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
... 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:
I was watching First Wives Club last night and I thought that women just can't win when it comes to the "unfair sex", as I call men. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, the storyline is about three 40-something women who've helped their husbands in various ways while they were married; be that to build their business, their career, or bear their children; and then, when life should be sweet, these bastard men dump their wives for younger women.
I really love the part Goldie Hawn plays--she's a 45-year-old actress, begging her plastic surgeon to inject her lips with botox. The doctor tells her that she looks fantastic as she is, and that she should be happy being her age. Goldie replies: "There are three ages in Hollywood: 'Babe', 'District Attorney' and 'Driving Miss Daisy'; now, fill them up!" (She orders the doctor to inject her lips). Later, she's so depressed because she was asked to play the role of a mother in a movie, instead of that of the young protagonist, that she's at a bar getting drunk and talking to Maurice, the bartender. She says to him in tears: "They want me to play Monique's mother, Maurice. Let me ask you, is this the face of a mother?" The bartender says no, at least not his mother's. Then Goldie goes on: "Angela Lansbury is Monique's mother; Shelley Winters is Monique's mother; Sean Connery is Monique's mother..." At this point, Maurice becomes concerned and tells her he'll get her some coffee. But Goldie declines and replies: "No, forget that, Sean Connery is Monique's boyfriend--he's 300 and still a stud!"
So what is the message here? That women in their prime (40s an 50s) are being dumped by men after they've been used up. After men have had children by their wives, or built their careers through them, or been introduced to all the right people and climbed their way to the top; suddenly, their wives become a drag. A man, even if he's as old as Sean Connery, has to be seen with a younger woman. Look at the film "Entrapment" where Sean Connery plays a master thief in his 60s, opposite a 30-something Catherine Zeta-Jones! I mean, come on! But this goes back to the days of old, so no wonder older modern women haven't got a chance.
Let's look at some old movies that have set us on the road to perdition. Sabrina--a 22-year-old Audrey Hepburn falling for a late 40s or early 50s Humphrey Bogart; Rebecca, a 20-something Joan Fontaine falling for a 40-something Laurence Olivier, and the list goes on!
But let us also look at real life in the old days of say, Jane Austen, and even hundreds of years prior to this. Young girls of 16, 17, and sometimes even younger, were married off to old guys in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed in this so-called age of liberated and independent women. We may not be forced to marry an old codger, but old codgers are still ending up with younger women--and they don't necessarily have to be rich or celebs either!
We may have won the right to vote, we may be breaking through the glass ceiling in the corporate world (though at a slow rate), but one thing we cannot change is this: as men grow older, they are called distinguished and no-one seems to bat an eyelid if he's sporting a 22-year-old on his arm. As women grow older, we are called hags, has-beens, used up, dried up, etc, etc, ad infinitum. And God forbid if we decided to go out with a younger man! Even Demi Moore lost her young beau (or so I heard).
Unfortunately, this is the way in modern society, and I don't think it's going to change any time soon. Moreover, it isn't only reflected in real life and films, but also in literature. Look at chick-lit. I've been reading hundreds of comments in blogs and in Facebook from women who say they cannot find a decent romance with a protagonist older than 30! (And even 30 is a bit too long in the tooth these days). But now we have "hen-lit", though not as widely known as chick-lit. Having said this, I believe that this genre is an emerging trend, as women from the baby-boomer period (those born between 1945-1964) are at the peak of their earning power, hence they tend to set the trends.
So, we might be dumped for a younger woman, though we helped our spouses to greater heights, (yes, behind every great man there is an even greater woman); we might be looked upon by our younger sisters as having passed the "use by" date; younger men might want to shag us for the experience (after all, our younger sisters couldn't hold a candle to our sexual expertise), but the young men will sooner or later flock to the babes, along with the older, middle-aged men who've dumped their wives. But I have to say that through all this, we remain strong and independent; we have clarity and focus, we know what we want and we are doing it for ourselves (as the song says). Whereas the men who've dumped us are still wading in their pathetic pool of self-pity, trying to find themselves. And you know what? Eventually, they'll be dumped by the "babes" because they won't be able to keep up. So what will you do when your ex comes knocking at your door to tell you he was wrong to leave you?
I know what I would do. As Diane Keaton tells her ex, who wanted to come back to her, in First Wives Club; she simply says: "drop dead."
Author Sylvia Massara's: