Author Nancy Lynn Jarvis decided to step out of plotting murder for a while and to dabble into what drives all authors (besides coffee, that is): FOOD! Yes, creativity must be fed and not only with murder mystery plots. So Nancy did the next best thing, she brought together 128 mystery authors (including yours truly) and everyone contributed a recipe toward Nancy's new book "Cozy Food".
As a foodie, I couldn't resist but invite Nancy for an interview regarding her latest culinary creation put together with contributions from some hungry murder-and-mayhem-plotting authors.
So, here we go ...
SM: I was really impressed with your idea to publish a cookbook with recipes from 128 mystery authors. How did this idea come about?
NLJ: My Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries fall under the category of cozy mysteries, but their book covers and titles are a bit harsh for the category. I was looking for graphics I might use for the next book with a softer feel and happened on the cover graphic for Cozy Food. I absolutely fell in love with it and thought if ever there was a perfect graphic for a cozy cookbook, I was looking at it. So that’s what first got me thinking about a cookbook.
SM: Tell us how you compiled the book. I mean, is it in sections such as starters, mains and desserts? Are there any graphics in it?
NLJ: The cookbook is in sections, each introduced by a cozy mystery writer graphic. The categories cover everything from starters to desserts and all meals from breakfast thru dinner with a Quick, Easy, Quirky, Saucy & Even Pet Treats section for everything else. The final third of the cookbook is devoted to contributing author biographies. In many ways that’s my favourite part of the book because what some of the writers have to say is so interesting and there are a couple of pages of humorous outtakes. I say almost, because there’s that big bulge in the middle of the book for sweet things, which is where my heart is.
SM: I hope none of the mystery authors got carried away and decided to throw in a pinch or a few drops of arsenic in their recipe. Hehehe. We don't want the cops to come sniffing around.
NLJ: Nothing lethal has been reported by any readers...but then, how would we know if eating a recipe killed them?
SM: Exactly! Let's hope the coppers don't catch on. LOL
SM: Did you get any “strange” recipes like bugs on rice or something equally weird?
NLJ: Just a few (can you hear me laughing?) My favourite recipe title hands down is “Mammoth Meat Jerky Adapted for Cro Magnons and Modern Humans.” Some other great titles are: Pimento Cheese For Dummies, Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini, Dispatcho Gazpacho, The Poet’s Recipe for Salad, (which came with an original recipe in verse), Hot Grudge Sundae Cake, and (Don’t Let Lady Macbeth Near The) Lemon Posset.
SM: Wow, there are some excellent names here. I now wish I'd called my recipe for Hazelnut Pesto Tagliatelle something like "The Hazel Nut Scissor Killer Pesto". After all, tagliatelle comes from the Italian word "tagliare", meaning to cut. So my killer would have used scissors to kill his victims--hazelnut scissors! Might as well keep it tasty, right?
SM cont'd: I read Murder House, one of your Regan McHenry mysteries. Would you say Regan is food oriented in the novels? I noticed she likes a fine wine.
NLJ: Regan is definitely a foodie. She has an original recipe for Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies (in the book) and keeps dough frozen ready to bake at open houses and to take to friends and clients accused of murder. She has an herb garden and citrus trees in pots so she can pick items for food. Mostly, though, she likes to experiment with recipes. Sometimes she creates great meals, and sometimes they don’t work out well. Fortunately her husband Tom is almost a saint and doesn’t complain; he just drinks more wine with dinner if there’s a flop served.
SM: Well, I was tickled pink when you asked me to submit a recipe. So I did a quick one with an Italian origin as befits my protagonist, Mia Ferrari. She loves Italian food and coffee. But she doesn’t have too much time to cook when she’s out there solving murders. My question here is, did you identify any trends among the recipes submitted by all the authors? You know, like going for pastas and other starchy foods (as these things feed the soul of creative people), or did they go for the healthier trends with loads of salads and vegetables?
NLJ: More writers submitted dessert-type recipes than anything else. I thought that said a lot about cozy writers until I looked through “The Joy of Cooking” and discovered it was heavily weighted there, too. I had to ask for salads and veggie recipes, but I don’t know if cozy writers avoid them personally or worried that readers would because there are many other “healthy” recipes.
