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Sunday, July 31, 2016

LIVE AND WRITE WITH DISTINCTION

“One sees clearly only with the heart.
Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”.

                                               Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) French writer and aviator; from The Little Prince

As a adjective, distinction is a word seldom used today to describe a person’s character. As a verb, it is seldom seen. Look around. Cultural similarities, predictable behavior, and conventional attitudes snuggled together within the walls of shopping malls across the country are perfect examples. Brand has replaced handmade specialty products. More and cheaper has replaced less and finer. Moreover, we’ve lost the insistence that our leaders, writers, entertainers, manufacturers, and neighbors bear the banner of distinction.
There is safety in numbers and it remains easier and far more secure for a writer to travel the path of the unadventurous than to journey down the road less traveled. That’s not to say that every writer is living a life of cowardly indifference. No one would argue that life is anything but a straight line. Challenges and struggles turn up almost every day. The prize goes to those who have the courage and desire to fulfill their dreams and reach their full potential, regardless of the struggle, as opposed to, or in spite of the society in which they live.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Teddy Roosevelt summed it up when he said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
The history of America is dotted with great men and women who’ve lived their lives with distinction and have enjoyed an exhilarated and exciting journey, carrying with them an abundance of self-esteem and self-respect, which comes as a result of living a meritorious life. Follow closely in their footsteps and you will discover, firsthand, the thrill of an adventure that no materialistic ingredient can come close to offering. You have the power and the ability to be the producer, director, and star of a real-life drama, with a script that only you have fashioned. Why not make it an adventure story. Live life with distinction.
Below are “10 Principles of Distinction.” Follow them and you’ll begin a journey that mirrors the lives of heroes past. As a bonus, your adherence to these principles will greatly increase the likelihood of your success in business and impart a greater happiness in your personal life.

10 Principles of Distinction
1.      Question all that you read, hear and see.
2.      Surround yourself with people whose perspective on life is different than your own.
3.      Maintain a childlike curiosity and imagination.
4.      Never complain—seek solutions.
5.      Let go of limiting paradigms­—the restrictive thought patterns that prevent you from seeing an alternate course.
6.      Study religions other than your own.
7.      Pay your dues, settle your debts, smile when you pay your taxes, and welcome new opportunities to pay more.
8.      Use fear; don’t let it use you.
9.      Spend one hour a day getting to know and learning to enjoy people.
10.  Choose a mentor, living or deceased, whose life and values, when emulated, will improve the quality of your business and personal lifestyle, then act in accordance with their principles and standards.

This week, take action on the “10 Principles of Distinction.” Fold them into your life. Add five more principles that are personally important and will impact your life. Copy these fifteen principles onto an index card and read them aloud, every day, until you live them by heart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

INTERVIEW WITH JO SPARKES - SCRIPTWRITER, SPORTS WRITER, AUTHOR, TEACHER, & MORE

This is my fifth interview with a co-author of the new Sci-fi and Fantasy anthology, Reality Glitch: 11 Sci-fi & Fantasy Stories by Authors From Around the World. Today I am excited to have with us multi-talented writer, Jo Sparkes.

Hi Jo!

Hi Gerard.

I’m excited you’re here, and I’m eager to have my readers get to know you and the variety of your work.

I'm going to begin by giving everyone the scope and range of your talent.

Jo's work includes scripts for Children's live-action and animated television programs, a direct to video Children’s DVD, commercial work for corporate clients, and a feature writer on ReZoom.com, where one of her subjects landed the website’s ‘Man of the Year’ award.  As a contributing writer for the Arizona Sports Fans Network, where she was called their most popular writer, she garnered popularity with her humorous articles, player interviews and game coverage. Jo was unofficially the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he arrived in Arizona to play for the Cardinals.
Jo has served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School at Scottsdale Community College, and even made a video of her most beloved lecture. Her book for writers and artists, "Feedback: How to Give It, How to Get It," was born to help her students - and indeed, all artists.
Her original script, Frank Retrieval, won the 2012 Kay Snow award for best screenplay. Her fantasy series, The Legend of the Gamesmen, has garnered two B.R.A.G. Medallions and a 2015 silver IPPY award for Ebook Juvenile/YA Fiction.
When not diligently perfecting her craft, Jo can be found exploring her new home in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Ian, and their dog, Oscar.


What else are you working on, Jo?
 "The Wake of the Sadico," a supernatural thriller, is in the hands of beta readers at the moment. This is a story that has haunted me for years, insisting on attention. I hope to release it in August.

What's it about?

On a Caribbean dive vacation, five people discover the old familiar reef is really a shipwreck, possibly old and valuable. The chase for treasure begins - and so does the bickering. And then the accidents. For Wall Edwards, the physics don't add up. Wood does not last long in tropical waters, yet each discovery promises another century. Something's wrong - but the others don't see it. Caught in a trap set five hundred years ago, they face an unfinished battle that destroyed all hands. The rebellion against a sadistic captain and those he tortured. Between those souls moved on to new lives ... and the one soul left behind.

Here's a sample:

WAKE OF THE SADICO

By Jo Sparkes

They'd fooled her.
Melanie fumed as she rubbed suntan lotion on her skin. Caribbean vacation, they'd said. She'd imagined sipping frozen margaritas in odd shaped glasses on beaches covered with muscled men tossing volley balls. Luxurious hotels, blackjack in casinos, dancing at night.
Well nothing like that had turned up.
Her towel lay on the bow of the sailboat, which was anchored near a small, empty isle. No casino, no bar. The boat itself was supposed to be huge at a length of thirty-six feet. Well thirty-six feet turned out to be quite small, especially when the damn thing was old and shabby. There was no bathtub, no hot water at all unless you boiled it on the stove. Ice was rare as they had to cart it with them, and even the large bags in the cooler lasted only a few days.
And it was hot. Near the equator kind of heat.
Melanie had given up a lot to come on this trip. Derrick had asked her out, and that tall guy in his first year of residency at a hospital. Instead she was here, suckered by an English accent.
Gazing across the teak deck, Jill's discarded t-shirt with the words "Best Diver in Class' caught her eye. It may have been coincidence that it lay beside her own discarded pink dive mask, but the symbolism was there. Capping the lotion, she impulsively hurled the plastic bottle at the mask. Her aim was better than she thought - mask and shirt tumbled off the side, splashing into the water.
Shit.
She scooted over, peering past the tiny railing to see the goggles and cloth bobbing in the sea. Out of reach.
Glancing around, she saw no net or pole she could use to snag the items. There was nothing.
There was no one.
Well, if she lost her mask, they couldn't make her dive again. And as for Jill losing her prize T-shirt, boohoo.
She slipped back silently to her towel.
It was taking them a long time. Maybe they'd already drowned. It'd be their own fault – except that Melanie would be alone with no idea how to sail a boat.
She hated them. She wished something bad would happen to every one of them.
A tiny spike of doubt fluttered her stomach. It was bad luck to wish like that.
"I don't care," she said told the air around her. "They all deserve it!" The words echoed in her mind, making the hair on the back of her neck bristle. Ought to take that back, something whispered.
Melanie stretched out on her stomach, resting her head on her arms. She was tired of holding her tongue, of being a good sport. Of sleeping in a hot room with barely enough space for the bed and sharing a closet bathroom with four other people. "They do deserve it," she grumbled, and deliberately shut her eyes.
A breeze stirred, rustling her discarded magazine. The boat creaked, the deck rolled. Above her the tall mast slowly traced a circle in the blue sky.
The dive mask and t-shirt slowly revolved around each other on the water.
As the sound of the breeze faded, a new sound teased her. Sort of like – marching feet. Lots of them, distant and approaching.
Drifting on the edge of sleep, Melanie shook the sound away.
The breeze rose again, and in its wake tramped the men, louder, firmer. Her forehead wrinkled in denial, but still they came.
Her eyelid slit open, just enough to see sun glistening on the teak. Peering between her lashes, the marching shadows appeared. Rows of men clad in gleaming metal.
One man strode through the sunlight and shadow, marching from hazy dreams to the wood deck. His boots planted before her. Hazily Melanie peered up to see a dark face, black beard, an evil smirk. And pale blue eyes, glittering with in delighted fury.
His hand reached out.
"Come, Isabelle."
Fear shot through her bowels; she threw herself backwards.
Gasping, Melanie blinked. She was alone on the deck.
Slowly, very slowly, she recovered her breath. Gradually she laid back on the towel, feeling foolish. At least no one had witnessed her panic. But she didn't close her eyes again.
Melanie never saw the mask in the ocean, spinning at cyclone speed.

Thank you for that. How exciting! Is there anything you want to make sure our readers know?    

Some stories you write. You dream, work, create, alter, smooth, add, delete. It takes shape, almost reluctantly.

Others seem to already be, just waiting for you to turn the slightest bit in their direction. And then they pour through you, so easily that you’re never quite sure you deserve the credit.

Wake of the Sadico is the only story that has been both for me. It’s always existed, but getting it on paper has been a huge challenge. It’s been a book, then a screenplay, and now a (completely new) book. It took a while for me to feel happy with it. I’m not there yet – but I am closer now than ever.
   
What other novels have you written?

I’ve written two books in a three book fantasy series. It started as defiance – I was doing a lot of writing for other people, which meant other people are in charge. And that’s fine – they’re paying you, after all.

But it was so much fun to write something for myself. The way I thought it ought to be. Good editors make it better, of course, but they don’t change it for the sake of being changed.

The first reviewers proclaimed it good, and ‘YA’. I don’t know which surprised me more.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Oh yes.

In a ‘normal’ job you have the water cooler, or break room, or simply lunch. There’s socializing, blowing off steam, discussing the football game from last night. There’s real people. I miss that.

The oddest side effects come from being inside my own head all the time. When I emerge out to the real world again, I find bits of it need editing. If only I could find the celestial keyboard.

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

People. I love people – the challenges they face, the way they overcome adversity. The choices they make, and the background that leads them to make those choices. And the oh-so-inspiring times they rise above everything.

My first writing teacher said that no one cares about a bridge blowing up or a dam crumbling at its foundations. The true story is always in the people that experience it.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

If you stare at the adversity itself – and nothing else – it looks bigger than it is. It becomes personal, horrible, cruel. Scary.

But put it in context – everyone has adversity, what do others do, what other problems are in the world right now – and for me, it tends to shrink a little. It’s never a question of what things happen to you – the question is what are you going to do about it?

And think carefully. These things define your life.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’m working on – believe it or not – a sort of documentary series with my friend Chris LaPrath. It’s called The Expansion Project, looking at what’s labeled the psychic realm. As you can guess, we’re very interested in the people.

Lightning Round

Please answer these questions quickly, in a few words.

1)    My best friend would tell you I’m a …

A huge football (NFL) fan. Ridiculously so.

2)    The one thing I cannot do without is:

2 cups of coffee first thing in the morning.

3)    The one thing I would change about my life:

I wish I’d had more patience in the past. Or even now, come to think of it.

4)    My biggest peeve is:

I’m not quite sure when politics became another sporting event, but I wish we’d get back to issues and stop acting like a political party is our home team. 


5) The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Students that I have taught over the years. Some of them learned the lessons I just can’t get myself.

Great interview! Many thanks, Jo.


Thank you, Gerard.

Here are links to find more info about Jo Sparkes:


Website   http://josparkes.com/


Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/BirrElixir/

Goodreads    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6430371.Jo_Sparkes

Sunday, July 3, 2016

JAMES FIELD: SCI-FI AND FANTASY STORIES FROM NORWAY

This is my fourth interview with a co-author of the new Sci-fi and Fantasy anthology, Reality Glitch: 11 Sci-fi & Fantasy Stories by Authors From Around the World.  Today I am excited to have with me a friend and a terrific author, James Field.

Hi James.

