It is a well-known fact that most authors live vicariously through their characters. I’m not sure if this is true for all of them, but I believe authors need to live “in character” at some stage if their work is to be of quality.
In fact, I’ll take this a step further and propose that many of us (author or not) live between three worlds:
2. In character
Let’s take a closer look:
What’s reality, anyway? What if we’re figments of someone else’s imagination, and we’re fooling ourselves that our lives are real? After all, as Mr William Shakespeare suggests in his play “As You Like It”:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...
Therefore, what you perceive to be real may not be real. But no matter how you perceive your reality, certain things are inescapable: birth, death, taxes, paying bills, making a living, illness, the whole myriad of human emotions, and whatever else fits into what we perceive as living "the human condition".
Now, this is where things begin to get interesting for authors (and for anyone with an imagination). As with “method actors”, we also have “method writers”. So we often find ourselves coming across to others as the characters we write about and those we identify with. This often puzzles the people who think they know us, but it’s a fact that many of us “step into character” at some stage or other in our lives in order to take a break from our reality.
So people who interact with us may think we’re simply “just another creative soul” or an absolute fruitcake.
For me, I step in and out of character at a moment’s notice between my many protagonists; and this always crosses into my reality so that people are not sure who they’re dealing with. I could be Mia Ferrari one minute, a smartarse-doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly chick with a liking for younger men and solving mysteries, only to turn into Cat Ryan the next minute, an online-dating blogger with a love of antiques (not antique men, but antique furniture and art); then, on to Sarah Jamison, a Bridget Jones-type that comes up with madcap ideas to get a real man; and finally, to Carla Fiori, who is the love interest of David Bowie (while he’s in character as Rhys Lewis) in my latest novel, The Stranger, a sci-fi apocalyptic romance.
And this is where it starts to get really spooky! Not only do some writers live in character at times, but often we simply decide to take off from reality for a major part of our time, and we live vicariously through all our characters and the situations in which they find themselves.
For me, this is addictive, and I often find myself in this world. This can happen to me while I’m writing (or "in the zone" as I call it) or while I'm watching a movie, or reading a book. And oftentimes, I simply switch from reality and immerse myself in this particular world because this is where I like to be best of all.
In this world, I can be anybody, and I can interact with any character. This is the world where I’m the superhero and save the day; or I have a ton of younger men as lovers; or a young version of David Bowie and I are an item and we compose and perform music, among other things; or I solve all sorts of crimes and bring the bad guys to justice. In this world, I’m invincible, fit and healthy, and a gorgeous femme fatale; and the list goes on.
So whether you’re a creative type, or you have a love of films and books, or you can simply daydream at will—you, too, live between three worlds. The question is: Which world do you mostly want to live in?
THE STRANGER - A novel inspired by my muse, Ziggy Stardust: For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF DAVID BOWIE
8 JAN 1947 - 10 JAN 2016
PROLOGUE TO BLOG POST: In the late hours of Sunday, 10 January, 2016 (New York time) a star that had been shining bright for so long dimmed rapidly and then became a "Blackstar". The star's name was David Bowie. Not only did this star bring wonderful music to our planet, but he changed the life of many people, myself included.
David Bowie inspired me through life and will go on inspiring me through death; my only regret is I never got the chance to finish my latest novel in time for him to read--which was all arranged. When I rang his management company just before Christmas I was told my book would be put directly in his hands. I was over the moon. David Bowie, my hero, was going to read my novel, the one I dedicated to him as my muse Ziggy Stardust.
Rewind back a few months now to when I started writing this novel, The Stranger, and read my comment below, which I shared with friends once I heard of David's passing:
"During the last few months I've been feeling a sense of urgency about him. Like I had to hurry and finish my novel and get it to him before something happened. When the news came today I was spooked but not shocked. I'd been expecting this sad moment for some time now. Even so, it's so awful."
I will miss you, David, but you will still continue to be my muse for this and future novels. When I heard the sad news yesterday afternoon (Sydney time) I lit a candle for you and played "Heroes" really loudly. I chose to celebrate your life. You no longer suffer. You will never die in the hearts and minds of the millions who love you. You are now young and healthy again (and hopefully giving a fantastic concert in heaven).
You are BOWIE-- immortal because of us who will always remember you. You will never be forgotten.
For me, David Bowie "just is" and always will be. You really are my "Hero" and I hope you'll be waiting for me when my time comes--standing by the wall.
