Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 16 Tuesday - Zorana Janjic, Maaji Swimwear, Matt Hui and Viviano Sue

Image by Sam Stringer
Day 1 of runway shows at Vancouver Fashion Week was, of course, exciting. I loved looking around and seeing all the unknown faces, and yet when the evening's emcee - Symone Says - asked who had attended a previous season, most raised their hands. It's always a good sign when the majority in the audience are returning guests. That's how you build success. But it's also wonderful to see so many new faces ready to experience their first season.

For S/S 16, I decided to change my coverage. With 113 designers scheduled to show collections, what I had done in the past just did not seem sufficient.  I will be putting all local designers in an separate article - all in one location - to encourage people to shop local. As I adore promoting new talent, there will be a separate articles on Lasalle College and VCC student shows which I will feature in Metro Living Zine. Then there will be the traditional highlight of 3-4 shows each day, but this time the highlights will feature only talent from outside the Vancouver lower mainland.

My main photo today is very special to me.  The woman I am with is Dale of Pizzazz International. Many years ago she stepped in to coach my daughter when she first started modelling. It was such a surprise so see her here across the runway as it's been a few years.  My outfit today featured jewelry from Ten Thousand Villages, top by RV Designs, skirt by Shelley Klassen of Blushing Designs and shoes from Aldo.

Before I begin on day one highlights, I would like to give a nod to the opening gala held on Monday. As I sit through all shows each day, I often choose to give this a pass to save my energy. Everyone I spoke with enthused on how great the evening was, so I want to offer everyone a taste. Here is a great highlights video shot by my dear friend and uber talented photographer Peter Jensen!

Below are just a few from the international collections showcased this day. All were wonderful, so be sure and check out the other designers. Because of the extended coverage I am doing this season, I can only offer a sound byte on each designer. Please visit their websites for more information. 

Image by Sam Stringer
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Zorana Janjic

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Zorana Janjic is a newly established, Paris based fashion house (founded in 2014) dedicated to the creation of innovative and unique fashion/lifestyle products. The designer pairs traditional craftsmanship with contemporary designing, with emphasis on tailoring and the use of custom developed fabrics. Each garment is created by teams of France based artisans with extraordinary craftsmanship skills, who strive to push the boundaries of technique and design with each new collection.

As someone who has sewn all my life - both personally and professionally - I was intrigued by the detail work in this collection. Each garment had intricate, hand crafted detailing that was very labour intensive. Kudos to the designer. In this day of mass production at the cheapest cost, it was fabulous to see real craftsmanship incorporated.

Maaji Swimwear

Images by Ed Ng Photography

I never cover swimwear - ever. I just don't find it lends itself well to the runway. Well - that was until now. Kudos to all involved in this show which kept my attention from start to finish! The collection had unusual print choices, the shapes varied from traditional, to wearable, to cover-ups. The music was fab and the models literally danced down the runway in their enthusiasm. What more could you ask for?

Images by Ed Ng Photography

Maaji is a Columbian brand. Strongly influenced by their family’s entrepreneurship and commitment to contribute to the social development of their country, sisters Manuela and Amalia Sierra began pursuing their dream of creating a brand that would enchant. Each Maaji print (what I think is one of the strengths of this brand) is developed in house. They use a flattering and fascinating technique that gives just the right amount of support without leaving marks or indentations on the skin. The seams and stitching mysteriously disappear thanks to their expert manufacturers.

Matt Hui

Images by Ed Ng Photography

I was fortunate to receive a bit of pre-press on designer Matt Hui and his knitwear,  Hui's brand exudes luxury and femininity, with a hint of edge and carelessness. Effortless Chic. The designer honed his skills during internships with Pringle of Scotland in London, Shanghai Tang and Johanna Ho. In 2014, Hui established his own brand focusing on bold, clean lines and materials with high quality, comfort, style and elegance.  I liked the clean lines and looser fit of this collection. The garments looked easy and comfortable to wear, yet very stylish. I will be keeping my eye on this designer.

Viviano Sue

Images by Harry Leonard Imagery

I walked in early to the new season of VFW only to find Viviano Sue rehearsing his models on the runway. SOLD!  When you watch tons of runway, it's nice to be surprised. The collection was edgy and the presentation unusual - I couldn't have asked for more. Sue is an Avant-Garde designer, passionate about pushing the boundaries of fashion. He has lived in the US and China and studied in Japan at Bunka Academy in Tokyo. These diverse cultures have influenced his aesthetic as a designer. His inspirations are drawn from structures in architecture, geometry and nature. With a MA behind him, Viviano has now built his own brand and is now read to take this to the new stage.

Image by Ed Ng Photography
His debut show on the runway this night was titled, “No-Gender." It's a ready-to wear line of edgy garments. I loved the geometry, the white/black palette and the faceless models. The theme was transformation, so each model had a knit head covering adorned with butterflies obscuring their face. Kudos on a great collection overall and on an unusual presentation that kept the audience on the edge of their seats after a long day of shows.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just One Step After Another!

Procrastination has often been an issue for me. Add in a real lack of self-confidence and you have a deadly combination. The personal growth that has come over time has helped a lot, but big projects such as writing my first book seem to bring my old insecurities back. All were created in my own head of course, but they still proved to be a heavy burden.

When I finally finished the proofing process on my first manuscript and it was sent off to the printers, I thought I would take all that positive energy and funnel it into starting book two. I had proved to myself I could do it so it would obviously not struggle to do it again. RIGHT?  Well, that's not quite the way things went down. Let's just say planning a launch and marketing a book took a lot more time and energy than I realized. It was a full six months before I was ready to think about starting on new books.

Two trips to visit family occurred in the months after my January 2015 launch of Life Outside the Box:The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals.  They offered welcome respite from book promotion as well as time to reflect on where my journey would head over the next year. From deep in my soul, the answer came. First I felt relieved to know how clear my direction would be. Then the fear began as I thought of what the months ahead would hold.

Three new books were in my future, each important on its own.  I had a bit of material already collected for all three, but there were still mountains of work to do.  I began to worry if I would be able to avoid the emotional pitfalls I experienced last time, but began moving forward confidently. That lasted until the first roadblocks appeared.

It became difficult to find enough unscheduled time to just be home and let the process flow. While I began to say NO to more and more invites, there were many my heart lead me to attend. I experienced struggles and delays with the transcription service I found and some of the material requested through email came back needing more follow up. Peace of mind became fleeting and I could feel the anxiety start to bubble up. That was a worry. The best writing comes from a place of joy.

On September 25th, I found myself at Dream Talks Vancouver wondering why I wasn't home creating that silent, unscheduled space I craved. But deep in my heart I knew I was supposed to be there. Speaker after speaker took the stage. A bit of wisdom was gleaned here and there, but not the message that I felt was I was here for. Finally my friend - author/speaker/healer Sue Dumais - took the stage.  She came into my life recently with some important guidance and her book - Heart Led Living - has offered several important insights.

What she chose to share this day turned out to contain the lesson I was there to hear. Her story was of being in Kenya and walking through the slums with two guides. The huts were close together and the ground between filled with raw sewage and mud.  At one point she looked down and paused as she realized the only step in front of her was into sewage. A gentle voice behind her assured her all was okay - JUST ONE STEP AFTER ANOTHER! She continued on.

Goosebumps! The joy of my journey is in listening to another share their story and then giving their words wings. My focus needed to turn from the end result - whether a magazine article, a blog post or a book. I only needed to be in the moment hearing one story and then sharing that one story with the world. When there are ten ready to be bound together in a new book, then my focus will turn in that direction. Simple. No deadlines, no goals, no worries. Just enjoying what I love to do.

Remember, this answer is unique to my journey. Others will thrive on schedules and deadlines. Some find it more peaceful to have things clearly laid out in the beginning. Every person needs to listen to their inner voice for guidance. 

It is very clear now, that for me to embrace the joy of what I do, I need to be simply in each moment giving that person my undivided attention. 

One interview at a time - One story at a time - One step after another!


For information on Life Outside the Box and where to purchase, click HERE.

For more information on Sue Dumais, her book Heart Led Living or her work in Kenya, click HERE.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Carolyn Bruce - Inspiration Is Everywhere!

Image by Greg McKinnon
 "Inspiration is everywhere… one only 
needs to touch something and the process 
starts automatically… often at an alarming speed! I love making my work unique 
and fun… and making YOU stand out!
- Carolyn Bruce

I still remember the very first time I saw Carolyn Bruce Designs on the runway at VALT (Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week) 2013. Big, fabulous, unique jewelry is a personal passion and the designer's show offered a candy store of fabulous steampunk pieces. WHO WAS THIS ARTIST AND WHY HAD I NOT MET HER BEFORE?

 As soon as a break came, I hightailed it over to the media wall to try and make a connection. Other than, "I love your work," it was an utter failure. Bruce was surrounded by a sea of admirers and had even sold a piece right off the runway to someone from out-of-town.

Next stop - Facebook. One of the beauties of this social media platform is the ability to connect and connect I did. I guess I didn't come across as too pushy as over time we began to become friends. When the next Vancouver Fashion Week came around, I was one of the first to sport a statement-making Carolyn Bruce Design necklace - a piece with beetles, bugs, spiders, spiderwebs and spikes. It was a huge hit. People would cross the floor to view this couture creation and then be surprised by the findings. It proved a great conversation starter and helped open several doors.

Next I took that same necklace to an event at Holt Renfrew with the same results. Conversations
with media and other guests would open as they sought out where I found my unusual necklace. The fact that it was a local designer was an added bonus.

Now when I walk into any occasion, I see Carolyn Bruce Designs sported by many in attendance, I am but one in a crowd. No longer an unknown designer, she has grown to become a must have brand with pieces seen at high end events and being worn by celebrities. 

Want to know more? So did I. Although we have talked many times, the conversation never really covered her journey to becoming a designer and where her inspiration comes from. The inside scoop can be found in the behind the scenes Q and A below.

All images by Nina Pak

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Where were you born? 

Born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand.

What were you like as a kid – as a teen? 

For as long as I can remember I have made things. My mother would go out and sell them for me. I have always had an entrepreneurial brain, wanting to make things, then sell them. I thought I would have been a millionaire by now. Lol.

Looking back can you remember a story from your childhood that shows a hint you would become such a unique artist creating edgy jewelry? 
Image by Victoria Clements

During the 60's I made love beads in long strands. I even made the nuts beads and added washers to make them unique and different than other necklaces I had seen. I just recently found one at my parents when I last visited them in New Zealand in July, had a laugh and brought it home with me.

What is the process for each piece you design - Where do you find inspiration? 

A piece often starts by just touching something, almost anything. It can be frightening when out shopping with a friend as sometimes once I’ve touched a certain object, I get vision streams that come into my head so fast. The pieces literally almost speak to me themselves and the visions of the pieces comes from that initial touch. Sometimes I let go of things I am touching quite quickly as the visions can start to pour so fast it's startling. I make it stop by releasing the object. 

Once I have decided on a piece - and I am back in my studio at home - the pieces start to grow organically. They kind of call out to me, but they don’t always automatically go together the way I envisioned.  First I lay them out in a design. I enjoy the engineering challenge I get from putting the findings together and - even though they may be totally unrelated - have them look like they belong together  I think that’s what intrigues people about my pieces. Organically a kind of story seems to evolve out of them as they are being made and people like to look at them and imagine what that story may be or create their own story. It is much like the way people look at a painting and each person will have their own version of the meaning of the painting.

Raw  - Images by Victoria Clements

How do you decide which findings to use? It just grows organically, that part is very hard to explain.

What is most interesting about the process? My creative stream is like an avalanche of creative visions that fall from my mind. Sometimes, before I even have one idea out, they overlap. They can be totally unrelated and just stream out of my mind. Then what happens is the ideas can back up in my mind. I have several pieces, maybe even up to 50 pieces sometimes, in varying degrees of completion and they’ll all be in partial stages of being assembled. Some fly out and are created in minutes. Other are developed over weeks or months.

What do you love most about being an artist? 

Creative Freedom. You get to express the inner workings of your head in physical form.

What is your biggest challenge?

 Organization. It’s not a skill that enters my head very often, “Out of chaos, Creativity emerges” is a very appropriate saying for me. I can’t stop the streaming of creative thought.

You've created so many truly unique looks from glitzy, to coloured to dark. Do you have a favourite piece?

Yes, I like the horn piece from the first Valt I did in 2013, and my red and brown jade piece titled “Made by the Aliens.” They are powerful pieces - they emanate something. When you wear them it makes people stop in their tracks. I’ve worn both of them at several events and just wearing those pieces makes you somehow walk differently. They make people stop and look. You mean business when you wear those pieces, you feel it.

I know your brand offers more than just jewelry. Can you share some of the other unique items you offer.

I also make skull bottle stoppers and cocktail picks. The skulls have now been incorporated into dancing earrings. I also have the tea infusers, miniature teapot beaded pendants, and the bookmarks and crystal tree jewelry for Christmas, Diva Danglers for purses and Dog Danglers for dog collars. Then I have my lizards and dragon fly wall hangings, paper mache wall masks and mixed media wall hangings. I am an Artist through and through with an architectural background and a mind that doesn’t stop, that exists on little sleep. If I am inspired by touch and this flow of creativity, I will literally create almost anything.
What do you have coming up in the next 6 months?

Sept. 26th Brilliant Fundraiser for St. Paul's Hospital - a fashion runway show, live dance and vocal performances, along with silent and live auction. I am designing for the entire Seven Dwarfs and the Huntsmen section..
Created for a BOND party.
Oct. 23-25th Fraser Valley Bead Show - I will be showcasing both my work and some unique findings. Donations will be accepted for Beads of Courage, a program that uses beads to mark major milestones in the lives of children suffering from serious illnesses.

Nov. 19-22nd Christmas at Hycroft -  The Preservation Foundation is hosting its 43rd annual Christmas at Hycrof with live music, local artisans, kitchen creations, door prizes, Santa and much more.

Nov. 20-22nd Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week (VALT) - Carolyn Bruce Designs will hit the runway on Saturday at this fabulous event that offers three full days of fashion, music and art focused on the alternative scene.

Nov. 27-29th Gifts Galore 2015 Show - A holiday craft and artisan fair that features local BC artists. Gifts galore was founded by JoAnn Gillies and myself in 2012.. The Grand Prize of the raffle is a $150 Shopping Spree, which is announced the last day of the show.

How do you define success? 

Acceptance by people - whether they be general public, or friends and family - of what you do. Taking the jewelry and pushing it to places it’s never been before - like having it in an Art Gallery, hanging on the wall or having it showcased on the runway as the star itself.  My works are wearable pieces of art. They are Stand Out pieces for people that want to make a statement.

Port Moody Arts Centre gallery show

Can you share a favourite quote?

I have three favorite quotes -
  • “Women who strive to be equal to men lack ambition” (plain and simple)
  • “In the midst of Chaos lies Creativity” (explains my studio)
  • “If running late, it’s considered cardio” (lol - I hate exercise)
Links - 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview With Paul Hollis, author of The Hollow Man

Q and A with author Paul Hollis - 

To read a review of The Hollow Man and enter a giveaway to win a free copy click HERE

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 a small town east of Birmingham but from the age of five on mostly grew up in Chicago. Shy and introverted, I was quite comfortable with only a few friends. My early life showed no signs of literary talent; in fact, I paid a girl to write a required poem for me in high school.

But as they say, circumstances change. I entered university at the end of 1967 and fell into a blossoming subculture that reshaped my reality, figuratively and perhaps a little too literally. My majors quickly became physiology and English literature so I could better understand people and maybe someday write about it. I began writing my own poetry and short subjects, but life happened soon after graduation. I placed all of aspirations on the side and jumped into the world head first.

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

After retiring, I sat with friends on the porch of my country home. We spat tobacco juice into the yard and told old stories. Okay, it was the local pub and none of us dipped or smoked. Curiously though, the group was always interested in my stories. One encouraged me to write a book about a few of my early exploits. I thought, why not?

The manuscript took a year to draft, rewrite, and professionally edit. Not knowing a thing about agents and publishing, I utilized the services of a company to peddle the novel to established agents. After six to eight months of polite but negative responses, I looked around for an alternative to traditional publishing. I had faith in The Hollow Man as a book people would want to read.

I self-published on Amazon, listen to a few critiques from early reviewers, and republished a second version which filled in a few minor flaws that came to my attention. Soon after that I received my first award; The Awesome Indie’s Seal of Excellence. During last summer, I entered World’s Best Story contest and The Hollow Man was fortunate enough to be awarded second place out of thousands of entries.

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

The inspiration for my story lines comes from a series of true incidents that occurred during the early 1970’s. The Hollow Man traces some of my lesser known experiences traveling in Europe as a young man. To make a long story short, I met a guy in early 1973 who thought I was wasting my time digging latrines in East Africa. He had a better offer for me.

At the time, terrorism was on the rise and I was assigned to learn as much as I could about it. Most early acts of terror were specific, personal and damage was focused on a distinct, definable enemy. But terrorism was beginning to change its strategy to the familiar, senseless chaos we recognize today. The death of political figures no longer seemed to bother us as much as these new, random attacks against our children. Targets of innocence became preferable to these people because it was the kind of shock and hurt that hit closer to our hearts. The fear inside us grew larger with each incident.

All of the characters in The Hollow Man are real or based on real people though most of the names were altered. I drew them as I remembered seeing them at the time. To create your own characters, simply watch people and interact with them. Pay attention to their actions, thoughts, and motives. Don’t worry if one person is not interesting, unique, strong or weak enough. Take pieces from these people to make the special character you need.

I know you have traveled extensively "on somebody else's dime". What did you do that offered this opportunity? Where have you traveled and what has this allowed you to bring to your storylines?

The Hollow Man by Paul HollisBefore retiring, I worked for IBM and had worldwide responsibility for several emerging business opportunities for the company, one being intelligent video surveillance. After 9/11, as you can imagine, security and safety became of paramount important to corporations, police departments, governments, casinos, banks, retailers, and a host of others. As a result, I was almost constantly on my way to somewhere else.

I’ve lived in some exotic places such as London, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Anchorage, and more. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in all fifty states and almost as many countries. If you’re thinking of your dream vacation spot right now, I have probably been there.

These experiences allowed me to interact with people within their own cultures, experience their spiritual and political environments, and understand their hopes and dreams. Consumed with an overwhelming fascination to learn something from every person encountered along the journey, I was able to understand the world through their eyes; its animosities, ambitions, and motivations. As a result, The Hollow Man has a ring of realism that pulls the reader into the scene with the characters, whether it’s entering a dark alley in Madrid or sitting in a café on the Champs Elysees.

You have a BA Psychology (and English Lit.). Did these studies help as you worked to build the sense of intrigue, suspense and danger found in your thriller?

Not only in dealing with professionals during my career but as I began to create complex characters in my writing, the study of the mind, contrasting thought processes, and the cause and effect of actions has been priceless. My background in psychology has helped to understand how people think and the reasons we act. I’ve been able to translate the best and the worst people can do into the sense of intrigue, suspense and danger readers see in The Hollow Man.

The study of classic literature and the art of the novel never hurt the writing process. I learned from the masters, paying close attention to their sentence structure, style, grammar, spelling, punctuation, voice, and so on. For me, I write short sentences within short paragraphs within short chapters to build suspense, while showing (not telling) puts my reader squarely in the excitement of the scene.

We are so used to the level of technology and instant global access we have today. What was the biggest challenge in stepping back into a world without all the gadgets at our fingertips today?

The biggest challenge was getting all of the details correct. I had to use some of today’s global access methods and technological gadgets to research what the world was like back in the 1970’s. I wanted to be as historically correct as possible so I explored everything from actions prior to documented events to reactions in the aftermath to local cuisine and currencies, and so on.

I had to think ‘manual’ again. It was a world without pagers, cellular phones, GPS, and diet Coke. The Internet, personal computers, and megabyte memory were still years away. Gigabyte memory continued to be the stuff of science fiction, beyond the dreams of even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The main characters researched in libraries using card catalogs, miles of unclassified microfiche, and stacks of periodicals, magazines and local newspapers. They physically tracked criminals through line-of-sight surveillance, flashing passports at every border crossing, changing languages and currencies each time.

If The Hollow Man is made into a movie, who would you like to play the role of the young field analyst?

I’m really bad at this but I’ll give you my first thoughts. Finn Wittrock (there's an innocence about him but his eyes seem to tell a different story), Kellan Lutz (he has the looks of a street-wise kid who can take care of himself), and Max Thieriot (Max looks the closest to my concept of the main character). I’m not certain a big name star would translate well into the naive, anti-Bourne role of Doc so I’m thinking three lesser known actors.

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

Call the suicide hotline at 1-800-don’t-doit now so the representatives can get to know you on a first name basis early in the process. Program the number into your speed dial. Though this will sometimes seem the best way out of your writing woes, here is more sensible advice.

Read as much as you can in and around the genre. Get comfortable with what makes a story a mystery / thriller as opposed to something else. By the way, this doesn’t mean you can’t mix genres; it’s done all the time. Pay particular attention to character complexity (main characters should be complex and relatable) and pull your reader into each scene with the characters.

I’m also a firm believer in showing, not telling. There’s a big difference in saying, “it was hardly raining” and “the falling mist collected on her face and shoulders, chilling her to the bone.” Make your reader feel what the character feels.

First-time authors may be overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting information that’s going to be flying at them. Try to tune the noise out and write. Write the story you need to write with your own style and voice, not the one you think agents, publishers, and readers want. Find the time to write on a schedule, every day and write until your story is drafted.

Proof it, edit it, or stylize it until you’re satisfied with the result. Then hire a professional editor. An editor will raise your work to the next level. You will hate her, disagree with her, and argue with her but listen to your editor and make the suggested changes. In the end your book will be much better for it.

During the writing process, join social media and make friends, not followers. Ask questions on your social networks and I guarantee we will answer from personal viewpoints of experience, knowledge, and strength. Avoid most of the Googled ‘how to’ articles which ask your same questions but never seen to get to the ‘how to’ part.

Buy the book:    Amazon     Barnes & Noble    Book Depository     Chapters/Indigo    
Connect with the author:    Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

The Hollow Man by Paul Ellis

The Hollow Man by Paul Hollis

"He’s no hero; not clever or capable, talented
or tested. The Hollow Man is just trying to
survive in an uncertain climate where terrorism
is changing the rules of how we live.

2nd place winner in World's Best Story contest!


A terrorist’s plot, the assassination of a prime minister, holds the key to an apocalyptic plan to destroy Europe’s economy. It’s impossible to stop, but one man doesn’t know enough to think the world can’t be saved. He’s no hero; not clever or capable, talented or tested. The Hollow Man is just trying to survive in an uncertain climate where terrorism is changing the rules of how we live.


I found the Hollow Man a great surprise. It's listed as a mystery/suspense/thriller and technically that is true. There is a terrorist plot afloat, numerous attempts to kill Doc (the main character), numbers on a slip of paper to decipher and changing disguises as the main character draws ever near the final confrontation. Many, many side characters get offed along the way. Throughout, Doc doggedly continues to follow the illusive trail of the truly evil enemy he has been trailing for awhile and tries to figure out how to stop a tragedy he senses coming - one that will affect the world on a global scale.

The surprise came in the fact that Doc is no hero. An idealist at heart, he is but an observer sent in by a secret government agency to observe, to discover the truth of a situation - to find people and learn from them - and then just report the facts. This is no James Bond. Plagued by haunting nightmares that end up having relevance to the story, and without a weapon, he still chooses to doggedly move forward despite constant danger.  There are two things he brings that even the odds. First there is a female acquaintance - Zita - who IS a very capable agent and steps in to assist when he gets over his head. Then there is the fact he has some serious skills when it comes to a real face-to-face fight.

A great read. This award winning novel is sure to keep you glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning.

Meet the author:

For a great behind the scenes interview with author Paul Hollis click HERE!

Paul Hollis Author PIc
Having lived in twelve states and eventually working in all fifty, he fell in love early with seeing the world on someone else’s money. Since then, he has lived abroad nine years while working in forty-eight countries, spanning five continents. These experiences helped Paul Hollis bring his own unique viewpoint to his mesmerizing thrillers.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mentoring - More Than Passing on Wisdom

I was looking for a topic that inspired me this morning. When scrolling through Twitter, the poster on the left popped out and inspiration hit me between the eyes - mentoring.

Over the last nine years of my journey to becoming a published author, I have had many wonderful mentors step in to offer their support and guidance. Each brought something different to the table - a different way of looking at things. Each was an intricate part my reaching this moment. Then I found myself being asked to step into the role of mentor.  It was an honour not taken lightly and one I grew better at over time.

There were many moments along the way of considering what the role of a mentor should be. We all want to share the wisdom we have gleaned during our journey, but I'm not sure that is the best way to help another reach their goals. Their path will be unique, not a repetition of the one we are on. The people they need in their life and the choices they need to make will not be the same. There is no cookie cutter road to follow.

In the end, I came to feel the best mentoring involved listening, listening and more listening. You are their sounding board where they can try out new ideas. You are there to offer ideas and perspectives they may not have considered - not truths they have to embrace, just other ways of looking at things. You are there to offer emotional support when they are feeling overwhelmed. You are there to share knowledge IF they ask for it with no expectation it will be embraced.

A good mentor is able to step aside and allow that same person to consider everything and come to their own conclusion - to listen to their inner voice.  I know how hard it can be to let go when the decision made is one you may not agree with, but release you must. I have always been grateful for the mentors in my life that gave me honest feedback and information and then accepted my decisions even when they did not agree.  It could not have been easy for them.

Knowledge, support, champion, non-judgmental, caring and passionate - all these traits make for a good mentor. I personally think everyone should step into this role at some point in their life. It's an experience like none other and the rewards are priceless.

= = = =

There were a couple of articles on talking about the relationship between Mentor and Mentee. I want to just excerpt just a few bullet points here.  If you want to read the extended explanation of each, click HERE!

Role of the Mentor

"It is the third most powerful relationship for influencing human behavior (after the family and couple relationships ) if it is working." Source: Richard E. Caruso, PhD

As a mentor, your primary role is to provide guidance and support to your mentee based on his or her unique developmental needs. At different points in the relationship, you will take on some or all of the following roles:
  • Coach/Advisor
  • Source of Encouragement/Support
  • Provide support on personal issues if appropriate
  • Resource Person
  • Champion
  • Devil's Advocate
General Rules to Remember

"It is the second most important factor after education in determining a person's professional success."Source: Korn/Ferry International
  • Confidentiality
  • No-Fault End of Relationship
  • Participation in Monitoring and Evaluation Process

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dior and I

"There was a moment before Raf Simons' debut for Dior
(a couture collection no less) that it all got too much.
The designer stepped outside the catwalk space (as it 
busily filled with people and anticipation) and could no 
longer hold back the tears." - Vogue UK

Synopsis - 

Frédéric Tcheng's solo directorial debut brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons' first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand's past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons' vision.

Review - 

Dior and I has been on my must watch list for a very long time. Last night I managed a quiet evening at home by myself to sit back, relax and enjoy this documentary on Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons first Haute Couture collection for Paris based Christian Dior fashion house. Having interviewed many artists within the fashion world over the last nine years - as well as previously creating over 120 dance custom dance costumes a year by myself - I knew this movie would be a nail biter. I was not wrong.

In 2012, Dior was looking for a new creative director. Simons was an unusual choice in some ways as he was currently working for a minimalist sportswear brand producing retail clothing and more known for menswear. This would be his first couture collection. 

He started by being introduced to the two groups of talented in-house professionals who would make his ideas come to life - the atelier that worked on dresses and the atelier that created the suiting. Each had one woman - a Premiere - in charge. Then he was given only six weeks to create a couture collection - something that normally takes four to five months.

I loved the fact that from the start, the film interspersed verbal and visual moments of Dior himself - his ideas, how he felt about the fame and his work. At times there were similarities between the original Dior and the new designer. Many who work for the fashion house feel Dior's spirit is still there watching over the label. I was charmed that Simons started by really researching the label - the silhouettes, the fabrics - by looking at both photographs and garments on models. Only then did he try to extract the essence of the fashion house's DNA so he could find a way to modernize the looks.

One note I found impressive was how the designer gave away early control of the designs.  Simons does not draw, but created 12 packages on looks he wanted which were given to teams who created over 100 drawings. He then selected the looks that would move forward into production.  These drawings were then put on a table in the atelier and each professional was allowed to select the look he/she wanted to work on.  Watching them hand pin the pattern (hundreds and hundreds of pins on each look) until it laid perfectly and fell into just the right shape was breath-taking. 

These same two ateliers within the Dior fashion house have a large number of couture clients who had to be dealt with at the same time. They spend thousands and thousands of Euros on custom clothing each year and if there is a problem, the premiere for the department must fly out and take care of it - regardless of the deadlines for the fashion show. There were tense moments when conflicts arose as to where the focus should be. 

When the designer who had patiently stayed away while the ateliers were creating the silhouettes worked finally expected a day of fittings and things were delayed - sparks began to fly. There were also problems with a few special fabrics Simons wanted created as there are only a few artisans left who could do it and they were booked solid. Somehow the dedicated staff pulled strings and it arrived, but there was no time for a test - the first time ever. Deadlines were looming. Fortunately he was happy with the results.

Next was the show preparation. It must be nice to have such a huge budget. They rented a beautiful, large home, painted and cleaned it, then lined the walls with fresh flowers - a different colour for each room - white, blue, mixed.  The smell of the flowers wafted for blocks.  And all had to be installed less than 36 hours before the show to keep them fresh. Models would walk on continuing circuit that moved from room to room.

As the show nears, we finally see Simons begin to crack a bit. He does not want to have a lot of pictures taken. He does not want to walk the runway after, :"I will faint!" It all comes to a head when he takes a breather outside as guests are arriving and breaks into tears. Then he heads backstage where there is an array of cameras showing all the rooms. He catches glimpses between checking each look before it goes out. Tears again come.

In the end Simons walks all the rooms where he receives many standing ovations, exuberant cheers and hugs from a few close friends. We see him at the media wall with cameras flashing.  The pressure has fallen away and he is reveling in the moment. I am sure this is a high moment like none other.  

Haute Couture is an amazing part of the fashion world. It is where tremendous skill and unbelievable artistry come together to make garments that will find their way into serious collections in the future. I hope it survives our ready-to-wear, cheaper-the-better focus that seems to permeate the industry today.  Oh that I had the budget to own one of two custom made pieces produced at the hands of the artists I saw working in this film.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Am Sara Troy

Guest article by Sara Troy - producer/host “Self Discovery Radio”

I am Sara Troy and I believe in knowingness, that feeling you get when you let the divine intellect speak to your gut and enter its divine knowledge, it then resonates with your heart in truth and passion, on to the spirit to get into action, and draws from the mind what it needs to know at the time it needs to know it. That is my knowingness and the state of being I choose to live in.

I am also a D.I.V.A a dreamer, inspirer, visionary, and aspirer. I believe we are all born D.I.V.A’s and lose it along the way, but life taps on your shoulders or gives us a hatchet in the head if we don’t listen and redirects us back into our divine D.I.V.A .

Being Inspired by our Dreams seeing the Vision and Aspiring to make it happen is what life is about. What use is a life without a dream, or not listening to those who will inspire us, we can’t see the vision if our souls are closed and what would we aspire to for we see, hear and if we feel nothing?

I found my purpose and calling with my radio/blog station Self Discovery Radio. When I started radio/blog interviewing I would seek out those D.I.V.A’s who had embraced their redirect and were now sharing their story and knowledge with others to enhance their own life’s journey.

Each week my host and I interview exceptional people living extraordinary lives, sharing their expertise and their own self-discovery. We discover knowledge on our health, our inner wealth and our possibilities that we are inspired to follow. The story of others in overcoming life’s challenges in placing value on self, and in igniting their D.I.V.A once more, is truly liberating. It has been a wonderful journey of illumination for me and our listeners.

We also look to support our global “Community for Change” initiative by raising funds that we will invest in back into people that need help in re embracing life, by hiring the services of those we interview who will enable them to find their dignity, liberty, and meaningful purpose in life.

With so much knowledge in over 1200 archived shows, there is answer to your questions, and the discovery of self is but one show away.

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Sara Troy started the “The Art of Positive Living” in 2001 and has been teaching personality self-identity and soul development for over 14 years using tools from 40 years of accumulated knowledge. In April 2012, Sara was presented with an opportunity to host her own talk show on a small blog talk radio station called “Authentic You Media” where she hosted her show live for 13 months before going out on her own with her own station “PLV Radio” now called Self Discovery Radio. Now in her 4th year of hosting this woman has finally found her groove in life, and in just over a 41 months she has interviewed more than 300 incredible inspirational guests from around the globe.

Links See all our show genres

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Note - I was honoured yesterday to be interviewed by Sara Troy of Self Discovery Radio for an upcoming segment on her show, but it was so much more than an interview. It was an amazing conversation, where we both shared ideas and insights. This interview goes live on September 22nd. More information (including link once live) can be found HERE.

Hello, Agnieszka! (Book 2 - Between Two Worlds) by E Journey

Hello, Agnieszka by E JourneyBook two the series - Between Two Worlds
Review of Hello, My Love! (Book 1) - click HERE
Review of Welcome, Reluctant Stranger! (Book 3) - click HERE


A raw tale of early love, rivalry and betrayal. Her oldest son’s suicide attempt shocks the Halversons and forces Agnieszka to reveal a past she has kept from her children.

Passion for music. Hearing her talented, irrepressible grandaunt Jola, a concert pianist in Poland, give a piano recital, young Agnieszka discovers a passion for music. Jola hones her talent and feeds her dreams.

Shattered dreams. Real-world problems, thorny relations with a mother tied to her roots and betrayal by Jola shatter her dreams.

A 70s love story. Agnieszka falls in love, but fate deals her first love a death blow. She rises from the losses she has suffered and gets a second chance at happiness.

A mother’s youthful dreams thwarted and renewed, amidst the exciting promise of the 70s.


E. Journey has a great, easy to read writing style.  I consumed book one in the Between Two Worlds series - Hello, My Love! - in 24 hours and did the same with book two - Hello, Agnieszka!  I love writing that flows easily like a river. You open the book and then find yourself surprised later when you look up to see that hours have passed. It's the kind of writing that takes you out of your daily routine - escapism at it's best - so I want to take this moment to offer my kudos to the author.

I made a conscious effort not to look at the synopsis before I picked up this book as I love to be surprised. As book two in the series, one might expect to continue the story with the main characters from book one - Elise and Greg. Not so. They are there at the start, but this time the story offered is a prequel to book one. We explored the changing relationship between Elise and her mother before. Now we get a chance to understand the whys as we get to know her mother more intimately through the story of her life journey told in a flashback. In the end we are offered another role model - a strong woman who has the backbone to deal with what life hands out.

Hello, Agnieszka closes with the family trying to come to terms with some incredible revelations. There are often expectations set on mothers that place the bar unrealistically high. Family, friends and society forget they were all young once and have a history filled with good and bad choices, just as everyone else does. Time to let go of the pedestal society and family want to place their mothers on and offer respect instead for how they faced and triumphed over the challenges thrown their way.

Time now to crack open the pages of book 3 - Welcome, Reluctant Stranger. 

Buy the books here: Amazon

Meet the Author

To read a behind the scenes interview with author E. Journey - click HERE.

E. Journey is a realist who thinks she has little imagination. Credit that to her training (Ph. D., University of Illinois) and work in mental health, writing for academics and bureaucrats, and critiquing the work of others. She’s been striving ever since to think and write like normal people.

She’s a well-traveled flâneuse—a female observer-wanderer—who watches, observes, listens. And writes. A sucker for happy endings, she finds enough that depresses her about real life, but seeks no catharsis by writing about it. For her, writing is escape, entertainment. She doesn’t strive to enlighten. Not deliberately. But the bias of her old profession does carry over into her writing. So, instead of broad shoulders and heaving bosoms, she goes into protagonists' thoughts, emotions, inner conflicts, insecurities, and struggles to reach balance and grow.

(note - E Journey just won the Bronze Prize in the Independent Woman Awards at SPR)

Connect with the Author: Website Twitter Facebook

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Shredded Pork Carnitas Hash

I love wandering the internet, exploring all the great ideas others bring to creating recipes. Yesterday I had started Crispy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas in the morning, but didn't want to just wrap it in a warm tortilla this time around.

One site I visited talked about making a hash concoction with carnitas meat and some general ideas of what ingredients to use, so last night I decided to give it a go and was pleased overall with the results.  While I may explore and change this recipe over time, here is my starting point.

I have at two recipes on this blog on how to make Pork Carnitas meat - and there are many more out there - but my go to one for ease is the crock pot version. You dump everything in, let it cook to tender, shred and then spread on a cookie sheet and crisp under the broiler. If in a hurry you can skip the crisping step - I often do - but it's not quite as good.

It's important to have your meat well-seasoned as that adds a big part of the flavour here. Also be sure and use the dark orange yams, not the lighter yellow sweet potatoes as they also add more flavour. (NOTE - the crock pot recipe I used makes a lot more meat than you need, so as an added bonus you get to freeze the rest for another meal.)

For the eggs - the suggestion is to cook them with the yolk a bit runny, so that leaves you with poached, sunny-side up or over easy.  That said, if you have someone who doesn't like their egg yolk runny, you can easily make theirs to order.


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Shredded Pork Carnitas Hash
Serves 4-6 depending on serving size

4 C         Leftover Shredded Pork Carnitas Meat (crockpot recipe I used for this is  HERE)
4 C         Potatoes, skin left ON, scrubbed and cut into 1/2" cubes
4 C         Dark Orange Yams, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1             Large Sweet Onion cut into 1/2" pieces (or smaller if you prefer)
8 C         Mixed Baby Greens (I found a bag with spinach, chard and kale)
4-6         Eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.  Toss potatoes and yams with just enough olive oil to coat. Spread on a lightly oiled or Pam'd cookie sheet (I like to cover my cookie sheet with foil first to protect it and then oil). Spread the potatoes and yams in an even layer and roast in over 40-45 minutes, just until done. You don't want to overcook them as the yams in particular will get mushy. I would gently turn them with a spatula at least once part way through to prevent sticking or browning too much on one side.

While the potatoes are roasting, add a 1-2 T of olive oil to a frying pan. Cook the onion until fairly soft. I prefer to leave just a bit of crunch to them, but that's a personal taste.  Add the greens and saute until they have wilted.  Be prepared that those 8 cups will most likely shrink into a fairly small amount depending on the greens you use.  Add the 4 cups of carnitas meat, mix to combine and then heat through.  Move into a large casserole or heat proof bowl and cover to keep warm

When the potatos are finished, remove from oven and turn the oven off.  Gently combine the potatoes with the meat mixture in a heatproof casserole or bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover with foil, then place in the oven to keep warm. You really don't want this to cook further, so if you're not serving right away - leave on the counter until serving time and then gently reheat in a low oven.

To Fry eggs - Wipe out your frying pan and add a small amount of butter (or oil if you prefer). Gently cook one egg per person to either sunny side up or over easy. To Poach eggs - directions HERE.

Set out your serving dishes - plates or large meal-size bowls.  Take your warm hash out of the oven, Place a large helping in each dish and top with one egg. Dinner (or breakfast or brunch or lunch) is SERVED!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Synopsis -

Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical 
Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside 
the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior 
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot's 
five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance 
with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and 
former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck 
the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord 
and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase 
through the Wasteland.

My oldest son has delved quite a bit into what makes a great movie in recent years, so I really listen to his suggestions on what to watch. The reviews were so positive on Mad Max Fury Road, that he decided to give it a chance and headed out to watch it in the movie theatre. He was surprised by how much he liked it as it really is mostly a really long car chase and fight scene. 

While he urged us to get out and see it in a regular theatre, we just couldn't seem to find an open time, so it was put on our list for dinner and a movie night whenever it became available on iTunes.  Last Sunday night it was finally time, and we sat down to watch this movie on our large screen TV backed with extra speakers. The anticipation was high as not only did our son enjoy it enough to want to want it again, but the Rotten Tomato ratings backed him up  - Critics 97%, Audiences 88%.

Mad Max Fury Road is a post-apocalyptic action film distributed by Warner Brothers - the fourth movie in the Mad Max franchise. The setting is desert wasteland. Water and gasoline are supposed to be scarce commodities, Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa) begins the long chase when she commandeers a large armoured tanker truck to help several women escape. Tom Hardy (Max Rockatansky) plays a captive being used as a blood donor who escapes to join forces with her.

To be totally honest - I really found the movie hard to swallow which is weird given it's ratings.  Gas is supposed to be a scarce item and yet all the vehicles are gas guzzlers and everything spouts fire including a guitar played by someone on one of the chasing vehicles and spears where the ends exploded on impact. The opening scenes included a lot of brutal inhumanity and ugliness that I found hard to watch - women used as dairy cows and live human beings being used as blood donors to name just a few. The only real beauty we see is when we meet the women Theron is rescuing - the cult leader's personal breeders - who are clean, model beautiful and all draped in soft white draped fabric. HUH? All the moment needed was a heavenly chorus crooning - AAAAHHHHH!

On the positive side, I felt Hardy and Theron did a fabulous job of bringing their characters to life - so kudos. I enjoyed the interesting, futuristic vehicles and weapons created. The chase scenes were full of motorcycles leaping off dunes to fly overhead and drop bombs and men swaying on poles sticking up from pursuit vehicles that could reach into the tanker. While odd - the chase vehicle with all the speakers and a guy madly playing guitar was an edgy element that worked. I don't know why but it did.

I had to ask my oldest his opinion as he was a big fan of this movie after he saw it in the theatre. He was confused as he actually didn't enjoy watching it this time. It took him an hour to think it through before he could say why. In the big theatre with large screen and superb stereo system, there were was always a musical undertone and deep beat that supported each moment. He felt this music was a big part of creating tension and keeping the viewer engaged.  Although we do have a good system, it wasn't enough to carry that important note at home. So a big part of the experience that made it a great movie was missing.

This leaves me confused as to what to recommend. If you can see still see Mad Max Fury Road in a proper theatre setting, I would definitely go. I think it can still be fun to watch at home if you enjoy futuristic apocalyptic films, but you need to set expectations aside and understand this is a movie at its best when seen in a proper theatre setting. Had I gone in with this attitude, I think I would have relaxed and enjoyed it more.