SM: I think without coffee and sugar of all kinds we probably wouldn't be as creative. Mind you, I still love my pasta and pizza!
SM: So we established a trend of dessert-type recipes contributed for the book, and we can safely acknowledge authors usually favour coffee, coffee and more coffee, plus chocolate or other sugars for creativity. I definitely fall into this category. But what is your “poison”?
NLJ: My poison is anything salty and spicy. While I love chocolate, if I had to chose between a plate of brownies and a bowl of corn chips and salsa, I’d reach for the chips every time. As for beverages, for me it’s good black tea brewed like my grandfather taught me to make it, which is almost as dark as coffee.
SM: Where is the cookbook available and in what formats?
NLJ: The cookbook is available on Amazon in print, for people like me who want to write in the margins of my cookbooks, and for eReaders like Kindle and iPad. The e-version is priced at only $3.99 U.S. We want to get readers to discover new cozy writers while they cook so it’s priced very reasonably.
SM: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
NLJ: Writers who contributed recipes have writing histories that are all over the board from multiple-time New York Times Bestsellers to writers doing their first book. There are recipes from writers with big traditional publishers, small presses, and indie authors. I love that everyone contributed and that this is a cookbook full of more than 220 great recipes from all sorts of cozy writers. Oh, and while doing this cookbook, I learned that cozy writers are some of the nicest, most supportive people out there.
SM: Nancy, a big thank you for putting this yummy book together and for being a guest on Sylvia Says--the blog. It's wonderful when so many authors come together and contribute to such a great idea. Those of you who have contributed, you know who you are--but if you've eaten too much chocolate and are in a frenzied state of writing, you will find your name below in this list of contributors.
Buon appetito everyone!
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.
Perhaps, it is just like the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy states... "If the answer is 42, then what is the real question to the mystery of life in this universe?" Frankly, I’ve just about given up on this one.
For years, I’ve been into the works of "Abraham" and Esther Hicks, Louise Hay, Bob Proctor, Wayne Dwyer, Susan Jeffers, and a whole lot more. I've also explored the philosophy of Buddhism and Hinduism; but to this day, I've yet to find a satisfactory answer, especially when it comes to karma and the law of attraction.
For instance, if we're meant to work off karma from a previous life, how useless is that when we don't remember what we did in a previous life in the first place? So how can we learn from what we did in another life? Shouldn't we be learning (and paying) from what we did in this life?
This explains why many evil or bad people get away with murder--basically all sorts of crimes, betrayal, hurting others' feelings, and so on--and the unnerving part is that many of them go on to flourish, live long lives in good health, have money, and even find happiness; while some poor souls who try to do right in this life are beset with illness, poverty, abuse, or whatever calamity life throws their way. So I've given up on the notion of karma--unless it's in this life and you pay for it in the same lifetime.
As for the law of attraction--I've lost faith in this, too. I mean, if you are in this life to work off negative karma (and this is why things are falling apart around you according to the karma gurus), then all the law of attraction in the universe isn't going to fix it. No amount of positive thinking is going to "burn off" this so-called negative karma if you're meant to really work it off. One concept seems to contradict the other! So which one, if any, is right?
I've tried for years to think positive; I’ve applied the advice given by Abraham/Esther Hicks, Louise Hay, Bob Proctor, and all the others. Unfortunately, nothing has worked out right for me. I mean, none of the things I've wanted--and I wasn't asking for millions either--just things like health and being able to earn a modest living while doing what I love (my writing). These things still remain dreams for me.
Meanwhile, I look at ex-partners, ex-friends and ex-bosses who’ve turned out to be real users and abusers. Now, I know for a fact that some of these people are thriving. Makes you wonder, right?
The only thing I've found to be valuable in my exploration of all these issues is what the Buddha said: "Don't believe anything anyone tells you, even if I tell you, unless it makes perfect sense within your heart and soul." Or words to that effect. In any case, I have found this to be the most sensible thing of all that any spiritual teacher could have taught me.
I guess I will always have a problem with karma--and if it really does exist, then it sucks. I think justice should be served when someone hurts another person--and not ten lives from now.
