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Introduction to author John Locke (by Betty Dravis): John Locke is the international best-selling author of seven Donovan Creed novels, all of which have made the Amazon/Kindle Top 20 Best Seller’s List! Saving Rachel held the #1 spot for more than three weeks and remains one of the all-time best selling ebooks in history! Locke has had four books in the Top 10 at the same time, and six in the Top 20! His Emmett Love western, Follow the Stone, has been ranked #1 Western since the first week after release. John lives in Kentucky where he is working on his second Emmett Love Western, Don’t Poke the Bear. For more about John’s books and meet his famous character Donovan Creed visit this link: http://lethalbooks.com/

I was astonished to learn that every seven seconds, twenty-four hours a day, a John Locke novel is downloaded somewhere in the world! In researching this remarkable talent I came across this inspiring blog that John wrote about Michael J. Fox and wanted to share it with Dames of Dialogue readers. To subscribe or to read more of John’s blogs please visit http://tinyurl.com/4xz32js

Michael J. Fox and Your Loved Ones

by John Locke

Author John Locke

I’ve never met Michael J. Fox, and doubt I ever will. He’s not a fan so far as I know, and has almost certainly never heard of me. I’m not seeking his endorsement. This is a tiny blog with a very small readership, so he’ll never read these words.

In short, there’s nothing in it for me…to write about him. Which is proof these words come from my heart.

I’ll make this short. As you know, I value your time, and only write when I feel I have something important to say. I could wait till Mike is in the news, but that would be opportunistic, and unworthy of the subject matter.

I’m busy, you’re busy. But I’m pausing a moment to express my admiration and gratitude for not only Mike, who is an extraordinary human being, but for all those special people who exude character and class every day of their lives while fighting debilitating diseases hell-bent on breaking them down and killing their spirits. I’m talking about not only Mike, but your friends and mine, and our relatives.

I’m sure Mike has rough days where he struggles to stay positive, days when fatigue gets the better of him, days when he wonders from what reservoir can he possibly extract another ounce of strength. But here’s a guy…wow! I’m almost at a loss for words. It takes a lot of courage for a former leading man to put himself out there and take his battle to the enemy in front of all the world’s cameras. So truly…wow!

And yet, we all have friends and relatives who have it even worse than Mike. These quiet family heroes bravely battle incurable diseases without the benefit of an adoring public. My cousin, Susan’s, battle would overwhelm me in no time, and yet she maintains an attitude that shames me to complain about the insignificant trials I face. I have a friend, Lisa, who’s in the middle of a tragic battle. She’s showing us all, by example, what it means to have true courage. Your friends and relatives are doing the same. I wish I could single each of them out and praise their epic, individual examples.

Mike, Susan, Lisa…and your friends and family members are giving us a blueprint for how to live our lives with courage and dignity. They’re teaching us how to face fear and overcome obstacles. How to live extraordinary lives in the face of crushing physical and emotional devastation.

I only know Michael J. Fox through his TV and movie roles and public appearances, and I don’t know your loved ones at all. But I love them. Love them the same way I love my friends and family members who bravely fight the fight. Love their mental toughness. Admire their ability to handle adversity.

I write books about kooky characters and larger-than-life heroes, but I’ll tell you something right now: the amazing true-life heroes we all know and love are everything that’s right, noble and true about humankind. Their remarkable determination, unbreakable will, and their indomitable courage will surely be placed as credits to their names in Paradise.

Michael J. Fox is the name of this blog, and its face. But it’s a blog about all who struggle daily, while displaying the mental fortitude to prevail against overwhelming odds. It’s for all the Dick Clarks of the world. The Roger Eberts. The Susans, the Lisas, and it’s for your parents, your siblings, your friends and your loved ones. So when I say Mike, I’m talking about a million amazing people who are absolutely worth pausing a few minutes to think about and honor. Since I can’t single everyone out by name, I’ll just say:

Keep fighting the good fight, Mike. I love you, man!

Heart with Joy by Steve Cushman1.  Tell us about your latest book.

Heart With Joy is a coming of age novel about birdwatching and cooking and falling in love for the first time, but ultimately it’s about finding your passion in life–that thing that fills your heart with joy-and pursuing it.
The basic story revolves around a 15 year old boy named Julian, whose mother leaves him and his father under the pretense of going to Florida to help run her parents’ motel and finish the novel she has been writing for years.  Julian wants to go with her, but she says he has to stay with his father, someone he has never been particularly close to.  Then, over the course of the next four months, Julian and his father have to figure out how to live with each other.  And they do grow closer, and learn about each other, over the meals that Julian cooks for them.  By the end of the novel, Julian has to choose between staying with his father or going to live with his mother.
2.  How did Julian come to you?
When I started the novel I knew it was a story about a father and son who were forced to be alone together.  That’s pretty much all I knew.  It was over the course of the six years it took me to write the book that I discovered that Julian’s passion was cooking.
3.  Why did you write this book?
I write because it is what I love to do.  Heart With Joy was a very personal book for me to write because it had many of my favorite things in it: cooking, birdwatching, writing, and father/son issues.  Mind you, it wasn’t always easy to write but as the book started to take shape and I saw all these elements coming in I was very excited to get back to the work.
4. Your first novel, Portisville, is described as a “literary thriller.”  What makes it “literary” as opposed to “commercial”?
I suppose the idea is that a “literary” work is more character-based and a “commercial” novel might be more plot-based.  I generally am more interested in characters than plot in the books I read and the ones I write.
5.  When did you discover that you are a “reader?”
I didn’t start reading seriously until I was in my early twenties and working at a record store in Orlando, Florida.  The man who owned the store, Jim Boylston, would come in everyday with a new stack of books from the library.  I would ask him what he was reading and he’d tell me about Larry Brown, Raymond Carver, and Cormac McCarthy some of his favorite writers.  So I started reading these writers and eventually got the crazy idea that I could write too.
6.  Describe your writing space.Steve Cushman's writing space
Nothing fancy, an upstairs guest room/loft. It’s great for escaping to except for when we do have guests and then I can’t get to the computer.  But really, it’s a nice place to write.  I write in the mornings, before everyone else in the house is awake.
7.  What is the hardest part of writing?
To me, it’s not the actual writing.  It’s all the other stuff–sending your work out, dealing with rejection, waiting to hear back from an editor or agent.  All of the stuff is the frustrating part of writing for me.  I’ve gotten better at telling myself it has nothing to do with writing, but still some times it does get frustrating.  As for writing itself, of course I don’t sit down and write something I am proud of every day but I do sit there and get the work done and experience has taught me that if I do that, and don’t give up, then good things will come.
8.  What marketing tips can you share with our other authors?
Not sure, I can share any as I don’t know how successful my marketing has been thus far.  I’ve published three books, all with small presses, which puts a lot of the marketing pressure on the writer him/herself.  I did write a guest blog post about one of my not so successful attempts at marketing.  Here’s a link to it:
As for guest blogs, Heart With Joy has been really favorable reviewed by young adult bloggers.  I put together a blog tour–with reviews, interviews, guest posts–at about 25 blogs.  This has been successful in that the book has received a lot of positive publicity.
9.  What is your next writing project?
I’ve been mostly writing poetry for the last few months, but my plan is to get back to a novel after the first of the year.  I wrote the first draft of the novel over the summer, and it’s been sitting there waiting, so after the holidays I’ll have some more time and really dig into that.
Steve Cushman10.  Tell us about your hometown — we love to travel.
I was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, but moved to Pinellas Park, Florida when I was four.  I can’t tell you much about Taunton as I haven’t been there in years, but I am going back around Christmas this year.
Greensboro, where I currently live, is a wonderful city.  It’s small enough yet it has most of the things you would find in a big city.  There are six universities within ten miles of my house, so there are a good number of book-related events.  Plus, we have the wonderful Eastern Music Festival every summer.  As a side note, Heart With Joy is set in Greensboro.
11.  How did you meet your wife? — we love a romance.
We both work as X-ray techs at a hospital here in Greensboro.  In 1993, we met as X-ray students, studied together, worked together.
12.  Tell us your favorite animal story.
Here’s my rat story.  A couple days ago actually, I walked into the bathroom and saw what I initially thought was a squirrel hanging on the window screen.  It was a nice day, so the window itself was raised about six inches.  When I realized it was a rat, I tried to shut the window but as I did the rat actually lifted the bottom of the screen and jumped in the house.  I ran around the house looking for something to get rid of the rat with and then I chased him around the house like a hockey player pushing him with the broom to the back door.  Of course, my dog and cat did absolutely nothing to help and my seven year old laughed as hard as I’d ever heard him laugh before.  So there’s my animal story. http://www.stevecushman.net/

Inspiration to Publication – A Ghostly Experience by D. K. Christi

Ghost Orchid, published by L & L Dreamspell in September 2009, is a case study in taking an inspiration to publication.

