,” since she was a lone woman in a man’s world. Sadly, Rush was only 49 at the time of his death. But, despite no income (unlike today’s members of Congress), Helen was able to provide for her family when she took over Rush’s position in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Two years later, Helen was sworn in as the first female Secretary of State of West Virginia. In 1960, President Eisenhower commissioned Helen with “the task of creating a program to fix the nation’s ailing network of nursing homes” because, as Helen wrote, “they had to get a woman—no man was sufficiently interested.” Tirelessly, she carried out this job under seven consecutive United States Presidents.
Patricia Daly-Lipe
District of Columbia Branch 

This post was published first on our national Website on August 5,2015.
Continue reading; Siggy's post comes next. (published ibd.)


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Legacy of Pen Women

I'm a blogger and writer and an International member of the National League of Pen byline says. So who are the Pen Women? 

The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. is a professional organization of women in creative fields to support and promote creative excellence and professional standards in the Arts. The League reaches back for almost 120 years with a rich history of outstanding members and a colorful tapestry of talents in the fields of writing, art and music.
It was founded by five adventurous and ambitious writers in 1897 because the literary world they wanted to conquer as journalists was exclusively a male domain. Barred from the all-male Press Club, their indignation about such discrimination led them to act. Now there are branches all over the United States with distinguished programs such as competitions for young artists and writers to fulfill our nonprofit mission to promote the arts.
With the League’s membership expanding, it appointed a Music Committee in 1916.
Pen Women have made history since their founding days: “Pen Woman Anna Kelton Wiley went to jail in 1917 with 98 other women in an attempt to convince President Woodrow Wilson of the need for Women’s Suffrage.”
25 years after its inception/foundation, the League’s artistic membership had sufficiently grown to warrant a League Art Show. One of its art members was young Vinnie Ream, the sculptor of the statue of President Abraham Lincoln still admired in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
It took until 1971, however, for women to be approved for membership in the National Press Club. “On February 22, 1971, 24 newswomen were approved for membership in the National Press Club, ending the all-male member’s tradition,” Mary Manning writes in her contribution to the Centennial Celebration Pen Woman magazine. This small version of the magazine is a priceless testimonial to the many accomplishments of the League; it gives a detailed overview of the Pen Women’s renowned history and endeavors.
In 1950, a mansion was purchased in Washington D.C which became the splendid Pen Arts Building. Within walking distance of the White House, art museums, and just down the street from the National Geographic Society, its location has a historic designation. Members are encouraged to visit it and its art collections, library and archives. Currently, there is an initiative to raise funds for needed building repairs.
The Pen Women are proud to have many famous artists of international renown like Pearl Buck and Dorothy Parker among their ranks as well as several First Ladies like Florence Kling Harding, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton who are Honorary Members.
Once a Pen Woman – always a Pen Woman. Paula Harding, journalist and author, one of our own members here in Jacksonville, FL was a distinguished member for over 50 years. She held every office except that of the Treasurer, “because she had no talent for that.” She met personally with Honorary Member Pearl Buck when she visited Jacksonville. She is the perfect example extending her hand into the community well beyond her retirement writing a newsletter for the community she lived in until, sadly, she passed away in 2013.
“It’s a good feeling to belong to an organization as established (78 years!), as large as 5,800 talented women!), and as prestigious as the League…not just the honor of being associated with some of the most talented creators.., not just the thrill of recognizing so many famous bylines…There is a delight…such a glow of admiration and affection that makes me proud to be able to say, “I am a Pen Woman” (Elizabeth Shafer, 1975).
The Centennial magazine revealed another true gem, the term Penguin and Penguin Parade referring to the husbands of the Pen Women. When attending one of their famous dinners in evening gear, what should one call the attending spouses appropriately? Liboria Romano who was president of the Manhattan branch at the time, in 1949, came up with the idea to call them Pen-guins.
So much has changed since the first communication bulletin was printed and distributed in 1916 and the first quarterly magazine was issued in 1920. (These magazines can be read in the Pen Arts archives!) These days the League has fully embraced the digital era with a wonderful, informative national website ( Most local branches have their own websites, e.g.,
“In an age where striving for excellence is a rare thing, what a privilege it is to belong to THE NATIONAL LEAGUE OF AMERICAN PEN WOMEN. TO THE FUTURE!” (from the Sacramento branch according to the Centennial magazine). This still holds true today. One for all and all for one, is after all, our motto.

If you're a writer, artist or create music, you may want to consider membership with us. There will be a branch near you
Jacksonville Branch.
This blogpost was first published on our national website August 5,2015.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Social" Media and Reviews Don't Mix ????

 (Picture is from Funny reviews by Accoutrements Horse Head Mask) 

It’s only been a few weeks since I wrote an article on Indies Unlimited titled Amazon Steps in as Big Brother  chronicling how Amazon has decided who can leave customers reviews and who can not. My disappointment started when the company began removing reviews for some of the books I bought and read. I felt so bad about not being able to leave my customer review because I believed the author deserved the praise. I was told via email since there is not phone support for this department that I could not leave my review because I knew the author.

That was odd to me because I didn’t know this author anymore than the other nearly 700 authors I left reviews for before this. This didn’t sit well with me and I wrote them only to get the same computer generated response, and I quote, “We are unable to post your review because your account activity indicates that you know the author. We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature.”

Even though I tried to state my case I failed miserably to get through to them as was pretty much dismissed. I knew I had to share this story because I believed this was just the first chip of the iceberg. And surely it was.

Since I wrote my original story things have gotten worse for me, just last week I received a new message from Amazon stating, “We are writing to inform you that we have removed your review privileges and suppressed all of your reviews. Any new reviews written will automatically be suppressed. We took this action because you have failed to comply with our review guidelines and manipulated product reviews. For detailed information on the guidelines, please visit:” This was exactly the same message Christoph Fischer received from Amazon months earlier. I knew my reviewing days had come to an end. It was a big disappointment to me because not only did I spent a lot of money on all these books I read but I had also invested a great deal of my time as well. As an Indie author I have wanted to support others in my position and this was one way to help. Now this was all for not.

It was bound to happen but when it did I was flooded with feelings of disillusionment , anger, resentment, loss and messages from other authors on Facebook concerned why my reviews for their books were no longer on Amazon. Some took it personal thinking I had a reason for removing my reviews. That goes to show you how important these reviews are to us. They are one of the few rewards we receive as Indie authors because certainly most of us are not getting rich and famous. Well, maybe some of us are. ;-)

If you haven’t, would you please sign the petition author Jas T. Ward started to get Amazon to Change the “You Know This Author” Policy. It now has 13,685 supporters and it needs 1,315 to reach 15,000.

Brenda Perlin On Facebook

Friday, July 24, 2015

How to Make Refreshing Elderflower Champagne - without explosions

Our first attempt was elderflower champagne which, strictly speaking, isn’t champagne at all. It hardly has any alcohol, yet it sparkles and is a refreshing spritzy drink even for kids.
Elderberry Champagne:
You’ll need
·       approximately 10 liters of water
·       15 big elderflower clusters
·       ¼ liter wine vinegar
·       2–3 untreated lemons
·       1 kilogram sugar.
Besides these ingredients, you need a big stone or earthenware pot and thick-walled glass bottles, preferably old champagne bottles that can be secured with a cork and wire. Screw tops do blow off under pressure. Wait till you hear that story!

First, go for a walk to cut these elderberry blossoms, fully blown, but not over yet. Boil the water, dissolve the sugar in it and cool down. Wash the untreated lemons in hot water and cut into slices.
Check the elderflower blossoms for little critters and dirt. Use as much as possible from the thick green stems and then put the blooms together with the lemon slices into the stone pot. Add the wine vinegar to the cooled sugar water and pour over the flowers and lemons in the stone pot. Cover with a cloth and leave in a sunny place for 4 days. Stir every day with a wooden spoon.

Pour the liquid into the bottles; filter it through a muslin cloth or very fine sieve. Leave 4 to 5 cm from the surface to the rim.

Seal the bottles and secure the corks! The best place to store them is in a box. Bring to a cool place (like the basement) and leave at least 14 days to mature (bottle fermentation). The champagne sparkles a little already, but at maturity, there's real power, or then again sometimes not.
The development of carbon dioxide differs from year to year. It must depend on the weather or the condition of the blossoms. You can’t predict the amount of CO2 in the bottle.
So be careful when opening the first bottle, unless you want to paint the ceiling anyway. Or even better, open the first bottle in the garden. Elderberry champagne tastes best chilled — a great refreshing drink on hot days.
OK, now to that explosive story. We had started to make out own cider. We poured it into screw-top bottles, laying them on the shelves in out pantry. We waited patiently through the fermentation process until we could have our first degustation (tasting). 
One night, we were woken by a loud banging from downstairs. Terrified, I clung to my husband who was a sound sleeper and had barely heard a sound. There it was again. Another loud bang and Mac was wide awake. “Burglars,” I whispered. He sealed his lips with his finger and grabbed the rifle he stashed behind our wardrobe. “Stay here, I’ll go and have a look”. He made it down the creaky staircase as quietly as he could. My heart almost stopped beating when I heard another gun-shot like noise … and then loud laughter emanating from the kitchen below. “You must come down and see this for yourself!”
“Is it safe?” By now the children were peeking from behind their doors.
Some of the three dozen bottles had decided to explode one after another, creating the racket. The sticky cider was leaking down from the shelves onto the sacks of wheat that were stored underneath. Shards scattered everywhere and the sweet juice also stuck to the floor and windows. “Mind where you step! I’ll get it in the morning.” I said. For weeks to come our home-ground flour had the distinct flavor of apple and cider.
We never used bottle fermentation after that, and wine-making in the following years was never as exciting.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kickstarter Project by Gary Bloom

What's Red Lance? New heroes for a new generation? A brand new comic book that doesn't have footprints in the early 20th century? New world, new stories and new characters from Olympus Union creator Gary Bloom? I'll take "All of the Above for $1000 Alex!"
Red Lance was initially inspired by the #wheresnatasha campaign, which begged the question: why is Black Widow so left out? That campaign left the Olympus Union creator to wonder what the world would hold for for his year old daughter. Enter Cinderhawk.
Red Lance flowed out of the creation of a single female character, Cinderhawk. 'Hawk would be strong, confident, upbeat and powerful. Based on the personality and actual body type of a friend, this would be a character built as a hero - and not a sex symbol - from the very beginning. It wasn't enough, however; there needed to be level interest between men and women.
Expanding the concept, three other friends were pulled in as hero templates. The real life brother of Cinderhawk's model became the template for her in-story brother, Bricker. A methodical and even-keeled friend became the template for speedster Raceway. Another woman agreed to step in as Stonefish, lending her martial arts background to inspire another strong female character.
The comic now hand a strong super team, but needed a special villain set. One, a brilliant technical mind, would be driven crazy by another, the villain maker. Armed with a psionic push and a desire for fomenting chaos, Vycia literally created Cataclysm from a lonely isolationist. As Red Lance moves forward, we'll see more villains created by the sadistic with, whose sole joy is the pain of others.
The only way that this comic can come into play, however, is with the support of others. Pledging to a Kickstarter will help bring this unique storyline to fruition. Strong female characters without a need for re-imagining ages old heroines. A chase to stop a hellacious villain maker. A brand new take on powers - the Drenals - where powers are finite. Help make Red Lance happen. Go here and donate:

Gary Bloom