I tried to get all spiritual and fluffy, but in the light of pain, betrayal, and other hurtful things (plus all the awful things that happen to people, animals, and mother nature), it's very difficult to remain light in spirit. As for reincarnation--I hope this doesn't exist either, because there is absolutely no way I'm coming back unless it's as a cherished kitty to a loving family!
You will have to pardon my cynicism, but after some of the things I've been through and seen in this world of ours, I need a better answer than karma or the law of attraction. I find people use these concepts too lightly in order to explain why things happen. Sometimes, it's just a convenient cop out for society at large.
You see someone who is homeless or disabled, and you dismiss it as "Oh, it's just karma they're paying off." So this makes it easy to walk away from the helpless millions who are sick, starving, living in war-torn nations, victims of crime, abuse, etc, etc. It's all so "permissible" when you think it's their karma, or that they're attracting this into their lives through the law of attraction.
Well, I'm more of an "eye for an eye" kind of person even though I don't believe in traditional religion. But it's a bit like being in the mafia. You hurt me or my family, and I'll get you back with the proverbial horse's head, among other things—of course, I’ll make sure the horse is only a prop as I couldn’t kill an animal.
Blame it on my Italian heritage, but until I find another answer, which at the moment keeps eluding me, I will always wish for revenge (or poetic justice) for the evil doers. You know what they say, what goes around, comes around--yes, but when? And why did it come to those of us who are trying to do the right thing?
Well, as for why bad things happen to good people, I still can’t explain this one. So if I cannot have justice, I'll have to stick to the best answer possible for the moment: "42".
As an author looking to sell the film rights to one of my novels to Hollywood, my journey has been very slow so far. Most filmmakers will not take "unsolicited" manuscripts. In Hollywood, it's not what you know but who you know!
So I figured if I kept trying, one day something big was going to happen. Lo and behold, who should land right on my doorstep but unconventional, open-minded, two-time director, Angelina Jolie!
Recently, she's made the news headlines again as she is in the process of directing her second film, and using locations within Australia. The film is called Unbroken, and it's based on a non-fiction book by author Laura Hillenbrand.
But all this is besides the point. I knew Ms Jolie was going to be filming a scene outside one of the hotels where I freelance in human resources (my bread and butter gig). This is what I do to pay the bills in between writing. Anyway, this incredible and talented lady (Ms Jolie) was going to be literally on my doorstep, with one of our hotels being in the background of one of the scenes in the film. So how was I going to get my novel to her? The set was heavily guarded, and anyone trying to approach the area where the filming was taking place was turned away by security. Lucky for me, I found a way. You know what they say--where there is a will, there is a way.
Before you get excited, the answer is "No", I didn't get to meet Ms Jolie. At the time I pulled my "covert" operation of trying to get my novel to her, she was filming behind closed doors. In any case, below is my account of how I did it:
"It was a real production (no pun intended) just trying to get the whole thing to happen. First, my boss told me he was going to pass on my novel to Ms Jolie (as he expected to meet her), or he would hand it to the locations manager, who is the guy he'd been dealing with regarding the changes to the façade of our hotel's entry way (our hotel was going to be made to look like a Japanese store of some kind).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, one day before the shoot, my boss told me he was going to be in and out of the office attending meetings. I was devastated. I had been counting on him being around to hand over the novel to Ms Jolie (after all, he'd read it and loved it). So when he told me he would be flat out that day (Friday, 22 November), I felt like giving up. I was angry, disappointed, and wanted to cry at the same time.
Then an idea came to me--I got the name of the locations manager from my boss, and I googled him (Yes, always, ALWAYS do your homework!). The guy has an incredible filmography--he's worked in all the major blockbusters made in Australia for the last 30 years including Wolverine and Gatsby. I tried to get a clear image on Google of this man so I would recognise him if I saw him, but I could only find a tiny photo of him, taken at a distance, and it was blurry at that. I wasn't sure how I was going to identify him on the set. My idea was to approach him directly.
On Friday morning, I made my way to the hotel, and it was bedlam. There were extras dressed as Japanese soldiers and 1940s-type civilians, and a whole bunch of vintage cars were parked along the road (the scene was meant to be a street in Tokyo). People were everywhere--security guards, crew members, etc. Scaffolding and filming lights, trucks, and loads of equipment occupied the street, which was soon to be blocked off to general traffic and the public.
I made it into the hotel, and my boss was busy. He said he'd introduce me to the locations guy, but then he got caught up with other things. Ms Jolie was already inside a building across the road from us, which is an art-deco style building, and she'd been there since early morning. I was told by someone from our hotel, who knew what was happening, that she was filming behind closed doors, and no one but crew could get in.
The entrance to the building was flanked by security officers and all manner of film crew individuals. I stood across the road with my package in hand (novel and letter addressed to Ms Jolie), watching, watching, watching, and waiting, waiting, waiting. Then, this guy comes out of the building. He looked vaguely familiar. My intuition told me it was him (the locations manager). He looked like the pic I saw on Google, but I couldn't be 100% sure. His name is Phillip Roope, by the way.
Suddenly, he was talking to some people, and standing like 2 feet away from me. I was going to wait till he finished talking and then attract his attention. But before I could do this, he walked off. I was really distressed and disappointed. He was my only chance, and he'd just walked away. Still, I waited and waited some more as Mr Roope went back into the building where the filming was taking place.
Then it started to pour with rain (we had thundery weather in Sydney on Friday), and I thought, Damn! What else can go wrong? And just as I thought this, Mr Roope came out of the building again and started to walk up the road. I said to myself, "It's now or never, Sylvia."
I ran across the road despite the heavy rain, almost getting run over by cars as the road hadn't yet been blocked off. Meanwhile, Mr Roope was going way up the road, away from me. I quickened my pace, but a security officer blocked my way, and said, "Excuse me, madam, are you crew?"
I went into official mode, gave her a stern look, and with my most authoritative tone, I replied, "I'm after Mr Roope." This seemed to work because, without further questions, she called out after him (by the way, I'm good at authority. You have to be if you're in human resources. Not a wasted career after all).
Mr Roope stopped, turned to me, and we took shelter under the awning of a building, as it was still raining heavily. And then, after apologising for taking up his time, I launched into my spiel (and believe me, you have to be ready for this because you never know when the opportunity to sell your novel/script/idea will come up). I told him who I was, gave him my official hotel business card, told him I had permission from my boss to approach him, and that I had a novel for Ms Jolie, and would he give it to her.
I further told him I knew she probably gets millions of these, but the Universe dictated that she be here today, and therefore, I had to take the chance. Fortunately, Mr Roope, an Aussie, was really nice and easy going (as most Aussies are), and he promised he would put it in her hands. I then thanked him, complimented him on his fantastic career, and finally went on my way.
Oh, but just before I left, I did say that I knew Ms Jolie might simply put the book in the trash, or never get to read it. But if she did read it, she would surely love it, and cry at the ending. Mr Roope smiled, a twinkle in his eye, and once again promised he'd give it to her. Wow! I was suddenly on top of the world. Talk about six degrees of separation. And this was only one degree of separation!"
When relating my story to a colleague, she commented on my determination. I replied that I would have stepped over bodies lying in the streets if it meant I could get my novel to Ms Jolie. I've never been shy of approaching people. I had something to sell, and I wanted an open-minded director for it. The Universe saw fit to bring Ms Jolie literally to my doorstep. The worst she or Mr Roope could have said was "No". So I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Now it's all out of my hands. I do not expect to hear any time soon, if ever. Ms Jolie might put the whole package straight into the trash; after all, she undoubtedly gets hit with this kind of thing all the time. Or she might put it away for later and forget all about it. Or she might open it and put the book aside for another day and not read it for a year. Or she might read it and not like it. Or she might read it, like it, but decide it's not a good film project. Or... the best outcome of all, she might love it, cry at the end of the story, and get her people to contact me with a movie deal because she just has to make this novel into a movie!
My mother once said to me regarding lost opportunities: "We might miss several trains, but we always catch the last one." This thought was what kept me going against all odds to get my book to Ms Jolie. And since you can never depend on anybody else except yourself, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I simply did what I had to do and what was under my control--the rest, I handed over to the Universe.
And now, while I wait for that magic call (if it should ever come), I can finally go around saying my most favourite line of all time to people who never answer their phones: "You never know when Hollywood is going to call."
... 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’m not into politics. The reason being, to me all politicians are the same. No matter what they promise during their electoral campaign, you can bet your sweet bippy whoever gets elected will let down the nation.
I mean, what an insult to our intelligence to think we, the people of ANY country in the world, are stupid enough to believe a politician’s empty promises during an electoral campaign. C’mon, people! We all know a politician will sell their grandmother to the devil if it means they’ll get a few extra votes. And they’ll even throw in grandpa and the family pet if it means even more votes!
Now, I don’t know about my esteemed American friends (of whom I have many), but I have to smirk cynically when I see the big shows some of these political campaigners put on in order to become President of the good US of A. These shows rival anything Hollywood can come up with as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I think the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (AMPAS) should introduce a new category to the Academy Awards--Best charade for good politician—and the Oscar goes to... Well, whoever puts on the best charade for being a good politician, who will keep all his/her promises to the population.
One good thing about all this is at least my Yankee friends get something in return for their vote—good entertainment. Not only this, but I believe voting in the US is not compulsory. God, you guys have it good! In Australia, we are FORCED to vote, and if we don’t we have to pay a fine. Grrrr...
So you see, this becomes a real dilemma for someone like me who doesn’t give a rat’s ass as to who wins because I know whoever becomes Prime Minister of Australia will be yet another wally (Australian slang for expressing the word “idiot” but in a polite way) with a bad case of megalomania and being a legend in their own lunchtime.
This finally brings me to the subject of my blog post—which is, if Americans don’t want their president, they should send him to the land down under. And make it quick, please. Our federal election kicks off on 7 September, and God help us— the candidate choices, like so many in the past, are akin to scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Now, ladies and gay gentlemen, please wipe the drool rolling down your chin. The babe pictured to the right is unfortunately NOT a political candidate. If he were, we wouldn't give a donkey's B-hind if he kept his promises or not. With looks like his, who cares, right?
So why, you might ask, do I think Obama should govern our banana republic? Well, for one, what more damage can he do than our own politicians, who can’t even recognise a good suit unless they’re being taken to court for abusing each other on TV? Oh, I’m referring to the cheap-looking suits they tend to wear. Ar, ar.
The second reason, AND the most important of them all, is this one: If all politicians are the same—full of empty promises—then why put up with one who could be typecast in a Hollywood movie to play a priest about to conduct an exorcism or one who’d make an excellent model for the sculpture of a garden gnome?
In conclusion, all things being equal, I’ll take Obama any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I mean, at least the guy is a cool dude, and as far as I’m concerned, rather sexy. Put it this way, I wouldn’t mind taking a ride on Air Force One with him ;)
So come election day, I will look up into the skies to watch out for Air Force One bearing our new, good-looking, cool dude Prime Minister, Obama. After all, good looks work well in Hollywood, so why not in politics?
I give you one guess as to the cool dude I'd vote for :)
It’s been less than a month since I returned from a cruise to New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, and already I am looking forward to another one. What was so good about the cruise? Well, if you look at it from my protagonist, Mia Ferrari's point of view, it was the cute, young officers.
You can’t blame Mia, older-woman and wannabe investigator, seeing as she likes Playing with the bad boys, right? (Also the name of her first mystery adventure). Mia likes them young and good looking (even if they’re gay!), and on a cruise of over 1700 passengers and around 700 crew, one is bound to run into some young flesh ;) And she did.
But what was the real reason for going on this cruise? Namely,
relaxation, and to plan my next murder mystery, which will take place on the high seas and will feature Mia, her friends, and a host of other characters.
I will be starting to write Mia Ferrari’s next mystery adventure The South Pacific Murders in the next few weeks, and hope to release it in early 2014..
You can expect a number of murders, sexual tension, and quite a few suspects. Mia is going to be under pressure to solve these murders in a short time span, seeing as the cruise is not a long one, and she must solve the murders before the ship arrives at its destination. So the pressure is on.
This is why Mia’s creator, little me, is in need of another cruise in order to relax :)
While you are waiting for Mia’s third mystery to be released, why not grab a copy of her first two adventures? Click HERE to have a look at where you can buy them.
So, see you on board soon, and Bon voyage!
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: