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The SGWL Blog

Old Dogs and Blue Leopards

By Sylvia Dickey Smith

Old Dog

Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but leopards can change their spots. You don’t believe me? I’ve “seen it” with my own eyes, for I’m that old dog leaping backwards over an inflamed barrel. I’m also the blue leopard with the big orange polka dots

In my bio, I describe myself as having been born backward–one foot first and left-handed–and seem to have done most things backward ever since. At seventeen, and still a high school junior, I married a preacher and soon became “the preacher’s wife.” Today, it’s difficult to imagine a girl, barely 17, take on that responsibility–a kid playing grown up. But I sailed along just fine, any answer I needed given to me by my husband. He even gave answers to many questions I hadn’t even asked.

I started college as a forty-year-old freshman and in a few short years gained a degree in sociology, a master’s in educational psychology, and then a divorce! Five years later, I got engaged, bought a house, took a honeymoon in Hawaii, and married in Las Vegas on the way home.

Blue Leopard

You still with me so far on this backwards thing?

After many years working in the human services field, I retired and took on a whole new career–I wrote a mystery book that soon turned into a series of three–so far. (The Sidra Smart mystery series. Dance On His Grave, Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets and Dead Wreckoning.)

Now, I find myself in the midst of rebranding myself as a writer of women’s fiction. Why? I’ve realized that is where my passion is. So, I might write mystery, historical fiction, or something else, but whatever I write, it will feature a strong woman. Of course she likely won’t start out that way, but by the time I’m through with her, she will be.

Think that’s a reflection of my life? You bet your bottom patootie it is!

One thing I’ve learned is it makes no difference whether you live your life backwards or forwards, the important thing is that you LIVE IT!

Never say never. Never not do something because you think you’re too old, too dumb, too smart, too whatever. If you want to do it, go for it.

My latest book is A War Of Her Own, set during a fascinating period–World War II. A small town’s population explodes 700% almost overnight when local shipyards gain contracts to build destroyers, destroyer escorts, landing craft, tugboats and the like. People still suffering the backlash of the Great Depression flood the town for jobs for the taking. Soon, all hell broke loose. Society and culture changed right before people’s eyes. Women took jobs previously performed by men–and did them well! Many families slept in rented “hotbeds”–beds still warm from the body of the person who just arose and went to work at shipyards that ran around the clock. War housing was built over night on river sand pumped in from the river bottom.

I recall many stories over the years about what life was like. I’d tuck those ideas away, pull them out and work on the project for a while. Then I’d stall over the hook and put it aside. Many stories revolve around family secrets, but I didn’t know that of my protagonist Bea Meade’s. Then several elements in my life clicked and the whole idea cemented itself in my psyche.

Bea Meade reminds me so much of my mother (and her sisters) who worked at the shipyard during the war and dealt with a world changing faster than could they. It is important we remember those years. They held great significance for women who, for the first time, moved into the work place in record numbers and performed jobs heretofore performed only by men.

A War Of Her Own is available for sale at online bookstores like and Barnes & and brick and mortar bookstores. Autographed copies are available to order on my website at:

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