On Wednesday, 7 July, 2021, more than 4 million COVID-19 deaths were reported worldwide during the pandemic, according to USA Today.
I read this article with a heavy heart, shaking my head at the waste of life which seems to be the never-ending theme of the planet we call home. It is always waste, waste, and more waste. More often than not, a reactive instead of a proactive attitude towards the glorious planet that humans have been bent on destroying ever since they climbed down from the trees.
The reported COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided if humans had not played around with bats and coronaviruses, always trying to manipulate what nature created.
I feel each death was a tragedy, and each death was man made. This led me to think about other deaths that may have been avoided had not humans interfered one way or another with Mother Nature, whether on purpose or inadvertently through ignorance.
Take the Spanish flu--it killed somewhere between 50 to 100 million people in the world and while many theories as to its origin are still flying about we have to wonder whether human intervention through manipulation of nature, perhaps via certain animal farming methods, could have resulted in the flu virus jumping from an animal to a human host. I guess this still remains a mystery.
This is not a blog post about COVID-19 and other viruses, however, although this is where my train of thought started, but moving away from the speculation of viruses the W.H.O reported air pollution alone kills an estimated 8 million people worldwide every year. Add to this around 9 million people dying of world hunger per year, deaths attributed to climate change (the 2020 Australian bushfires alone wiped out approximately 3 billion animal and invertebrate species in one catastrophic environmental event which changed the ecology of our planet forever plus contributed greatly to air pollution, which will in turn kill more people). Then there is crime, war, and too many other atrocities to list.
And suddenly we have much more to think about and time to reflect on what humankind has unleashed since the beginning of civilisation--but are we really civilised?
I can only hope, though I am sure this will never happen any time soon (if ever), that humankind will learn to stop trying to manipulate Mother Nature to suit its thirst for profit and power while at the same time work towards a peaceful, cleaner, and fairer world for all.
The dream of a Utopian society, you say? I'm afraid I have to agree.
I have blogged about this most of unsavoury subjects in the past, but it seems cyberbullying is reaching pandemic (no pun intended) proportions these days, especially with the advent of Covid-19, bushfires, floods, other global warming events, corrupt politicians who want to go on killing koalas--and the environment in general--all in favour of the mighty dollar, and so on.
Nerves are frayed and emotions run high, and frankly I don't blame people for being oversensitive about everything in their lives right now including what happens on social media. Billions of people are venting their frustrations, fears, and anger on other nations, governments, institutions, the self-serving rich and powerful, and (unfortunately) on each other.
Most of us follow social etiquette in real life if we want to fit in with the culture in our environment, but there are those who turn into monsters when it comes to dealing with people on social media. These sick, cowardly, and pathetic individuals have a tendency to select a small fragment of information that someone may have posted online and they use social media to really let it rip, no matter what the context of the actual post is about.
I could understand if these people were directly provoked and they wanted to somehow defend themselves (although insulting/bullying behaviour never really works), but to tear into someone when there is no real provocation, and especially when people rarely bother to read the entire post and any attached news articles or accompanying information--well, that's another thing entirely.
These individuals merely select a small fragment of what someone has posted and in their ignorance they run off with it and start to troll the author of the post without rhyme or reason (and most important of all without bothering to actually read the entire article, post, or thread so at least they can get the context of the whole post before they make their own inane, insulting, or merely stupid remarks). Sadly, many people think trolls are ferals, but this is not the case. I have personally read trolling comments from doctors, lawyers, and other so-called educated and seemingly civilised people.
I am sure we are all guilty of trolling to some degree by having expressed our anger towards politicians, celebrities, or other powerful entities who are corrupt, milk the poor and needy, or those intent on destroying the environment, etc, etc. And that's human nature, especially when big targets attract huge audiences. But to these individuals infamy can be just as powerful as being famous and as long as the dollars keep rolling in these people shrug off every bit of trolling.
Trolling is a bullying behaviour and it can often have a big impact on ordinary lives--lives that cannot afford to sue people or use the trolling as an excuse for more exposure and build-up to their own fame and power.
So how do you deal with a cyberbully who often chooses to hide behind their computer or Smartphone because they don't have the balls to show you who they really are? This type of entity is the most cowardly bully of all--an individual who hides behind avatars and secrecy for their own ends, mainly to bully or troll others on social media.
Wikipedia defines a troll as a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussions.
In my opinion, a troll is a cyberbully without a life of their own. And if you're wondering what a troll looks like, the answer is: like anybody. They come in all shapes and sizes. But I like to think of them as per the pics below:
Why am I re-posting about trolls? Well, it all started with a few tweets I read from actor James Woods. Mr Woods, like many of us, is an interactive and prolific Twitter(er) and he expresses an opinion on many (often inflammatory) topics. Nothing wrong with that, right? I follow his tweets because I'm interested in what he's got to say. He tweets a lot about politics and even though I don't live in the US--hence I don't understand much about American politics--I still have an interest in many of the things Mr Woods has to say.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of Mr Woods' tweets are usually marred by many cowardly creatures who dedicate their energy to wasting other people's time and enjoyment in using social media.
Let's face it, trolls are tedious, terrible and tormenting creatures with little minds and no imagination who should really get out there and do something constructive with their lives for a change instead of making ours a misery.
My opinions are my own, just as Mr Woods' opinions are his--and you, the reader, also have an opinion that you may wish to express. Now, you may or may not agree with what I say, what Mr Woods says, or what someone else says, but there is absolutely no need to start acting like an exorcist-type entity--and one that often uses words that half the time they cannot even spell.
I quite enjoy the way Mr Woods deals with cyberbullies/trolls--he simply shakes them like water off a duck's back and blocks them with a witty comment and the now very famous hashtag he invented: the #INSTABLOCK.
I have joined endless discussions on Twitter about many topics, like most of us do, but in the years that I've been tweeting I've had the misfortune to come across a number of very ignorant individuals, some of whom have abused me for no good reason. And by the way, trolls should understand that if they tweet or post something on a public forum they should expect other people to interact with their tweets/posts, and not take offense when others hit back. Remember: what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
In conclusion, since these most unfortunate incidents of bullying/trolling have occurred I've taken a page from Mr Woods' effective way of dealing with these trolls and I now use the #INSTABLOCK hashtag to get rid of them when I block them and their rubbishy, bullying comments. I may not use this hashtag for every troll because at times this can be time consuming. Having said this, if you find yourself blocked by an #INSTABLOCK coming from me you may go ahead and feel complimented because the other boring trolls out there simply get blocked from my account without a by-your-leave. My final message to all trolls (cyberbullies) is clearly depicted in the cartoon below.
And on a last note, I'd like to thank Mr Woods for inspiring such a great way to get rid of these "waste of cyberspace" individuals.
Please note: Views are my own and while ageism affects males, too, in this blog post I am focusing most of my thoughts towards the sentient being that is mostly affected by ageism: the middle-aged female.
This blog post has been updated because regulations introduced a few years ago by the Australian Government changed the age pension qualifying criteria up from 65 to 67 and 70 years respectively (depending in which year one was born), but also because there is still so much ageism in the workplace, which has a negative impact in our lives mentally and in the ability to earn enough money until age pension kicks in. I can attest to all of this after spending thirty-five years of my life in corporate human resources roles. And believe me when I tell you that I've seen it all when it comes to age discrimination, and I have even experienced it myself of late.
The biggest worry is that as of 2020 we have 13.6% (or 3.24 million people) living below the poverty line--according to the Australian Council of Social Services and the University of NSW. These days anyone who loses their job after age 45 (and they could be even younger, by the way, especially for females) will take an average of one year to find a job--and this is if they are lucky.
But let's look at ageism in culture for a moment. I firmly believe this is from where age discrimination stems. When you look down the ages, girls of 12 years (and even younger) were being married off to men twice or three times their age. In those days the role played by two people in a marriage was strictly defined: women became homemakers and had children; men fought the wars and provided for the family.
This went on pretty much until WWII when women went out to do the men’s jobs because the menfolk were fighting the war-- which they started in the first place, I might add! But once the world returned to peacetime women discovered they could do a man’s job and then some. Therefore, although they had a very difficult time fighting for equal rights through the ages, women eventually made it to the top—well, mostly--the majority of them still get paid less than their male counterparts (yes, I know, this is a gender thing).
So we kind of made it when it came to equal rights, but one thing we didn’t reckon on was the ageing factor. Sadly, the likes of Hollywood and the media still make it acceptable for a 20-year-old to be paired off with a 50-something actor. Classic movies such as Funny Face and Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn are a good case in point, but even in modern times we still see this kind of "pairing" of younger woman/older man playing out.
But back to history: women mostly became the homemakers after WWII plus they had children (as it was their duty, according to society, to repopulate the world after so many perished during the war). Meanwhile, the men went back to the role of provider and, because these were more traditional times, the man was generally older than his wife and it stood to reason that he would die off first and leave his family well provided for.
So what happened in more recent years? Most men still seem to like the idea of a younger woman—don’t they usually gravitate towards someone younger than themselves? And where does this leave the older woman? If she’s lucky, she’s married to a wonderful man who will grow old alongside of her "until death do them part". If she’s unlucky, however, she’ll be abandoned by her spouse--possibly swapped for a younger woman-- and she must fend for herself.
It's fair to say that most women have accepted that at one time or another in their lives they will go through a separation or divorce and, therefore, they must provide for themselves unless their ex pays maintenance of some kind. More than likely, as is increasingly the case in modern times, the woman will have to work and maintain herself (and any children she may have). Should she be inclined to look for another partner (for both companionship and splitting the bills) the chances of her meeting another man after the age of say 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 ageing 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 own living, but she cannot find a job if she’s been busy raising kids and has big gaps in her working career, or perhaps she was laid off from work due to downsizing, or much worse: if she’s age 40 plus.
Well, she may just scrape by and find another job at 40, 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 perform some menial job that pays peanuts.
So much for the Human Rights Commission and their crappy talk about age discrimination, especially for women. Unfortunately, they don't enforce age discrimination enough. Not long ago, I tried to report a recruitment ad for a medical receptionist that actually stated in their ad that they were looking for a young girl because the other girls on reception were young, too. I contacted the said employer and, incredibly, they admitted this over the phone. I then telephoned the Human Rights Commission and was informed that they could not do very much about it unless I could prove all this, including the employer's response. Whatever happened to their guidelines where an employer is not allowed to state age, gender, race, and yada, yada, yada, as our American friends say?
What happens now? The official pension age is either 67 or 70, and now we have a late-40s or early-50s woman looking for a job, but she cannot find one because the labour market is like Hollywood: they only want them young (especially the females).
So what does this woman do? How does she survive the next 15 or so years until she can collect age pension? And heaven forbid that she may be battling some kind of chronic illness, where her capabilities to work are limited, or she cannot work at all! And before you jump in here and shout out "disability pension", forget it! You have to slit your carotid artery in front of a Centrelink official in order for them to believe you that you are actually fully incapacitated, which makes this a moot point as you will not need financial assistance because you bled out all over their desk and you are now dead.
Okay. What next for this poor woman? There are plenty of famous actresses in Hollywood who are over 45 and still working, but even if they didn’t work many of them have already made their fortunes and can live the rest of their lives in comfort. Coming closer to reality, however, we have a disaster. There are hundreds of thousands of average women out there 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 to go for the young babes--and who pretty much get ignored by society.
I am talking in general terms here as there are many 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?
When I had a bread and butter job in recruitment (while penning novels in my spare time) I tried to help older women wherever possible. Mind you, I’ve had some tough battles with ex-bosses when trying to convince them to consider an older female candidate over younger ones despite the fact that the younger women were under-qualified! Nine of out ten, I was overruled and we had to give the job to the younger female. This also happened when we had a male applicant going for a role against a female applicant. The guy usually got the job. But this is more of a gender issue and I'll leave this hot topic for another blog post.
My experience with the ageing factor, and having to find work, concerns me greatly when I remember that this kind of thing is still going on. And now that it is I who am looking for a little gig to supplement my income it’s scary to think that I may never be employed again. I have been rejected a number of times already although I meet the criteria for many of the roles for which I applied; I have oodles of experience to offer; I am negotiable as far as money goes, so the employer will be getting a highly skilled professional at practically half the amount of what I used to earn; and I am flexible with hours. But to date, no takers--not even from a large hotel company where I once worked and set up the whole human resources function including company culture to meet Australian standards, but modelled on the culture of their overseas head office. So what does this tell you? I can do the job with my eyes closed; I am the same person I was back then (when I used to work for this organisation); I know my stuff back to front! So the only parameter that has changed is my age.
Meanwhile, the dream of supporting myself as a fulltime author is something that is outside the reach of 98% of fiction writers (myself included). It is like what they say in Hollywood when it comes to actors: "Two per cent of actors make it to the top; the other ninety-eight per cent are still waiting on tables". The only plus is that writing has no age limit. In fact, the older one gets the more experience and wisdom they have to contribute to their writing, but making it in any kind of creative field is extremely difficult, therefore, most "creatives" always have a side-gig.
It is humbling and distressing to see (and feel) that I don’t have the influence I used to have when I was in my 30s and at the top of my career. Meanwhile, older guys than myself still have powerful jobs (Oops! Going into that "gender" thing again). I know some who are way past 60 and still making super huge salaries as MDs and CEOs, partners in firms, and the usual "boys club" network. It's sad but true when we have to admit that it’s still a man’s world out there, however you look at it.
In the end, it may be that one day I may just have to take up a job walking dogs instead--that is, if I'm not so old that someone else has to take me for a walk!
Today “Sylvia Says” takes a virtual trip to London, UK, to catch up with solicitor (lawyer) and author Maria Savva.
SM: Maria, welcome to Sylvia Says. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today, and although I’m on a “virtual” visit here in London I still remember the time I spent in this wonderful place many moons ago. London is one of my favourite cities!
MS: Thank you very much for inviting me, Sylvia. I love London too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it still has something special.
SM: Maria, reading through your website I noticed novels in a number of different genres. Would you say it’s fair to call you a multi-genre author? And if so, what is the reason as to why you decided to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre?
MS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say I’m a multi-genre author. It’s probably because I’ve never purposefully written a novel to fit into any particular genre. A lot of my fiction is inspired by or based on true events, so the genre will depend on what the subject matter is, I suppose. You’ll find elements of romance, thriller, comedy, and even horror/paranormal in my writing. I suppose it’s a reflection of life. Nothing is ever only one genre in real life, is it? My writing seems to have become darker over the years, but I think that’s more to do with getting older and having more of an understanding of the world around me, and let’s face it, the news is never very good these days. I find that I use writing as a kind of therapy, so I often tackle dark subjects as a way of digging deeper into my own feelings and as a way of trying to make sense of what people do and why.
SM: I agree with you there. I also find writing cathartic; it helps me cope with all the negativity and darkness of this world.
In your bio I discovered you were a prolific reader as a child, just like me, and that you pretty much read most genres, or at least went through different genre phases. By the way, I noticed you read most of the good old Mills & Boon (now Harlequin) romances. I confess I must’ve gone through most of their collection when I was a young teen while at the same time becoming hooked on Nancy Drew and Three Investigator mysteries. But like you, I grew up with books, and each of them became a friend to me. What was it that got you reading at such an early age (and I see you were an advanced reading pupil at school)?
MS: Yes, I read all those Mills and Boon romances as a teenager, but soon after I started reading paranormal/horror. Then I got hooked on chick-lit for a while and then I got into self-help books, fantasy fiction, and magical realism. My writing is probably a mixture of all those things!
I was able to read before I started school, and one of my earliest memories is reading a book to another child on what I think was one of my first days at school. My brother started school a couple of years before me and I used to copy everything he did, so I probably learned to read because he was learning to read. I was a very quiet child, shy, and self-conscious with a vivid imagination. I found an escape in books. I thought books were magical, and loved to read one after the other.
SM: So when did you start seriously thinking of writing a novel, and what inspired you to write it?
MS: I always enjoyed creative writing at school. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions in my twenties, so writing was something I enjoyed from a young age. I found myself out of work in 1997, and decided to write a novel as a challenge to myself. I’d just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It’s a short book and quite simply written, yet it has a great message and it inspired me to try to think of a story of my own that could perhaps change people’s lives.
At the time, I thought writing a novel was one of those impossible things and if I wrote one I would have achieved a dream. I actually found writing “Coincidences” quite easy. However, it was my first novel, and it was more about telling the story; I wasn’t paying too much attention to how I was writing it and how the reader would interpret it. It’s not an example of great literature, but it kick-started everything for me. My style of writing has developed a lot since then, and I’m learning more about writing every day.
It’s an ongoing process, as you probably know. These days, I try to be creative with the subject matter and the words I use, painstakingly searching for the exact word in each sentence (which is why it takes me years to edit my books!). “Coincidences” was what started it all, and after I wrote that I caught the writing bug and haven’t been able to stop writing.
SM: Oh, yes! I can relate to all the editing. I sometimes find myself doing more edits years later. Crazy, I know. But back to you, out of all the novels you’ve written to date, which would you say is your favourite and why?
MS: My most recent books are usually my favourites because my writing evolves with each book and story I write, so I feel that the latest book is usually more of an accurate reflection of where I’m at in my writing life.
My favourites at the moment are probably “Haunted” and “The Spider”, and the sequel to “The Spider” (which is not yet released).
Readers have told me “Haunted” is a story that stays with them. With that novel, I hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve - to get people thinking. I had a message I wanted to convey with that book. It’s about the consequences of our actions, and living with the repercussions of one moment of anger, and not only the way our actions can alter our own lives, but the lives of many other people.
The main character in “The Spider”, Rex, is quite interesting, and I felt his story wasn’t quite over, which is why I was inspired to write a sequel.
SM: Having come from a very busy corporate career myself, I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family/friend commitments, and writing. Many people believe writing a novel is not that difficult; you just write the chapters and off you go. But authors know the painstaking work that goes into properly constructing an engaging plotline, giving life and depth to the characters, writing between five to ten drafts of the novel before we even begin to proofread properly and edit (and this happens before we engage the services of a proofreader/editor)! I know you can relate to all of this, but I simply want readers to know this is a true labour of love rather than writing to make money. So firstly, how did you manage your time to work at what obviously is a busy and stressful job and at the same time write?
MS: I’ve often wondered how I manage to concentrate long enough to put stories together, but then whenever I stop to think about it, I believe that the chaos is part of what creates inspiration and the stories that flow from that. I find that I am always being inspired by things that happen in my everyday life, so this helps when I put pen to paper and start writing a story. I find the actual writing of the stories relatively easy. It’s the editing/rewriting process that is hardest and takes the most time, and which can be quite frustrating. I agree with you, writing is hard work, you have to love doing it or you will end up giving up.
SM: Very true! And secondly, unless one hits the jackpot and gets discovered in what I call a “black swan event” and makes millions in royalties, what would your advice be to aspiring authors out there in regard to the reality of writing?
MS: Writing is a lonely business and it often means you spend a lot of time alone in a room. You really need to find people who will support you. I was lucky enough to connect online with a great community of independent authors (including you, Sylvia!) many years ago, and that has made all the difference.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I won’t tell you to do something else instead, but you shouldn’t go into it thinking you will make money. Writing has lots of other benefits. For example, I find it therapeutic.
SM: Yes. I have to say that writing is extremely therapeutic and, although a lonely business, most of the time I find I enjoy being in the company of all the characters inside my head. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think all creatives are just a little bit crazy; otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing what we call a “labour of love”.
But I ramble... Maria, before we close off, is there anything else you would like to add, including what is the next writing project for you?
MS: I’d like to mention a few of my favourite independent authors who write fantastic books, which I’ve read and enjoyed. Whenever anyone is asked to name a favourite author, they usually mention someone famous. I’ve even seen other independent writers do that in interviews. Of course we all have famous authors who are our favourites, but let’s face it, they don’t need the publicity. Most of my favourite writers these days are independent authors and they don’t get any promotion. So here are a few I would recommend: J. Michael Radcliffe, Darcia Helle, Maria Haskins, Neil Schiller, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Jason McIntyre.
There is a whole world of undiscovered books out there, and I would ask every person reading this to try a book by one of those authors because you never know, they could end up being one of your favourites too.
As mentioned, my next writing project is the sequel to “The Spider”. It’s called “Evil Never Dies”. I’m working on the final edits now and hope to release it soon. The release has been delayed due to my busy work life this year, but hopefully it will be out next year. I’m looking forward to sharing it. I also have a collection of short stories that is almost ready to be published.
SM: Thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today, Maria. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming release! I hope next time we meet, I can physically get to lovely London in person.
MS: That would be wonderful! I’d also love to visit Australia one day!
SM: I’ll hold you to that and what’s more I’ll take you sightseeing!
For more information on Maria Savva and where you can check out her books please click HERE.
SM: Okay, so here we go—Welcome to Sylvia Says, Eric. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today.
ET: Thanks, Sylvia. It’s a pleasure to be here.
SM: Eric, like me, you’re a multi-genre author. Every author has a reason as to why they decide to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre; so what is your reason?
ET: Sci-Fi is my passion, and what I feel most comfortable writing, but my first children’s book, Sam and the Dragon, was based on a story I wrote years ago when my boys were little. At the time, I didn’t really consider trying to get it published, but I liked the story and kept it around. Once I started publishing my SEAMS16 series, and got a decent understanding of the process, I dug up that old tale, rewrote it, recruited my brother to illustrate it, and put it out there. At that point I became a “multi-genre” author, but didn’t really think of myself that way as I had no intention of writing any more children’s books, but then I was struck with an idea for another children’s story, and it wouldn’t let me continue my “real” writing (the next SEAMS16 novel) until I wrote it down and sent it to my brother to illustrate. And that’s how most of the children’s stories came to be, not so much a decision to become multi-genre, but more like an itch that needs to be scratched.
SM: Among your numerous works I noticed you wrote an illustrated poem entitled “Everyday Wonders”, which is directed at kids who wear glasses, right? What made you write about this and why?
ET: It’s dedicated to kids who wear glasses, but it’s just as much for those who don’t need them. Growing up, I didn’t need glasses, but everyone else in my family wore them. And my younger brother got them at a very early age. I didn’t really understand his need, and when I tried looking through his glasses, I didn’t understand how they could possibly help. But they clearly did, so I accepted the concept without really understanding. When my son got his glasses, my wife told me that on the way home, he was pointing out things he had never seen before - birds in flight, names of streets on signs, individual leaves on trees – things I took for granted. Flash forward thirty some years and I’m visiting the optometrist for my own pair of glasses, finally understanding beyond an intellectual level. The memories of my brother and son, and my better understanding of what getting glasses really meant for them, worked together to inspire the poem.
SM: Please tell us a little about your books in the different genres you write in. Which would you say is your favourite genre and why?
ET: I have released five novels in the SEAMS16 series. The first, SEAMS16: A NEW HOME, the second, SEAMS16: ARRIVAL, and the fourth, SEAMS16: FRIENDS AND FOES, take place on the Space Equipment Authority’s Maintenance Station number 16 (SEAMS16), a repair depot for spacecraft in the Solenty planetary system, said to be the finest repair station in the known galaxy. These stories follow the lives of Charlie and Susan Samplin and their life on the station. The other two books are retrospectives. Book three in the series, AND SO IT BEGINS, reveals the origins of the society, and book five, THE KLINDORAN WAR, recounts an important event that happens some 500 years after the book three, and 500 years before SEAMS16 is built.
I’ve also released five stand-alone children’s picture books. SAM AND THE DRAGON, a story in the style of an old legend to explain a modern day convenience; BILLY’S FAMILY, an introduction to family relationships and genealogy; THE WIZARDS OF THE BODY SHOP, fantasizing the roles of regular workers; YETI IN THE FREEZER, a modern day legend to explain another convenience; and as mentioned above, EVERYDAY WONDERS. All of my children’s books are designed to be read-to-me-books, and I imagine a man reading to a small child on his lap when writing them.
I think of my novels as my “real” writing, and the children’s books as a bonus. I don’t usually set out to write a children’s book, but as I mentioned above, I get struck with an idea, and it won’t let go until I’ve written it down. Yeti in the Freezer is the only story I deliberately set out to write, as it came as a request from my niece, when she explained how she calmed her children’s fears of the “scary” refrigerator that seemed to growl at them from time to time.
SM: So what’s next up for you, Eric? Any works in the pipeline?
ET: I’m planning to write one more SEAMS16 novel, but haven’t worked out the story for it yet. In the mean time, I’ve been trying my hand at a murder mystery and a Middle Grade sci-fi story. At this point, it’s hard to tell if either of them will be published, since I’m writing them as an experiment, but we’ll see how they turn out.
SM: Eric, before we close off please tell our readers a little about yourself. That is, who is Eric B. Thomasma aside from being an author, where is he based, what are his likes and dislikes, etc. You can pretty much share anything you like with the audience.
ET: I’m a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I married my wife nearly 42 years ago, we raised two sons together and now we’re enjoying two grandsons. We live in a house we built near the city of Grand Rapids, MI, about six miles from the home where I was born and raised. I’ve held a number of different jobs in my life, mopping floors, delivering furniture, licensed electrician, servicing sophisticated telephone systems (to name a few), and enjoyed many hobbies including swimming, computer programming, and video production. I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer in almost everything. Often preferring to repair instead of replace, extending the usefulness of many of the items around the house. (This comes in handy on a writer’s salary.) I suppose that’s a large part of why I self-publish. I enjoy the formatting and other processes involved in preparing my book for Amazon and Smashwords distribution.
SM: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming up next on your agenda. I’ll be sure to tweet about it! Ha, ha!
ET: Thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure. And thanks for all you do to support the writer community.
For more information on Eric B. Thomasma and where you can purchase his books please visit here for his sci-fi works: www.seams16.com or here for just the kids: www.rtycati.com
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 has been some years since I've written this blog post, which still seems to stand the test of time. New statistical information about the oversupply of men in some countries, however, has come to light. Err ... yes, you read it correctly, ladies; it's not a typo, and I did write "OVERSUPPLY". But more on this later; in the meantime, enjoy the following blog post.
We have an expression in Australia that we sometimes use when we're feeling rather overwhelmed; and when I finished reading a certain article about the chances of women finding men after a certain age, I was left trembling with apprehension. As I clutched the newspaper to my breast and shakily boarded the train on the way home from an appointment the other day, I said to myself: "How much can a koala bear?"
Once on the train, I re-read the by-now-crumpled-paper so I could take things in once more, this time sitting down. A flashback to the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" brought back the comment made to the Meg Ryan character that "A woman has a much higher chance of being killed in a terrorist attack than getting married after the age of forty."
Well, I have news for you, sisters--the age has now dropped dramatically since they filmed that movie. This explains my downing a Valium when I arrived home and making myself a huge bowl of pasta with pesto (my favourite comfort food) so I could get over the shock of what I had learned.
The following comes from a regular column in the mX newspaper (courtesy of City Rail), written by Emma Merkas. WARNING: READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!
Never mind being past 40 years of age (plus the growing number of global terrorist attacks these days). Bloody hell! They are now saying if we don't land a man by age 29 we're done for! So what are the chances for us older chicks? As we fondly say in Australia: "Buckleys and none". This is how much of a chance we have of landing a man past the age of 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, and so on (I won't even go into the 50s). Therefore, our mission is not just impossible; it's "frigging IMPOSSIBLE!"
Hence, with heartfelt sympathy and condolences to my older, wiser, and sometimes dumped sisters out there, bring on the terrorists! In fact, I think we have a much better chance of capturing a whole terrorist organisation and bringing them to justice, while winning millions on Lotto three times in the space of a week; and for me, also having George Clooney and Clint Eastwood entering into a bidding war for the film option to one of my novels, than landing a man who is decent, faithful, loving, and considerate. Oh, fudge! Forget the last bit and simply make it ANY man.
Okay, I'm off to find a mining town now, where women are few and men are desperate, or if all else fails I can always move overseas and try my luck over there.
AND NOW WHAT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR... The article on the OVERSUPPLY of men, courtesy of the Washington Post.
Yes! The man from NYC is back for more on Sylvia Says. This is a first for me, hosting a great author twice on my blog. So read on, and I hope you enjoy the interview.
SM: Steven, it's great to have you back on my blog and ready to tell readers about your latest release The Ishi Affair.
SJG: It's great to be back, Sylvia. I'm thrilled to be the only author you've hosted twice on the blog.
SM: What can I say? It's that charm of yours... And the fact I love guys from NYC (blushing). But let's get you talking about your latest novel. This is book 5 of your David Grossman series. Does the new book tell a continuing story?
SJG: Each of the five novels in my David Grossman Series is an independent story. But the books do share a main protagonist, hence the series. For sure, readers who enjoy all the books will appreciate the larger arc of David’s colorful life. The first three novels--Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline— are told in the first person, so they share the intimate tone of a single narrator. Grossman’s Castle and The Ishi Affair are told in the third-person, so various characters share center-stage with David—though his brash and comic voice is sometimes loudest.
SM: So what compelled you to write this latest novel?
SJG: I’ve always had a deep fear and loathing of bullies. When I was still quite young, I learned that my mother’s family—and other Jews of the Ukraine—had suffered the casual taunts of Jew-haters and, even more, the murderous pogroms that often exterminated entire Jewish villages. My father’s boyhood was spent in Nazi Germany. Most of his extended family was able to leave before Kristallnacht. The ones who stayed behind were killed.
When I was 17, I first learned about Ishi and how his tribe, along with many other Native American tribes, were hunted down and murdered by whites for fun and profit—and that these heinous actions were often sponsored by government fiat. I learned early on that genocide was the most loathsome human expression imaginable. I knew, at 17, I would write about Ishi.
SM: Genocide is indeed one of the most loathsome human expressions imaginable. Nowadays I'd have to say I put it right up there with terrorist acts. But back to Ishi--Was there a real "Ishi" or an ancient person who you based Ishi on?
SJG: Yes, in fact Ishi is quite famous, and the last five years of his life (1911–1916) are well documented. I did quite a bit of research to learn about the Yahi, whose Stone Age customs, traditions, and technology were still being practiced in the early 20th century.
SM: What made you mesh the Stone Age era component into the modern-day story you wrote? And why did you decide on the Stone Age era in the first place?
SJG: I loved the idea that Ishi was born into a Stone Age culture while much of the rest of our nation was becoming highly industrialized. A couple days after Ishi was “discovered,” he was transported by railroad to bustling San Francisco, where he saw large sailing ships and even an airplane. This image has always fascinated me, and I knew early on that I would not write a Clan of the Cave Bear-type story. You see, I wasn’t as interested in the Old Ways of the Yahi as I was in the clash of cultures, Stone Age and Modern.
SM: How does Ishi become a catalyst for David Grossman to face certain issues in his modern life?
SJG: Human nature, for better or worse, seems to be a constant. For thousands of years, going back to the Stone Age, people have labored, fought, loved … much as they do today. Conversely, modern humans—for all their advanced knowledge and technology—are capable of expressing the most primitive, savage impulses.
SM: Oh yes. I have to agree with you there, my friend. Since mankind has walked erect, breaking away from the apes, nothing much has changed by way of their nature.
SJG: And insofar as both are human, David Grossman and Ishi are not so different in terms of their basic needs. By comparing Stone Age and Modern characters, we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
SM: An excellent point. As for The Ishi Affair, although a work of fiction, how much did you draw from true historical facts to write this story?
SJG: Almost everything I wrote about the historical Ishi is based on well-known research. I altered only one or two minor details to accommodate the needs of my narrative. Readers should remember that we are not that far removed from Ishi’s time. Interesting note: the esteemed sci-fi writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who is still alive and well, is the daughter of early 20th-century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and his second wife, Theodora Kroeber, both of whom play roles in my novel. And, just for the record: Le Guin’s middle initial K stands for Kroeber.
SM: This sounds like a fascinating story indeed. And before we go, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
SJG: I first learned about Ishi when I was 17 and working on an archaeological dig in northern California. That summer, after the dig, I began to write a novel about Ishi and the Yahi. Even then I knew I would combine the story of the Stone Age tribe into a contemporary tale. But I lacked maturity. I needed an adult voice to tell this story. It took me 46 years to get it right.
SM: Thank you, Steven, for doing this interview. Without your agreeing to be my guest today I would never have learned about Ishi and his ancestry. The Ishi Affair is definitely on my reading list now.
SJG: Thank you, Sylvia, for hosting me on your blog post; and the next one (and it's on my bucket list) is to do a face to face interview with you in the land Down Under.
SM: Dear Steven... I'll hold you to that! Bye for now.
NOTE TO READERS: Dear readers, please note that being an Aussie I use Australian spelling in my blog posts, but I don't alter the spelling of the guest's responses, which in this case are written in American spelling. Thank you and until next time!
For those of you old enough to remember 1980s English post-punk group, Adam and the Ants, you’re in the wrong blog post. Today, I’m thrilled to have as a guest English scientist and sci-fi author extraordinaire, Ant Ryan. AND he’s got a thing about Spanish caves! So read on ...
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Ant. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog. From one animal and coffee lover to another, you’ve already captured my heart (just don’t tell the wife!). And I see you have cats and rabbits—I hope the cats are not staying up late at night swapping rabbit stew recipes.
AR: Thanks for the kind invite and nice to be “here”. Ha, yes, I need a lot of coffee to keep up with the cats and rabbits. Rabbit stew! I’d better not mention the 5ft fish tank then.
SM: True, forget about the fish. We don’t want to give the kitty cats any ideas. I see you’re from NW England. The only thing I know about this area is the Beatles Museum in Liverpool, which I visited in 1985 (giving away my age here). What’s it like to live in your part of the world?
AR: Actually, we’re just a few miles across the river from Liverpool. I was at that museum, too, in ’85 – I turn 40 this year ;-/ There are lots of great museums, art galleries, superb architecture, many restaurants, bars and cafes fit for writing in. This area has really improved since the 1980’s, when there were still World War II damaged buildings. Now, though still relatively small, it is vibrant, cosmopolitan, friendly and quite a pretty city. Plus several great football (soccer) teams are nearby. I really do love living near Liverpool. We have national parks within a short driving distance, also the Welsh coast and mountains, as well as Manchester and Chester cities nearby. You can even take a ferry to Dublin, Belfast, and the Isle of Man. I sound like a tourist guide on commission ;)
SM: Well, if I ever revisit your part of the world I expect a full tour, and I’ll buy you all the coffee you want! But tell me, being a scientist who tries to solve physics problems, I thought I’d ask you if you’ve come up with a way to travel through a wormhole into another galaxy or even a parallel universe. I’m forever trying to locate my idol, David Bowie; and I’m sure he’s somewhere in our universe. What do you think?
AR: I think that the overall universe is infinite in size as opposed to the observable universe, so in many theories, Bowie could indeed be performing still, or dressed as a Goblin King, but we could never meet that version. Sadly missed and on my favourite lists on iTunes by the way. I loved how his music made the Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes TV series more atmospheric; wish they had done a third called Starman.
SM: I have to confess I never saw the TV series, but when I watched the film “Martian” and they played Starman in one scene, I bawled my eyes out—just don’t tell anyone. And on that note, down to business: Just so we know a bit more about you, you’re a scientist, but you also write sci-fi short stories. Is that right? First of all, what kind of scientist are you, and what kind of work do you do as a scientist?
AR: I work in a chemistry lab pressing buttons, nothing too exciting. If I say "top secret" that might make it about 0.0001% more interesting ;)
Yes, short stories are what I’m getting into. I thought at first this was because I couldn’t write anything longer, but I actually think that it is what I prefer myself. Twitter has taught me to be concise (not that I am being here), but I value people’s time. There’s a fine balance between getting enough detail in to be able to tell your story well enough and superfluous text, and I hope this is something I will improve at.
SM: And what inspired you to write? As you probably know by now (unless you’re enjoying the fame of JKRowling or Stephen King) writing is very much a labour of love unless one is discovered. So please expand on why you started to write and how the creative mood strikes you.
AR: Great question. I think it was from writing theoretical physics papers. Friends had made the transition from science books into fiction, so I researched it and now I’m getting there I guess. I like the idea of leaving the real world with something that can outlive our lifetimes. It’s nice to create imaginary worlds and characters, and the process is becoming addictive. Creativity seems to strike randomly, so it’s useful to note these thoughts down as and when they do arrive.
SM: As novelists we always reflect something within ourselves through the characters we create. What do you feel you reflect most about yourself that is revealed through your characters?
AR: The big questions about the Universe – is there life out there – our obsession with (many different) gods – pushing boundaries of possibility and technologies, and humanity’s fantastic achievements versus our easily avoidable mistakes that we can’t seem to stop making.
SM: Yes, I can relate to that—the mistakes humanity keeps on making. But I won’t digress now, otherwise this blog post will turn into a long novel :) So please tell us a little about Celestial Spheres.
AR: Tri-gods sum it up. An extra-terrestrial binary star system with humans, and humanoids who exploit them; these “higher” beings have one of three god-like abilities – ultimate power, infinite knowledge or can travel freely in space-time. There are also lower humans, more zombie-like. Wars have occurred between the species and the finely balanced symbiotic status quo has been threatened before. It follows the story of a Potent (powerful humanoid) wanting to gain the other two abilities and explore the Universe, but society’s rulers don’t like this sort of ambition.
SM: Very interesting; and if I had to choose one ability I’d go for travelling freely in space-time. This could come in very useful. I also think this kind of story would make a good premise for a sci-fi film. So what are you working on at present, if anything?
AR: I’m finishing Celestial Spheres part 3; drafting part 4; and plotting part 5 (the final part). I’m also drafting/editing a standalone short entitled “Liver Pool”, which is sci-fi/fantasy, plus I’m plotting a fantasy short.
SM: Well, it sounds like you’re a busy bee then. You know, on writing, I feel it’s not always easy to tell the world what we think and feel through our stories; however, I feel blessed we can do this, even if it makes us feel vulnerable at times. I know some readers may not take away anything from our work, while others will go on to criticise and bring us down; but despite this, I believe that if we can touch just one heart or one soul with the stories we write, then we’ve done a good job. What do you think?
AR: Great way of looking at it. I think negativity is better than nothing, as it means one’s work has been read, plus we can learn from constructive criticism. The scientist side of me likes numbers, however, so the more reads and reviews we get the more accurate and precise the average view is. There will always be love and hate for most things. But note to self – grow a thicker skin now! ;)
SM: Well said. We can’t please everybody nor can we avoid those who love to ‘heckle’ us in a destructive rather than constructive way. But at least we got off our arses and did something useful. And as they say in Hollywood: "Everyone’s a critic." So let them criticise away! I think as authors we start off with fear of what others will think or write about us, but we know we’ve become veterans when we "don’t give a load of dingoes kidneys" what others think (the latter part of this sentence was borrowed from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). LOL.
Anyway, it was great having you on Sylvia Says, Ant. But before we go, what’s with the "caves in Spain" thingy?
AR: Sadly, I lost close family in the last few years, so I wanted to spend a small inheritance on something nice that I could enjoy in the future, and as a reminder of them. I named the cave after my loved ones “Casa Therene Robles”. The place is in the middle of a working town in a desert, so it’s great because a cave naturally stays warm in winter and cool in the very hot summer! 1.5L of wine is €1.10, and it is "muy bien".
SM: Actually, I’m going to correct your Spanish if you don’t mind :) and say "muy bueno" (meaning the wine is very good, which I’m sure this is what you meant to say). Yes, I know I’m a smartarse, but I still love you, my friend.
Thank you for clarifying the cave mystery, and thank you for being my guest today. I wish you all the best for the future, and I’ll be looking for that invite to your cave house in Spain!
AR: Likewise, and thanks very much for having me! The invite’s on its way :)
For more information about Ant Ryan, please click HERE
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 :)
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