Monday, December 21, 2015

Resuscitation by D.M. Annechino


Review of They Never Die Quietly (Book one) - HERE

Review of A Piece of You (Book Three) - HERE

Synopsis - 

Two years ago, Detective Sami Rizzo narrowly escaped a brush with death at the hands of a serial killer. After apprehending the killer and bringing him to justice, this life-changing event compels her to resign from the police force. In her heart of hearts, however, she struggles with the decision. But a second serial killer—a well- respected doctor gone astray—uses his charm to seduce his victims and then performs horrific surgical experiments on them. In a final act of depravity, he scatters their mutilated bodies throughout San Diego County. Feeling a sense of duty and obligation, Sami Rizzo appeals to the police chief and mayor, and they reinstate her as a homicide investigator. As the body count grows and the killer’s experiments become more and more brutal, Sami follows one dead-end lead after another, while trying to deal with a sickly mother and a turbulent relationship with her lover. But then the killer makes a crucial mistake: one of his victims survives. Sami does everything to protect the barely alive victim, but the killer has a different plan.

Review - 

Resuscitation is the second of three books I am reviewing by this author featuring San Diego homicide detective Sami Rizzo. Each of the three offer truly creepy serial killers who off their victims in unique ways and are driven by strong personal motives. As a psychological thriller, this book is just over the line, enough to get your heart pounding but still let you fall asleep at night.

Two years have passed since Sami almost met her end at the hands of a serial killer. She has walked away from the police force - something her dad asked her to pursue on his death bed - and headed back to school to study Social Work. She was now married to her former partner, Al Diaz. When the police discover a mutilated body, Sammi is torn. It's time to admit she isn't enjoying her studies and missed being a detective. With the support of the police chief and mayor, she heads back into the office and onto the trail of a new serial killer. Diaz has been called away on a family emergency, so his character has only a minor role this time around. 

One of Annechino's strengths is creating believable creepy serial killers. In Resuscitation we are introduced to Julian, a successful cardio-thoracic surgeon with a failing marriage and an intense drive to attain serious recognition for his skills at the highest levels. When he receives notification that his research grant has again been turned down because it needs more data, he makes the horrifying decision get that data through research on live people. They are picked up through random encounters starting in bars, and Julian lures them in knowing full well none of them will survive the ordeal he has planned. It's not so bad when they are fully anesthetized, but the story crosses into truly disturbing when Julian begins working on them while chemically paralyzed but wide awake and in excruciating pain.

Again, Amazon reviews run the full range. I think it all comes down to what you want from this genre.  Do you like creepy serial killers that just cross the line - disturbing but not super gory? Then this series is for you.

Buy the book: Amazon

Meet The Author - 

To read an interview with the author click HERE!

D.M. Annechino author picDaniel M. Annechino, a former book editor specializing in full-length fiction, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, in 1992 while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly.

​His second book, Resuscitation (Thomas & Mercer 2011), a follow-up to his first novel, hit #1 in Kindle sales in the UK and reached #26 in the USA. He is also the author of I Do Solemnly Swear (Thomas & Mercer 2012) and Hypocrisy. A Piece of You is his fifth novel, the third in the Detective Sami Rizzo series. A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time on the warm beaches of Southern California.

Connect with the author: Website    Twitter    Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blanche Macdonald - Caitlyn Bellavance, “ Fernweh” - The Longing For Somewhere Distant

Images by Peter Jensen Photography
Illustrations by Caitlyn Bellavance

I have not missed one of Blanche Macdonald's annual fashion shows since 2007. Each has offered it's own charm, but I have to admit this one really stood out. I think it was the combination of the theme (The Places In Between), the stunning location (The Permanent Building, a converted bank built in 1907) and this year's truly talented group of fashion design grads.  

In addition to the show overview I am writing, I always select several students who stand out to feature in solo articles. Caitlyn Bellavance is the first from this talented group.  The strength of her design work, the interesting yarn detailing and the combination of her looks being both very wearable and yet eye-catching made this collection stand out. She also received an award from the school for design innovation.

Added to this was a look through her portfolio. I feel fashion illustration is very important to seeing the potential in a future designer. The large selection of illustrations she offered really showcased the depth of her design work. There are many looks I would love to own.  Kudos! 

= = = = 

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Calgary, moved to Hong Kong when I was ten, did my first year of University in Victoria, lived the ski bum life in Fernie, and now I am in Vancouver, British Columbia.

What you like when you were young?

I loved being around my family and being outdoors exploring. I never liked to play with dolls or girl type activities. I loved art and crafts and was always creating things. I played piano and guitar, and loved skiing and biking.

What were your interests in High School?

High school was pretty boring for me. My mom took me out of the traditional High School and registered me in an Independent Learning High school where I finished the rest of High School in 1 1⁄2 years. I was able to spend a lot of time studying art and different mediums. I painted a whole mural on a wall in the High School, which was featured on the CTV news. I started snowboarding and was spending a lot of time in Banff and Fernie.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion?

When I was very young, I insisted on dressing differently from the other girls around me and at school. I would mix up outfits and layer clothes to look differently. I started to set fashion trends at an early age and would get really annoyed at my classmates if they copied me. Ironically, now in my career, I want them to copy me!

I taught myself how to sew as a teenager as I could never find clothing I wanted to wear. I started designing and ordering my own fabrics to create the clothing that I envisioned. I had support from friends, family and the online community. My mother always said I would end up a Fashion Designer, and I always rejected that as I wanted to be a Tattoo Artist. But as per usual, Mothers know best. 

When and how you decided to study fashion design. Was your family supportive?

My Family has always been extremely supportive and encouraging no matter what I am doing. They have always nourished my artistic and creative abilities and pushed me to pursue them. I was studying Visual Arts in University and decided to take a year off. It was then that I realized I wanted to learn how to draft patterns and get better at sewing. 

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald?

My mother explored all of the Fashion design schools in Canada a year before I decided to go back to school. One day in August I read my horoscope, and it said I was about to receive a long distance invitation that would change my life. I later got a call from a representative of Blanche Macdonald following up on our inquiry of the school. She offered me a grant to start the program in November. It felt meant to be, so I jumped on it!

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What was easy for you? Are there any high, low or funny moments you can share?

Studying Fashion Design at Blanche was interesting as it is a condensed program. It is effectively designed to have you working your butt off until the very last second. Which I am now grateful for as it instilled good work habits and time management in me. I enjoyed all of it and embraced every challenge, even the countless times I had to work backwards because I had sewn something wrong.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection?

The inspiration for my grad collection was the word “ Fernweh”. Which means, the longing for somewhere distant. To me this meant somewhere beyond this world, a mystical alien world. I tried to imagine what the people who inhabited this world might wear, and designed it. 

Describe your collection.

My collection consists of casual, practical garments that can be worn anytime. The garments can be interchangeable from the 3 looks.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I wanted to explore natural fabrics and dyes. The fabrics I used are Pineapple fiber, Silk, Hemp, Bamboo, Leather, Cotton Yarn, Mesh, and holographic print lycra. I used all natural dyes and iron and rust. The holographic fabric is quilted in the details.

Do you have a favourite look?

I spent so much time on all of them that its hard to say, but after seeing the holographic tights on the runway I may have to say that one !

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

That is a tough call as I feel the fashion world is so saturated. I think if I can't bring anything new, I can bring something good. Focusing on sustainability, renewal, and ways to reduce our carbon footprint. As well as combining that with unique, comfortable, ethical clothing for everyday life! 

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

At the moment I want to work for others and gain as much experience and knowledge as I can, while continuing to grow my own line on the side. 

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you.

My favourite quote is “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different” - Coco Chanel. This quote really resonates with me and how I feel about creating clothing from scratch. 

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned (links,etc.)?

My collection can be viewed on my website :

For more information on the fashion design program at Blanche Macdonald go to

Saturday, December 12, 2015

My Guiding Work for 2016 - Cherish!

There has been so much change over the last ten years in how I view myself and the world. Interviewing over 150 people has definitely been like going to school and earning a degree.  The wisdom and unique insights shared have been changing me one interview at a time. I would love to say that means I've been doing it all right, but woefully that is inaccurate. I am human and flawed and just striving to become the best me I can be. Many mistakes have been made along the way.

In December 2014, I was considering what I wished for 2015 and out of the blue the words GRAND ADVENTURE came to mind. I made that my theme. When I wished someone happy birthday, I also wished them a year filled with grand adventures.  I didn't personally travel anywhere exotic, but launched my first book and walked the new path of book marketing. I travelled more, spent more time developing friendships and introduced a new weekly column (actually twice a week for the first few months).  I tried to say yes to new experiences as much as possible.

Now with 2015 coming to a close, I have been considering both what my new birthday wishes will be for everyone and what word(s) to embrace as my theme for 2016. When I was meditating one day, without hesitation the word CHERISH came to mind. I looked up the definition for more clarity as to how this word might guide my year and the first two caught my eye. For me, they apply when cherishing outwardly. The third I felt offered guidance when approaching my personal goals for 2016, but I think I will leave that for another article.

  • Protect and care for (someone) lovingly.
  • Hold (something) dear.
  • Keep (a hope or ambition) in one's mind.

While my 2015 was for the most part very positive, there have been a few glitches that created emotional pain. Then there have been the problems of those I care for - a few family member with health problems, several people struggling finding steady jobs, some with financial worries, others with serious personal conflicts in their lives and the list goes on.  My highly developed mothering hormones have been on overdrive and I have occasionally allowed my emotions to get entangled. The emotional weight has been draining, especially when I felt helpless to make a difference in their lives.

A guided meditation led by friend, fellow author and intuitive healer Sue Dumais gave me great clarity. She suggested I ask myself first if I was supposed to be helping - my heart, my intuition, would let me know. If I was meant to help, my heart would not only answer yes, but guide me as to what that meant. This advice hit the mark.

Most of us do not take a moment to step out of the situation to ask the question or listen to the answer. With the best, but misguided intentions, we jump in willy nilly. No wonder the stress builds. It just doesn't feel right for a reason. We need to trust those in our lives are on the journey they need to be on and that the mentors they need will be there at the right time. 

When we are not meant to step in, we still have a role. That role is to cherish. Cherishing someone means you drop expectations as to what you think they should be doing. Cherishing means taking them just as they are and holding them dear. Cherishing means letting them know they are loved and valued just as they are with no strings attached. Nothing is asked for in return. It's so simple.

Now for the kicker. As I ponder this, I've come to feel that those who seem to bring conflict or negativity into my life deserve exactly the same. I'm still wrapping my mind around what this means, but it all begins for me with the knowledge that what you send out into the universe is what you draw to you. Send negative thoughts on someone, they come back your way. Do I think this will instantly solve all issues? Absolutely not. But I still believe that to actively focus on cherishing everyone will have a positive affect on my spirit.

This is a point I've come to many times, but it's so easy to slip. Our ego gets bruised or our buttons pushed and those primal emotions take over.  The hope is that each time I make this conscious decision to cherish those around me regardless of what they choose, it will be come easier.

So here is to 2016. May we all learn to cherish just a little better.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Interview with Sima Goel, Author of Fleeing the Hijab

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author as it was very unique?

I vowed to myself the faithful night of desert crossing that if I lived, I would write my story. I arrived in Montreal, Canada in 1983 at 18, and worked to establish myself as the responsible, independent woman I had always longed to be. I mastered Canada’s two official languages, English and French, and fulfilled my heart-felt desire to attend university, eventually establishing a professional practice as a chiropractor. Life became busy, as it always does: school, business, friends, husband, children, community.

In 2007, my story was the focus of a short documentary film. This, in turn, led to an invitation to share my history at a fund raising gala where I received a powerful and positive reception. It seemed to me that synchronicity was at work and so I remembered the events of that desert crossing made so many years earlier, and the vow I had made to one day tell my story.

I have always felt synchronicity at work in my life, and it seemed that, finally, the time was right to document my past. It took five years, 15 re-writes, two editors, one dishonest publishing house, one devoted friend, the decision to write off the lost royalties, many tears, lots of perseverance, and the challenge of self-publishing. My family stood behind me patiently as I worked through the trauma suppressed for over 30 years.

I discovered, that like many writers who choose to express themselves in a second language, I have the capacity to use different rhythms and metaphors in my work. Sometimes I hear echoes and see shadows of my native Farsi when I write in English, and I am delighted that I can honor the country of my birth as I praise the country that welcomed me. Ultimately, we are almost all immigrants in this northern hemisphere, and it is my passion to speak on behalf of the commonalities that join us: love of democracy, peace, human rights and tolerance.

Book Review HERE!
As this memoir was written so many decades after fleeing Iran, how did you remember everything in such detail?
I had to dig deep into my past, and the process was cathartic and healing. I was scrupulous to report the facts as I had lived them.

What age were you when you fled Iran? How long were you stranded as a refugee before you stepped on that plane to try and get to Canada?

I left Iran when I was seventeen, but had lived in hiding for over a year since the age of 16, wandering from city to city and then suffering self-imposed house arrest for many months. Later, I was a political refugee in both Pakistan and Canada.

Please share something about the process to write this book? How did you go about putting words to paper?

My thoughts came fluidly to me because I was writing what I had lived from childhood to adolescence and beyond. In the last pages of my memoir, I address the strange, loving and terrible events that brought Iran back into my life in an forgettable and momentous fashion. As I wrote I felt an upswing of forgiveness that has stayed with me until today. I don’t know how anyone could have lived this experience and not recognize the power of synchronicity.

What words of encouragement can you offer others who have become stuck in the refugee cycle?

First, always maintain the dream of freedom but be sure to act. Pursue your dreams. Be clear about your goals and intentions. Give back to society and remember to find the agencies and agents who can help you with bureaucracy. Most importantly of all, remember to never give in to bitterness. It is easy to feel victimized but you have within you the power to be a victor. You harvest what you sow. Look for beauty, always.

What would you most like readers to know about you?

Never give up; all the loving dreams will be realized.

Do you plan to write any other books?

Yes. There is at least one book calling me right now, and in the background, I see a need for pieces on Iranian culture, language, and cuisine. Bridges that join people can be constructed when we share our stories, our customs, our sorrows and joy, and I am a bridge-builder. You can call me an engineer of peace!

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Monday, December 7, 2015

They Never Die Quietly by D.M. Annechino

Review of Resuscitation (book two) - Here
Review of A Piece of You (book three) - Here.

Synopsis -

They Never Die Quietly tells the story of homicide Detective Sami Rizzo, who is assigned to head a task force investigating serial killings in San Diego. Simon, the highly intelligent, cunning, and deceptively charming villain, redefines the depths of human evil. He believes God has given him absolute authority to purify his unholy victims through a ritual that ends in a grisly crucifixion.

Driven by warped religious beliefs and guided by his dead mother, very much alive in his subconscious, Simon abducts “chosen ones” and holds them captive in a Room of Redemption. There, the victims helplessly await their crucifixion. Detective Rizzo urgently yearns to solve the case and gain the respect of her male colleagues, but her obsession to apprehend the killer on her own clouds her thinking. When Simon outsmarts Rizzo and captures her, determined to make her his next victim, she must employ all her resources—both physical and intellectual—to outwit the villain at his own game.

Review -

They Never Die Quietly is the first of three books I will be reviewing featuring San Diego homicide detective Sami Rizzo along with her partner Detective Al Diaz. Each of the three deal with serial killers. Each serial killer is definitely creepy and got under my skin. Because of the way the victims were killed - and the reason for the killing - these books fall under the thriller category for me as I have a vivid imagination. They are just over the line - disturbing, but you should be able to sleep.

In They Never Die Quietly, we start with a murder as it is happening, but from the victim's point of view. We quickly learn it was a painful crucifixion with the woman's child asleep in the same room. Sick! Then the author introduces us to the characters involved. There are a few expected things about the plot. Sami Rizzo is the only female detective in an all male squad, so has to be better and smarter than her colleagues to gain their respect.  She is a single mom balancing work and home. She is the first to start to guess who the killer might be.  From there the book is told from three points of view - the killer's, Sami Rizzo's and Al Diaz's.

The storyline kept my interest from start to finish and the method and reason behind the killings were unique. As a writer I give the author kudos for being able to go into that dark space creatively.  I would have had nightmares. But if you look at the reviews on Amazon they range widely. Why? I think you have to love reading thrillers with creepy killers first of all. Secondly, there were a few small plot details that perhaps needed revisiting such as Sami's choice to meet the suspected killer alone without backup - a bit unbelievable for a smart, top-notch detective.

Love your murder mysteries with more of a thriller bent? Then the killer here will be right up your alley.

Buy the book: Amazon

Meet The Author - 

To read an interview with the author click HERE!

D.M. Annechino author picDaniel M. Annechino, a former book editor specializing in full-length fiction, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, in 1992 while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly.

​His second book, Resuscitation (Thomas & Mercer 2011), a follow-up to his first novel, hit #1 in Kindle sales in the UK and reached #26 in the USA. He is also the author of I Do Solemnly Swear (Thomas & Mercer 2012) and Hypocrisy. A Piece of You is his fifth novel, the third in the Detective Sami Rizzo series. A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time on the warm beaches of Southern California.

Connect with the author:    Website    Twitter    Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Daniel M. Annechino, Author of They Never Die Quietly, Resuscitation & A Piece of You

D.M. Annechino author pic
Where were you born and what were you like when young? Any interests or early signs you would later put pen to paper?

I was born in Rochester, New York. When I think about my younger years I remember being an introvert. I was the oldest of five so naturally I had a lot of “big brother” responsibilities. Somewhere along the line—I believe when I graduated from high school and had my first full-time job—I came out of my shell. No early signs whatsoever that I had a flair for writing. I didn’t pen my first book until I was over forty.

I know your writing career began at a later age. Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? What drew you to write in this genre.
I was a general manager in the car business for many years and for no particular reason I decided to write a nonfiction book focused on the intelligent way to buy a car. Several months after I completed the book I found an agent, she made a publishing deal for me within a week, and it sold 22,000 copies. “Wow,” I said, “that was easy.” So, in 1993, feeling prepared to be the next Stephen King, I wrote my first novel. Couldn’t sell it anywhere. Somewhat discouraged, I wrote a second novel. I couldn’t sell that one either. I gave it one more shot and wrote #3. Guess what? It still sits on a shelf collecting dust with the first two. I gave up writing and pretty much forgot about it. But I got the bug again in 2008 and wrote They Never Die Quietly, my fourth effort. Novel #4 made it through the maze and Thomas & Mercer published it in 2010. To date I have published 5 novels with sales over 160,000. I chose the mystery/thriller genre mainly because I really enjoy creating over-the-top villains and love to keep my readers at the edge of their seats. But I also chose this particular genre because of its popularity and mass appeal.
Review HERE!

Your thrillers certainly have twisted villians. I got the chills a few times. Do you ever get so into a story you get nervous?

I wouldn’t characterize what I experience when I’m creating diabolical villains as “nervous”, however, when I start a book I am completely absorbed. I literally vanish from the face of the Earth and only exist in the story. I live and breathe with my characters 24/7. And from time to time I get a creepy and disconnected feeling when I’m “living” in another dimension.

Where do you find inspiration for your story lines? For the characters you create?

I wish I could come up with a simple answer to this question but my style of writing is very unconventional. For each of my books I started with a simple idea. For example, when I began writing, They Never Die Quietly, my first novel, I approached it with one simple theme: I wanted my villain to be a twisted religious fanatic whose actions are coached by his dead mother—very much alive in his mind. The rest of the story just unfolded. One plot scene fostered another; one character gave me inspiration for other characters; one subplot cultivated more subplots. It’s a highly unusual way to write full- length novels, but it works for me.

What is the writing process like - do you write when inspiration strikes or have a set schedule each day on what is to be accomplished?

Review Here!
For me, once I start writing a book, I try to write every day. On certain days I can’t come up with one meaningful sentence. On other days my fingers can’t keep up with the ideas exploding in my brain. There never seems to be a rhyme or reason why I experience this phenomenon, but I’d be willing to bet that most writers face similar circumstances. If I’ve learned anything at all about the writing process I’ve learned that you just can’t force creative ideas. Either it’s working or it’s not. The few times I did try to write when my creative juices weren’t flowing resulted in prose that was absolute crap.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about the writing process? What feels like a chore?

Being a writer is so much more than just writing. I love to write and even love to edit, but in this day and age any writer who has dreams of success must also be involved in marketing, promotion, managing a web site and blog, and having a presence on social media. Any writer who thinks that writers only write is in for a big surprise. To be honest, I wish that my only responsibility was to write, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

Any advice for young authors wanting to write books in this genre?

Review coming Jan. 6th
It took me four novels and fifteen years before I got published. Needless to say, it takes tenacity, resilience, patience, and most important, the ability to deal with rejection and harsh critics. But never forget that nearly every writer who ever enjoyed success understood that rejection is a necessary prerequisite to success. If you love to write and are driven by the written word, keep writing even if you never sign a publishing contract. In the end, success is not measured in dollars and cents; it’s measured by personal satisfaction and accomplishment. One last thought: Remember: there is no such thing as good writing; only good rewriting. The editing process is your best friend.

Any new books in the works?

Actually, I’m nearly finished with the first draft of novel #6. However, this book is a dramatic departure from my past books and is based on a true story. Briefly, my uncle was an Army Ranger during World War II and was stationed in Italy. After several fierce battles with the Germans, he and about 200 other Rangers were overwhelmed and captured by the Nazis. After several weeks of hell—what he endured is unimaginable— my uncle and two other Rangers managed to escape. But for the next five months he had to find a way to survive behind enemy lines. Eventually, my uncle was rescued by the French military. It’s an amazing story and I feel strongly it will get lots of attention.

Connect with the author:    Website    Twitter    Facebook

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Don't Criticize - Mentor and Support

I decided to put my closing paragraph at the top to make sure it is read FIRST! Today's moral - learn to be a mentor. There are so many young, talented people trying to learn the ropes while in the public spotlight. They deserve our guidance and support instead of criticism. So they don't know the right way to deal with every situation. I have found most people I interviewed over the years to be kind and supportive and ready to give newbies a chance. Now onto my story.

In 2006, I felt adrift without focus and was looking for a new direction. While exploring the job opportunities on Craigslist, one popped - a request for story idea submissions from a New York fashion magazine. I mean how hard could writing articles be?  I always received A's in English when in school. Throwing caution to the wind, I sent off three ideas and to my surprise, two were accepted. 

I went on to learn the hard way that interviewing, writing and sending quality material to a magazine required well-honed skills that I needed to acquire quickly.  I managed to make it through the interview and writing process only with the good will and support of three amazing people who I am utterly grateful to - Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie, Melissa Ferreira of Adhesif and Denise Brillon of Artifaax. They were patient with my lack of experience and kind in giving feedback on the articles I had written. There was guidance instead of criticism. I now realize how very lucky I was.

Then there was the photographic team I turned the two photoshoots over to - Sean Azar, Liz Dungate, Claudia Da Ponte and Robin Matthews. I had no idea what was needed or how it should be submitted. My lack of experience was oh so obvious. Trust was important here. 

Somehow it all came together and the articles/photos were sent in. They were scheduled for publication in the magazine's the third issue, but it ran out of money while that issue was at the printers. All that hard work accomplished and nothing to show for it.  To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I knew this was what I was meant to do - so where to go from here. A mother with teenage kids and no published work to her name wasn't an in demand item. The doors would not open.

Back I went to Craigslist where I connected with a photographer wanting to start a Vancouver fashion magazine.  I dove in the deep end. I had no connections, didn't understand the politics, knew little about the designers/ fashion artists in the local scene and wore clothing from Costco, Zellers and Value Village.  I came with tons of enthusiasm and a commitment to shining a light on our community. I lacked confidence and any knowledge of protocol.  Here I am, just trying to learn while in the harsh spotlight.  

While there were criticisms that arose as I truly had two left feet and regularly put my foot in my mouth, I guess it was evident to those I interviewed how passionate I was about what I was trying to do. And the support they offered is what sustained me through my very public learning process. In over 150 interviews, only twice did I find a lack of patience or serious negativity. Even the most well-know people I have interviewed - celebrities such as Geir Ness, Ruthie Davis and Raphael and Lisa Marie Mazzucco - were nothing but generous and supportive. I think we all need to follow their example.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1969 And Then Some by Robert Wintner

The year when everything needed to be experienced
and tried, when innocence was tempted, played, and lost.


1969 and Then Some is a memoir of the 60s and the influence of those years over the decades that followed. Romance, psychedelic insight and motorcycling evolve with the narrator maturity, such as it is, and non-compromise on morality and the undying spirit of adventure in nature.

While the 60s is often discounted or as ephemeral—as a social aberration—1969 & Then Some offers keen insight to lingering values that cannot be separated from significant segments of the most significant population group alive today, the baby boomers, many of whom still hold sway in key areas of social and cultural evolution.


I was in my pre-teens/early teens during the era this memoir covers. So while I was aware of this unique decade, by the time I was that magic age of 18, the shine had worn off - things had changed. Author Robert Wintner, however, lived it fully. It was a crazy time of drugs, sex, lack of direction, being in the moment doing what felt right, thoughts of peace and more. Life was experienced in a crazy, impulsive jumble often under a haze of hash, weed and LSD. A style of writing grew out of this called Gonzo Journalism. It captured the stream of consciousness lifestyle prevalent and is the style this book is written in.

                     Gonzo - adjective
                     1.(of journalism, reportage, etc.) filled with bizarre or subjective 
                          ideas,commentary, or the like.

While this type of writing truly does capture the chaos of memories from this time, it does present challenges.  Readers definitely get the feel of living each moment, but there is a lack of cohesiveness to the narrative and confusion at times about what actually happened.  Subjects arise that disappear never to re-appear.

If you love this style of writing, then you'll find this book a great read and wonderful eye opener on this era. If you were also immersed in these very unique times, this will be a great walk down memory lane. But if you're prefer a more traditional style of story telling, this could be a challenging read.

Buy the book here: Amazon ~ Audible

Meet the Author

Robert Wintner lives and works on Maui with his wife Anita, seven cats and Cookie the dog, who came in emaciated at 14 pounds, unable to stand. Cookie at 60 pounds raises a ruckus on the beach or in the living room in her continuing drive to make the world a happier place. The entire family eats well, stays fit and enjoys good health under blue skies.

Connect with the author:    Website    Facebook

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Jerusalem News by John Enright

New Jersusalem news

The summer season on Cape Cod is over - 
now it’s time for the real fun to begin.

Synopsis -  
Dominick is always just passing through. He is a professional houseguest who follows the sun and the leisure class from resort to resort. But this winter he lingers on a quaint New England island and in spite of his best intentions becomes involved in the travails of his eccentric geriatric hosts. An environmental protest against a proposed liquid natural gas terminal turns ugly, and by accident and happenstance Dominick becomes a mistaken suspect in terroristic bombings. But the book, of course, is really about its characters. None of them are young—white-bearded men and blue-coiffed women busy with aging, dementia, and ungrateful children. Dominick strives to float above it all in a life of itinerant escape. A New England comedy of sorts, New Jerusalem News, on another level, is an extended meditation on history, identity, and what it means to drift.

Review - 

New Jerusalem News is a work of fiction set on an island in New England. Reading the synopsis is a bit misleading at the start. The plot sounds like high intrigue and fast action. Nothing could be further from the truth. But the statement that the book is all about the characters is bang on, and to focus on the characters means a slower pace to the story telling. This presents a challenge for writers. How do you keep the reader turning the page when there isn't constant action?  Enright manages beautifully in this well written book.

The main character - Dominick - is a professional house guest who uncharacteristically ends up spending winter months on a quiet island in the home of an elderly couple - Atticus and Lydia. While he tries his best to never get involved in the lives of those he bunks with, he finds himself slowly and increasingly entwined in their struggles - an environmental protest gone bad, health issues, a difficult daughter and more. He also finds himself in the spotlight as the main suspect at the center of a government investigation.

Over the course of the story we are introduced to several other interesting locals. Each comes alive as we listen to them speak and watch them interact with other. And fun is made of bureaucracy - how single minded the focus can be and how once wrong decisions are made, the cover up begins. Truth, and history, are written as you go along. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and consumed it cover to cover.

Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository

Meet the author:

Check out my interview with author John Enright HERE!

