Yes! The man from NYC is back for more on Sylvia Says. This is a first for me, hosting a great author twice on my blog. So read on, and I hope you enjoy the interview.
SM: Steven, it's great to have you back on my blog and ready to tell readers about your latest release The Ishi Affair.
SJG: It's great to be back, Sylvia. I'm thrilled to be the only author you've hosted twice on the blog.
SM: What can I say? It's that charm of yours... And the fact I love guys from NYC (blushing). But let's get you talking about your latest novel. This is book 5 of your David Grossman series. Does the new book tell a continuing story?
SJG: Each of the five novels in my David Grossman Series is an independent story. But the books do share a main protagonist, hence the series. For sure, readers who enjoy all the books will appreciate the larger arc of David’s colorful life. The first three novels--Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline— are told in the first person, so they share the intimate tone of a single narrator. Grossman’s Castle and The Ishi Affair are told in the third-person, so various characters share center-stage with David—though his brash and comic voice is sometimes loudest.
SM: So what compelled you to write this latest novel?
SJG: I’ve always had a deep fear and loathing of bullies. When I was still quite young, I learned that my mother’s family—and other Jews of the Ukraine—had suffered the casual taunts of Jew-haters and, even more, the murderous pogroms that often exterminated entire Jewish villages. My father’s boyhood was spent in Nazi Germany. Most of his extended family was able to leave before Kristallnacht. The ones who stayed behind were killed.
When I was 17, I first learned about Ishi and how his tribe, along with many other Native American tribes, were hunted down and murdered by whites for fun and profit—and that these heinous actions were often sponsored by government fiat. I learned early on that genocide was the most loathsome human expression imaginable. I knew, at 17, I would write about Ishi.
SM: Genocide is indeed one of the most loathsome human expressions imaginable. Nowadays I'd have to say I put it right up there with terrorist acts. But back to Ishi--Was there a real "Ishi" or an ancient person who you based Ishi on?
SJG: Yes, in fact Ishi is quite famous, and the last five years of his life (1911–1916) are well documented. I did quite a bit of research to learn about the Yahi, whose Stone Age customs, traditions, and technology were still being practiced in the early 20th century.
SM: What made you mesh the Stone Age era component into the modern-day story you wrote? And why did you decide on the Stone Age era in the first place?
SJG: I loved the idea that Ishi was born into a Stone Age culture while much of the rest of our nation was becoming highly industrialized. A couple days after Ishi was “discovered,” he was transported by railroad to bustling San Francisco, where he saw large sailing ships and even an airplane. This image has always fascinated me, and I knew early on that I would not write a Clan of the Cave Bear-type story. You see, I wasn’t as interested in the Old Ways of the Yahi as I was in the clash of cultures, Stone Age and Modern.
SM: How does Ishi become a catalyst for David Grossman to face certain issues in his modern life?
SJG: Human nature, for better or worse, seems to be a constant. For thousands of years, going back to the Stone Age, people have labored, fought, loved … much as they do today. Conversely, modern humans—for all their advanced knowledge and technology—are capable of expressing the most primitive, savage impulses.
SM: Oh yes. I have to agree with you there, my friend. Since mankind has walked erect, breaking away from the apes, nothing much has changed by way of their nature.
SJG: And insofar as both are human, David Grossman and Ishi are not so different in terms of their basic needs. By comparing Stone Age and Modern characters, we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
SM: An excellent point. As for The Ishi Affair, although a work of fiction, how much did you draw from true historical facts to write this story?
SJG: Almost everything I wrote about the historical Ishi is based on well-known research. I altered only one or two minor details to accommodate the needs of my narrative. Readers should remember that we are not that far removed from Ishi’s time. Interesting note: the esteemed sci-fi writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who is still alive and well, is the daughter of early 20th-century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and his second wife, Theodora Kroeber, both of whom play roles in my novel. And, just for the record: Le Guin’s middle initial K stands for Kroeber.
SM: This sounds like a fascinating story indeed. And before we go, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
SJG: I first learned about Ishi when I was 17 and working on an archaeological dig in northern California. That summer, after the dig, I began to write a novel about Ishi and the Yahi. Even then I knew I would combine the story of the Stone Age tribe into a contemporary tale. But I lacked maturity. I needed an adult voice to tell this story. It took me 46 years to get it right.
SM: Thank you, Steven, for doing this interview. Without your agreeing to be my guest today I would never have learned about Ishi and his ancestry. The Ishi Affair is definitely on my reading list now.
SJG: Thank you, Sylvia, for hosting me on your blog post; and the next one (and it's on my bucket list) is to do a face to face interview with you in the land Down Under.
SM: Dear Steven... I'll hold you to that! Bye for now.
NOTE TO READERS: Dear readers, please note that being an Aussie I use Australian spelling in my blog posts, but I don't alter the spelling of the guest's responses, which in this case are written in American spelling. Thank you and until next time!
WARNING: If you're one of these "politically correct" people who gets insulted at anybody's point of view except your own, then DO NOT read this blog post.
SPECIAL NOTE: Since I posted this blog post, Adam Maier-Clayton (whose interview with CBC I posted at the end of this post in a link) has taken his own life. My heart and thoughts go to his family. However, I'm sure they will agree that Adam made the right choice for himself (as all of us should have the right to do this). I relate to Adam's situation because I know what it's like to live with chronic pain, fear, anxiety, depression, and often without hope. My post below is strongly-worded because those who have the power to legalise voluntary euthanasia just don't seem to want to know about it. But as you can see from Adam's story, when the time comes for each of us (and we think we've had enough) we will find a way to go irrespective of the law. The only thing you can do with your influence and power is the only humane thing: Ease the way by letting us have the choice to go with dignity. The question you must ask yourself is this: Do you have the guts to do something humane?
If Australia were a truly progressive and enlightened nation, our politicians, the medical profession, and religious organisations would take the attitude of “live and let live” or in the case of euthanasia “live and let die”.
Unfortunately, Australia is not a progressive and enlightened nation (more's the pity), but one filled with condescending politicians, an often arrogant medical profession, and the bigotry of religious organisations. What do these bodies all have in common? Hypocrisy.
Now, let’s look at voluntary euthanasia and the arguments that are usually put forward by the government, the medical profession, and religious organisations.
Government: It’s unethical. People would abuse it and exit this world when they simply feel a bit depressed. It’s not a choice individuals are capable of making by themselves anyway. People would have to at least have an incurable illness and go through counselling, plus have two doctors to justify their wish for euthanasia before we’d even consider making it legal. They would have to have a month or two to live at most and not simply take the easy way out. And what about those who don’t have their full faculties about them? They cannot make a decision by themselves, and their relatives might push them into it.
Medical profession: Doctors are here to preserve life, not take it. We can help people with chronic pain and depression, so they should not be eligible to choose even if euthanasia were legalised. What about people with dementia or the vulnerable elderly? Their families may try to persuade them to opt for euthanasia so they are no longer a burden. Young people shouldn’t even be considered for euthanasia; they’re not old enough to make a decision on their own suffering.
Religious organisations: God gave life, and only God should take it away. It’s a sin to commit suicide. We can’t have a clear conscience if we support the legalisation of euthanasia.
There are many other arguments put forward as to why a person cannot opt to take their own life via euthanasia, but I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now. Therefore, my response to all three groups is this: “Where is your empathy?”
To government: Putting aside the fact that you don’t have empathy, especially judging by the way you treat the general population with your budgetary cuts to health, education, social security and so on, who are you to tell us that we cannot die with dignity? When we have a sick pet we can choose to let them die peacefully, without pain; so why do you wish for the general population to suffer greatly? Have you ever seen anyone die slowly?
It took my father about five years or longer to die. He battled about four different cancers; later developed dementia; diabetes type-2; and he was treated worse than an animal in the nursing home in which he had to be placed due to his poor condition. Plus I'd like to add that he was first kicked out of a Catholic nursing home because of his dementia (so much for religious compassion), and they gave very little notice to my super stressed mother to find another nursing home for him. So she had to rush and put him in the first nursing home that would take him irrespective of the fact that the home was less than desirable. Meanwhile, the medical profession got to him with their chemotherapy and other dangerous drugs designed to break down a person’s immune system, combined with certain errors made at the hospital; and the very poor quality of care in both the nursing home and the hospital that my father became subject to. But what really killed him in the end was lack of personal care, which led to a diabetes sore becoming infected, landing him again in hospital where antibiotics were useless against the super bugs such as MRSA; and this is what led to fatal pneumonia. My father died without knowing who we were; he had been bedridden for months, and he weighed half his normal weight.
I will never forget my last visit to him. He was literally skin and bones, hanging on by a thread; and we were all waiting for him to die--our family, because we wanted his suffering to stop; and the hospital, because they needed the bed.
Had euthanasia been legal most of this suffering (my father's; and ours, at seeing him in such a deplorable condition) could have been avoided, and Dad would have left this world with dignity and peace. He always used to say he wanted to go in his sleep...
But wait! The government will not legalise euthanasia. Why? Because it seems they like people to suffer. After all, what other reason could they have for subjecting people to such a horrible end?
I should add in my father's case, the fact that he ended up with dementia and was not capable to make a choice at the time (should the choice for euthanasia have existed) could have been overcome by him making a stipulation as part of his will when he was still well. Or at worst, in cases such as his, an application for euthanasia could go through the courts in order to let him die with dignity and also eliminate any potential wrongdoing on the part of relatives.
From another perspective, you (the government) think nothing of sending soldiers to fight wars that are not even ours! And many are killed as a result. Young and healthy men and women are put to death in order to satisfy your immense greed for power. So the message you send to the nation is that it’s okay for the government to kill off healthy people for political ends, but it’s not okay for someone who is suffering horribly to have access to euthanasia. Yes, that about sums it up for the government.
To the medical profession: You kill off more patients than any other profession on the planet including terrorism. You often pass off your mistakes and errors of judgement as unforeseeable circumstances. You destroy people’s immune systems with your drugs (that may as well be some concoction from the dark ages for all the good they do). You take credit when you manage to save someone, but how many others have you killed with pain and suffering (and the torture of drug side-effects) to counteract the odd person you might save? At least give people the choice to end it if they so wish!
You say you’re here to save lives, not take them. How hypocritical is this? Many of you kill without compunction; you kill through lack of attention and care, and oftentimes through preventable errors due to non-compliance for safety regulations. You often have no empathy or conscience; and for some it's only about the money you earn, and it has nothing to do with caring about people.
To religious organisations: I only have one thing to say to you; when you stop molesting young children and scarring them for life (often driving them to take their own lives as a result of your actions), only then will you have a voice and earn the credibility to opine on any moral issue.
In general, religion is a matter of choice and personal belief, and each person has the freedom in this country to either believe or not believe in something greater than themselves. Just as religion is a matter of personal belief and choice, so should euthanasia be.
In my view, I’m sure if there is something greater than us, that something will understand if we opt for a painless death. After all, isn't religion meant to be about unconditional love and forgiveness? So clean your own house first—meaning, get rid of the suffering you inflict on those who believe in your religion—and above all, do no harm.
In conclusion: You should all know (especially the government) that if you don’t legalise voluntary euthanasia for all those who wish to have the option to choose regardless of their age and different levels of suffering, suicides will still happen. People will find another way to kill themselves. Unfortunately, it will be in a crude and painful manner thanks to your lack of policy on euthanasia.
If you believe the right to die with dignity is something you cannot condone because you think you have a conscience, then let me put to you that allowing people in pain, despair, and mental suffering to kill themselves in horrid ways is something that should worry your conscience far more than legalising a humane conduit to exit this planet.
I personally know many who suffer from chronic or serious illness (and it doesn’t have to be cancer), and they are not looked after by government, the medical profession, religious organisations, or sometimes even their own family.
These people are often considered a “burden on society” and the government is not going to dig into their pocket to help sustain them (you don't have to go further for proof of this than seeing those trying to apply for disability pension because they cannot work, and being rejected outright again and again). Therefore, why not do something truly ethical and compassionate for a change, and give each person the right to choose how they end their life?
Lastly, I read that people who have free access to Nembutal (the euthanasia drug) end up living more fully (and often longer) in the knowledge that they can enjoy each day for as long as possible, and that when worse comes to worst they have the assurance they will not suffer but simply slip away in peaceful slumber.
Unlike what others may think, having access to euthanasia drugs will not create a mass exodus on this planet via Nembutal. If anything, more people will die in wars, terrorist attacks, medical blunders, accidents, and the list goes on. People who have the option of a pain-free and peaceful exit will be happier and more reassured that the end will not be horrible when the time comes. This is an incredibly empowering thought--to have control over one's end.
Remember, voluntary euthanasia should simply be a choice for the individual to make. Those who don’t agree with it don’t have to make this choice for themselves, but please respect the wishes of others.
At the end of the day it really comes down to personal choice and not superimposing beliefs and values from government, the medical profession or religion on the people who wish to go with euthanasia. So live and let live and live and let die.
Here is the heartbreaking story of 27-year-old Adam Maier-Clayton from Windsor, Canada. Please read it and ask yourself why it's you, and not him, who should judge whether he goes on living or not. Again, governments and the medical profession (leaving religion aside) have a lot to answer for.
For those of you old enough to remember 1980s English post-punk group, Adam and the Ants, you’re in the wrong blog post. Today, I’m thrilled to have as a guest English scientist and sci-fi author extraordinaire, Ant Ryan. AND he’s got a thing about Spanish caves! So read on ...
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Ant. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog. From one animal and coffee lover to another, you’ve already captured my heart (just don’t tell the wife!). And I see you have cats and rabbits—I hope the cats are not staying up late at night swapping rabbit stew recipes.
AR: Thanks for the kind invite and nice to be “here”. Ha, yes, I need a lot of coffee to keep up with the cats and rabbits. Rabbit stew! I’d better not mention the 5ft fish tank then.
SM: True, forget about the fish. We don’t want to give the kitty cats any ideas. I see you’re from NW England. The only thing I know about this area is the Beatles Museum in Liverpool, which I visited in 1985 (giving away my age here). What’s it like to live in your part of the world?
AR: Actually, we’re just a few miles across the river from Liverpool. I was at that museum, too, in ’85 – I turn 40 this year ;-/ There are lots of great museums, art galleries, superb architecture, many restaurants, bars and cafes fit for writing in. This area has really improved since the 1980’s, when there were still World War II damaged buildings. Now, though still relatively small, it is vibrant, cosmopolitan, friendly and quite a pretty city. Plus several great football (soccer) teams are nearby. I really do love living near Liverpool. We have national parks within a short driving distance, also the Welsh coast and mountains, as well as Manchester and Chester cities nearby. You can even take a ferry to Dublin, Belfast, and the Isle of Man. I sound like a tourist guide on commission ;)
SM: Well, if I ever revisit your part of the world I expect a full tour, and I’ll buy you all the coffee you want! But tell me, being a scientist who tries to solve physics problems, I thought I’d ask you if you’ve come up with a way to travel through a wormhole into another galaxy or even a parallel universe. I’m forever trying to locate my idol, David Bowie; and I’m sure he’s somewhere in our universe. What do you think?
AR: I think that the overall universe is infinite in size as opposed to the observable universe, so in many theories, Bowie could indeed be performing still, or dressed as a Goblin King, but we could never meet that version. Sadly missed and on my favourite lists on iTunes by the way. I loved how his music made the Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes TV series more atmospheric; wish they had done a third called Starman.
SM: I have to confess I never saw the TV series, but when I watched the film “Martian” and they played Starman in one scene, I bawled my eyes out—just don’t tell anyone. And on that note, down to business: Just so we know a bit more about you, you’re a scientist, but you also write sci-fi short stories. Is that right? First of all, what kind of scientist are you, and what kind of work do you do as a scientist?
AR: I work in a chemistry lab pressing buttons, nothing too exciting. If I say "top secret" that might make it about 0.0001% more interesting ;)
Yes, short stories are what I’m getting into. I thought at first this was because I couldn’t write anything longer, but I actually think that it is what I prefer myself. Twitter has taught me to be concise (not that I am being here), but I value people’s time. There’s a fine balance between getting enough detail in to be able to tell your story well enough and superfluous text, and I hope this is something I will improve at.
SM: And what inspired you to write? As you probably know by now (unless you’re enjoying the fame of JKRowling or Stephen King) writing is very much a labour of love unless one is discovered. So please expand on why you started to write and how the creative mood strikes you.
AR: Great question. I think it was from writing theoretical physics papers. Friends had made the transition from science books into fiction, so I researched it and now I’m getting there I guess. I like the idea of leaving the real world with something that can outlive our lifetimes. It’s nice to create imaginary worlds and characters, and the process is becoming addictive. Creativity seems to strike randomly, so it’s useful to note these thoughts down as and when they do arrive.
SM: As novelists we always reflect something within ourselves through the characters we create. What do you feel you reflect most about yourself that is revealed through your characters?
AR: The big questions about the Universe – is there life out there – our obsession with (many different) gods – pushing boundaries of possibility and technologies, and humanity’s fantastic achievements versus our easily avoidable mistakes that we can’t seem to stop making.
SM: Yes, I can relate to that—the mistakes humanity keeps on making. But I won’t digress now, otherwise this blog post will turn into a long novel :) So please tell us a little about Celestial Spheres.
AR: Tri-gods sum it up. An extra-terrestrial binary star system with humans, and humanoids who exploit them; these “higher” beings have one of three god-like abilities – ultimate power, infinite knowledge or can travel freely in space-time. There are also lower humans, more zombie-like. Wars have occurred between the species and the finely balanced symbiotic status quo has been threatened before. It follows the story of a Potent (powerful humanoid) wanting to gain the other two abilities and explore the Universe, but society’s rulers don’t like this sort of ambition.
SM: Very interesting; and if I had to choose one ability I’d go for travelling freely in space-time. This could come in very useful. I also think this kind of story would make a good premise for a sci-fi film. So what are you working on at present, if anything?
AR: I’m finishing Celestial Spheres part 3; drafting part 4; and plotting part 5 (the final part). I’m also drafting/editing a standalone short entitled “Liver Pool”, which is sci-fi/fantasy, plus I’m plotting a fantasy short.
SM: Well, it sounds like you’re a busy bee then. You know, on writing, I feel it’s not always easy to tell the world what we think and feel through our stories; however, I feel blessed we can do this, even if it makes us feel vulnerable at times. I know some readers may not take away anything from our work, while others will go on to criticise and bring us down; but despite this, I believe that if we can touch just one heart or one soul with the stories we write, then we’ve done a good job. What do you think?
AR: Great way of looking at it. I think negativity is better than nothing, as it means one’s work has been read, plus we can learn from constructive criticism. The scientist side of me likes numbers, however, so the more reads and reviews we get the more accurate and precise the average view is. There will always be love and hate for most things. But note to self – grow a thicker skin now! ;)
SM: Well said. We can’t please everybody nor can we avoid those who love to ‘heckle’ us in a destructive rather than constructive way. But at least we got off our arses and did something useful. And as they say in Hollywood: "Everyone’s a critic." So let them criticise away! I think as authors we start off with fear of what others will think or write about us, but we know we’ve become veterans when we "don’t give a load of dingoes kidneys" what others think (the latter part of this sentence was borrowed from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). LOL.
Anyway, it was great having you on Sylvia Says, Ant. But before we go, what’s with the "caves in Spain" thingy?
AR: Sadly, I lost close family in the last few years, so I wanted to spend a small inheritance on something nice that I could enjoy in the future, and as a reminder of them. I named the cave after my loved ones “Casa Therene Robles”. The place is in the middle of a working town in a desert, so it’s great because a cave naturally stays warm in winter and cool in the very hot summer! 1.5L of wine is €1.10, and it is "muy bien".
SM: Actually, I’m going to correct your Spanish if you don’t mind :) and say "muy bueno" (meaning the wine is very good, which I’m sure this is what you meant to say). Yes, I know I’m a smartarse, but I still love you, my friend.
Thank you for clarifying the cave mystery, and thank you for being my guest today. I wish you all the best for the future, and I’ll be looking for that invite to your cave house in Spain!
AR: Likewise, and thanks very much for having me! The invite’s on its way :)
For more information about Ant Ryan, please click HERE
It actually sounds like the name of a song David Bowie would write, but no; this isn't a song, and the writer is not David Bowie--but he is a funky little demon! Read on to get into AJ Beamish's mind. I guarantee it can be a scary place! And no, AJ's not one of those frigging clowns that are running around the world right now scaring young and old.
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, AJ. It’s great to have you as a guest on this blog. I see you’re originally from one of my favourite cities—NYC. So what are you doing in Georgia now, and why do you want to move to the land down under?
AJ: I was born in NYC to a couple of Scousers from Liverpool. So I grew up in England and NYC, probably why I have a better grasp of the English language than most Americans (*cough*TrumpSupporters*cough*). Funny thing, when we first moved to Georgia, I really wanted to move to Australia. Might have had something to do with smoking pot while watching the Paul Hogan show... Can't remember.
Alas, my wife loves her comfort zone too much and she has family here. She also hits harder than Bruce Lee. So we ended up in Southern Hell. At the time, I just wanted to get out of NYC. I thought it was because I hated it there. Now I realise I've always had severe social anxieties; I get very anxious in crowded settings. I miss NYC, but it's too expensive for working class folk now. That's a little disappointing.
SM: I see none of your facebook friends are David Bowie fans except for me. Do you think they were replaced by extraterrestrials, but still look like their human selves? Except for Author Nicole Chardenet of course; we all know she’s an extraterrestrial chick through and through!
AJ: I have Facebook friends? *looking genuinely surprised* Most of them are young-adult gamers, or they were until I started pissing them off. They're great folk, solid gaming friends with whom I've developed great personal relationships over the years. Alas, I need more writer friends on my Facebook. Writers are far more contemplative, especially regarding important social issues older generations are more concerned about. My gamer friends suffer from the vestiges and arrogance of youth, as I did at their age. Facebook is where you go to realise you have very little in common with the people you actually know--or--the people you know can't find a middle ground with you. For the most part, Facebook is a place for acquaintances, not friends. At least, that's been my experience.
SM: Another thing I noticed is that you have a dog looking at a computer on your Facebook feature pic (see below). This explains many things.... LOL. Care to comment on this and tell us who is really writing your novel?
AJ: That's Stanley. He's an only child and needs a friend, and thus is a spoiled brat. We've always had two dogs, but we lost 3 in row a few years back within a 4-year period (one to cancer, one to a rare genetic blood disease, and one to old age) and have been reluctant to adopt more (please always adopt, people!) Besides my wife, he's my best friend. Rain or shine, Stanley never leaves my side. When friends and family abandon me, he is there.
My wife says 'he's just like you', and he is. I've learned more about myself through Stanley than all my life experiences put together. He has all my fears, mania, and anxieties. He hates going outside, doesn't trust anyone, but my wife and me. When depression gets the best of me, he's sulking right next to me. When the mania hits, he's destroying his multitude of toys while I frantically pace. He looks out the window and growls at the world he has no control over. I sit on the internet and growl at the world I have no control over. We both binge-watched the entirety of "Outrageous Fortune" on Netflix like 3 times... He's a total freak, just like me.
I am most definitely writing my novel, but I'm pretty sure Stanley takes over my Facebook and Twitter feeds late at night. Oh, I should copyright that one before Trump does!
SM: Okay, enough humour. Aussies like messing about with people and taking the piss out of them (in a nice way, of course). Now, tell me about the premise of your novel, which seems to be a long labour of love.
AJ: Marley Wright is close to my heart. The bugger's been tormenting me a long time. Though I fear the story may have fermented too long. He's a simple kid, from a broken family, who gets these powers and starts seeing tiny demons all around him. The demons guide him in strange ways. He develops these precognitive magical powers through the demons and rather than doing the whole Peter Parker responsibility thing, Marley goes off on a wild tangent, gets lost, gets hunted, finds purpose, and tries to start doing what he believes he was meant to do. But is it too late by then? I'd allude more to what that purpose is, but it's a major plot twist that doesn't come about till late in the second novel.
It's a ballad, a trilogy with a couple of short stories thrown in for good measure. The ballad is a journey of discovery and the search for something to believe in. The first novel is about the loss of innocence and the bitter sting of betrayal.
I'm working on a short story for the holidays. A sort of Funky Little Demons Christmas Carol that jumps ahead quite a few years, and that will help flesh out the main character for the readers a bit more. Be sure to look out for it.
SM: What inspired you to write it?
AJ: That question from XTC's "Dear God" clearly comes to mind--Did you make mankind after we made you? And a quote from Homer's "The Odyssey": Ah how shameless--the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share. Along with my own search for something to believe in. Roman Catholic, born and raised. Dabbled in Buddhism. Now a devout atheist. Parts of it are loosely based off my own experiences growing up in Spanish Harlem, NYC. Write what you know, right?
SM: As novelists, we always reflect something within ourselves through our characters. What do you feel you reflect through your characters?
AJ: There's definitely a lot of my childhood in Marley in the first novel. But it probably stops there. There's only so much of yourself you can put in your characters. There are parts of yourself that just need to remain yours. I feel writers are solitary creatures. We sit back. We observe. We write what we see, what we think we see, what we know. In our minds we are many things, but those things are just reflections of the world around us. So while there's some of myself in Marley, the other characters probably reflect people I've known in life. I suppose we have to insert that legal caveat here regarding all characters being fictional and any similarities are merely a product of one's over-inflated ego. LOL.
SM: Where can readers get a glimpse of your novel? And are you planning on a formal release for it?
AJ: They can find the first few chapters at ajbeamish.com; and as of this moment, I don't have a release date planned. My diseased mind constantly finds ways to screw with me so I feel the same way Douglas Adams felt about deadlines--I simply love the whooshing sound they make as they whizz on by.
SM: AJ, I’d like to close off by saying that, unlike in other careers, being an older person gives an author an edge and more insight because of the life experience we go through: the lessons learned and the wisdom we acquire (at least, for most of us). This is something that a younger person may have trouble portraying in their writing unless they are exceptionally wise or they’ve suffered greatly. What are your thoughts on this?
AJ: All artists suffer. It's what we do. Mostly in melodramatic ways. Though our suffering can be somewhat selfish at times and wear down those close to us. My own introverted nature, anxieties and depression have pushed many people away, including family. So we have to find balance there, especially in our writing. Insert too much personal suffering and your narrative will come off as more whiny than entertaining.
Worldliness plays a huge part in a writer's ability to draw upon vivid experiences to infuse their narrative with. Someone who has never travelled ten feet beyond their white picket fence will be writing a lot of one dimensional characters and places until they get out there, start travelling, and start experiencing life.
It's also a "know thyself thing". In my youth I wasn't very introspective. Most humans are the same deep down; once you start figuring yourself out you've pretty much figured everyone else out. At least their base needs, wants, and fears. Everything else is just layer upon layer of internal reactions to personal experiences that warp, jade, or inspire us.
SM: It’s not always easy to open up and tell the world what we think and feel through our stories. But I think we’re blessed if we can do this, even if it makes us feel vulnerable at times. Some people may not take away anything from our writing; others will go on to criticise us and bring us down. But if we can touch one heart or one soul with the stories we write, in my estimation I think we’ve done a good job. What do you think?
AJ: When I first started writing they had this saying, if you have a message call Western Union. I suppose it would be nice if someone came up to me and told me my writing got them through a difficult time or inspired them, but I don't believe you can write a good story if you're focused on that. I think you have to write for yourself first and foremost. If something wonderful, like touching another's soul comes out of it, great. I try not to think about it too much because when I do it ends up in mental images of someone throwing one of my novels at me and screaming YOU SUCK! And then there's that whole Stephen King's Misery paradigm... My mind is a very dangerous place.
SM: And my house is your house, especially the one pictured above. Hehehehehe. Well, I think we'll stop here and ponder on this--the mind boggles--and the meaning of life, etc, etc. We all know the answer is "42", right?
AJ, it was great having you on Sylvia Says. And I hope you make it to the land down under one day so we can continue the "42" discussion, among other things. Best of luck with Funky Little Demons, and thank you for using UK/Aussie spelling in your answers to my questions. Nice touch!
AJ: Thanks, Sylvia. And I'll hold you to your invite to visit Australia.
SM: You're on :)
Today I woke up feeling melancholy and questioning the meaning of life--like for the 10 millionth time! I then came across a journal of short poems and stories that I started in 1981 (when I was 19 years of age), and I discovered that not much has changed in respect to my views regarding life, the injustice of it all, suffering, death, unrequited love, dreaming about make it big, nature, animals, our planet, and on and on... The thing is, I still feel the same about all those issues, and I still carry within me the love I had for the heroes of my youth, namely Bruce Lee (yes, I was into martial arts) and David Bowie (the man who influenced many areas of my life).
And then I found this short poem written in October, 1984, when I was 22 years old, preparing to go off to the UK and Europe in search of the man himself! In those days, my whole life was full of Ziggy Stardust even though David Bowie had killed him off in 1973 with his last concert at the Hammersmith Odeon.
This is what I wrote:
The Man that Was
Watch the man that was.
Who was he?
Where was he?
In a mind of his own illusion;
In a world of his own mind.
The world, a kaleidoscope of colour and smell.
A champion crusader;
An invincible success.
Watch that man that was.
Oh, it's so so sad!
The hero with feet of clay;
Not so invincible; only spaced out.
In truth the man that was
Could not live this lie.
One day he work up;
He said, "Who was the man that was?"
The man that was--
Ziggy Stardust was his name.
It is a well-known fact that most authors live vicariously through their characters. I’m not sure if this is true for all of them, but I believe authors need to live “in character” at some stage if their work is to be of quality.
In fact, I’ll take this a step further and propose that many of us (author or not) live between three worlds:
2. In character
Let’s take a closer look:
What’s reality, anyway? What if we’re figments of someone else’s imagination, and we’re fooling ourselves that our lives are real? After all, as Mr William Shakespeare suggests in his play “As You Like It”:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...
Therefore, what you perceive to be real may not be real. But no matter how you perceive your reality, certain things are inescapable: birth, death, taxes, paying bills, making a living, illness, the whole myriad of human emotions, and whatever else fits into what we perceive as living "the human condition".
Now, this is where things begin to get interesting for authors (and for anyone with an imagination). As with “method actors”, we also have “method writers”. So we often find ourselves coming across to others as the characters we write about and those we identify with. This often puzzles the people who think they know us, but it’s a fact that many of us “step into character” at some stage or other in our lives in order to take a break from our reality.
So people who interact with us may think we’re simply “just another creative soul” or an absolute fruitcake.
For me, I step in and out of character at a moment’s notice between my many protagonists; and this always crosses into my reality so that people are not sure who they’re dealing with. I could be Mia Ferrari one minute, a smartarse-doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly chick with a liking for younger men and solving mysteries, only to turn into Cat Ryan the next minute, an online-dating blogger with a love of antiques (not antique men, but antique furniture and art); then, on to Sarah Jamison, a Bridget Jones-type that comes up with madcap ideas to get a real man; and finally, to Carla Fiori, who is the love interest of David Bowie (while he’s in character as Rhys Lewis) in my latest novel, The Stranger, a sci-fi romance.
And this is where it starts to get really spooky! Not only do some writers live in character at times, but often we simply decide to take off from reality for a major part of our time, and we live vicariously through all our characters and the situations in which they find themselves.
For me, this is addictive, and I often find myself in this world. This can happen to me while I’m writing (or "in the zone" as I call it) or while I'm watching a movie, or reading a book. And oftentimes, I simply switch from reality and immerse myself in this particular world because this is where I like to be best of all.
In this world, I can be anybody, and I can interact with any character. This is the world where I’m the superhero and save the day; or I have a ton of younger men as lovers; or a young version of David Bowie and I are an item and we compose and perform music, among other things; or I solve all sorts of crimes and bring the bad guys to justice. In this world, I’m invincible, fit and healthy, and a gorgeous femme fatale; and the list goes on.
So whether you’re a creative type, or you have a love of films and books, or you can simply daydream at will—you, too, live between three worlds. The question is: Which world do you mostly want to live in?
THE STRANGER - A novel inspired by my muse, Ziggy Stardust: For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF DAVID BOWIE
8 JAN 1947 - 10 JAN 2016
PROLOGUE TO BLOG POST: In the late hours of Sunday, 10 January, 2016 (New York time) a star that had been shining bright for so long dimmed rapidly and then became a "Blackstar". The star's name was David Bowie. Not only did this star bring wonderful music to our planet, but he changed the life of many people, myself included.
David Bowie inspired me through life and will go on inspiring me through death; my only regret is I never got the chance to finish my latest novel in time for him to read--which was all arranged. When I rang his management company just before Christmas I was told my book would be put directly in his hands. I was over the moon. David Bowie, my hero, was going to read my novel, the one I dedicated to him as my muse Ziggy Stardust.
Rewind back a few months now to when I started writing this novel, The Stranger, and read my comment below, which I shared with friends once I heard of David's passing:
"During the last few months I've been feeling a sense of urgency about him. Like I had to hurry and finish my novel and get it to him before something happened. When the news came today I was spooked but not shocked. I'd been expecting this sad moment for some time now. Even so, it's so awful."
I will miss you, David, but you will still continue to be my muse for this and future novels. When I heard the sad news yesterday afternoon (Sydney time) I lit a candle for you and played "Heroes" really loudly. I chose to celebrate your life. You no longer suffer. You will never die in the hearts and minds of the millions who love you. You are now young and healthy again (and hopefully giving a fantastic concert in heaven).
You are BOWIE-- immortal because of us who will always remember you. You will never be forgotten.
For me, David Bowie "just is" and always will be. You really are my "Hero" and I hope you'll be waiting for me when my time comes--standing by the wall.
MY ORIGINAL BLOG POST BELOW FROM A FEW MONTHS PRIOR TO HIS PASSING:
Is it possible to spend the best part of your life with someone whom you haven't met? I'm living proof of it; so read on.
I can’t quite remember the exact year when my life with David Bowie began; but it was sometime around 37 years ago--and he never left me.
Creatives are very sensitive people who usually go around with hundreds, if not thousands, of characters, plot lines and/or song lyrics in their heads. We live and breathe this energy we call creativity; and we’re at our best when we are, as we authors call it, “in the zone”.
So why am I writing about David Bowie now? Well, as mentioned earlier, David Bowie--in one of his best known personas, Ziggy Stardust--somehow made his way into my mind, heart and soul back in the late 70s—and since then I was toast. Ziggy took over and commanded my life (sometimes much to the horror of my parents), but that's another story. In any case, I got into guitar playing and song writing to feel closer to Ziggy and explore the musical side in me. I was already a writer from the age of 12 or so; therefore, it wasn’t a problem for me to write songs. I even had my own band when I was 16 and we performed in a few places.
Then, in my early 20s, I did the “Europe” thing most Aussies like to do. By this time, I was intoxicated with Ziggy; and as soon as I arrived in London I had my hair cut and dyed bright orange, a-la-Ziggy. I went hunting for a Ziggy T-shirt in Soho along with black lipstick and nail polish, and I was reborn.
My desire to meet this man, Ziggy (or I should say David Bowie) was so great I couldn’t eat or breathe without thinking of him. In fact, I was in raptures when I drove past the Hammersmith Odeon where Ziggy Stardust performed his last concert in 1973.
By the time I got into the whole Ziggy thing (around 1976); Ziggy Stardust had unfortunately been killed off by his fans (probably along with the Spiders from Mars) and another character was born—Aladdin Sane—although I’d like to think of him as “a lad insane”--like me (although I'm a girl). Creatives can be whimsical; have many personas in which they reinvent themselves; up one minute, down the next; moody; on top of the world and planning their suicides in the space of 5 minutes, and the list goes on.
Back to Ziggy--he was no more after 1973, but this didn’t stop his spirit from influencing and inspiring me to this day. By the way, when I was in Torquay in 1985 I could have sworn I came face to face with the man himself. I was rushing up the road and this guy comes out of a shop. The shock was so great I stood rooted to the spot. Meanwhile, he walked on... Damn! Talk about those “what if” moments. To this day, I still don’t know if that was David Bowie; and I will never be able to find out unless I meet the man and ask him where he was in June, 1985.
In 1983, Bowie toured Australia with the Serious Moonlight Tour and I saw him in Sydney. I was right up the front of the crowd but couldn’t get to him. Damn, yet again! And the worst part is that I recently found out David Bowie lived in Sydney for a number of years (between 1982 - 1992), and only a few streets away from where I used to live. Aaarrggghhhhh!!!! Is fate cruel or what? If I’d known this back then, I would have tracked him down and had a long talk with him about life, the universe and everything. Yes, I really feel I’m in his head space at times and whatever he says through his lyrics or at interviews resonates with me so much that it sometimes gets spooky.
After Bowie released the Let's Dance album, I kind of quashed down my zeal for Ziggy (and David) as reality set in (you know; working, paying bills, marrying the wrong man, etc); but he (Ziggy) never left me. As I said at the beginning of this blog post, authors and other creatives live with many characters/words/lyrics in their heads. So when I recently started to look for a plot line for my 7th novel, guess who screamed the loudest to get out of my head and become my muse? Yep. You guessed it. It was Ziggy. To think he had been inside my head all this time, waiting for the right moment to make an appearance. It was like greeting an old friend--someone I missed for a long time; someone who totally understood me; someone on the same wavelength.
So now I find myself writing an apocalyptic sci-fi novel entitled “The Stranger” and my muse is, of course, Ziggy. I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi, but in Ziggy’s case I made an exception as nothing short of sci-fi can encapsulate his personality and immense charisma (this applies to all of Bowie's personas).
I am dedicating the novel to Ziggy Stardust; and when the book is released I will be sending a copy to the man who has had such an impact on my life. Ziggy may be no more, but David Bowie is alive and well. Besides, Ziggy will never die for me as long as I’m around.
For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
I have blogged about this most of unsavoury subjects in the past, but it seems cyberbullying is reaching epidemic proportions these days.
Most of us follow social etiquette in real life if we want to fit in with the culture in our environment, but there are those that turn into little monsters when it comes to dealing with people through social media. These sick, pathetic individuals have a tendency to use social media to really let it rip, no matter what the consequences. I could understand this if they were provoked and they wanted to somehow defend themselves (although this doesn't really work too well either); but to tear someone to shreds when there is no provocation--well, that's another thing entirely.
Bullying, whether in real life or through social media should carry ZERO tolerance. Coming from a corporate background involving employee relations I've fired many people for bullying behaviour in the workplace. Abuse is abuse, no matter what you call it.
So how do you deal with a cyberbully who chooses to hide behind their computer or Smartphone because they don't have the balls to show you their real face? This type is the most coward bully of them all--an individual that hides behind avatars and secrecy for their own ends--mainly to bully others on social media. I call these people trolls.
Wikipedia defines a troll as a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussions.
In my opinion, a troll is a cyberbully without a life of their own. And if you're wondering what a troll looks like, the answer is: Like anybody. They come in all shapes and sizes. But I'd like to think of them as per the pics below:
Why am I re-posting about trolls? Well, it all started with a few tweets I read from actor James Woods. Mr Woods, like many of us, is an interactive tweeter and he expresses an opinion on many topics. Nothing wrong with that, right? I follow his tweets because I like what he's got to say. He tweets a lot about politics and even though I don't live in the US--hence I don't understand much about American politics--I still have an interest in many of the things Mr Woods has to say.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of Mr Woods' tweets are usually marred by these cowardly creatures that dedicate their energy to wasting other people's time and enjoyment in using social media.
Let's face it, trolls are tedious, terrible and tormenting creatures with little minds and no imagination that should really get out there and do something constructive with their lives for a change instead of making ours a misery.
My opinions are my own, just as Mr Woods' opinions are his--and you, the reader, also have an opinion that you may wish to express. Now, you may or may not agree with what I say, what Mr Woods says or what someone else says, but there is absolutely no need to start acting like an exorcist-type entity--one that often uses words that half the time they cannot even spell.
I quite enjoy the way Mr Woods deals with cyberbullies or trolls; he simply shakes them like water off a duck's back and blocks them with a witty comment and the hashtag #INSTABLOCK.
I recently joined discussions on Twitter about a common topic the people in this thread share, but in the short time I've been tweeting in this thread I've had the misfortune to come across a few very strange individuals; two of which have abused me for no good reason. And by the way, trolls should understand that if they tweet or post something on a public forum they should expect other people to interact with their tweets/posts. Therefore, if your tweet/post is for a particular person you, the troll, should message them privately and not on an open forum. Duh!
Well, since these most unfortunate incidents of bullying occurred I've taken a page from Mr Woods' effective way of dealing with trolls and I used the #INSTABLOCK hashtag to get rid of them and their rubbish and bullying comments.
My final message to all trolls (cyberbullies) out there is clearly depicted in the cartoon below.
On a last note, I'd like to thank Mr Woods for inspiring such a great way to get rid of these waste of cyberspace individuals.
On "Sylvia Says" today, I go all the way to NYC (on a virtual trip) to interview author Steven Jay Griffel about his successful David Grossman series.
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Steven. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog, and all the way from one of my favourite cities—New York City! Today, I decided to start this interview with the last question first and ask you: “Are you David Grossman?”
SJG: Great to be in the land down under, Sylvia. And the answer to your question is no, I’m not David Grossman, though he and I are often mistaken for each other. David Grossman is my best-known fictional character and appears in all of my novels, serving me as a sort of fictional alter-ego. Through David’s decisions I get to imagine other life choices, which tend to be more imaginative and daring than my own.
SM: Looking at the novel blurb in each of your David Grossman books, I see there are many life lessons learned; what would you say is one of the most important lessons of all and why?
SJG: My greatest advice to readers: Do not live a life stunted by regret. Regret is a self-inflicted poison that slowly degrades a person’s courage and self-esteem. People are generally happier when they are able to articulate their greatest regrets in order to render them null and void.
SM: The other thing I noticed is that your novels include aspects of what I might call the “paranormal.” What prompted you to do this?
SJG: Like many people, I am fascinated by experience beyond normal human understanding. In Grand View there is the mystery of the Potato Cave and communication with the dead via the Ouija board; in Grossman’s Castle there are the strange phenomena in the Castle and the appearance of ghosts; in The Deadline there is an Amazonian High Priestess who practices the dark arts of Candomblè. These examples of the paranormal add a sense of exotica and suspense to the plots.
SM: No paranormal in Forty Years Later?
SJG: There is someone who may (or may not) be a knife-wielding murderess. But I think she’s abnormal, not paranormal.
SM: Where did David Grossman come from? The idea of him, that is. I know he “speaks” to you and tells you he has more to say and this is why you wrote your fourth novel in the series. Care to elaborate a bit more on this?
SJG: About twenty-five years ago I wrote a novel called Grand View. The story takes place in a Jewish bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains during one summer in the 1960s; the main protagonist is a young teen named David Grossman. Many years later, I reconnected with someone I knew when we were both teens. This woman is a screenwriter who had a big hit movie modelled on the bungalow colony where the two of us had once lived. My relationship with this woman inspired me to write Forty Years Later, which became my first published novel and featured David Grossman as a middle-aged man. A year later I wrote The Deadline, another novel featuring David Grossman as a Baby Boomer. Following the success of these novels, my publisher released Grand View and came up with the idea of marketing the books as the David Grossman Series. In March, Grossman’s Castle was published, my fourth David Grossman book. I never planned to write a series. I started with one book about a boy named David Grossman--and the series took on a successful life of its own.
SM: Do you ever feel locked in or limited as the author of a series?
SJG: In Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline, David Grossman is the first-person narrator. In a sense, each narrative is “limited” to David Grossman’s purview and perceptions. But In Grossman’s Castle I needed direct access into the minds of three other main characters, so I moved to a third-person narration. This point of view gives me limitless flexibility.
SM: Do readers have to read your novels in a certain order?
SJG: The novels are independent and can be read in any order, though most readers like to read them chronologically, following the sequence of David Grossman’s life: Grand View, Grossman’s Castle, The Deadline, and Forty Years Later.
SM: As novelists, we always reflect something within ourselves through our characters. What do you feel you reflect through David and your other major characters?
SJG: Emotionally speaking, I reflect my essential insecurity and my desire for a greater, more accomplished life. Practically speaking, I think I reflect my Baby Boomer culture: dying parents, failing health, unemployment, adulterous affairs, revised careers, paranormal events—all that is mundane and miraculous in life. My Boomer novels show that life after sixty is just as dramatic, sexy, and entertaining as any other time of life.
SM: Your novels are available exclusively as e-books on Amazon. Was that your decision? What are your feelings about this?
SJG: I signed with an indie publisher when the digital revolution was just beginning to transform the publishing industry. I had to come to grips with the idea that my books would not appear in a traditional paperbound format. As it happened, my first published novel, Forty Years Later, was a pretty big hit—an Amazon #1 best-seller. Almost immediately I had a sizable readership, which has continued to buy and read my books. I love the fact that my novels are inexpensive and available around the world. I’m told that my books have sold in more than thirty countries and on six continents. This is all very gratifying to me. I no longer have any regrets about my novels being available only as e-books.
SM: It seems to me that being an older author can be a distinct advantage. The lessons learned and the wisdom acquired are not things that most 20-, 30- or even 40-year-olds could write about successfully. My belief is that it’s not until we get into our 50s that we are truly “rounded off” as feeling and empathetic beings. What are your thoughts on this?
SJG: I agree with your thoughts. Being a novelist is not like a being a chess prodigy or a teen gymnast. Although there are exceptions, most successful novelists draw on their experiences hard-won over many years.
SM: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add?
SJG: I am working on a new novel. Yes, it is a David Grossman novel. And it may be the strangest, most exciting one yet. Suffice to say, David Grossman is involved with a cast of colorful crazies that include a gambler, a wilderness expert, Stone Age Indians, and an old friend just released from Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.
SM: Sounds great, and I wish you every success with it! Steven, I’d like to thank you for sharing your views with us today. It’s not always easy to open ourselves up and tell the world what we think and feel, but I think we are blessed if we can do this. Many people may not learn anything, but if we can touch one heart or one soul with the novels we write, then in my estimation we’ve done a good job.
It was great having you on Sylvia Says, and at the risk of sounding like a romantic fool I’m going to confess that every time I listen to Harry Connick, Jr., I think of you and NYC!
SJG: It was great being here, Sylvia. And when next in NYC, I owe you dinner.
SM: And I'll hold you to that, too!
For more information on Steven and his books, please click HERE.
I’m a nice person—idealistic and philanthropic, you might say—but I recently learned a hard lesson when I made some donations to certain charities:
THE MORE YOU DONATE TO A CHARITY THE MORE ANNOYING PHONE CALLS YOU WILL RECEIVE IN FUTURE
Now, let’s start with the main culprit responsible for ruining your dinner, relaxation time, and even work time (especially if you work from home).
It’s not enough that the DO NOT CALL REGISTER gives your number to any of these organisations: charities, research companies, political parties & educational institutions. Even if you have an unlisted number, like I have, you're not safe. And by giving out your number, they are also indirectly responsible for people becoming stressed, annoyed, feeling stalked, and sometimes turning into bullies.
What happens then? We end up blasting the poor customer service employee who has to make all these annoying calls. Not only that, but with all the work health and safety legislation floating about, charities can expect to get a high increase in stress claims from their employees (but hopefully no suicides); AND let’s not even go into the high turnover of burnt-out employees that throw in the towel.
The point here is that charities are not being very charitable about their own people or call centre people they engage to annoy the rest of the population, plus in my opinion the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is vicariously responsible for unleashing this chain of events.
Since I started to get more and more calls to my unlisted number, I registered my land line with the DO NOT CALL REGISTER. I even listed my mobile (cell) number for good measure. Once I did this, I naively thought if I had to take the odd call from a charity, this would be okay. My estimation at the time was that I’d get maybe one call a month or so. But never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would be stalked with an average of 30 to 40 calls per month!
Once this happened, I went into forums on the Internet to see what others had to say about this subject, and I found that most of these poor people were getting up to 50 calls per month from charities alone, and they didn’t know how to make it stop. Of course, people in the forum also discussed how useless the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is. I mean, whatever happened to PRIVACY laws? AND why the hell am I paying for an unlisted number if every man and his dog can find me, and tries to wheedle yet another donation from me?
Personally, I have nothing against charities. In fact, I sponsored two children through World Vision until they were age 18 and 20 years respectively—and I would sponsor more if I had a full time job, but being a freelancer my income fluctuates, and it’s difficult for me to commit for the long term.
Despite this, over the many years I sponsored these kids, I was sometimes unemployed but still kept up with my donations as I didn’t want to let them down. I also give to the Cat Protection Society, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Why do I keep giving to these charities? Because none of them have made the gross error of constantly ringing me at home when I’m cooking, eating or about to watch the next episode of Midsomer Murders. Nor do they call me at lunch, morning coffee break, or on my mobile. In fact, they don’t call me at all. They market themselves by sending the odd card or letter, and I can also subscribe to their online newsletters. This way, I don’t feel annoyed, stalked or harassed--and under no pressure to donate.
The charities I no longer donate to are the ones that break all the rules and simply don’t get it that the more they telephone the more they alienate me.
The very last phone call I ever took from a charity started like all the others (while I felt my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels):
And being the softie that I am, I ended up pledging $30 just to get them off the phone so I could get on with my day! Then I berated myself for being so stupid. I already have my favourite charities I give to, and when I have a bit of spare cash I don’t mind giving to a new charity here and there. Unfortunately, by giving to charities that telephone me, I am constantly encouraging them to keep on ringing me again and again and again—which is what they do.
The DO NOT CALL REGISTER is obviously not going to do anything about this “monster” problem they created, although I have to thank them for having controlled the number of calls I used to get from telemarketers. I still get the odd call from them, but nothing like in the past. Other than this, the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is giving away my unlisted number to all sorts of organisations despite the privacy laws and the fact that I specifically pay extra for my unlisted number (as I mentioned earlier) so I won’t be bothered by all these people.
Some steps I took to minimise annoying calls
The downside of all this
While taking the above measures will help, it’s annoying that I have to screen my calls all the time—not so much when family and friends call, as their number shows on my phone display (caller ID). Of course, if any of them, such as my brother, has an unlisted number, then they’ll have to leave a message on my answering machine before I will pick up. This is ludicrous!
The other very annoying thing for me is that because I mainly work from home and represent a nationwide company, I get lots of calls from all over Australia—and oftentimes I’m not sure who is calling. So the odd “charity” call will still slip through.
In closing, I’d like to say to the DO NOT CALL REGISTER: “Thanks for nothing, people! I hope you get as many annoying calls as I do!”
To the charities that call incessantly and don’t get the hint I don’t want to talk to them, I say: “The more you call, the less you will get donations for your charity. You annoy people like the telemarketers used to do, so you should know better.”
I like to be pleasant on the phone to my callers and not add to their stress levels. So my message to the person who actually makes the call on behalf of a charity is this: “I don’t hold you responsible for annoying me—you’re only doing a job that pays the bills.”
Author Sylvia Massara's: