SM: Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce author Cary Ashby to Sylvia Says. Cary (and no, his surname was never “Grant”) and I met online on one of those David Bowie forums. As we are both diehard Bowieheads, it only made sense that we’d start chatting about our hero, then one thing led to another and we discovered we were both working on novels. Cary was working on his debut novel while at the same time he maintained the very busy role of roving reporter.
Now, before we go any further, readers, being an Aussie I use Aussie spelling in all my blog posts, and being a Yank, Cary uses “U.S.” spelling (so no, you’re not seeing spelling mistakes). Okay, so I can finally welcome Cary. Therefore, without further ado: welcome to Sylvia Says, Cary. It’s such a pleasure to have you featuring on my blog today.
CA: I am quite honored you invited me to be interviewed. Thanks so much! This should be fun.
SM: Before we get into the interview, you may want to tell our readers a little about yourself (just leave out the “real” dirty laundry). LOL. But seriously, aside from the fact that you’re US-based, a reporter, and most importantly, a Bowiehead (like me), what else do you wish to share about yourself?
CA: For the past 16 or so years, I have been a newspaper reporter. I have always covered our local school districts and lately, my focus has been on doing features. Of course, I will write as many A&E (arts & entertainment) stories as my editors will let me. LOL. Since I did the “cops and courts” beat for 12-plus years it’s nice to chip away at and redeem the black parts of my soul. For some extra money, and I do mean a little bit, I also cover high school football and basketball games. In my spare time – and when the motivation hits me – I write op-eds* and reviews about various comic book projects and the related media on my Cary’s Comics Craze blog. So basically, I feel like I write, or should be writing, all the time. And that can be a double-edged sword.
[*Note by SM: meaning of “op-ed” – jargon speak for a newspaper page opposite the editorial page, devoted to personal comments, feature articles, etc.]
I grew up in the beautiful state of Virginia in a VERY small town called The Plains. I earned my B.A. in English with minors in secondary education and music at James Madison University. My plan was to be a band director and/or a high school English teacher. Life took some detours and here I am, where my late mother said I should have been as a back-up plan – working in journalism. Since September, I have returned to singing in the church choir and playing handbells, which has been great for my soul. I live in a lovely little city called Norwalk, Ohio, and it’s a wonderful place to call home.
SM: Life always seems to throw us detours, Cary, and here’s another one for you: I know of many reporters/journalists who have turned to writing books; so what was it that made you turn to novel writing?
CA: It really started with my writers group, which meets once a month. We read our works in progress to each other and get wonderfully constructive feedback.
I hadn’t done any fiction writing in years, so I started out just reading some of my nerdy blog posts. Having been a long-time mystery reader, I realized I always wanted to create my own P.I. or investigator. But it had to be original, not a knock-off of another character.
SM: And this brings us to Colt Maverick. What inspired you to invent this character? Tell us a bit about Colt. What is he all about?
CA: As I said, I wanted my character to be as original as possible. That’s tough when you’re writing mysteries. The name Colt Maverick came to me literally, when I was going to bed. It speaks to his somewhat rebellious nature and the name spoke to me, so suddenly I was ready to go! As an aside, many of my friends and readers say they absolutely love the name Colt Maverick. So if nothing else, I gave him a memorable first and last name.
I couldn’t just have Colt be a P.I., so I made him a retired pro football player who had been a Marine sniper. Colt is a bit full of himself; some of my readers have called him arrogant. Really, all this happened in just what was going to be an experimental scene, but I ended up loving this guy. He’s fun to write, and you just never know what he’s going to do or even say. But, as a P.I., he’s always going to end up pursuing justice for everyone involved. That’s why I started the hashtag on social media of #WhatWillColtDo or #WWCD for short.
SM: Well, he certainly sounds like an original character with an impressive background. Now, you released Colt’s debut novel not so long ago, so what’s coming up next for him?
CA: I have been working on a follow-up story for not quite a year. There have been several stops, starts and do-overs. The writing hasn’t been nearly as “easy” as the original. It’s been tough going and honestly, Colt and I are just off a couple-month “break.” But I’ve found something I can stick my teeth into – and it gets Colt into a mess at the same time. That’s where he shines. Colt is investigating a security breach related to the murder of an attorney. What’s been fun is bringing back supporting characters from my first novel. That’s challenging at the same time because, as my writers group told me early in this draft, I can’t assume everyone read the first book.
SM: Well, I can relate to that with my Mia Ferrari series. I believe there is a fine balance between not telling too much about the characters, but enough so that if a reader comes in at say, novel number three, they can still relate to the main protagonist and to the regular characters. This is not easy to do.
The same goes for continuity. Recently, I read the third book in a mystery series (written by a well known author) and a character this author had appearing in novel one ended up with a totally different name in novel three. This put me off as a reader, and it isn’t the first time I’ve come across inconsistencies in the novels of bestselling authors. If I may be so bold as to suggest a method I use for consistency: I keep a file of white cards for each character, which come out of the file every time I start a new novel—this way I’m reminded of the little things that I may no longer remember from two novels ago.
CA: That’s a great idea. I may steal that tip from you. Continuity is tough; I can’t imagine what you face with your Mia Ferrari books. I actually have a Colt Maverick sourcebook of sorts. I started a notebook devoted to the world of my novel, which details everything from who is related to whom to what they drink. It’s been helpful.
SM: That’s a great idea, Cary. I think all authors have their own methods so they can remember and ins and outs of their characters. I could go on about this topic as it would be interesting to see what other authors out there do to remember all the details when they’re giving life to their characters, but now we’re running out of time; therefore, before we conclude I have a couple of quick questions: 1. Do you have a release date for the next Colt Maverick novel? 2. Is there anything you’d like to tell potential readers out there?
CA: No release date on the sequel. Or even a tentative completion date. Not even close! I really am taking it slowly, mainly due to finding time with my work as a professional writer, but most importantly, so I can do it well. Lately I have taken to writing during my lunch break. SO many people who have read my novel have an immediate question when they see me: How is the next one coming? It’s incredibly exciting to know people want to read more about Colt, and honestly see my debut novel as the first in a series. Guess I must have done something right! Hahahaha.
To any potential readers, it’s a blessing that you support authors, especially independent ones like Sylvia and me. Also, once you do read someone’s book, please post a review or send the author an email and/or direct message on social media and let him or her know what you think. Give us shoutouts! Constructive feedback is very helpful. Personally, there’s also nothing better than knowing you enjoy what I wrote. I have taken to heart the constructive criticism on my first book; that’s only going to help push me to make the next one even better.
SM: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today. I really enjoyed learning about Colt Maverick and I look forward to reading about his adventures.
Cary, I wish you all the best with the Colt novels, and please make sure you cut me into the deal when those film options come knocking at your door. Did I tell you I’m really good with continuity? LOL.
CA: Good try, Sylvia! Hahahahaha. It has been a pleasure to be on Sylvia Says; thank you!
For more information on Cary Ashby and where you can purchase Colt Maverick’s first mystery please CLICK here.
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!
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
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.
This blog post has been updated due to new regulations introduced by the government in Australia where the age pension has moved up from 65 to 70 years.
When you look down through the ages, girls of 12 years were being married off to men twice or three times their age. At least in those days, the roles played in a marriage were more distinct—women became homemakers and had children; men fought the wars and provided for their family.
This went on until after WWII, when women went out to do the men’s jobs, because the men were fighting the war (which they started in the first place, I might add). And once we returned to peacetime, women discovered they could do a man’s job and then some. Therefore, although they had a very difficult time in fighting for equal rights through the ages, women finally made it—well, mostly.
One thing we didn’t reckon on was the aging factor. Sadly, the likes of Hollywood and the media made it acceptable for a 20-year-old to be paired off with a 50-something actor. Movies such as Funny Face and Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn are a case in point. Having said this, once again, the woman became the homemaker and had the children, while the man provided for her; and because the man was older, it stood to reason he would die off first and leave his family well provided for.
So what happened in more recent years? Men still like the idea of a younger woman—don’t they always gravitate toward someone younger than themselves? Where does this leave the older woman? If she’s lucky, she’s married to a wonderful man who will grow old alongside her until death do them part. If she’s unlucky, she’ll be abandoned by her spouse and must fend for herself.
Okay, I think most women have accepted that at one time or another they will go through a separation or divorce, and therefore, they must fend for themselves unless their ex pays maintenance for them. More than likely, however, the woman will have to work and maintain herself, and the chances of her meeting another man after the age of 45 is almost nil. The reason? Men her age are looking for someone up to 15 years younger! So all of a sudden, older women find themselves in an aging purgatory from which there is no escape.
This isn’t so bad if a woman is successful and financially secure. After all, it’s better to be single than stay in a marriage for all the wrong reasons. The problem comes when a woman is not financially secure. She must earn her living, but cannot find a job if she’s been laid off from work. If she’s age 40 or so, she'll probably just scrape by and find another job, but by age 45+ it’s almost a miracle unless she’s well connected or is prepared to take several steps down from what she used to do and take up some menial job. So much for the Human Rights Commission and all their crappy talk about age discrimination, especially for women.
So what happens now? The official pension age is 65 (and our government has recently increased the qualifying age for pension, and depending what year you were born you may have to wait until you turn 70 before you can claim it). And now we have a late-40s/early-50s woman looking for a job, but she cannot find one because the labour market is like Hollywood: They only want them young.
What does this woman do? How does she survive the next 15 or so years until she can collect her age pension?
There are plenty of famous actresses in Hollywood who are over 45 and still working, and even if they didn’t work, many of them have already made their fortune and can live the rest of their lives in comfort. But come closer to reality and we have a disaster. We have women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who cannot find work, who become invisible to men their own age (and even men older than them! Yes, a 60-something male is still going for the young babes), and who pretty much get ignored by society in general.
I am talking in general here. There are those women who make waves and make themselves heard or who become influential in some way or even famous, but what happens to the majority of us?
I am fortunate to have a bread and butter job in recruitment right now, so I try to help older women where possible. Mind you, I’ve had some tough battles with ex-bosses when trying to convince them to consider an older female candidate rather than a younger one, despite the fact that the younger woman was under-qualified. Nine of out ten, I was overruled, and we had to give the job to the younger female.
My experience with the aging factor and finding work frightens me when I see this kind of thing going on all around me, and I start to think about what is going to happen to me one day. It’s scary to think that if I lose my present job, I may never be employed again.
I am working toward my dream of becoming a full-time author. After all, writing has no age limit, but making it in any kind of creative field is very difficult, and it may be that one day I may have to take up a job walking dogs instead.
It is stressful to see I don’t have the influence I used to when I was in my 30s, and at the top of my career. Meanwhile, older guys than myself still have powerful jobs. It's sad but true when we have to admit that it’s still a man’s world out there.
If you have a story to share about the trials and tribulations of growing older as a female, please share it here.
... Only, we’re in Detroit and not Chicago.
Picture this: Detroit in the late 1920s. A beautiful, headstrong, young girl determined not to follow in the wake of well-mannered young ladies of that period and be “married off” to the best suitor. A mysterious walk-in closet; a mother with a dark secret. Men and women with self-serving motives, gangsters and molls, booze, murder, and flying bullets!
All this, and more, will you find in author Patty Wiseman’s trilogy, The Velvet Shoe Collection, consisting of: An Unlikely Arrangement, An Unlikely Beginning, and An Unlikely Conclusion.
Patty is experiencing great success with her romance suspense series featuring 17-year-old Ruth Squire, and her “unlikely” adventures.
I’ve just finished reading Book 2 in the collection, and caught up with Patty in between book tours and literary award dinners to ask her a few questions about her unique series.
Sylvia: You picked an interesting era to write about--Detroit, late 1920s--what made you write about this time in history?
Patty: Imagine a tow-headed, five-year-old runt of a girl crouching behind the stairwell in her grandmother’s three-story mansion, listening to the grownups talk about her life during the roaring twenties. We were leaving to move to Kansas. My dad took a new job there. Kansas is where my grandmother met her second husband, and where her story took an unexpected twist. She’d fled from Detroit, Michigan, to save her life and her son’s. I’m a naturally curious being, and my vivid imagination worked over time while grandmother spun her story of intrigue. I’ve often thought she missed her calling. She should have been a writer herself. Over the years, I made a point to stay with her on any occasion I could and sat in rapture most of the time as she told the story of her life’s journey. Those stories never left me. I knew I had to write about them. Life, of course, got in the way. I put it on the back burner, but shortly before I retired, the stories grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go.
Sylvia: How did you find having to research details to write about this era?
Patty: First of all, I love, love, love that era. Partly, because of the stories I heard, but more because when I did start to research that era, the role women played during that time fascinated me. This was an era of women really coming out of the shadows, and making themselves and their desires known. I put my grandmother in that category, as well. She was headstrong, passionate, and beautiful. She knew what she wanted, and was going to find a way to have it. I found a lot of information through ancestry.com. I also have a lot of online friends who live in Detroit, who were very accommodating when I needed to verify facts about the time period. I really had a lot of fun researching.
Sylvia: Why did you name this series of books "The Velvet Shoe Collection"?
Patty: As I said before, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up. She had a huge house, and the guestroom I stayed in had a cavernous closet. I was always exploring; and one night, I found the closet didn’t end in the guest room. It actually turned the corner and continued into my grandmother’s dressing room. When I turned that corner, I was amazed. Rows of fancy dresses, jewelry and shoes! So many shoes! There were all kinds to match her dresses, but the ones I liked best were the velvet ones. Especially a red velvet pair. That’s where I came up with the name. I wrote that closet and those dresses into the books.
Sylvia: So the idea to write this series come from real life, as with most authors?
Patty: Yes. I wrote the stories from my grandmother’s perspective, but really to honor her first husband, my father’s father, who never lived to see him grow up. I had only planned on one book at first, but I got such a wonderful response, I decided to write a series. Now, people are clamoring for me to write about some of the other characters in the books and to expand on their lives. There is so much material there. I could write for years!
Sylvia: I see you are doing some book tours and talks around the country. Please tell us more about this.
Patty: In 2012, I pulled out all the stops and traveled everywhere for book signings and festivals, libraries and book stores. I hardly ever had a weekend off. What I found was women who love to read about strong women who have found a way to live their dreams. This year, I’ve slowed down on the tours and am working on a series of workshops designed to encourage women to pursue their dreams no matter what station in life they find themselves. If you follow me on my website, www.pattywiseman.com, you will be able to keep up to date on the progress of these endeavors.
Sylvia: I like the slogan on your website: "Challenge, Conquer, Change". What is the premise behind this?
Patty: I’ve been able to live my dream, and it is a passion of mine to encourage other women to follow theirs. So many women feel that time has passed them by, that they don’t have anything meaningful to contribute anymore. There are two blogs about "Women of a Certain Age" on my website. One spotlights quotes from women at various ages, and what they like most about the age they are. The other, affirms the worth of women as they get older and spotlights the man’s point of view, and the beauty they find as their partner travels through each decade.
We should never discount our influence in this world because we are aging. Too many times, women get trapped in what the media portrays beauty to be, thus creating an impossible image to sustain. We need to stand away from the television, the billboards, and the magazines, and examine the virtues we have to offer to the younger generations. We are beautiful at every age! We need to find the jewel within!
Sylvia: That is inspiring indeed! Ageing is not very kind to women because of the media, and the culture we live in, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?
Patty: I’d just like to encourage all women to explore the UNLIKELY! Many times, we fall into a pattern, and just stay on the same old treadmill. Try something new, whether it be in the books you read, the entertainment you enjoy, or the places you travel, even the food you eat. Open up your world! Explore the possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be a woman!
Sylvia: Patty, it has been a great pleasure to feature you on "Sylvia Says". Thank you, and I wish you all the best with the Velvet Shoe Collection and your workshops on inspiring women to reach their potential. I think this kind of empowerment is something we can never get enough of.
Patty: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the interview, and for having me on your blog. I wish you all the best with your own "Unlikely Adventures" as a strong woman and novelist!
We all have our trials and tribulations. We have to deal at some stage in our lives with adversity, obstacles, loss, grief, illness, and so on. We often ask ourselves "why me?" We question life, the existence of God--we sometimes even think we're cursed. We tend to compare ourselves to others, and think they're lucky and we are not. We get depressed, we despair, and sometimes we want to stop living.
Like many of you reading this blog post, I've had my fair share of disasters in life, but what I've learned from the bad times was that no matter how awful things got, I could always reinvent myself. We can all reinvent ourselves, but whether it's for better or worse, only you can decide.
Today, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you such a person--one who opted to reinvent himself for the better. Please meet fellow author, Gary Goldstein.
Gary resides in New York City, and I met him a couple of years ago when he appeared as a guest in my then literary show "The Lit Chick Show". Since that time, Gary and I have bumped into one another through the social media, and I decided to invite Gary for an interview on Sylvia Says. I believe if anyone can give us an example of facing adversity, overcoming obstacles and despair, and coming out on the other side with a smile and a lot to give, it is Gary Goldstein.
And so, we move on to find out a little more about Gary and his life.
SM: Gary, thank you for being a guest on Sylvia Says. Do you think writing Jew in Jail was a cathartic experience for you?
GG: Thank you, Sylvia. Good to be here. As to your question--yes, writing Jew in Jail absolutely was a cathartic experience, especially since I wrote it AS I was serving my sentence!
SM: How was this experience cathartic?
GG: It allowed me to become very introspective and think about why I had become the way I was, as far as not having any self-esteem and self-confidence, and why I was resorting to alcohol, drugs and gambling in order to step out of my reality.
SM: Like many people who've been through trauma, whether it be from an accident, a death in the family, drug addiction, etc, can you describe a time when you felt the lowest you could ever be and how you pulled out of it?
GG: Yes, and this is a very good question. It was when I finally decided that I had enough of my "revolving door" lifestyle on the morning of October 31, 2007.
Even though I spent nearly six years behind bars, I did suffer one last relapse 18 months after coming home in 2004, because I had decided and justified that I "deserved" to get high as a result of everything I had been through and dealt with.
However, when I woke up on October 31, 2007, and realized that I felt like a rat in maze and was never going to amount to anything in life unless I finally cleaned up my act and got help for my addictions, I walked over to the Coney Island Hospital Chemical Dependency Outpatient Drug Treatment Program and voluntarily signed in.
Long story short, I remained six months longer than was necessary, and today serve as the alumni committee president.
In addition, this has led to my becoming a motivational & inspirational speaker, and I get to help other recovering addicts at drug programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, etc., and get tremendous satisfaction out of passing the message of hope onto those who need it.
SM: Like most people, we sometimes feel in the depths of despair--we feel like we're going to lose it--if you were ever there, what do you think gave you the strength to pull yourself out of this feeling?
GG: Just finally realizing and believing that I was born with greatness - like I tell others when I speak - and that my accomplishments, including college degrees, career in print and broadcast journalism, intelligence, wit, personality and life experience necessitated that I do my best to live up to my full potential.
That, plus the fact that I have a very loving and supportive family and friends who refused to get down on me, even when I was very much down on myself!
SM: How did it feel to be in jail?
GG: It felt degrading, embarrassing and humiliating. Of course, I obviously had nobody else to blame for it happening but myself.
However, after being stripped of my dignity, I slowly but surely began to dig out from the desperation my life had become, and started to work out, tutor other inmates in the school, go to the general and law libraries, lay in the sun out in the yard, and, of course, write "Jew in Jail!"
So, my point is that even under these horrible conditions of being behind bars, it is possible to overcome anything in life, and end up a better person.
SM: What message do you want people to take away from your story?
GG: I want people to understand that, no matter who you are, where you come from, your economic status, or any other factor, addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, and does not discriminate.
Furthermore, I also want people to realize that, regardless of what kind of a tough time they might be going through, they are never alone as there are always people who have experienced the same thing themselves and are willing to help.
Simply put, never be ashamed to ask for help, and never be too proud to admit that you need help in life, because we are all human beings and make mistakes.
SM: If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life?
GG: This is another very good question, and I would say that I would just never take anything for granted, like I did when I was growing up.
I would also appreciate everything I had as a kid, including a great family, friends, education, career after graduation, and just basically know that I could have been whatever I wanted to be in life, as long as I maintained my self-esteem and self-confidence, which, sadly, wasn't the case.
SM: You entitled your book "Jew in Jail". Is this because of the faith you were born into and you were identifying with it, or because you suffered discrimination because of your faith?
GG: Both actually, although more of the second, as I was definitely subjected to a lot of discrimination while incarcerated.
SM: What is your next project?
GG: Aside from continuing to promote "Jew in Jail," and deliver motivational & inspirational speeches in order to help others, I am very interested in getting my own radio and/or television show so I can empower people to always be their best.
I truly believe that I can help so many people achieve their goals by instilling in them a sense of greatness, and letting them know and realize that nothing can stop them from succeeding in life as long as they remain diligent, hard working, and focused.
SM: I wish you well with your book, Gary, and once again, thank you for being a guest on my blog.
GG: My pleasure, and thank you.
You can connect with Gary Goldstein through the following links:
That’s right, online friendships can turn to murder—but it’s fictitious, so that’s a relief.
You’re probably wondering what in heaven’s name I’m talking about. Let me explain: some time ago, I read a couple of humorous fiction novels by British author, Carol E. Wyer. I met Carol when I used to run a vlog, interviewing authors on their respective work, and we maintained contact since. So ours is what I call a cyber-friendship.
In her novels, Carol developed a character that followed the blog of her main protagonist, Amanda Wilson. The blog follower went by the name of SexyFitChick, and she was from Australia. SexyFitChick became a good online friend of Amanda Wilson, Carol’s main character in her two novels, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and Surfing in Stilettos.
Carol later revealed to me that SexyFitChick reminded her of me, although I don’t know about the “fit” part *laughter and wink*, but I do agree about the “sexy” bit :D
Over the next couple of years, Carol and I maintained our cyber-friendship, and I really enjoyed reading about the escapades of Amanda Wilson. So much so, that when my own protagonist, smartarse, older chick, super-sleuth, Mia Ferrari, was published in her second adventure, The Gay Mardi Gras Murders, I decided to bring Amanda Wilson (Carol's protagonist) to the land down under for a visit with Mia.
In the story, Amanda (or Mandy) is suffering from “grumpy-hubby syndrome” and so she runs off Down Under to visit with best online friend, Mia Ferrari, and catch the world-famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras at the same time.
As it turns out, not only does Mandy become part of an investigation into several murders, one of which involves a transsexual with a very valuable diamond that carries a so-called curse; but she is thrown into Mia’s world—a world of luxury international hotels, Ferrari cars, insidious characters, younger men, a bunch of bitchy drag queens, drop-dead gorgeous gay boys, and a lot more. To make matters worse, and really test the friendship between the two protagonists, Mandy develops a crush on Mia’s archenemy, the very good looking Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe.
I won’t go on with the plot and spoil it for you, but I want to point out that from a cyber-friendship between two authors who are continents apart was born the fictional friendship of Amanda Wilson and Mia Ferrari (our respective protagonists). This led our protagonists--both strong and independent mature women, to adventure, the challenge of overcoming rivalry between two good friends, sexual fantasies of "playing with some bad boys", and even hoping to convert a few sexy gay boys--and finally, solving a number of murders before more bodies piled up.
The message in this particular novel, The Gay Mardi Gras Muders, is that through all the obstacles of life, friendship is the most important thing there is—sometimes, friendship is stronger than love, as Mia Ferrari soon learns.
So how’s that for the power of a fictional friendship, which was born in the minds of two authors who became online friends? Personally, I think this takes friendship to a whole new level.
Well, at least for me, one of my greatest fears is the dreaded review, especially when I write in a new genre. Being a multi-genre author, I have always stuck to either contemporary fiction or chick lit. However, I must confess that I've always had a weakness for the smart-talking, wiseass type of characters I watch in film noir movies. You know what I mean, the down and out detective or investigative reporter, going great guns against all odds to dig up the truth. Meanwhile, he (yes, it's usually a "he") is battling with either a drinking problem, or maybe he smokes too much, or he just cannot have that sexy dame he finds wildly attractive and who is driving him to distraction.
My love of these types of movies have led me to write the first of a modern and contemporary mystery/suspense series with a female protagonist. Right from the start of the story she's got a chip on her shoulder about men, as she has been dumped by a cheating husband; she's got the hots for a younger man (she's 48 years old, by the way); she dislikes cops because she was prevented from joining the force by none other than a man; she's assertive, sassy and a real smartass with an attitude. She's very much like a film noir hero. But I'm digressing...
I set out to blog about an author's greatest fear -- the book review -- well, at least it is for me. What will people think of my work? Oh, the nerve-wracking drama of it all as I wait for my first review!
The interesting thing is that I don't fear so much the reviews from readers; although I want those readers to like my work and become fans of my novels. This aside, however, I just need to know that my peers think that my work is good enough. Yes, this is a sign of insecurity; plus, we are usually our own worst critics. Most actors suffer from it, even the really famous ones; artists feel the same way, and so do authors. Therefore, as soon as I finished writing my first mystery/suspense with my older female protagonist, Mia Ferrari, I sent a complimentary copy to one author who I consider to be at the top of her genre (mystery/suspense), and whom I esteem greatly. Her name, Darcia Helle. Then, while I waited for her to read my story, I prayed that she would like it.
I know Darcia is a straight shooter (pardon the pun) when it comes to reviews, and she won't gloss over them. If she likes the story, she'll say so and if not, she'll tell you why. So you can imagine my relief when she gave me a wonderful review. Okay, so I was happy that I wasn't shot down (again, pardon the pun) in flames by someone who has a lot more experience than me in this kind of genre.
The big surprise, however, came when I started to get reviews from other authors who purchased my work and read it. One of them was romance author, Gloria Antypowich, who posted a wonderful review of my novel on Amazon and on her blog. Then, there was Aussie author Charles Jackson, who also gave me a great review.
My novel has been purchased by many people, some of them leave reviews and some don't, but to me the biggest honour is when peers who read my work take the time from their busy schedules to leave a review. This says they truly liked my work, and nothing could be sweeter to me ... well, it would come close to that film option from George Clooney or Clint Eastwood! Hehehehehe.
So what's my point? Personally, as an author, I find it more scary to get reviewed by my peers than by the public in general. Don't ask me why, but there it is. That's not to say that the general public are not discerning enough when they review something they've read. Don't get me wrong; I've seen some fantastic reviews posted by readers of my and other authors' work. And whether the review is favourable or not, it doesn't matter. The feedback is what is important.
Still, it's little wonder that with all this anxiety about reviews authors are often driven to drink. LOL. Thankfully, I'm not a big drinker, so I am driven to cappuccinos and pizza, just like Mia Ferrari :-)
Author Sylvia Massara's: