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Friday, September 30, 2016

Meet Alexandra Francis, Artist

Alexandra Francis is a Leeds-based Fine Art artist, who experiments with creating artwork that is generated to promote world peace and equality. Promoting world peace and her career as an artist are especially important to Alexandra Francis, and so she has decided to combine the two, by promoting world peace through the artwork that Alexandra Francis creates.

Learn more about Alexandra and her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

1. What have been the challenges--and the pleasures--of building a career as a full-time visual artist?

Being a full-time visual artist offers you the opportunity to work with any type of material, art form or space, which is essential to individual growth, learning, and understanding of not only art, but also life in general. You learn how to see the world through a way that other people may not be able to do. You learn how to become the viewer, the curator, the set designer, and the reviewer as well as the artist of the artwork that you create. One of the main pleasures I find whilst creating and building a career as an artist is that you can imagine and fantasize to yourself about how an art sculpture, or piece of artwork will physically appear, before you create that particular piece, whilst everyone else other than yourself has to wait until the artwork has been physically created to see it. There is something nice about the time between imagining what the artwork will look like and having the artwork physically there before you. It's a quiet, peaceful time for me, much like the feeling you receive when you're about to fall asleep, when you are calm and your body is in a relaxed state. The idea of the artwork, I suppose is like a dream, in a sense that only you can have that dream whilst you sleep--it is not something you can share with the entire world unless you make it physical. You can express that dream through writing about that dream, or painting a scenery from that dream that you have had. There's something really satisfying about creating a piece of artwork from the way that you visualize the work in your head, from every detail, color, material. Creating the artwork so that it is a complete replica to how you imagined it to be.

It's like you're unlocking your mind with a key, and allowing all of your wildest dreams and ideas to appear to other people--maybe in hope that they will be able to understand your work the way that you do--for others to understand exactly how you felt in terms of the ideas, the thoughts, and the emotions that you had when creating that artwork. I guess that's what it is all about really as an artist, or for me at least.

A challenge I find as an artist is space. There is never enough space for the artwork that you create, and if you are an artist who is limited to space, you will understand what I mean when I say that it is sometimes difficult to enjoy making artwork when you only have a certain sized area to work in. That said, limiting yourself with space can also be a good thing, as you are always challenging yourself and your art practice through being limited.

2. What is your artistic process like when it comes to getting an idea for a piece and then creating the work over time?

Most pieces of artwork I create are created within a short amount of time. When I begin working on a new piece of artwork, I am often fixated on the completion of the work, and spend countless hours working on the artwork until it is finished. This does often mean that the work is completed within just a few days, or perhaps a few hours even. I do not often plan the artwork before it is created, as I simply enjoy to become hands-on with the work. I don't think this is a bad thing as it gives me no time to regret about the way I create a particular piece. Is that the right color that I should have used on the painting? Is this the right material for this sculpture? It does not matter. What I believe is most important when creating artwork is the concept behind the piece of art that you are creating. You could draw an X on your bedroom wall, and it could be a piece of art, but the interesting aspect of the artwork is why did you choose to draw an X? Is it from the idea that behind the X lies treasure? Or did you close your eyes and press a random key on your keyboard, to choose the letter to draw on your wall? Perhaps it is something more, the beginning of a word, or two drum sticks where one overlaps the other? I can't say I often have a story for each piece of artwork that I create, or a personal meaning behind the individual art sculptures or installations that I generate throughout my career as an artist, but that's not necessary a negative aspect of my career; it just offers my viewers and audience the opportunity to explore the artwork for themselves, without having my view of my artwork affecting how the viewers view the artwork that I create.

3. Would you tell us a little more about the connection between world peace and your role as an artist?

Peace can be promoted through word of mouth, through congregations and talks, through helping other people, and through artwork, music and books. What I'm trying to say is that there is no wrong way to promote peace or world peace--any way is a good way as long as you're promoting it. There's a lot of negative events happening in our world right now, and we don't often hear about the good parts that are happening in the world. Now is the time when we as the human population need to start promoting positivity and peace. We need to put our feet firmly on the ground, stamp and shout together, and show that we will not tolerate bullying, abuse, wars, neglect, and negativity in general. Sure, we may not be any better than those that have gone before us, but by not promoting peace and positivity, how can we expect wars and negative events to just end? I don't know about everyone else and their opinions on war and negativity, but I know that come fifty years down the line, I hope that wars will decrease and more people out there in this world will be supporting and promoting peace themselves. People often say that they want change to happen in this world, but yet, how will it happen if we do not do anything about it? I'm sure wherever you go, you will find bad people--that's inevitable, but by working together we can help prevent some of the negative actions that take place in this world on a daily basis. I am very passionate about promoting world peace and I am very passionate about creating artwork, so why not combine the two?

4. Are there any projects you're currently working on or have recently completed that you're especially excited about?

There is a new gallery opening up in Bradford in England, and it's due to open up at the end of October. It's being organized and opened by a lovely artist known as Lorain Be. I passed by the gallery recently, and painted a few of the panels in the gallery space, so that was very exciting. It's a wonderful place and has potential, so if there is anyone out there interested, then the gallery is called Boots Rebooted, and Lorain is very interested in artists showcasing work there in the future. I will also be showcasing my sculpture "Let"s Play!" at the gallery in the future, as the first group exhibition at Boots Rebooted.

I've just completed two pieces of artwork recently. One is called "Lick" and is of chocolates on a canvas. The idea initially came from the scene from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where the characters are invited to lick the fruit wallpaper in the factory and physically taste the fruit. I wanted to capture that moment of magic, but of course, if I'd have drawn a strawberry with a red felt tip pen, visitors would be quite disappointed in the artwork not tasting like a strawberry! That's where the chocolate came in handy with the artwork. I made small incisions into the canvas and inserted small chocolates pieces into the material. That way you not only get to see the artwork, but taste it as well.

The other piece of work that I have only just created is of an art sculpture and known as "Fly Home Sweet Bird." It's quite difficult to explain how the artwork visually looks [see the photo of it below for an idea], but it's about the lifecycle of birds, from a young to an old age.

5. What is the arts community like in Leeds, and what are some things you enjoy doing there when not working on your art?

You know, it's as good as any other city or country, really. We have Art galleries, an Art Hostel, cafes and venues that exhibit artwork. It's interesting, because everywhere in the world is similar. You can visit any country and you'll find an art gallery. I'm not saying the arts community isn't individual and different from other places than Leeds; we do have events like Light Night every year, but then again, Liverpool has a Light Night event every year also. There is always something interesting in Leeds that relates to art, though, from annual events to new exhibitions in galleries all across the city. It is quite enjoyable, really. When I'm not creating artwork, I enjoy promoting peace and equality, spending time with nature, traveling, and socializing with people around my city, in England, and across the world.

Thanks, Alexandra!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Meet Paulo Sousa, Web Developer and Publisher

Paulo Sousa moved from Brazil to America in 1995. He has always been passionate about computers and technology, and around the same time that he came to the US, he began researching the workings of the internet. Soon he discovered the secret to ranking at the top of search engine results. This discovery made him one of the pioneers on SEO field, when this word still did not exist.

Over time, he became interested in e-commerce and attended Boston University to study web development. In 2010 he started a self-publishing website, www.e-selfpress.com. Since late 2015, he has been revamping and updating this site to provide more resources for customers. Learn more by following e-selfpress on Facebook. You can also learn more about Paulo and his work on http://www.askpaulo.com/.

1. How was SEO changed since you first began learning about it and using it?

When we look back 20 years ago, we did not have the idea of how SEO would change the way to do business online. SEO in those old days was a very simple thing to do, since the search engines then did not have enough technology to evaluate all aspects of the site. Today, the engines acts like a very smart human being, looking at every aspect of the site in order to deliver the best results for the searchers. Today, we have many more areas to work on each site to achieve a good recognition on the engines.

The engines are getting smarter and smarter, acting like a human. But 20 years ago, if you just created a good title for your site, it would be enough. Today, titles still remain as important as before, but they're just a fraction of the game. The engine needs to read your site, and follow the links from and towards to the site in order to understand what is the site is about. It's very easy for a person who does not know SEO but understands HTML to make a web site and fail to please the search engines with information in the source code of the page.

To succeed today, you have to start with a domain where you have keywords on it, instead of choosing a URL that does not tell anything to the search engine. We always have a solution when we talk to our clients. Of course you can always work on names that do not have keywords in them. If you sell, for instance, mattresses, the ideal URL should have mattress in it. This factor increases your relevance to the engines, and a website with this behavior gets some consideration of the engine doing that.

In short, each business website is evaluated differently, but the evolution has been huge.

2. What interests you most about doing web development work?

First of all, I love to see the happiness of my clients at the delivery of the work. The second beauty of this work is to perform a search and see your results in the top results of search engines. This is a priceless reward.

3. Would you tell us a little more about how you and your wife got into writing and publishing e-books and how you found success in that project?

Before I had even thought about starting my self-publishing website www.e-selfpress.com, I wrote a book about Secrets of the iPad, since Apple did not sell the iPad with a manual. This book became a bestselling book in Brazil. After that success, I decided to create my own publishing platform to help people in Brazil.

With my knowledge on SEO, I received over 70K "likes" on my Facebook page ( www.fb.com/eselfpress) in just one year, and then I knew I was on the right path.

Last December (2015), I decided to invest $96K to rebuild the platform which will be done at the end of September (2016) when I will re-launch the platform with a wide advertising campaign on the internet.

The success came because people were looking for such services in Brazil. I had an entrepreneur here in USA and also in Brazil who came after me offering an investment in my eSelfPress project. I did not accept by that time, since I could handle financially the initial expenses of the project. So I declined, but now, after the new version been made available, I can talk with potential investors about it.

4. Why did you decide to start e-SelfPress, and what are the services you provide?

The decision to start e-SelfPress came after the success of my book "Segredos e Atalhos do iPad" when I discovered that the world was changing the way to buy, sell, write, and read books.

We provide a friendly environment where people can easily understand the concept of how to use our platform. We offer services such as cover design, proof writing, and a free ISBN for those who also buy our services for wide distribution on stores such as Barnes & Noble, Apple Store and more.

The list of services is available in Brazilian currency at http://e-selfpress.com/services.

5. As someone who provides services to people in many different countries, what would you like people all over the world to know about you and your business?

We are very serious about business, and our goal is always make people happy by giving then the best option to write and sell their books. I know that writing a book is only part of the process: writers need to learn how to market their book.

We have a blog that we will teach writers how to succeed like I did with my book Segredos e Atalhos do iPad. That is going to be a big difference between e-SelfPress and the other guys. We are also going to help people who want to write a book and do not have an idea. We will help them to create content.

Please feel free to contact me at paulo@askpaulo.com. Thanks, Paulo!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Meet Asif Zamir, Toronto Business Consultant

Asif Zamir lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and started working to help support his family when he was around six years old. By the time he was a teenager, he had worked for several companies and also been self-employed. Over time, he began working as a consultant to help businesses succeed, with an emphasis on new, small businesses in the startup stage. He devotes much of his time to ministry and philanthropic work.

Learn more about Asif by visiting AsifZamir.com.

1. When, as a young man, did you realize that you wanted to go into business for yourself?

When I was young, around age 6, I would sell candy door to door, and people would buy from me because I was cute. I liked the freedom of managing my finances and setting a schedule. At age 15, I dropped out of high school and started my own business consulting company. To be honest, I didn't have much of a choice; I had to drop out of high school and start a business because I was dirt poor for the majority of my life, and we were struggling to get by financially. So I took a chance at doing something more with my life than just getting by. It's not like traditional jobs were paying big money to teens back then, so I needed to start a business to have a shot at real money.

2. How do you choose the business ventures that you want to pursue?

When I was young and dumb; even 8 years ago it was all about the money, and that gave me nothing but heartache and stress. Now I think about my happiness and my relationship with the client. I'd like to make money, lots of money, but I'd also like to build a friendship. I'd like my client to reach or surpass their goal, but I'd also like to enjoy the entire process. If I can gain a friend, that's ideal, and if we can both make a lot of money, that's even more ideal.

3. What's your advice to other people who want to be self-employed but aren't sure where to invest their time and money?

My honest advice is to not be self-employed. Honestly, it's a lot of hard work before you reach your goals, usually 10 years. Most people can't handle this, and it destroys their marriage and self-esteem. If you understand this fact and still want to do it, have a vision for the long term. I see so many people fail because they think, "I'll start a business today and be successful tomorrow, and if not, then I'll quit!" And those people always fail every time. But people who have a vision for 10-20-30 years always succeed. Always. Take a look at any success story: the person worked for many years to achieve what they wanted. Go ahead and read 100 success stories online, and you'll see that it usually averages out to more than 10 years of hard work. People who think it takes a few weeks or months are mentally insane. Go ahead and invest in your education. If you're going into a business, know everything about that business. When I was 15, I read every book available in the library and bookstore. I find if people won't even read a book on a subject, they aren't really interested.

4. How do you find time to do all the philanthropic work that you do?

That's where my life gets tough. Typically people want financial freedom for the purpose of gaining time, and so I've gained time, and now I use up all my time by giving it away. It's tough for me to balance it out because everyone wants an hour, or a hundred people want ten minutes, and I'm learning to say no to a lot of people and a lot of invites. I try my best to take it as it comes to me. A few days ago I had a relaxing evening planned for myself but instead spent it visiting someone in the hospital who specifically requested my visit. I won't get another relaxing evening in for a while, but I'm trying my best to keep my life balanced; like I said it's a struggle for me.

5. What projects are you currently working on, both business and charitable endeavors?

I'm working on one of the most interesting business ideas ever with a lady who wanted to run errands for strangers. She's very rich now and has a full staff. I helped her set up her website, and draw up a plan and structure, and most importantly I helped her set realistic goals and gain her first 250 clients and hire her first employees. Gosh, she's basically more successful than me now. She charges anywhere from $50-$200/hour to do any errand for you. She's been asked to wait at a person's house for the cable man, to pretend to be a friend to an executive at a dinner, and everything in between; usually it's dropping off dry cleaning and picking up groceries, things along those lines. She makes a fortune, and I really enjoy this project; I'll be sad when my contract is finished.

I'm also participating in a beta-stage project which involves having churchwomen go to the streets, and paying prostitutes to attend church services so that they can connect with God, people, and social workers who will help them get out of the sex industry permanently. The project has been mostly successful, and I find that it's sustainable. Changing one life each week, helping one person at a time, it really adds up. Actually this one lady, she was really young when we met her in downtown Toronto years back, and she's graduated college now and you would never tell she worked the streets. She's brilliant and she's reaching her life goals.

Thanks, Asif!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Meet Lindy Gligorijevic, Author and Former LAPD Detective

Lindy Gligorijevic is a former Los Angeles Police Department police officer with over 30 years of law enforcement experience. As a supervising detective with the LAPD, she has investigated rapes, child abuse, domestic violence, and robbery, and spent five years investigating homicides. Lindy is currently the Chief Investigator for the Tulare County District Attorney's Office. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology and teaches interrogation techniques and homicide crime scene management throughout California. Lindy is married to a retired Los Angeles Fire Department captain and lives in Central California with their two standard poodles, one amazing cat, and one chicken.

She is the author of a new series of books called the Jack & Shea LAPD Homicide Series. Her first book in the series, Hold Fast, was released in June of 2016, and the second book, Bell Lap, was released in August.

1. What inspired to you write and publish mysteries?

The inspiration to write is easy; it has been a compulsion since as far back as I can remember (I have the proof stuffed in a trunk in the garage). The decision to publish was far more difficult, and I went about it in every wrong way possible. After ten years of writer's conferences, two literary agents, an expensive editor, and a drawer of rejects, I actually stopped writing for three years. It seemed like folly to me at that point. Then after reconnecting with my training officer from 30 years ago (he encouraged me not to give up, and one should always listen to their training officer) and another self-published author saying "I am an author no matter how small the audience," I decided to do it. I poured a glass of wine and began uploading (ergo beginning the cautionary tale of how not to navigate self-publishing.

2. How has your work experience influenced you as a writer?

My work, my experiences, and my observations are in nearly every sentence of every book.

3. Have you always been writing fiction, or is it something you took up more recently?

I've been writing and drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.

4. Would you tell us a little bit about your two main characters? Also, what made you decide to write from each of their perspectives in different volumes in your series of books?

The first book is from Shea Reed's point of view. I wanted the reader to see the LAPD, murder, partnership, through the eyes of a woman. Also, she is single and makes endless questionable choices with men. Her partner, Jack Rainier, is married with two little girls. I am a big fan of series-fiction, and I love following characters through multiple books, but I want to give my readers a back and forth between two characters as opposed to being saddled with just one for the ride. And the archetype of a male cop in fiction is an alcoholic, divorced, and hanging around with rough women. Well, how did he get that way? Why do books and movies always start there? I wanted to show the true strain working homicide has on a very good man. I also wanted to take the reader into the very intimate nature of a police partnership; it's a bond that is beyond friendship.

5. As someone with extensive experience in law enforcement, where do you find the balance between your factual knowledge and your need to fictionalize events for a novel?

The hardest question! When I first began submitting my scenes to my writer's group, they hammered me about being too clinical, too procedural. It was clear I was more concerned with being rigidly authentic (for who? Other cops? Probably) than I was about creating a dramatic story. The books still lean more towards procedural, because I like the "regularness" of police work: it's not all chasing bad guys.

I also had to be careful how I created characters since many of the scenes in Hold Fast are pulled from life, so I had to make sure I didn't harm anyone I knew. There is one character that I didn't change much; he is Shea and Jack's boss. He's based on my homicide boss, who is a very wise and caring man, and such a great character in real life that he translated right on to the page.

The series is fiction, and the cases they have are fiction, but the inspiration is from my experiences and some verbatim experiences. For example, there is a scene in the bar at a golf course the detectives drink at where there is a confrontation with the newly acquitted OJ Simpson. He invites Shea to have her picture taken with him and well....you, gotta read the book. :)

Thanks, Lindy!

Meet Ralph Masengill, Author and Advisor

Ralph Masengill is a best selling author of two books, Beat the Curve and Conquer Change and Win. He is a coach and advisor. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, and the post graduate of the Edwards Deming program on quality and change. Learn more about him by visiting Masengill.com.

1. How did you get the idea for your book, Conquer Change and Win?

I saw that so many smart, well-rounded, and secure individuals and many of the employees who work for them have no clue about how to change correctly. 90% of the population has no clue about change and its effects that always happen. The same story is true in families as well.

2. What are some common misconceptions that people have about change?

Misconceptions: Change is not constant. Change positive or negative has the same effect on all of us. They generally believe that all change does not cause some form of pain. It does. Many fear change but most do not want to admit it. Do not believe that most of us will not change until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. Believe that taking a calculated risk is almost like gambling. It is not. With change we will always be asked to take a calculated risk.

3. How does your work in PR influence your work as an author?

I believe it does have a positive effect. The root of a solid public relations expert is understanding people. That is the first thing you must know in order to succeed in PR.

4. What is your advice to people who are facing change that they see as negative yet unavoidable?

There is such a thing as negative change. When you know and understand how change operates in the world, you will also see much of what the majority calls negative pain is in fact positive change in disguise.

5. What else would you like readers to know about you and your work?

Huge change is on the way. No matter who wins the national election in November, we are all going to experience great change over the next two years. How many times has change disrupted your life, left you feeling off-kilter, caused you to miss opportunities or react without thinking? Every one of us is constantly affected by change. Change never stops, and whether it's positive change or not, our first reaction is usually fear. The truly successful people of the world have a good understanding of change and how to make it work to their advantage. My book offers an easy to read and fun approach to this serious topic of change in our lives.

Thanks, Ralph!