Authors often respond to the question:  Where do you get your inspiration?  There are a plethora of answers; but in the case of Ghost Orchid, one flower was all it took; one rare and endangered ghost orchid in an exquisite location.

Blair Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located at the edge of the Everglades in Naples, Florida is an official Audubon bird sanctuary on the migratory route of wood storks, ibis, herons, cranes, roseate spoonbills and a long list of winter visitors, observed from a nearly three mile wooden boardwalk that winds through ancient cypress, alligator flags, blood-red swamp hibiscus, pure white swamp lilies, purple hyacinths  and seasonal changes of wild sunflowers, blue iris, purple morning glories and silvery cymbidiums.

Over twenty years of residence in Southwestern Florida, I have enjoyed this boardwalk often, sometimes thrilled by the sighting of a brown bear, a panther, deer and of course, alligators.  I often laughed at the antics of the squirrels and anoles.  I always disliked the narrow, two-lane road to get there and the left turn on a dangerous curve.  I noted the markers from accidents, draped in faded, artificial flowers, provoking driving care and somber thoughts.

On a rather melancholy birthday in July of 2007, I treated myself to that walk and became obsessed by the exquisite beauty of an orchid plant, the ghost orchid, high in the cypress canopy all by itself, dancing in the swamp breeze.  It captured my soul on my first view.  It was amazingly high and alone, pure white against the deep green canopy, the dark brown host and the deep blue sky, yet dancing away from the tree, held by a barely visible slender, leafless stem.  It was the first day of its discovery, the only ghost orchid in the sanctuary.

 I knew it was a birthday gift to brighten my spirits on this hot and humid summer day.  It had more blooms in one season than any ghost orchid on record, was higher than any other ghost orchid and was unique in its accessibility to viewing at all.  This rare and endangered flower was the subject of a non-fiction novel made into a movie about poaching in Fakahatchee Strand, a very inhospitable swamp.

The discovery also made the national news.  I had the chance to walk in the swamp every day of its blooming, July, August and September, for as many as 20 blooms a season in the summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009.  Each view presented new, mystical experiences that took on a life of their own.  As I walked the three miles, I observed other walkers and overheard snippets of their own wonder.

My ghost orchid was no longer my own.  All around me were the stories, the life stories, of those who came on a quest to enjoy this once in a lifetime flower phenomenon.  By the end of the 2007 season, I had written a story about two people, incorporating my love of the boardwalk and my fear of that left turn into the sanctuary.  The more I viewed the changing blooms on my ghost orchid, the more I felt its power in the lives of my two characters whose story expanded to include several generations with personal quests brought to fruition in the aura of my ghost.

For me, it was impossible to spend countless hours in the swamp without being touched by the life forces pulsing there and the obvious regeneration of life in all the unfettered flora and fauna.  It was also vibrant with the love of families and couples who shared that beautiful place.  I wondered:  Is life eternal?  Is love eternal?  These thoughts accompanied me on my daily pursuit of the ghost orchid’s antics high in the cypress canopy, like a sentry watching all of us below, watching her.  As sure as I saw the ghost orchid’s graceful dance, I knew whatever life force filled her with beauty was feminine.

I wrote around the clock, with occasional naps, during a vacation from my day job, my muse on the other end of the phone urging me on, helping me search for character names and missing pieces to back stories.  It became a story that not only expressed the search for meaning in the lives of its characters, but a testament to the impact the natural environment has on the human spirit.  It incorporated the mystical elements of the ghost orchid, often associated with the manifestation of the soul and unrequited love.  

Writing Ghost Orchid became a labor of love, capturing the beauty of the Everglades, the magic of the ghost orchid and the unfolding of a mystery between its pages.  As long as the ghost orchid blooms in Corkscrew Swamp, she casts her spell on all who observe her, and to fix the concern of a reviewer who didn’t want the story to end, it continues.  This year, another surprise, the ghost orchid bloomed early, the end of March.  For my fourth July birthday with my ghost orchid,  it has fourteen buds opening.

Ghost Orchid is the story of the human heart and the relationships that give life meaning, including those with the natural environment.  Are we so separate from the plants and animals that share our planet?  Ghost Orchid is intended to reach a new audience of potential environmentalists who didn’t know they had a passion for natural habitats and will go on their own quests to heal the human heart and find their ghost orchid.

For more information, check out D. K. Christi’s interview on the Dames of Dialogue!

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