Originally from Buffalo, New York, John Enright holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the City College of New York and a master’s degree in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. After working in magazine journalism and book publishing, he left the U.S. to teach at the American Samoa Community College. He remained in the South Pacific for 26 years, directing environmental, cultural, and historical preservation programs and writing extensively about the islands. 

His acclaimed detective series, Jungle Beat (Thomas & Mercer), featuring Det. Sgt. Apelu Soifua, is set in Samoa. His collection of poems about Samoa, 14 Degrees South, won the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural Literature Prize for Poetry in 2011. He now lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with his wife, ceramicist Connie Payne.

Connect with the author: Website Twitter Facebook

Interview with John Enright, Author of New Jerusalem News

You have had a very varied career path. Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

When I was 17, I was with a date in the backseat of my best friend Michael Joyce’s ’57 Chevy when he recited a poem he had written to his date in the front seat. We were on South Park Avenue in Buffalo, New York, headed out of town for some reason. I remember the line, “Run run run, children on a sugar cube road.” I was impressed. No one I knew had ever written a poem before. The next day I wrote my own poem, and I couldn’t stop. Up to that point I had figured I would be a painter like my mother. I have been writing and publishing the 53 years since, living by the word one way or another.

What prompted your move to Samoa to teach and what did the experiences of living there for over 26 years bring to your writing?
I moved to Samoa in 1981 because Ronald Reagan had been elected President. I had experienced enough of his anti-progressive, anti-intellectual rule when he was governor of California and I was at UC Berkeley. I had been to Samoa five years before, on a wander. A former lover (and future ex-wife) was now chair of the community college’s English department. I had always liked teaching—the performance part. I taught there for seven years—English, Literature, and Folklore—before moving on to grant-funded preservation jobs.

Samoa taught me a lot. At 36, I wasn’t about to change much; but I still had a lot to learn. About being a minority, the outsider; about how entertaining differences could be; about humility and a whole new way to be polite; about naked nature and living in it; and a lot about Samoan history and culture. My last 13 years in the islands I was Territorial Historic Preservation Officer.

My first four novels, in the Jungle Beat mysteries series (Thomas & Mercer), are all set in Samoa, with a Samoan detective narrator and casts of primarily island natives. For me, the four books comprise a contemporary ethnography disguised as police procedurals. I had to write about what I had learned of this place where things were different.

The sometimes languorous, sometimes lingering pace of my storytelling I owe entirely to a quarter-century in the tropics, where everything slows, time naps, and leisure means being given the chance to appreciate.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

Writing for me is the other world. I guess maybe like heaven is to those believers. The difference is that I get to go there now and then. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. After the hard part of starting and framing (and restarting and reframing), and once the central actors have arrived—in costume (all rehearsals are dress rehearsals here)—and begun asking me what is this all about, inside that next book is where I want to be. Of course, the actual—sometimes called the “real”—world too often jealously intercedes. But when I can escape and get there—and I try every day—it’s like home free! And I get to play with my new (and some old) friends. All around goal is it.

The chore? The mistakes. When you’ve written yourself into a cull-d-sac. When it just does not fucking work. When you begin to sound too much like yourself. When your actors quit out of boredom. Or any time you can’t go there.

Review HERE
What inspired New Jerusalem News' story line? Have you visited or lived in this area (or a similar one)?

The anonymous model for New Jerusalem is Newport, Rhode Island. For the past eight years I have been retired on Conanicut Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay across from Newport. A few years ago—right after I got here—there was a big protest—Save the Bay—over a proposed LNG terminal up in Fall River. (Just another ethnography.)

One of the strengths of this book is the sheer number of individuals you developed that were very real - right down to the way they spoke, reacted and spent their days. How do you develop such unique characters so fully? Do they become real to you as you write?

For me, novels have always been about their characters. I don’t remember plots; I remember people. (You will remember Lydia nailing the burned toast to the kitchen wall.) Once a character arrives and insists on staying, I do spend notebook pages free-writing them into existence. For major characters I have to have an actual, human model in mind, or, more likely, a composite of real people. One of my favorite people in New Jerusalem News is Lydia, the aging painter tasting the freedom of her dementia. Lydia, bless her, is the emboldened hybrid doppelganger of two of my favorite lady artist friends. Sometimes, I bring back dead friends to enjoy their company again.

As I said, in my other, preferred world these actors and I spend quality time together, for a year or more. I miss them when the book is done and we part.

Is having the main focus on the daily lives of the characters a trademark in all your books, or is it unique to New Jerusalem News? What are the challenges to keeping the reader interested and turning the pages with this slower pace of story telling?

Ah, yes, the challenges to keeping the reader interested and turning the pages.

As a young man I spent enough time performing on stage to learn that dread of the audience losing interest. (It is palpable.) I think this is (or should be) the novelist’s overriding fear—reader disinterest. In this age, with an audience media-trained to judge entertainment by the frequency and violence of explosions, murders, and orgasms, what is a pacifist puritan author to do? It is a challenge.

Often times, I’ll leave it to my actors. Improv. I’ll set up a scene and tell them, go for it, make it good, don’t lose anyone. I guess it may be a trademark of all my books. My characters seldom miss a meal.

Are there any new books on the horizon?

Oh yes, the Dominick Chronicles will continue. The next saga, Some People Talk with God, is due out next June, to be followed by Next Exit Paradise, Port Athens, and Unholy Grail, all from Yucca/Skyhorse Publishing.

Do you have any advice for those just beginning on their writing careers?

What? Are you crazy? If you are going to start, don’t stop. Write every day. Write all kinds of things. Face deadlines bravely. Savor details. Marry well. Good luck with marketing. Buy my books.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter    Facebook

Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran by Sima Goel

Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran

Fleeing the Hijab is a vivid portrait of a dangerous journey made by two teenaged girls through the Iranian desert to Pakistan, where, as homeless refugees, they struggled desperately to find some way to escape to the West. It is a story that needs to be heard and remembered.

Synopsis - 

A true account of Sima Goel, the Iranian teenager who crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s. Her quest for freedom is a thrilling, timely inspiration for people longing to create a life of meaning. It was the last straw!

The Ayatollah Khomeini had decreed that all women in Iran must wear the hijab, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Baha'i. Thirteen-year-old Sima had gone out into the streets of Shiraz to demonstrate for freedom under the Shah's oppressive rule, and now that he had fled the country, this was the result: a new regime, and a much more repressive rule. The changes Khomeini's regime forced on the population were totally incompatible with Sima's ambitions and sense of personal freedom. Blacklisted by her school, unable to continue her studies, mourning the murders of innocent family members and friends, and forced to wear the hijab, she realized she had to leave her beloved birthplace and find a country where she could be free to follow her dreams.

Review - 

As someone who interviews people on their life journey, I was strongly drawn to review Fleeing the Hibab, author Sima Goel's true story of having to flee her beloved homeland.  My surprise came when I read the opening notes to discover this journey happened over three decades ago.  How would the author recreate those memories so many years later?  No worries.  From start to finish her intricate and detailed memories shared from the heart bring this story to life as if it was yesterday.

Several things stood out for me. Goel's love for her homeland comes through clearly - it's natural beauty, the wonderful culture and the food and the sorrow she felt at having to leave despite the fact her life was in danger. And her hopes that true personal freedom will one day again return are there as well. I felt the author also laid out how fear for your life and social pressure can change people. One of her worst enemies at school was a former friend. Lastly she opened the door on what a cycle of dependence being a refugee is. It is often a trap from which escape is difficult.

From Goel's need to hide at home, to her frightening escape across the dessert on foot at the mercy of men she did not know, to the frustration of being trapped as a refugee, to her final plane flight to freedom - the reader is drawn into her world both physically and emotionally. This book is as relevant today as when the events originally happened. A great eye opener for those living a life of great freedom in North America.

Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Chapters/Indigo

Meet the Author -

To read an interview with the author click HERE

Sima Goel author picIranian-born Sima Goel has always had compassion for those who suffer. Her instinctive need to speak out against oppression ultimately resulted in unwanted attention from the authorities, which led her to flee her beloved Shiraz and eventually to Montreal.

Sima Goel is a self-made woman. Her journey to freedom, recounted in her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, reflects her belief that, without freedom of choice, life is worthless. She is a strong advocate for the disenfranchised and the rights of all, specifically the rights of women. With the publication of her book, Sima has fulfilled the promise she once made to herself: to speak out and share her truth that freedom is the most precious commodity of all.

Wellness chiropractor, health advocate, inspiring author and an in-demand speaker, Dr. Goel considers her most important role to be that of mother to her two teenage boys, and wife to her beloved husband.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

VALT 2015 - Nathan McLean, Emcee for Aquatica

Images by Patrick Parenteau and Ed Ng Photography

VALT 2015 is being held Nov. 20-22. 

Please note - NO tickets will be sold at the door
this season so be sure and get your tix early at

Nathan McLean has been a part of Vancouver Alternative Arts & Fashion Week since the beginning in 2012, and he has been the token drag queen working the runway as Ivana Phoque.

With more then 5 years as a professional model and model boot camp coaching behind him, this year he will be stepping into the role of VALT Model Manager. Nathan will be helping cast models for the event, teaching selected models how to walk in heels, and all around supporting the show as much as possible. Bring your A game to castings, because he will be watching!

= = = =

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid/teen?

I grew up in Victoria BC, as a kid I was a "free spirit" , multiple imaginary friend kinda guy. Sort of shy yet loud and energetic. As a teen I was an outcast, didn't know who I was as a person and kind of hid in a shell. It wasn't until I was 18 that I really came out of my shell and started to become the person I am today.

What currently are you involved with: work, hobbies, charity, other?

I am the Imperial crowned Princess of Vancouver's Drag community. So I perform and host shows through out Vancouver's night life. I also work with multiple fashion shows and charity shows by working with the models (teaching them how to walk and own the runway). I have decided to take time off working to find what the best career path I should take, that will best suit myself and my personality.

What things would you like people to know about you?
  • I'm not a regular guy, I have quirks and oddities that make me who I am. 
  • I am terrified of snakes. 
  • I have 4 tattoos. 
  • I can out last most girls in heels, and I mean real heels, none of this 2 or 3 inch shoes... I mean like 6-10 inches for 12-15 hours.. 
How did you become involved with VALT?

Year one I was booked as a model, and as I do caused a ruckus and the "Kats" grew a liking for me from that point on!

What do you personally feel VALT brings to the Vancouver scene that is unique?
VALT bring inclusivity , there isn't anything else like it around. When I can be a part of something that allows all people, all shapes and all forms to walk the runway, I know it' is an event I want to be a part of. When you can have anything from gender fluid, to transgendered, to gay/ straight/ bi, tall, short , thin and full figured on a runway, it lets people know we are the definition of community.

Please share a favourite memory from a previous season of VALT.

VALT season one... I have this skill of "tricking" designers to put me in their sets last minute... So year one I was modelling as a boy and I convinced a designer to let me model in drag in her set. Thus making the makeup artist have to do a 20 minute drag make up on me.... Drag takes minimum an hour and a half to do right! And the artist did a flawless job. Kat Morris!

How did you end up becoming an emcee for VALT 2015?

I don't actually know...The Kats and I went for breakfast last year after VALT and they asked if it was something I was interested in. And I have kinda become the "dominant" personality of VALT... So I guess it seems fitting.

What is the theme of the night you are emceeing? What do you hope to bring to the evening in term of performance?

I am emceeing the Aquatica Night! For my specific night I am just MCing, there are going to be other performance pieces and I want to bring it to a level of featuring the designers and artists work and I'll be there to highlight and direct people focus to it.

Links you would like shared -
Facebook - Ivana Phoque
Facebook - Nathan McLean
Instagram - @N886

Friday, November 13, 2015

VALT 2015 - Tristan Risk, Emcee for Celestia

All images by David Denofreo

VALT 2015 is being held Nov. 20-22. 

Please note - NO tickets will be sold at the door
this season so be sure and get your tix early at

Corsetier, chocolatier, baker, ta-ta shaker, hip swayer, tight lacer, troublemaker, red lipstick, magic tricks, swizzle sticks, voodoo kicks, and a urban myth. Her name is Tristan Risk. You likely know her as burlesque dancer/circus darling/ foodie/fetish model/pin up/actress and general social nuisance Little Miss Risk.

She has spent a great deal of her life as a performer, touring Canada, the USA and Europe with the burlesque troupe the Voodoo Dollz, causing social unrest, contributing to notorious underground burlesque studio Dollhouse Studios, and writing about it.

She currently performs with Vancouver-based burlesque troupe, Sweet Soul Burlesque, as well as circus collective Caravan Of Creeps, is a spokesmodel for the Sizzr app as well as an actress (American Mary, The Editor, ABCs Of Death 2). Something of a Vancouver history-o-phile and a downtown courtesan. also a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Daily Grindhouse as well as guest writer for Rue Morgue, Exclaim!, The Lingerie Addict and Malevolent Magazine. Enjoy.

= = = =

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid/teen?
I grew up in Tsawwassen, but I spent a great deal of time either at school (Langley Fine Arts) or downtown Vancouver. I was a weird kid and teen, and ostracized for being unusual in my selection of dress and expression.

What currently are you involved with: work, hobbies, charity, other?

I'm an actress and burlesque dancer. I also perform with my circus troupe, Caravan Of Creeps and my burlesque troupe Sweet Soul Burlesque. I'm active and enjoy mermaiding, acro yoga, and creating interesting shapes with my body.

What 3 things would you like people to know about you? 
  • I love good wine and food. 
  • I love the company of snakes. 
  • I love making meninists cry.
How did you become involved with VALT?

Through the amazing woman who has been my white rabbit to this Wonderland of craziness: Teresa Tayloy-Bussey of Dead Heaven Make up Artistry.

What do you personally feel VALT brings to the Vancouver scene that is unique?

Vancouver is becoming a fashion and lifestyle destination globally. People come to the West Coast specifically because it encourages weird creativity and is permissive and liberal in it's attitudes towards people's lifestyle choices. VALT is a celebration of all of these things.

Please share a favourite memory from a previous season of VALT.

The Hypershine show from previous years and MITMUNK. I love future-forward fashion as much as vintage ones.

How did you end up becoming an emcee for VALT 2015?

I'm in debt to a number of demons now, but it is totally worth it.

What is the theme of the night you are emceeing? What do you hope to bring to the evening in term of performance?

I'll be hosting Celestia - where my partner and I are the last of our species and study various life forms across the galaxy in a never ending space opera.

Links -

Twitter: @littlemissrisk
Instagram: @littlemissrisk

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Brainstorm: A Memoir of Love, Devotion, and a Cerebral Aneurysm by Robert Wintner

Nine million Americans are touched by aneurysms
during their lifetime. This is one story of love.


Brainstorm is a first-person narrative of incidents leading up to, through and after a cerebral aneurysm and hemorrhage in the immediate family. The action includes the dramatic process ongoing in trauma centers designed to process sudden occurrence of aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage and morbidity. The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that 3% of all populations have an aneurysm that may or may not leak—about 3½ million people in the U.S.

While the procedures and protocol for sudden onslaught are rote and fundamentally unchanged over the ages, hygienic and technological advances have reduced hazards. Death and debilitation statistics are still daunting, and Brainstorm factors a new component into the procedural mix, whereby a conscientious and healthy husband and wife seek participation in the process, to no avail.


I love interviewing people on their life journeys and have done so for the last nine years. So when the opportunity to read and review Brainstorm was offered, I jumped at the chance. The author, Robert Wintner, and his wife are serious alternative health advocates who embrace the idea of strengthening the body's resources and immunity rather than bombarding it with toxic chemicals and invasive treatments.  It worked well for them right up to the moment Wintner's wife had an aneurysm bleed. What follows is a chaotic, heart felt journey through the emergency system that sheds a light on how patients are treated within a trauma scenario.

First and foremost, I have to give kudos to the author. His fluid writing style and the honest way he lays out what happened brings the scene to life. I ended up feeling like I knew all the characters involved, could hear the disturbing noises that never stopped, jumped every time the curtain was swished back unexpectedly and felt the pressure to just let go and sign without getting questions answered as to full treatment options. There was one road that they were expected to follow without question.

Wintner is very honest about how difficult he was to deal with as they demanded things slow down and more information be given. The hospital went so far as to send a psych person who talked like he was there to help, but was really there to access them for the hospital's legal team. He labeled them paranoid.  In the end, the surgery saved his wife's life, for which the author will be forever grateful. BUT every hospital needs to address the fear and the tension created by the current process as it can have a serious negative impact on the patient.

The need to feel free to ask questions and get real answers on all the possible treatment choices is the basic right of each person who enters the hospital. It should never be a one-stop shop with everyone crammed in the same box and thought needs to be given to keeping a person's mental strength up as that can have a powerful effect on the outcome.

A great read!

Buy the book: Amazon ~ Audible

Meet the author:

Robert Wintner lives and works on Maui with his wife Anita, seven cats and Cookie the dog, who came in emaciated at 14 pounds, unable to stand. Cookie at 60 pounds raises a ruckus on the beach or in the living room in her continuing drive to make the world a happier place. The entire family eats well, stays fit and enjoys good health under blue skies

Connect with the author: Website Facebook