Hi Gerard.

I’m happy you’re here, and I’m eager to have my readers get to know you and your work.

Let’s begin by telling the readers a little something about yourself, James.

 I was born in Essex, England, in 1951. My early days of work as an engineer led me to Norway where I met my future wife Kari. She moved to England where we married and raised our two daughters. We moved back to Norway in 1985.
My wife and I now live far in the north, well within the Arctic Circle, in the land of the midnight sun. Life here is slow and comfortable, blessed by unspoiled nature and its magnificent moods.
Being creative in the written form gives me vast pleasure. I hope, dear reader, you will take a break from your world and lose yourself in one of mine.

Very well put, James. Other than Reality Glitch, what is the title of your latest work?

Doomsday Diary, which was recently released.



Wow! Fun title. What’s the genre, and can you tell us a little about the story?

It’s a detective sci-fi fantasy. A diary is handed in to the police as lost property. The pages are filled
out ten days into the future, terminating with the prediction of Professor Maurice Masterson's death. As the days pass, each day's account comes true, and Chief Inspector Dobbs is forced to swallow his skepticism and prevent the inevitable.

Great! I can’t wait to read it.

James has graciously allowed us a sneak peek of the opening paragraphs of his book. Here they are:

Doomsday Diary


Chief Inspector Jonathan Dobbs watched the private elevator doors close and wondered for the hundredth time if he was about to make a fool of himself. He'd only butted heads with Professor Maurice Masterson once before, and on that occasion the professor had treated him like a halfwit.
'This time though,' he muttered, 'I'll put the professor in his place–if only my errand wasn't so absurd.' He reddened, and gazed around the elevator, searching for hidden microphones and cameras, wishing he'd kept his thoughts to himself.
Dobbs was short of stature, heavy on breath, long in years, and shrouded most of his podgy body in a weather-stained mackintosh. The elevator's exclusiveness bothered him. It had no mirrors, smelled of wood polish and expensive aftershave, and made his nose itch.
The doors opened and Dobbs stepped into a sterile reception, the only furniture a desk, two hard chairs for guests, and a tea-making machine on a corner table. 'Hello, James,' he said, nodding to the professor's bodyguard. 'Nice to see you again. Is he in?'
James sat behind the desk, agile fingers poised above his keyboard, cold light reflecting in his blue eyes from the computer screen. From the slight bulge in his black jacket, Dobbs could tell he was wearing a gun.
'What's it about?' asked James.
The question annoyed Dobbs. For a start, James hadn't acknowledged him with more than a glance, and second, it was none of his business.
'Work or pleasure?' asked James, fingers tapping away at his keyboard.
'Is he in, or is he out?' said Dobbs, shoving his hands in his pockets. 'It's a simple enough question. If he's in, I want to see him.'
'Then I need to know what it's about.'
Dobbs directed one of his fiercest scowls at James, the same one he used to get past the bone-faced receptionist at his doctor's surgery. 'I know you're only doing your job, James, but this is important. Either he talks to me now, or I'll come back with a warrant and he can talk to me down at the station.'
'In that case,' said James, sitting back and folding his arms, 'he's out.'
Dobbs grunted. Somehow, he knew a warrant request would be denied. The last time they had met, the professor had been tangled in an international terrorist plot, an incident hush-hushed into oblivion. If nothing else, the professor had powerful friends. Which was more than Dobbs had. Come to think of it, apart from his dog, Pooch, he had no close friends. In his experience, people only tried to be friends when they wanted something. Even his family were distant, half of them were locked up for one crime or another.
Before coming, he'd researched the professor's background. The pompous old fart was a bachelor, lectured physics at various universities, and many years ago, was a twice-Olympic fencing medalist and the captain of England's cricket team, two sports he loathed. Apart from soccer, he thought all sports were a boring waste of time.
For some reason, the rest of the professor's portfolio was hidden. Another thing Dobbs detested was the thought that someone had meddled with police records. If he had his way, government agents with cloak-and-dagger commissions would be given a one-way ticket to the moon. They thought they were above the law, a special class of person better than anyone else.
However, as a peacekeeper, he still needed to speak with the professor. He considered telling James a fib, except it went against his principles. People who told lies were scum. Flattery was another alternative that usually worked. So, ridiculous as his mission was, he told the truth. 'Tell him I need his help. It's about a diary that predicts his death in a few days.'
Instead of a mocking remark, James hit the button of his intercom and spoke. 'Inspector Dobbs here to see you, Boss.'
'Chief Inspector,' corrected Dobbs.
'Him again!' came the reply, loud and clear. 'Confounded nuisance. Tell him I'm busy and to make a proper appointment.'
'He says it's important. Something about a diary that predicts your death in a few days.'
'Ah,' said the professor, pausing. 'In that case, tell him to wait five minutes. Then send him in.'

Thanks for that, James.

Of course I read your short story “Liquorice Shoelace” in Reality Glitch. It’s a fascinating tale. Can you tell the readers a bit about it?

Sure. On his way home from work, Frank, a warm-hearted accountant, witnesses a man jump in front of a Tube train. The shocking suicide leaves Frank distraught, but the next day, he sees the same man again, alive and in a wretched state. Determined to solve the mystery, Frank investigates, only to watch his own world fall apart.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this story, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was writing with a deadline. Most of my stories mature at their own speed. I overcame the challenge by hiding away in the attic and getting on with it.

I know the feeling. What else are you working on?

A very exciting project in collaboration with another writer. It's still in the 'behind closed door' stage, so I can't tell you more. Apart from that, I have another story called 'Pest,' which is almost ready for publication. Pest is the psychopathic leader of a motorcycle gang who makes the mistake of tangling with Alf and Bert, security guards at the Cloud Brother's mansion. Other elements in the story are robots, bare-knuckle street fighting, a sprinkling of humor, and a dash of romance.

Cool! We’ll look for that when it comes out. Is there anything else you want potential readers to know?

Yes, all you potential readers, I'm writing for your enjoyment. My short stories are free, so indulge yourselves. The Cloud Brother series won't brake your bank either J

What other novels have you written, James?

I have published three science fiction novels, and nine short stories.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Like a drug, it's addictive. Every time I finish a novel, I suffer from abstinence. The only cure is another shot of writing.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Finding quality writing time, there's never enough of it.

How true. A writer’s dilemma. But I suppose that’s true for most of us in the arts.
What are you planning on writing in the near future?

The forth and final installment of the popular Cloud Brother series. A family drama and its follow up. A crime story based in an arctic winter. Three more short stories in the Cloud Brother's short stories collection (all free). And whatever else pops up and manages to squeeze between.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I'm a pensioner and the days are simply too short.

Describe for us a typical day.

The only typical thing that happens most days is that I rise early and write for one hour while the rest of the house still sleeps. Apart from that, every day is different.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

The washing up.

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

Life is for living and experiencing relativity.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

After finishing with the screaming and stamping of feet, I try to remind myself there are two things we should never worry about: what happened yesterday, and what might happen tomorrow.

What has been your greatest success in life?

There are many hurdles during the course of life, many goals, many accomplishments. Each is the greatest success at the time.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

Playing truant as a child and eating too little. I hated most foods, especially greens.

Do you have any pet projects?

My pet project has to be my family drama. I wrote it many years ago, but it needs rewriting, using skills I've learnt over the years.

Who/what has been your greatest inspiration?

With regards to writing: Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie.

Okay, now comes the part of the interview where I ask five quick questions and hope for five quick replies. Ready?

Ready!

My best friend would tell you I’m a …

Introvert bore with an occasional bright spark.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My best friend.

The one thing I would change about my life:

My best friend is my wife. If I could choose again, I'd still choose her.

My biggest peeve is:

Religion.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:

God.

Great interview, James. Thanks so much.

Thanks, Gerard!

James will be happy to answer questions. If you have any, please leave a comment. In the meantime, here are a few links to where you can learn more about James and buy his books.