MY ORIGINAL BLOG POST BELOW FROM A FEW MONTHS PRIOR TO HIS PASSING:
Is it possible to spend the best part of your life with someone whom you haven't met? I'm living proof of it; so read on.
I can’t quite remember the exact year when my life with David Bowie began; but it was sometime around 37 years ago--and he never left me.
Creatives are very sensitive people who usually go around with hundreds, if not thousands, of characters, plot lines and/or song lyrics in their heads. We live and breathe this energy we call creativity; and we’re at our best when we are, as we authors call it, “in the zone”.
So why am I writing about David Bowie now? Well, as mentioned earlier, David Bowie--in one of his best known personas, Ziggy Stardust--somehow made his way into my mind, heart and soul back in the late 70s—and since then I was toast. Ziggy took over and commanded my life (sometimes much to the horror of my parents), but that's another story. In any case, I got into guitar playing and song writing to feel closer to Ziggy and explore the musical side in me. I was already a writer from the age of 12 or so; therefore, it wasn’t a problem for me to write songs. I even had my own band when I was 16 and we performed in a few places.
Then, in my early 20s, I did the “Europe” thing most Aussies like to do. By this time, I was intoxicated with Ziggy; and as soon as I arrived in London I had my hair cut and dyed bright orange, a-la-Ziggy. I went hunting for a Ziggy T-shirt in Soho along with black lipstick and nail polish, and I was reborn.
My desire to meet this man, Ziggy (or I should say David Bowie) was so great I couldn’t eat or breathe without thinking of him. In fact, I was in raptures when I drove past the Hammersmith Odeon where Ziggy Stardust performed his last concert in 1973.
By the time I got into the whole Ziggy thing (around 1976); Ziggy Stardust had unfortunately been killed off by his fans (probably along with the Spiders from Mars) and another character was born—Aladdin Sane—although I’d like to think of him as “a lad insane”--like me (although I'm a girl). Creatives can be whimsical; have many personas in which they reinvent themselves; up one minute, down the next; moody; on top of the world and planning their suicides in the space of 5 minutes, and the list goes on.
Back to Ziggy--he was no more after 1973, but this didn’t stop his spirit from influencing and inspiring me to this day. By the way, when I was in Torquay in 1985 I could have sworn I came face to face with the man himself. I was rushing up the road and this guy comes out of a shop. The shock was so great I stood rooted to the spot. Meanwhile, he walked on... Damn! Talk about those “what if” moments. To this day, I still don’t know if that was David Bowie; and I will never be able to find out unless I meet the man and ask him where he was in June, 1985.
In 1983, Bowie toured Australia with the Serious Moonlight Tour and I saw him in Sydney. I was right up the front of the crowd but couldn’t get to him. Damn, yet again! And the worst part is that I recently found out David Bowie lived in Sydney for a number of years (between 1982 - 1992), and only a few streets away from where I used to live. Aaarrggghhhhh!!!! Is fate cruel or what? If I’d known this back then, I would have tracked him down and had a long talk with him about life, the universe and everything. Yes, I really feel I’m in his head space at times and whatever he says through his lyrics or at interviews resonates with me so much that it sometimes gets spooky.
After Bowie released the Let's Dance album, I kind of quashed down my zeal for Ziggy (and David) as reality set in (you know; working, paying bills, marrying the wrong man, etc); but he (Ziggy) never left me. As I said at the beginning of this blog post, authors and other creatives live with many characters/words/lyrics in their heads. So when I recently started to look for a plot line for my 7th novel, guess who screamed the loudest to get out of my head and become my muse? Yep. You guessed it. It was Ziggy. To think he had been inside my head all this time, waiting for the right moment to make an appearance. It was like greeting an old friend--someone I missed for a long time; someone who totally understood me; someone on the same wavelength.
So now I find myself writing an apocalyptic sci-fi novel entitled “The Stranger” and my muse is, of course, Ziggy. I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi, but in Ziggy’s case I made an exception as nothing short of sci-fi can encapsulate his personality and immense charisma (this applies to all of Bowie's personas).
I am dedicating the novel to Ziggy Stardust; and when the book is released I will be sending a copy to the man who has had such an impact on my life. Ziggy may be no more, but David Bowie is alive and well. Besides, Ziggy will never die for me as long as I’m around.
For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
On "Sylvia Says" today, I go all the way to NYC (on a virtual trip) to interview author Steven Jay Griffel about his successful David Grossman series.
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Steven. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog, and all the way from one of my favourite cities—New York City! Today, I decided to start this interview with the last question first and ask you: “Are you David Grossman?”
SJG: Great to be in the land down under, Sylvia. And the answer to your question is no, I’m not David Grossman, though he and I are often mistaken for each other. David Grossman is my best-known fictional character and appears in all of my novels, serving me as a sort of fictional alter-ego. Through David’s decisions I get to imagine other life choices, which tend to be more imaginative and daring than my own.
SM: Looking at the novel blurb in each of your David Grossman books, I see there are many life lessons learned; what would you say is one of the most important lessons of all and why?
SJG: My greatest advice to readers: Do not live a life stunted by regret. Regret is a self-inflicted poison that slowly degrades a person’s courage and self-esteem. People are generally happier when they are able to articulate their greatest regrets in order to render them null and void.
SM: The other thing I noticed is that your novels include aspects of what I might call the “paranormal.” What prompted you to do this?
SJG: Like many people, I am fascinated by experience beyond normal human understanding. In Grand View there is the mystery of the Potato Cave and communication with the dead via the Ouija board; in Grossman’s Castle there are the strange phenomena in the Castle and the appearance of ghosts; in The Deadline there is an Amazonian High Priestess who practices the dark arts of Candomblè. These examples of the paranormal add a sense of exotica and suspense to the plots.
SM: No paranormal in Forty Years Later?
SJG: There is someone who may (or may not) be a knife-wielding murderess. But I think she’s abnormal, not paranormal.
SM: Where did David Grossman come from? The idea of him, that is. I know he “speaks” to you and tells you he has more to say and this is why you wrote your fourth novel in the series. Care to elaborate a bit more on this?
SJG: About twenty-five years ago I wrote a novel called Grand View. The story takes place in a Jewish bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains during one summer in the 1960s; the main protagonist is a young teen named David Grossman. Many years later, I reconnected with someone I knew when we were both teens. This woman is a screenwriter who had a big hit movie modelled on the bungalow colony where the two of us had once lived. My relationship with this woman inspired me to write Forty Years Later, which became my first published novel and featured David Grossman as a middle-aged man. A year later I wrote The Deadline, another novel featuring David Grossman as a Baby Boomer. Following the success of these novels, my publisher released Grand View and came up with the idea of marketing the books as the David Grossman Series. In March, Grossman’s Castle was published, my fourth David Grossman book. I never planned to write a series. I started with one book about a boy named David Grossman--and the series took on a successful life of its own.
SM: Do you ever feel locked in or limited as the author of a series?
SJG: In Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline, David Grossman is the first-person narrator. In a sense, each narrative is “limited” to David Grossman’s purview and perceptions. But In Grossman’s Castle I needed direct access into the minds of three other main characters, so I moved to a third-person narration. This point of view gives me limitless flexibility.
SM: Do readers have to read your novels in a certain order?
SJG: The novels are independent and can be read in any order, though most readers like to read them chronologically, following the sequence of David Grossman’s life: Grand View, Grossman’s Castle, The Deadline, and Forty Years Later.
SM: As novelists, we always reflect something within ourselves through our characters. What do you feel you reflect through David and your other major characters?
SJG: Emotionally speaking, I reflect my essential insecurity and my desire for a greater, more accomplished life. Practically speaking, I think I reflect my Baby Boomer culture: dying parents, failing health, unemployment, adulterous affairs, revised careers, paranormal events—all that is mundane and miraculous in life. My Boomer novels show that life after sixty is just as dramatic, sexy, and entertaining as any other time of life.
SM: Your novels are available exclusively as e-books on Amazon. Was that your decision? What are your feelings about this?
SJG: I signed with an indie publisher when the digital revolution was just beginning to transform the publishing industry. I had to come to grips with the idea that my books would not appear in a traditional paperbound format. As it happened, my first published novel, Forty Years Later, was a pretty big hit—an Amazon #1 best-seller. Almost immediately I had a sizable readership, which has continued to buy and read my books. I love the fact that my novels are inexpensive and available around the world. I’m told that my books have sold in more than thirty countries and on six continents. This is all very gratifying to me. I no longer have any regrets about my novels being available only as e-books.
SM: It seems to me that being an older author can be a distinct advantage. The lessons learned and the wisdom acquired are not things that most 20-, 30- or even 40-year-olds could write about successfully. My belief is that it’s not until we get into our 50s that we are truly “rounded off” as feeling and empathetic beings. What are your thoughts on this?
SJG: I agree with your thoughts. Being a novelist is not like a being a chess prodigy or a teen gymnast. Although there are exceptions, most successful novelists draw on their experiences hard-won over many years.
SM: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add?
SJG: I am working on a new novel. Yes, it is a David Grossman novel. And it may be the strangest, most exciting one yet. Suffice to say, David Grossman is involved with a cast of colorful crazies that include a gambler, a wilderness expert, Stone Age Indians, and an old friend just released from Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital.
SM: Sounds great, and I wish you every success with it! Steven, I’d like to thank you for sharing your views with us today. It’s not always easy to open ourselves up and tell the world what we think and feel, but I think we are blessed if we can do this. Many people may not learn anything, but if we can touch one heart or one soul with the novels we write, then in my estimation we’ve done a good job.
It was great having you on Sylvia Says, and at the risk of sounding like a romantic fool I’m going to confess that every time I listen to Harry Connick, Jr., I think of you and NYC!
SJG: It was great being here, Sylvia. And when next in NYC, I owe you dinner.
SM: And I'll hold you to that, too!
For more information on Steven and his books, please click HERE.
I’m a nice person—idealistic and philanthropic, you might say—but I recently learned a hard lesson when I made some donations to certain charities:
THE MORE YOU DONATE TO A CHARITY THE MORE ANNOYING PHONE CALLS YOU WILL RECEIVE IN FUTURE
Now, let’s start with the main culprit responsible for ruining your dinner, relaxation time, and even work time (especially if you work from home).
It’s not enough that the DO NOT CALL REGISTER gives your number to any of these organisations: charities, research companies, political parties & educational institutions. Even if you have an unlisted number, like I have, you're not safe. And by giving out your number, they are also indirectly responsible for people becoming stressed, annoyed, feeling stalked, and sometimes turning into bullies.
What happens then? We end up blasting the poor customer service employee who has to make all these annoying calls. Not only that, but with all the work health and safety legislation floating about, charities can expect to get a high increase in stress claims from their employees (but hopefully no suicides); AND let’s not even go into the high turnover of burnt-out employees that throw in the towel.
The point here is that charities are not being very charitable about their own people or call centre people they engage to annoy the rest of the population, plus in my opinion the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is vicariously responsible for unleashing this chain of events.
Since I started to get more and more calls to my unlisted number, I registered my land line with the DO NOT CALL REGISTER. I even listed my mobile (cell) number for good measure. Once I did this, I naively thought if I had to take the odd call from a charity, this would be okay. My estimation at the time was that I’d get maybe one call a month or so. But never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would be stalked with an average of 30 to 40 calls per month!
Once this happened, I went into forums on the Internet to see what others had to say about this subject, and I found that most of these poor people were getting up to 50 calls per month from charities alone, and they didn’t know how to make it stop. Of course, people in the forum also discussed how useless the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is. I mean, whatever happened to PRIVACY laws? AND why the hell am I paying for an unlisted number if every man and his dog can find me, and tries to wheedle yet another donation from me?
Personally, I have nothing against charities. In fact, I sponsored two children through World Vision until they were age 18 and 20 years respectively—and I would sponsor more if I had a full time job, but being a freelancer my income fluctuates, and it’s difficult for me to commit for the long term.
Despite this, over the many years I sponsored these kids, I was sometimes unemployed but still kept up with my donations as I didn’t want to let them down. I also give to the Cat Protection Society, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Why do I keep giving to these charities? Because none of them have made the gross error of constantly ringing me at home when I’m cooking, eating or about to watch the next episode of Midsomer Murders. Nor do they call me at lunch, morning coffee break, or on my mobile. In fact, they don’t call me at all. They market themselves by sending the odd card or letter, and I can also subscribe to their online newsletters. This way, I don’t feel annoyed, stalked or harassed--and under no pressure to donate.
The charities I no longer donate to are the ones that break all the rules and simply don’t get it that the more they telephone the more they alienate me.
The very last phone call I ever took from a charity started like all the others (while I felt my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels):
And being the softie that I am, I ended up pledging $30 just to get them off the phone so I could get on with my day! Then I berated myself for being so stupid. I already have my favourite charities I give to, and when I have a bit of spare cash I don’t mind giving to a new charity here and there. Unfortunately, by giving to charities that telephone me, I am constantly encouraging them to keep on ringing me again and again and again—which is what they do.
The DO NOT CALL REGISTER is obviously not going to do anything about this “monster” problem they created, although I have to thank them for having controlled the number of calls I used to get from telemarketers. I still get the odd call from them, but nothing like in the past. Other than this, the DO NOT CALL REGISTER is giving away my unlisted number to all sorts of organisations despite the privacy laws and the fact that I specifically pay extra for my unlisted number (as I mentioned earlier) so I won’t be bothered by all these people.
Some steps I took to minimise annoying calls
The downside of all this
While taking the above measures will help, it’s annoying that I have to screen my calls all the time—not so much when family and friends call, as their number shows on my phone display (caller ID). Of course, if any of them, such as my brother, has an unlisted number, then they’ll have to leave a message on my answering machine before I will pick up. This is ludicrous!
The other very annoying thing for me is that because I mainly work from home and represent a nationwide company, I get lots of calls from all over Australia—and oftentimes I’m not sure who is calling. So the odd “charity” call will still slip through.
In closing, I’d like to say to the DO NOT CALL REGISTER: “Thanks for nothing, people! I hope you get as many annoying calls as I do!”
To the charities that call incessantly and don’t get the hint I don’t want to talk to them, I say: “The more you call, the less you will get donations for your charity. You annoy people like the telemarketers used to do, so you should know better.”
I like to be pleasant on the phone to my callers and not add to their stress levels. So my message to the person who actually makes the call on behalf of a charity is this: “I don’t hold you responsible for annoying me—you’re only doing a job that pays the bills.”
The power of friendship is important at any age. Friendship can transcend the sometimes conditional love of families and relationships. True friendship doesn't judge; true friendship doesn't place conditions on people--your friends will love you as you are; true friendships encourage you to grow and be the best you can be; true friendship is there when your whole life falls apart and you need someone to help you pick up the pieces.
No matter how old one is, friends will be with us from the moment we start interacting with the world, and if we're lucky our friends will walk alongside of us through life's bumpy journey, and until death. This is more than we can expect from some families and most romantic relationships.
So we established that friendship is extremely important in one's life--but have you ever asked yourself when friendship seems to become the most important of all? For me, and millions of people the world over, friendship is most important when we reach middle age and start sliding very quickly toward old age. For women, this is doubly important--women being the nurturing creatures they are (most of them, anyway); they bring special love to those whom they love whether it be a family member, a spouse or a friend. But why is middle-age friendship so important?
Well, let's take the case of the average female at age 50. Unless she's extremely lucky, she's probably been divorced at least twice, perhaps dumped for a younger model. Her work/career is no longer as important besides which, she's probably getting passed over for promotion by younger work colleagues and more satisfying work is difficult to find due to ageism in the workplace.
If she's had children, she's possibly an empty nester by now; and if she's divorced, her middled-aged ex is involved with a chick half his age and driving the proverbial Porsche. On top of this, the average 50-something female is going through menopause, and all those fluctuating hormones do not help at all! She's suddenly flushing every few minutes, she gets ectopic heartbeats, her moods suddenly feel like they're on a pendulum, anxiety might hit too, and she experiences panic attacks or she simply ends up getting depressed. Then, if one or both of her parents are alive, she might end up having to care for them as they are ill and need someone around.
This woman is dividing herself in 100 different directions in the treadmill of middle age, only to be spat out at the other end (if she survives) feeling lonely, without a support system, her dreams for life as yet unrealised, and she's stuck in a nightmare of a life, especially if she's also trying to deal with her own health problems. And let's not even go to her poor looks, some of which might include: frumpy, faded, overweight, grey hair overnight, wrinkles, cellulite, a pot belly and/or that dreaded middle age tyre around the middle!
Okay, so I think by now you'll agree with me that friendship's quite important, especially at this time of life, when we think living through another day is torture. Oh, and let's not forget we've also become invisible to the world, especially to men. Is the picture getting darker and darker by the minute?
But don't despair. Life has a way of making things possible if only we remain open-minded and maintain our resilience. Enter "The Power of Three".
You might ask: "Who are these women?" Well, they're women like you and me, only they got together and became a force to be reckoned with. "Yeah, right," you say. "I bet it's just a movie!" And yes, you're right, it is a movie, but it's a movie that's based on the lives of three amazing, true-life, 50-something women who decided to make things happen. So read on!
Ann Cameron, the writer of the Indie film "The Power of Three" read one of my blogs about Baby Boomers and the challenges faced particularly by women, and she contacted me to share her experience in this time of her life. Have a look at this short video regarding the film and the real women behind the film.
Ann shared this press release with me to further drive the point of what the three friends were trying to achieve: We generally think of film-makers as big budget studios or even faceless business organisations. Just coming together to make a film seems so difficult...and so expensive in today’s climate that it’s easier to just confine ideas like that to a pipe dream.
But that’s not what happened to Yvonne Deutschman , Thereza Snyman and Ann Cameron. Ann and Yvonne met at University in Canada. 30 years later (and having never seen each other during that time), Yvonne invited Ann to London. Ann was at a bleak point in her life - her mother was ill (she died later that year), her legal work was boring. In short, there was no fun.
One evening, while bitching about life in general, Ann, Yvonne and their friend, Thereza, were bemoaning how women were portrayed on film. Chick flick movies were so disappointing: it was obvious that even the ones written by women (few and far between) showed the influence of male producers. Women could have fun… but not too much fun.
They fantasised about a chick flick that breaks all the rules. Women working together instead of backstabbing each other. No script line that starts with "but I saw him FIRST". No singing into household appliances and definitely no "let's go shopping” sequences.
And breaking the biggest rule of them all - having women over age 50 driving the action!
Using Ann’s writing expertise, Yvonne’s knowledge of the film industry and Thereza’s business acumen, they went out and found their three leads: British actress Toyah Willcox, South African Brümilda Van Rensburg and Canadian, Robin Craig. Veteran performers Shirley Anne Field, Margaret Nolan, Richard Bremmer and Hilton McRae joined the cast.
Each woman invested £5,000 and found others to do the same until they had £50,000 – enough to do the shoot. Everyone came on board as a profit share and they were in business.
Michelle (Toyah Wilcox), once a promising film director, now finds her career slowly sliding backwards. Olivia (Brümilda van Rensburg), once a strong and elegant activist who makes a great marriage, now lives in the shadows of the same failed marriage that is stopping her moving forward. Lizzie (Robin Craig) has morphed from wild child into a slobby, middle-aged lawyer with nothing but her work to keep her going.
Events are set into motion when Michelle turns 50 and she is reunited with her two oldest University friends at her party. At first everyone is keen to keep up appearances and live up to their previous glory days...but inevitably the truth comes out ...and there’s no going back...only forward, and together the three women help each other achieve the dreams they had almost given up on.
The Power of Three is for anyone who has ever felt stuck or stalled. It’s a heart-warming reminder that sometimes you just need help to make something happen.
The Power of Three was released on 10th November 2011 with a DVD release that followed in January 2012. If you wish to find out more about the film, visit this site.
So where are the real life friends now? The three friends are planning another film; this one is about turning 60! Meanwhile, The Power of Three was invited to major film festivals in the U.S. and Canada: the Women's International Film Festival (Miami), the Brooklyn Girls Film Festival (New York) and the Toronto Indie Film Festival. It also secured a distributor in South Africa where the film has been shown on TV and is selling briskly.
Ann Cameron reports: The real life story for the three filmmakers is also heartening. England has now become my second home-- I just returned from a visit with Thereza Snyman. I went there in 2003 to visit Yvonne.. after not seeing her for 30 years. My mother was very ill and would die on Christmas Eve of that year. I was trying to look after my parents, look after my aunt and uncle, and working non-stop. My cousin Bill asked me what I was doing and I rattled off a litany of obligations and duties. He looked at me and said: "No, Ann. I meant what are you doing for fun?" I had no answer and it was this conversation that propelled me to visit London. It changed my life for the better.
Our director Yvonne has gone on to more projects focusing on her first love, the Caribbean. She recently completed a documentary about life in the 50s and 60s for Caribbean immigrants in the UK. http://www.hangingout.org.uk/film_project.htm
Thereza has found her dream job as head of IT at a London law firm.
As for me, although I'm still struggling with health problems stemming from an accident where I was hit by a car in 2012 plus the aftermath of my father's death, I am rejuvenated every time I visit my friends in London.
Heart-warming, funny (sometimes wacky), but mostly depicting the real life issues of ageism, growing older, and the power of friendship, this film is a must-see for anyone at any age. After all, when things start happening, and the friends become a force to be reckoned with, the most beautiful thing we see is that people of all ages, and both genders, come together to work on a great project for the greater good. Inspiring and empowering: that's The Power of Three!
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!
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:
Author Sylvia Massara's: