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.
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 :)
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 apocalyptic 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.
Author Sylvia Massara's: