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 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Blue Writings: Self-Doubt, Self-Reliance, and Sad Inspiration

This, surely, was the greatest test of my writing.

I am not, officially, a depression patient. (The time at the doctor's office where I failed the test doesn't count -- who the hell circles "never" instead of "sometimes" for Do-You-Ever-Feel-Sad questions?) There is no clinical diagnosis attached to my mellow, melancholic nature. No significant presence of tell-tale signs to link my off-days with WebMD-listed symptoms. No daily feelings of worthlessness (since age 19), regular insomnia (unless it's writing-spree-induced), or impaired concentration (well, aside from ADD-esque tendencies). The Thinking Frown is misleading; in general, I am a happy person -- easily pleased, easily awed.

Yet some months ago, as I was finishing my final undergraduate semester, I found myself in an odd place. Some strange little anguish had been seeping its way into my system. Much of it was likely a simple case of Senior-Year Blues -- graduation denial, job search bargaining, the usual stages. But this little anguish had nestled itself in other areas. It had found the guilt-producing sector of the brain and choked out the geek-on-steroids motivation that I'm used to. "Where is your inspiration?" it whispered. "What are you going to write now?"

I had no idea how much of a transition that semester would be. I had a significantly lighter academic load (una clase en espaƱol), and thus a lot, lot more free-time. It was the first time since my sophomore year that I hadn't been in a writing course, with some kind of paper or creative work due every week. As a hardworking student, I thought the transition from deadlines and scary professors to independent writing would be seamless, even welcome. Think how much more time I'll have to write, I thought, and how much more freedom to write what I want. I was foolish to think that. I soon began to realize that, for the first time, I was on my own. I had no threat of a lowered grade, no one to hold me accountable but myself. And oh sweet mother of Faulkner, it sucked.

It's a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, but whether strange little anguish caused it or vice-versa, inspiration was scarce in those days. Who would have thought that those nasty deadlines were actually helping to force the ideas to come? Now the ideas lay low. Ghosts of them flickered by every so often, long enough for me to jot a few words in my notebook, but nothing more. On one blizzard night, I fled the house and discovered pieces of the sky crumbling in white, and thought: I have something now. But returning indoors to my laptop, the resulting strained phrases were disheartening: they were words only, not life, not flame.

This, surely, was the greatest test of my writing. To still feel dependent, to survive a dry spell, to make my writing entirely my own.

When inspiration came at last, it was through somewhat unusual means. An open invitation to students popped up on social media for participation in a small study, involving three days of writing flanked by two in-depth surveys. "Why not?" I thought, wishing to assuage the guilt of being unproductive. I didn't know what to expect, especially after submitting the 20-minute pre-survey of psychoanalytical proportions. The rules were simple: you get one prompt for all three days, then write deeply about it each day for 15-20 minutes. (Diary time. Whoopee.) The evening before Day 1, the prompt came: write about the most upsetting experience in your life.

Oh. Something erupted. Strange little anguish temporarily lost its hold, and glimmers of inspiration were flashing wildly before I was even prepared to write. Oh, I realized, I can do that. The next morning, I got up earlier than usual, grabbed a notebook, and wrote the first day's work. These were handwritten notes, not prettied-up. No delete button, no stopping to look up words in the thesaurus. No limitations except to explore my feelings deeply. When I finished, I hesitantly put down the pen and sat back, looking down in shock at the scrawled notes.

Oh my God. I just wrote something good.

Feeling like I'd stepped off a roller-coaster, I glanced over at the clock, wondering where the time had gone. Oddly, in the rush of energy, I didn't question the possibility of what just occurred. I didn't ask how I was finally able to break the cycle after months of wordlessness. Because somehow, in the settling calm, I knew the answer.

This, surely, is the greatest test of my writing. To write about sadness. 

Inspiration doesn't want to come to me in pretty things, not right now. With strange little anguish in my skull, I could only write by indulging it (in it?), by channeling that despair toward the page. I was forced to dig deep through that despair and find it in past forms -- my age 19 feelings of worthlessness, my writing insomnia miseries, the trenches that carved and twisted me into a sad little person who needed writing (and eventually, into the easily-awed writer I am today). Is it a sorry predicament that pain is the easiest thing to write about? No, not right now. That's what's growing and growling most strongly in me at the moment, so best to feed it while it's here.

This, surely, is the greatest test of my writing. To live with despair a little while. To ride out the storm.


Emma Moser 

Twitter: @em_mo_write