Monday, October 30, 2017

First Crush, Last Love by Elizabeth McKenna

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the happiness of true love.

​Remember your first crush? How your heart raced and your cheeks flushed whenever you saw him? Jessie Baxter does, and it’s happening again. Ten years ago, despite her best efforts, Lee Archer wanted to be just friends. Now, he wants more, but Jessie's still recovering from a psycho ex-husband. Can she learn to trust again and make her first crush into her last love?

​Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the happiness of true love.

Review - 

First Crush, Last Love offer the classic romance storyline - lost opportunity and the journey back to see if it can ever be captured. Within that category this book falls under the list without sexual content warnings which is my preference. I like my romance book with just a hint of sexual tension rather that having it all laid out in great detail.

Here you have Jessie who is madly enamored of a high school male friend - Lee. While he seems to enjoy her company as a friend, his romantic endeavors are focused on a high-maintenance, mean girl classmate. Finally a new boyfriend comes into her life and she revels in being wanted. This romance leads to marriage, but the relationship is unhealthy and in the long run doomed.

The story line through the book follows 2 paths - that of Jessie and that of her high school crush, Lee, as they move through separate lives that do not offer perfection.  When they finally both end up back in their home town - he has returned to live and work, she is only there for their high school reunion - Jessie finds those strong feelings for Lee long buried again rising to torment her.

And here it is that the classic romance story dilemma comes into play. Does Lee now hare the same romantic feelings as Jessie or is he still just interested in friendship? Will they find love this time around or is romance just not in the cards for this pair?

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Createspace ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author - 

Fab Author Interview HERE!

Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write Cera's Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her site She hopes you will enjoy her first contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, as much as others have enjoyed her historical romances.

​Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Interview With Elizabeth McKenna, Author of First Crush, Last Love

Please share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author including why you chose to write in this genre. 

I’ve always loved to read and write, but when the time came for a career choice, I went the journalism/technical writing route because I had bills to pay. Around 2008, when my children were small, they asked me if I liked my job. I said, I’d rather be writing fiction. They said, why don’t you? So, to be a role model for never giving up on your dreams, I started writing fiction in my spare time. I chose Romance, because I love (and need) a happy ending.

How has your experience as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company influenced your career as a romance author? 

Well, I write more concise than most authors. The first editor who reviewed Venice in the Moonlight said the story had to be A LOT longer. I disagreed. As a reader, I often get frustrated with the “padding” of a story just to make it a certain length. The constant repetition of a theme or feeling sometimes makes me stop reading.

Where did the inspiration for the storyline in First Crush, Last Love come from? For the characters you included?

First Crush started out as a fictional memoir. I thought some of the things I had experienced over the years would make a good story. Over time, the plot evolved away from me, but there still is a large chunk of my life in it, including me marrying my first crush. Some of the characters are a combination of people I have known, and some are true to life. For example, my brother was gay, he did try to commit suicide in his teens, and he did die from AIDS.
Review HERE

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

I like escaping into another world and spending time with my characters. Trying to find readers is becoming a bigger and bigger chore. The book market seems to be overly saturated compared to when I first published years ago. Also, with the explosion of social media, people seem to have less time to read books.

This is your third title? What changes have come about as you gained more experience? Does it get harder or easier to come up with new story lines and characters? 

Cera’s Place was my first book, and I felt pressured to make it steamy because that is what seems to sell. With Venice in the Moonlight and First Crush, I toned it down because one, it was appropriate for the characters, and two, it was appropriate for me. I’m writing the stories I want to tell now. After I finished First Crush, I seriously thought about never writing a story again. I was out of ideas, and my depression was winning the daily battle. But a few days ago, I was watching one of my favorite movies and something clicked. Now, I’m writing scenes in my head and excited to outline a new story.

As an author I always find it hard to decide on the cover art for new books. How do you go about deciding on just the right artwork? 

It’s a struggle, and at least for First Crush, I ended up not being entirely satisfied with the cover. The designer showed me several happy romance covers, but none of them conveyed the emotional roller coaster of the story. I wanted something melancholy and contemplative to reflect the serious parts of the book. I finally gave the designer a file I had bought several years ago and called it a day. I haven’t received any feedback on the cover, so I don’t know if that was a mistake.

What would you most like readers to know about you? 

That I would like to interact with them. I’m shy and don’t talk to many people on a daily basis, but I would love to connect with readers via social media. I guess I’m a little lonely!

Do you have any new titles in development? 

I’m just starting to outline a new project. I wish I could tell you more, but it is too soon in the process.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Interview With Upcycling Designer Charne Esterhuizen of MAAK Clothing

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

Coming from South Africa, I never had the experience of being taught fashion. It wasn't considered an important subject in school curriculums. I was only exposed to fashion when I immigrated to
Australia in 2009. I was in year 10 when fashion was one of my elective subjects. I found it incredibly interesting and exciting to be able to create, construct and deliver something that expresses your creativity and pushes boundaries.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

MAAK Clothing is a small independent label located in Canberra Australia. The label has been operating since 2016. During that time MAAK has had the opportunity in working with extraordinary people - artists like Vera Blue, Hands Like Houses, Boo Seeka and Hayley from the Jezabels, all of which had garments designed and made for their shows.

The label has also had international success through coverage by ABC News, Vogue China, Career Codes magazine and local media like CRUZ MEDIA and Win News, just to name a few.

MAAK is passionate about working with a client's individuality and encourages others to be themselves and express their own identity. MAAK’s diverse ranges and unique styles gives a positive attitude to the wearer making them feel confident in their surroundings.
Our customer clienteles are individuals aged between the ages of 18 to 35.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

Yes I have, I used old damaged leather jackets and upcycled them into new jackets. I altered old garments and changed them into a modern style. I feel that upcycling can add another element to the overall style. In fact I usually purchase second hand clothing and reuse them.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

I love layering, repetition and textures I want to create an outfit that is wearable but still very unique, I want the viewer to look at my outfit and say, " I can definitely see myself wearing that".

This ready-to-wear series is aimed to encourage others to recycle and upcycle their garments and seeing the potential within something you never thought would ever have a second life.

Left Vera Blue - Right BOO SEEKA

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

I only make one of a kind garments and don’t mass produce. I use technology in my design processes where I can and always think of what the future of fashion might be. I look at ways where I can change the way we consume and discard, looking at the possibilities of where we can improve fashion waste through technology.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long-term dreams?

Refining research with future fashion, utilizing 3D printing in sustainable manufacturing processes to prevent future fashion waste.

Vancouver Fashion Week - March 2017
Links - 
Career Codes magazine tear sheet

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Global​ ​Fashion​ ​Collective​ ​Presented​ ​by​ ​Vancouver​ ​Fashion​ ​Week at​ ​Amazon​ ​Fashion​ ​Week​ ​Tokyo

At Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) S/S18, I was intrigued one day to hear VFW founder Jamal Abdourahman announce a young Vancouver designer had won an award. The prize - a trip to Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo, along with the opportunity to showcase her collection there.  The winner was Profanity by Lillzkillz. 

The announcement rang a bell. I had lunch with Jamal a month earlier to catch up before the new season and he had mentioned that VFW was expanding to showcase on the international stage.  As I began to listen to the buzz, I realized more than just one Vancouver area designer would be taking part in this show, so I reached out for more information and a press kit soon came with the details. 

"Global Fashion Collective presented by Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW) is proud to announce they will be taking part in Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo on Friday October 20th 2017 at Shibuya Hikarie Hall B, Tokyo, Japan. For the first time GFC will be presenting Canadian and International designers’ Spring / Summer 2018 collections, Global Fashion Collective presented by VFW will be the first international showcase the group has taken part in, and whom have established a global platform while maintaining its support for local talent through VFW."  - VFW Press Release

A handpicked line-up of talent both Canadian and International was chosen to be a part of this show and the mix of aesthetics is wide.  Below you'll find images of the some of the designers' most recent appearances at VFW along with a link to their Newcomer Brand Questionnaire on the Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo website if available. At the bottom you'll find three international designers listed that I don't have images for as well as their questionnaire link if available.


= = = = 

Evan Clayton 
VFW SS18 Evan Clayton || Ed Ng Photography

VFW SS18 Sam Stringer || Ed Ng Photography

This is James by Joanne Kim
VFW FW17 This Is James "Good Boy" by Joanne Kim || Ed Ng Photography

VFW SS18 Alex S. Yu || Ed Ng Photography
Newcomer Brand Questionnaire - NA
VFW SS18 Kristen Ley || Ed Ng Photography

Profanity by Lillzkillz
Newcomer Brand Questionnaire - NA
VFW SS18 LillzKillz || Ed Ng Photography

Other designers in this showcase include -

Newcomer Brand Questionnaire -

SAINT JESUS by Maria Jesus Ponc (Chili)
Newcomer Brand Questionnaire -

Newcomer Brand Questionnaire -

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Interview With EFWA Upcycling Designer Evan Clayton (Vancouver)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I've always loved fashion, but it wasn't until later in life that the calling came to me for design. I was very undecided in my teens and I almost didn't go to school for fashion. If I didn't get into Blanche than I would have gone for marine biology. Luckily for me, I did get accepted and I began my travels down the road of design.

I know you trained at Blanche Macdonald. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

I loved every moment that I got to spend at Blanche. I came to the school with a definitive art background and little to no sewing experience. I found the technical aspects really challenging at first, but one day it all clicked together and I managed to finish the program. I really thrived in Peggy Morrison's classes, things like Fashion Awareness and Fashion History really excite me.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I have a very streamlined viewpoint. I like to think of myself as a maximal minimalist in that everything I do is very pared down, but still very extra. I create two seasonal collections a year and do a lot of custom work.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I once did an upcycling challenge where I had to make a look out of bedsheets inspired by Balmain. I found that very easy because bedsheets are essentially raw materials!

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

I didn't have a firm idea of what I wanted to make when I started thrifting for this challenge. I didn't want to have anything too specific in my head in case I couldn't find the raw goods I needed. With the materials I found you can expect something very country western influenced. I'm a cowgirl at heart.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

I want my international audience to know that I am a strong tailor who sticks to his guts when it comes to inspiration.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

I'll be showing my SS18 collection in Japan on October 20th and continuing the global expansion of EVAN CLAYTON.

Links - 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Interview With EFWA Upcycling Challenge Designer Amber Nifong (New York)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

My journey in fashion began as far back as I can remember. Ever since I was a small child I wanted to be a fashion designer and an artist. I still remember having sketchbooks from childhood with all my designs in them - complete with design callouts and prices - not bad for an eight year old. I was quite sure at the time $20 for an outfit was quite a lot of money, although things have changed a little since then.

From humble beginnings of sketching and learning to sew as a child, I continued to take fashion design classes, sewing lessons, and did a summer pre-college program for fashion design at RISD, all before I finished high school. Coming from a small southern town where fashion design isn’t exactly a normal profession, I have always been beyond grateful to my family for supporting my dreams, despite the fact we did not live in a major city where the arts tend to be more celebrated. With my family’s support and encouragement over the years, I ended up getting into SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) where I graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design and a minor in Illustration in 2014. 

 Life after college was, and is as with most recent graduates, harder than I expected. I ended up moving to NYC from Savannah, GA, and fought hard for a year to get a full time job in industry. During the time I was looking for a job, I had the pleasure of being able to show my collection at Vancouver Fashion Week, which was a humbling and amazing experience. Since then, I have continued to work in industry - with a recent move to a new private label company - whilst working on my own work on the side, which I hope one day to expand into a full blown business.

I know you trained at Savannah College of Art and Design Fashion. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Savannah College of Art and Design - SCAD - was an extremely rigorous college experience. They really push their students there. My theory behind as to why this is, is that by pushing the kids so hard, they help prepare you for just about anything the industry can throw at you starting out - for which I am grateful. But, studying fashion was not easy there, and was known to be one of the hardest majors at the college. However, some things were easier than others. I had spent a large portion of my life before college learning to sew and construct garments, so the actual garment construction and sewing came easy to me. In addition, there is a lot of drawing/sketching of ideas in fashion, and I had been drawing my entire life by the time I entered college, so I found the fashion illustration classes to be fun and somewhat easy.

However, at the time I did not know much about doing proper fashion illustration, so learning to draw in that particular way was definitely a learning curve for me. For the most part though, SCAD was very difficult but rewarding. It was long hours, lots of work, blood, sweat, and tears, but it was all worth it my Senior year to see my dream collection materialize from my own hand and walk down the runway for our thesis show.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

As a designer, I feel that I connect more with the artistic side of fashion. As lovely as RTW can be, my heart is truly set afire by couture. I prefer to design couture and explore unusual concepts, shapes, ideas, etc that I feel I would otherwise be restricted by in doing RTW. My personal aesthetic is on the darker side, but does not always mean I design in just black - although I have been known to do so. My aesthetic is one of femininity and romance contrasted with structure and edge. I find juxtaposition to be one of the most dynamic ways of designing and I really enjoy playing with that idea. I’m often inspired by unusual or taboo concepts and I try to almost always find inspiration outside of the norm with collections based on ideas such as global warming, embryogenesis, mental disease, inner darkness, etc.

My ideal customer is someone who is looking for something truly unique, beautiful, extravagant, and has the moxy to wear it. My pieces are one-offs due to the nature of couture, so the woman wearing these pieces is someone who is bold and is not afraid to stand out in a crowd, but rather draw attention from it. In terms of seasonal collections, I still have not been releasing them seasonally. All of my current pieces are custom so anything bought would be made to order. I eventually plan to do a diffusion RTW line that I hope to be able to show seasonally in time.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I was excited for this challenge because I have never used upcycled garments before in my work. It was a new and interesting challenge for me to take something and repurpose it into something new and unique.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

When going about designing this garment, I wanted to embrace the idea of deconstruction, as well as, incorporate menswear touches as a nod to the fact that the dress was made out of repurposed men’s shirts. I normally design more avant garde dresses, so I wanted to stay true to my aesthetic while still incorporating parts of the original shirts, such as collars and sleeves in my design. The audience can expect a unique gown that is high end and interesting, while still incorporating elements of the original shirts throughout the look.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

As a designer, I focus on unusual and taboo inspiration for my work. I like exploring themes in my work that tend to be darker and more complex. Most people shy away from darkness or painful topics, but I like to embrace them, and find beauty within the darkness. As a brand, Amber Nifong offers truly unique, one-off, couture pieces that are both feminine and edgy at the same time. I play a lot with juxtaposition of shapes and silhouettes, and utilize a lot of asymmetry in my work that then forms dynamic designs that push the envelope of what traditional fashion design should look like. I mainly specialize in custom couture garments that can be requested via the email contact section of my website at:

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

What’s next for the Amber Nifong brand is to eventually take it from a brand that I make out of my home on a piece by piece basis, to a fully functioning LLC that will offer both custom couture pieces, as well as, ready to wear that is inspired from the couture collections, but is more affordable to the consumer. My long term dream for the Amber Nifong brand is to continue to grow the brand to a global scale, and to continue to always look forward with the designs and look for unique ways to interpret fashion into art.

VFW runway photographs by Harry Leonard Imagery
Links - 
Website –
Instagram – @amberalliene
Facebook –
Twitter – @AmberNifong
Behance –
Linked In –

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Interview With EFWA Upcycling Designer Lara Ireland (Sydney)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design-

From an early age I have always been a creative person, my Father was a Painter and I began at an young age drawing, sketching, painting people. I had a fascination with dressing these figures up in outfits - Hair styles, clothing, jewellery, accessories, the whole lot - and I carried that right through from primary to high school. I suppose the decision to study fashion design was a natural one. For me there really was no other alternative, I knew I wanted to be designing and creating clothes from an early age.

I began sewing clothing during high school for myself, family members and friends - and even creating photo shoots of the looks with my tiny digital camera! I loved anything and everything creative! And fell in love with the thrill of seeing my friends and family actually wearing my clothing!

I know you trained at the Academy of Art University, but had also learned a lot on your own before you began this program. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

A great deal of my skills as a designer were self taught. I think exploration is a big part of designing and for me in particular, using a lot of non-conventional materials (ie plastic bags, as a part of my graduate showcase) these were not particularly things that could be taught. I think coming from a small country town, resources were limited and so I used whatever I could get my hands on, plastic bags and all!

My 4 years of Study at the University of Technology Sydney were invaluable and my skills as a designer have come so far since beginning all those years ago. In particular, the technical aspects of design from pattern making, to construction, textiles development and sizing/fitting garments have been absolutely invaluable.

A great deal of my skills were picked up fairly easy, as I am a fast learner when I am passionate about what I am learning. I did however struggle with the more technical aspects of pattern making as a great deal of it required a mathematical mind, of which I have never seen as a strong suit of mine. In saying this however, this is perhaps the reason why my collections today are predominantly textile led and then applied directly onto the mannequin. I find that I construct my more successful garments when designed in a more three dimensional way on the body, rather than via a more traditional flat pattern, as I can see the relation of my fabrics directly on the body.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand etc? Do you create a new line each season, create custom work or both?

As it is still early days in my career I feel as though I am still constantly changing as a designer and exploring who it is that I am offering as a creative mind. I would however describe my aesthetic as quite raw and dynamic, with a focus on the tactile nature of my unique fabrications. I like to play upon the juxtaposition of both organic forms and geometric pattern - letting my textiles lead the direction of my collections, I often feel myself drawn to minimal colour palettes if any at all. I love the idea of restrictions within design, often playing with the idea of creating monochrome looks that really explore the texture of my garments rather than the colours.

I am still exploring who my customer is. I do know that they are of a similar mindset to myself, with an attitude for sustainability and a desire for something unique and different. I often look at Fashion as an Art form, and I do feel that my customer would feel the same. As my garments are of a more conceptual nature, and not exactly a ready-to-wear piece, my customer would have a desire for something uniquely their own and one-off.

Having said this, I feel that my Brand centres on a more custom made approach. Often creating unique looks for clients with a certain brief, rather than producing a new line each season.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so how?

During my second year at UNI wee were given an assignment to deconstruct a pair of men's trousers and create an upper body garment out of the salvaged fabric - in other words to upcycled the trousers into a completely new garment.

I remember at first being quite daunted by the challenge as this was my first experience in using a garment to create another. I ended up creating an origami inspired vest that had great success and thinking, wow I completely transformed a boring pair of pants into something incredible, and not to mention cost affective for a UNI student!

I never would have imagined the impact this assignment would have had on myself as a designer - Originally wanting to create ready-to-wear garments for young women, to all of a sudden graduating with a completely upcycled collection of garbage bags! Who would have thought!

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

The approach I took for my runway look was a natural one. For me, my designs are 100% influenced by the fabrication at hand, and the Men's Shirting offered such a wonderful texture once shredded and cut up that I really wanted to highlight the raw nature of the fabric. I found myself fascinated with the way the shirting frayed once torn, and the way the fine threads created this wonderful organic texture, in contrast to the quite plain tailoring of the original garment.

I began by familiarising myself with the shapes of the shirt, playing with the garment directly on my mannequin to see how I could translate this into a garment, what features I wanted to maintain, what features I wanted to change etc.

I then began cutting, fraying and shredding strips of the shirting to weave into a new fabric. Focusing on my signature colour palette of shades of white to grey, I wanted to really transform the shirt into something entirely new, yet still offering glimpses of its original state, a cuff here, a collar there, a few buttons etc.

The audience can definitely expect to be surprised, I feel as though transformation is a big part of upcycling, as is deconstruction, two aspects that are apparent within my design.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

The most important aspect of myself as a designer, and thus my brand is the idea that Fashion Is Art. To me, the most fascinating part of design is the idea that I can use my skills to create garments that provoke though and discourse. Sustainability is an ever more pressing issue in today's society and what better way to use my Passion of Design to shed light on the mass wastage the fashion industry is promoting. Upcycling is such a fantastic way of reducing the impact waste is having, by utilising a discarded item to create something entirely new. I couldn't be more excited to take up the EFWA upcycling challenge, as it is such a fantastic way to make designers, and consumers alike think about the ways in which they produce, consume and dispose of Fashion.

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

The next challenge for me is to bridge the gap between my designs and the consumer. I still dream of having my own label, and providing customers with my own designs, yet I believe that a sustainable approach is the key. I would love to open up a market for one off couture pieces that have been created from sustainably sourced materials, for lovers of Eco fashion like myself.

Links -

Interview With Elle Brookes, Author of The Fabergé Entanglement

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Was this always your dream?

I learned to read at a very early age. I consumed books shelf by shelf at my school library. Then I started on the public library. There was a point where the ten book limit became an issue, and the Librarian, bless her, waived the rule for me. I started to write my own stories to amuse myself. In college I worked on short stories and took every writing course I could find. I discovered the satisfaction there is in writing, and the power in self-expression. Once I unshackled myself from the idea that what I wrote had to be literature, I was off! I was even able to write a couple of papers as fictional stories. My professors weren’t sure they should accept this form, but thankfully they thought they might as well give it a try, and they were happily entertained by the results. For a while I wrote spec (speculation) scripts for television (I lived in LA, that’s what people do there!) Then, I thought I’d try long form. I haven’t looked back. I love the room long form gives me to build characters and situations and emotions.

It wasn’t until Indie Publishing appeared that I considered the possibility of publishing my own books. Even then, I was rather cautious and waited a long time to see what would happen. Then, I did research and found resources online to help me with the process. I have to admit that receiving the paperback proof copy of my first book was exciting. It arrived just in time for a presentation I was making at the International Festival of Books. This event is held every year in San Jose, Costa Rica. (I live in Costa Rica) Things went well. I presented my book in Spanish to a group of non-English speaking or reading attendees. The book is not available in Spanish. It was highly ironic to say the least. We all had a good laugh over it.

Review HERE!
I noticed this is your first collaboratively written book. How did this come about?  How does the writing and editing process work when two distinct authors are involved?

You’ve done some background checks on me! I’m not going to be coy about the reality. The book is not actually written by two authors. My “partner” Lesley Meryn is a character in my first two books “Lust. Mechanics. Mini Cooper.” and “Sex. Coffee. Time Travel.” She is an adventure-suspense-romance author who writes the Saber and Steele books. There are several references to them in the first two books. I started wondering what her Saber and Steele books would be like, so I decided to write one. It was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. It was only fitting that I put her name on the cover.

So, in reply to your writing and editing process question; things went rather smoothly.

Where did the inspiration for the storyline in The Fabergé Entanglement come from? For the characters who make the story come alive?

I’ve been fascinated with Fabergé Eggs for a very long time, so I thought that it might be a good place to start. Then I figured a kidnapping would up the stakes, and the story evolved. I’m a great fan of the Modesty Blaise series of books by Peter O’Donnell. There is some influence there, but for the most part, they kind of took control of their own characters. Steele took over for himself, and I just followed, but there’s quite a bit of influence from Adam Hall’s Quiller. I wanted Saber to be independent, and not spoiled or reliant on her father’s wealth and influence. She is not a woman easily biddable. By her father, her frequent employer Hennessey, or anyone else. She has her own money and pays her own way.

This book took place in many locations and involved the use of cutting edge technology here and there.  What kind of research was necessary to bring a sense of reality to the locations, the characters and the technology included?

I have personally been to the locations that are described in the book. I have even been to the Noto Peninsula in Japan, a location mentioned by the character Saber in the book. Having had the experience of being in a place opens up new perspectives in how a location is seen and sensed. In the book the locations are characters in their own way. Especially in the case of Las Vegas! I try to stay true to the technology. The SonicStar is real. It isn’t ready for a rollout just yet.

I do a lot of research on the Internet, and I have access to publications that are not classified, but are not widely available to the public. I also have sources that decline to be mentioned in the Acknowledgements section.

How do you approach writing - schedule time, when inspiration strikes or ?????

I really have no set schedule or structure that I follow. Where I live things can be very unpredictable. Just this week we were caught in Tropical Storm Nate. I write when the sparks hit me, and it can go on for a long time. Last week I was on a trans-Pacific flight from Japan. The lights were dim so passengers could sleep. I had my tablet out, dimmed as well, and wrote for hours while others dozed. I also spent a bit of time in my hotel room in Tokyo writing. I always carry a notebook in my bag and will scribble notes on anything that’s available, like cocktail napkins, or paper bags. I even use the Reminder App on my iPhone to make notes.

What type of books do you love to read?  Do you have a favourite title or author?

I’m fairly omnivorous when it comes to reading. I deeply admire the Quiller novels of Adam Hall aka Elleston Trevor. His work is a great inspiration for me. When I was younger I enjoyed Robert Heinlein when I was going through my adolescent Science Fiction phase. Lately, in that genre I read Robert Charles Wilson, Octavia Butler, Sara King and Hannu Rajaniemi. I enjoy Tim Powers, and Taylor Stevens’ Vanessa Michael Munroe series. I savor Nordic Noir. As I mentioned above Peter O’Donnell and his Modesty Blaise books are inspiration for Saber and Steele, even though Modesty and Willie Garvin have a very different relationship than my characters. The last book I read that blew me away was “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. It’s an absolutely gigantic, gorgeous adventure story.

What's next for you as a writer? Do you have any titles either in the planning or writing stages?

I’ve been putting together notes and plotting out a new Saber and Steele book. I am very fond of the characters, and want to explore them further. They are so different; yet compliment each other so well. Right now I have them appearing in Havana, Cuba, Tangiers, Morocco and Japan. The story concerns a very new, cutting edge military technology that is very real and very dangerous.IO 

The Fabergé Entanglement by Lesley Meryn & Elle Brookes

When Saber clashes with Steele; more than sparks will explode!

Synopsis - 

Sabinne ‘Saber’ Darrieux’s father, the billionaire CEO of Frontenac Global Security has been kidnapped. His ransom is not cash in a numbered offshore account, or a briefcase of Bearer Bonds but something utterly unique, incredibly valuable, and until recently, hidden away from the world.

The kidnapper seems to know Saber very well, and knows that the next day, through her work as an elite translator she will be in the same location as the Object. She must steal the Object and deliver it to the kidnapper to ransom her father.

Adrian Steele, a British Intelligence agent has just come off of two harrowing missions. Upon returning to London for a well-earned rest, he learns that his friend and fellow agent, has been murdered in Moscow, but not before he made use of a unique Object as a mobile ‘drop site’ for the valuable intelligence he was carrying.

​The drop site is traveling from Moscow to England. Steele insists on completing the mission to honor the death of his friend, Gerry Cornell.

At an ultra-chic quasi-diplomatic gathering in a mansion in Windsor, England, Saber and Steele meet and find themselves faced with a powerful, undeniable attraction. But at the moment, this compelling attraction is very inconvenient.

In reality they are at the mansion to check out the security arrangements — for their own reasons — to steal the Object, a Fabergé egg worth thirty million dollars. But who will get to the egg first?

Fabergé eggs are very famous for their unique surprises. Saber and Steele are about to be very surprised, indeed.

Review - 

I love reading a wide range of books from spy to murder mystery to science fiction to biography.  The biography is for when I want to explore the lives of others. The rest all fall into what I call escape reading.  They take me away from my daily grind by drawing me into their plot.  None do that better than one with international intrigue combined with a touch of romance. The Fabergé Entanglement does just that.

Here we have a talented, smart, independent professional woman - Saber Darrieux - a great role model of how strong women can be.  Opposite her is an experienced male British agent - Adrian Steele - stretched to his limit by the death of a friend and fellow agent along with three assignments back to back.  When the two bump into each other - literally - trying to steal the same Fabergé egg, both are distracted from their job by their instant chemistry. Saber manages in the end to escape with the egg. Embarrassed by his failure, Adrian is surprised to be instructed to tail her.

What follows is a cat and mouse game where who is lurking in the shadows is not actually clear.  In the end it turns out more than one source of evil has their hands in the game.  Saber is trying to deliver the egg to hopefully free her father from an unknown kidnapper.  Adrian is following her to try to figure out exactly who is lurking in the shadows and ultimately return it to his agency to protect the secret hidden within. It becomes a fight for their lives with the outcome not looking good.

Buy the Book:  Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads ~ Kobo

Meet the Authors:


Enjoyed an exotic, adventure-filled childhood, following her anthropologist father and travel writer mother to the farthest corners of the world. She later took inspiration from her Aunt Sophia Francesca and became the author of romantic adventure novels. She alternates her time between Los Angeles, and a family property located in Yorkshire England.

ELLE BROOKES Fab Author Interview HERE!

She is the author of the first two books of the Time Frame Series, LUST. MECHANICS. MINI COOPER. and SEX. COFFEE. TIME TRAVEL. Loves travel, discovering new foods to try, reading and writing. She currently lives in the central highlands of Costa Rica with her dog Pixie and her hedgehog Quiller.

​Connect with Author Elle Brookes: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Old Fashion Scalloped Potatoes With Gouda Cheese

Image from Epicurious
Thanksgiving turned left this year. My kids are grown and many have moved away to embrace new opportunities. My mother-in-law is now 91, lives 2 hours away and increasingly finds the ride in and back home hard to bear.

So this Thanksgiving we gave her the choice to have us bring dinner to her. That meant the few remaining adult kids and a friend of mine wouldn't be coming. However, her three sons and I would all be there to celebrate. She quickly said yes.

I honestly don't often make turkey for Thanksgiving. When I moved to Canada from the U.S., I embraced the British tradition of having it at Xmas. I think their dinner is traditionally Xmas goose or duck, but turkey is in the same family, so it worked for me. Thanksgiving I chose instead to do a bone in ham. It makes great soup another day. As dinner had to travel in the car for 2 hours, I wanted to keep the meal simple. Scalloped Potatoes are easy, travel well and are great reheated. Then I took along fresh green beans to microwave just before the meal, some rolls and a pie from Costco. Done!

The ham I cooked the night before, sliced into serving pieces and carefully packed. I had not made scalloped potatoes in awhile, so explored my options on the internet and chose to go with this recipe from Epicurious. I made one real change to the recipe (and a few small ones noted below) and that was to use Gouda Cheese instead of Cheddar. I love the more subtle flavour of Gouda in this dish. If you prefer more pop, make it a sharp cheddar - but use the white cheddar instead of the orange coloured version.

Unlike their photo above, I cooked mine in a 9 x 13 inch red ceramic casserole dish. It offered a beautiful pop of colour on the table. My only note of surprise when I made this was the layering. The sauce goes on the bottom instead of the top of each layer. I was worried this would make the top dry, but during the first half of the baking time when the dish is covered, the sauce bubbled up and over the top.

This is definitely an old fashioned recipe in terms of taste - comfort food at it's best - and that was a hit with this older crowd. Everyone had seconds with few leftovers. It's going in my list of recipes for company dinners. Easy, tasty and mostly gone at the end.

= = = = 

Old Fashioned Scalloped Potatoes With Gouda

Ingredients -

2 C              Thinly sliced onion (I used a sweet onion like Walla Walla)
9 T              DIVIDED - Unsalted butter (I used regular. Could also use margarine)
6 T              Flour
3-1/2 C       Milk (they use regular, I used skim. Could also use non-fat cream,
                          regular cream or a milk substitute such as almond milk)
2-1/2 lbs      Potatoes (I used unpeeled red skin as I like the added colour in the dish)
1 1/2 C        Coarsely grated Gouda (original recipe used sharp Cheddar)
1/3 C           Dry bread crumbs (I used Panko crumbs)

Instructions -

In a skillet saute the onion in 2 T of the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is very soft. I let them caramelize a bit.  

The original recipe made the cream sauce on the stove top, but I made it in the microwave. Just easier and a lot less mess. Melt 6 T butter. Stir in the 6T of Flour. Whisk in milk making sure to scrape all the bits of roux off the bottom of the dish. Microwave on high in 2 minute, Whisk thoroughly again making sure there are no bits of roux stuck on the bottom anywhere. Then continue in 1 minute intervals. Between each, whisk the cream sauce thoroughly. Continue until thickened.

Slice potatoes 1/8" thick. The original recipe peeled them, but I prefer the skin on for nutrition and to add to the look of the dish.  Spread 1/3 of sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart prepared casserole or Au Gratin dish. Layer 1/3 of potatoes on the sauce. Top this with 1/3 of sauteed onions and end with 1/3 of grated cheese. Repeat 2 times. Sprinkle on bread crumbs and dot with last 1 T of butter cut into small bits.

Bake the mixture, covered with foil, in the middle of a preheated 400°F. oven for 30 minutes (they did 20). Remove the foil and bake the potato mixture for 30 min. or until the top is golden and the potatoes are tender. Let set for a few minutes before serving as sauce will thicken more. Or cool and reheat later in low temp over covered with foil.