Monday, October 29, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S19 - Interview with Designer Lyndsey Jackson of Phased by LJ

VFW SS19 Images by photographer Arun Nevader for Gettysburg Images (unless otherwise noted)

Image from VFW to designer.
No photographer credit given
Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. 

My initial reaction to this question was no, I never dabbled in fashion when I was younger. Now that I’ve thought about it for a moment, maybe I have. Does playing dress-up in your mom and dad’s old clothes count? Or dressing up your Barbies with your sisters to get them ready for a runway show? Or stealing clothes out of your sister’s closet as a teenager because you wanted to expand your wardrobe…

Travelling in Europe is probably what got me the most interested in fashion. My friend and I showed up in Paris with our comfy Lululemons and giant backpacks at the age of 18 – we stuck out like sore thumbs. As you probably know, women in Europe are classy AF and fashion is in your face. By Italy, I had a whole new travel wardrobe and I loved it.

When I came back from Europe this first time, I took Art History and Psychology courses (which I loved), but I wanted to do something more practical. I ended up getting a Bachelor of Business Administration from BCIT and took a semester abroad in Berlin. For 6 months, I went to school in Berlin and travelled around Europe again. What an amazing city to have studied in during my 20s. It is full of young people exploring their youth; art, music, and history. There is an underground culture of partying in abandoned buildings that have turned into miniature cities/nightclubs, and everybody and their mom wants to be a resident DJ. Berlin sparked my creative interests.

After I graduated, I wanted to make money, so I made the move to get into software sales. This job gave me a lot of financial independence and allowed me to move downtown and live the city life I wanted. It was great at first and I learned a lot about the business and selling. Eventually, I got worn down by the industry and decided that I wanted to do something more technical and with my hands, something that I could be passionate about when times get tough in my career. Less than two years later, here I am.

My family and friends have been an incredible support throughout my decision to change my career path. They are all so excited for me and I am so lucky. My mom is a great seamstress and helps me a lot around fashion week and crunch times.


How did you learn your skills? If you studied fashion design where? If you are self-taught how did you hone your skills?

My mom was the first person that taught me how to sew. It requires you to think three steps ahead, and to have a lot of patience.

When I left the software industry, I took a 6-month Core Design Program at John Casablancas Institute. This is where I learned the ins and outs of creating a fashion line. From getting your ideas on paper, to pattern drafting, to executing your ideas. I was lucky to have been part of a small class with a lot of attention from my teachers, who were all industry professionals. Also, Maneli (Program Director) is amazing. She has set me up with so many industry contacts and has given me a lot of opportunities since I graduated.

Now, I am constantly learning and teaching myself about the industry through trial and error, meeting new people, making connections, and asking a million questions.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

Finding inspiration and getting my ideas on paper is my favorite part of the process – next to completing it ;-)

The hardest part is managing my time (I haven’t quit my day job yet) and being patient, but it is teaching me patience.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I like looking to music for inspiration; different eras, genres, music videos, etc.  Chaos gives me inspiration, and the idea that nothing is perfect.  I have purposely used monochromatic colour palettes in my collections so far, as to focus more on cut, lines, and asymmetry.


Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week.

Collection name: “Feels like TWENTYSOMTHNG.”  It is inspired by the era of our 20’s – travel, learning, experimenting, music, partying…fun times. The palette is stark white…and grays. With a small contrast of yellow and green.

I experimented - A) with a lot of different textures, as opposed to colours, in this collection B) with repurposing some of the material from my old clothes when I was “twentysomthng” and C) this was the first time I got an original print digitally printed on a fabric. It was all a learning experience, and there was a lot of spontaneity in the designs.

Do you have a favourite look in?

Probably the high neck midi-dress, because the fabric for the digital print showed up at my door different than planned, so I had to change my designs up for those pieces last minute. It was off the cuff. The print itself turned out great, and it has a lot of sentimental value to me.

Turns out I enjoy the spontaneity of repurposing fabrics from old garments or being given an unexpected fabric and getting creative with how to make it work symbiotically with a collection.

Left and centre image by - Arun Nevader for Gettysburg Images, Right image from Designer's Website
Where can readers purchase your designs?

At the moment, I am working on updating my website, but my contact details are there (or you can contact me through my Instagram) and I am willing to create custom pieces from my collection.

In the new year, I will be taking pre-orders for selected looks in my spring/summer catalogue. Stay tuned for that.

What's next for you as a designer and your brand? 

New website w/ online catalogue and store. More repurposing, finding more ways to take my designs greener, and exploring ways to give back to the community.  Many more fashion weeks!

Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your brand that isn't included above? 

Nothing comes to mind. If it’s not life or death, have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Image from the website - Some of the designer's FW18 Collection
What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

If you love what you’re doing, don’t give up. Achieving yours goals is so rewarding, so make sure you have some.  Get exposure, and don’t say no to learning opportunities. When you are given a short timeline for a project, it’s an opportunity to test your creativity and resourcefulness.  Nobody’s waiting for you, so hustle hard.

Links -

Murder by Perfection (A Thorny Rose Mystery Book 3) by Lauren Carr



Beware! Perfection has a dark side!

Synopsis - 

Frustrated with their busy schedules, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday attempt to find togetherness by scheduling a weekly date night. The last thing Jessica expected for her date night was a couple's gourmet cooking course at the Stepford Kitchen Studio, owned by Chef Natalie Stepford--the embodiment of feminine perfection.

When Natalie ends up dead and Murphy goes missing, the Thorny Rose detectives must peel back the layers of Natalie Stepford's flawless life to discover that perfection has a very sinister dark side.

Review -

Another great title by one of my favourite authors.  Every time I hear a new book is coming out, I try to make sure I'm first in line to snag my copy. 

Lauren Carr is a master of the light murder mystery.  Each contain a strong couple as the central characters.  Both the male and female roles are great role models - smart, loyal, talented and always interested in the truth.  And as the author is a huge dog lover, there are always several incredible pets, each with their own unique personality.  No matter how serious the threat they are facing, the author manages to work in a little humour to keep the tale from getting too dark.

Murder by Perfection is book 3 in Carr's Thorny Rose Mystery Series.  The main characters - Murphy and Jessica - fell in love at first sight and married quickly. This 3rd story sees them struggling to try to find balance in their daily lives as well as enough free time to spend together.  After a quarrel one evening, Murphy takes off on his motorcycle to calm down - and disappears! He has been kidnapped. Why - no one knows for sure. Friends, family and the government come together to search for answers.  Can he be found in time?

Murder by Perfection is a wonderful read and a perfect to escape from the challenges of a busy day. Danger, intrigue, humor and love all take their turn in this tale which will keep you reading into the wee hours.


Buy the Book: Amazon  Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author - 

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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


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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Zucchini Two Ways!

Images and recipes from Damn Delicious
I love vegetables of all kinds - well except eggplant - no idea why that one doesn't turn my clock - so I am always looking at new ways to cook and serve them.  There are so many that are get ignored nowadays - beets, squash of all genres, artichokes, etc.  I would love to see these become regulars again on the dinner table.

Here are 2 recipes using Zucchini that both look wonderful. I have company coming tonight so will probably try the first from a blog called Damn Delicious - Baked Parmesan Zucchini Sticks - as it seems the simplest and will look more like a side dish. It's baked instead of fried so less mess. And it is will be easy to plate.

The second I included is one I found on Yummly - Zucchini Parmesan Crisps. I love anything crunchy, so this one really stands out.  However I feel it looks more like a snack or appetizer than a a side dish for a meal, and I would have to fry them last minute which is time consuming and messy.  However, I have more get-togethers planned, so will definitely be trying at one of them.

I did a little searching to find out who created this second recipe so I could credit them and lo and behold, it was also created by Damn Delicious. So both recipes and the images are from this wonderful site.  I am definitely going to have to check out their site to what other recipe treasures I can find. I highly suggest you do the same.

Enjoy!

= = = = 

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Sticks

Ingredients - 

4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions - 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a cooling rack with nonstick spray and place on a baking sheet; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine Parmesan, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper, to taste.
Place zucchini onto prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan mixture. Place into oven and bake until tender, about 15 minutes. Then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

= = = = 

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

Ingredients - 

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Panko*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 zucchinis, thinly sliced to 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten

Directions - 

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

In a large bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan; set aside. Working in batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat. Add zucchini rounds to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Mantis Force: Rebirth (Marium Kahnet Book 3) by R.J. Amezcua

Book 1 Review - HERE
Review of Book 2 - HERE
Synopsis - 

It is a day of prophecy and celebration when Jazrene Vallo accomplishes her ordained task to refashion the Marium Kahnet, and witnesses them finally becoming representatives in the Grand Assembly of the Mantis Alliance. But the victory is soiled by reports of a faction of wayward sisters joining a necromancer Order, the Saurcine.

​The rebels plan to bring forth the Krevomax, the seed of the Tisrad Dragon, to defeat the Mantis Alliance. To combat this new evil threat, in Jazrene Vallo’s last act as supreme leader, she activates the sisterhood’s elite warriors, the Criss Lumbra. Their mission: destroy the spawn of the Tisrad Dragon. Should they fail, it will mean the end of the sisterhood and all peace in the universe.

Review - 

Rebirth is the 3rd book in the Mantis Force/Marium Kahnut trilogy. All three are serious sci fi offerings for true fans of the genre. They take you to the far reaches of space and introduce you to new species, new religions, alien science and a whole new vocabulary.  Each are fairly short offerings which works well because of all the concepts, characters and terminology you need to absorb.

With book 4 in the works, Rebirth is an important stepping stone to what is to follow. But I didn't feel it was the strongest in the series. Retribution introduced you to most of the players, their religions, the extensive vocabulary and some of the science while developing the series plot.  Decimation moved this plot through a very important step, the destruction of testing facilities and the immediate aftermath. In the first half of Rebirth, we move quickly from one story line to another, following different characters.  It's hard to find a unifying thread to follow at first. This settles down about halfway through and that thread becomes easier to follow as we near this book's conclusion.

I personally would have liked to feel a stronger connection flow through the individual pieces from start to finish. It's not an easy thing to do when you have so many different events to tie together, but it really elevates a story.  I did enjoy reading this book, but it took a bit more focus than the other two.

Buy the BookAmazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author -

Read a fab author interview HERE!

R. J. Amezcua was born and raised in Silicon Valley, and is happily married to Sheryl. As a young boy, one of his favorite TV shows was Lost in Space. Being an entrepreneur and visionary by nature, he has begun his journey as an author and writer. Using his love for science fiction, he created the epic saga “Mantis Force,” which encompasses a vast universe.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S 19 - Interview with designer Fara Mas of FARAMAS


Please share a bit about your journey to embrace Fashion Design as a career?

As a child I grew up, in the middle of Tehran/Iran, as my parents had to move to Tehran, after my family had lost almost everything they possessed during the Iraq-Iran [Proxy-] War (1980-1988), due to the bombing of the house they lived in, in the south of Iran.

Tehran, the capital city and new home, with high-rise buildings and mainly grey, dull colours of people’s outfits, mostly in mourning of family members they lost during the war, were in strong contrast (to) the beauty, described in the Persian Literature of Rumi and Hafiz and the stories of the Boustan and Gulistan of Saadi, and especially, with Firdausi’s Shahmame, which I got told – and later read myself.

All books, of course, re-prints of lavishly illustrated originals. The Persian miniatures sowed beautiful, colourful dresses, of men and women – and what I could not see in real, in life. When age and time came to make a decision, what to study, it was clear --- something with theatre or fashion. I felt the urge of creating what is missing in real life. In theatre, it was possible to visualize dreams and let them become alive, on stage, even if it is only for a short time.

The first reaction of my parents was: “you study something with science or medicine…” and ---- so I ended up, in, high school, studying mathematics, in which I had a serious interest but no passion - and was awarded a high level diploma in this subject.

During my pre-university studies, in Iran, I focused on Visual Arts [Family comment: “… now that you insist, if something in the Arts, then you should become an actress, theatre or preferable Film” (based on a few roles at school theatre performances)]. I decided to go on in field I was passionate about, by obtaining my BA in Fashion and Textile Design, in Tehran/Iran.

The next step was a Masters, obtained in Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia, in Design Technology in Fashion.

... and this was just the beginning.

Designer Fara Mas

Where did you learn your skills?

I started studying BA. of Fashion and Textile Design at University of Science and Culture in Tehran, but it was not enough. I knew that there’s much more to learn in this field. I wanted to continue my education with a Master Degree from abroad. Therefore I started working, after my BA, in Tehran, as costume and wardrobe stylist for Theatre and TV productions, to make some additional money for coming closer to my dreams, [… and, of course, to gain more practical experience, for the next step -- going to Malaysia for my MA.

Arriving in Malaysia, I continued to top-up the small financial help my family could give me, by working, besides studying at the University Technology Mara (UiTM) Malaysia, as part-time wardrobe stylist for TV programmes. There I met the celebrities which formed later the first clients of my fashion brand, FARAMAS.

When it comes to Start-Up and Business Operations, I’m absolutely self-taught, since, neither in Iran nor in Malaysia, are students taught these skills. The countries universities are, obviously, only focusing on “supplying” the industry, with fresh designers, and not with entrepreneurs. Luckily, in Germany, where my fashion brand is registered, the chambers of commerce & trade, besides government institutions and NGO’s, are offering useful help and training for Start-Ups – for free.

Also the Fashion Camp, in connection with the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, has proven to be a very helpful support, and it is highly recommendable as a source of “how-to-do”. Even for those who are already knowledgeable of the subject, there is always something new to find out or at least to get confirmation in the way they are doing things. Another aspect is to share ideas, methods, share experiences and discuss them with others.


What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

Getting ideas for new collections and single pieces is the “easiest” part. Life, nature, interacting with people [clients and non-clients], sometimes an interesting book or a good movie, triggers ideas and concepts -- and there are, more sources of inspirations.

Execution of a design, draping and preparing the prototype is already a more “labour-intensive” part of the process. I think it is natural, that the first draping on the dummy is not always exactly what the designer visualizes in mind. After finalizing the vision of a dress or dress set, comes another stage, which is the “testing” of the prototype on a live-model, to see the flow, the move of the material and apply necessary changes until the piece, in reality, matches what is in my mind.

The most challenging part, in my line of fashion design and production, is to get the right person[s] for the right job and working as a team together, like a good clockwork. Not every tailor is able to work with every kind of material and technique required.

Since we are not doing mass-production, another problem is to keep the prices affordable, while the raw materials and the workmanship is kept at its highest quality. The solution, for this, we found in networking and outsourcing with different small workshops, crafts people and textile experts, joining-up and joining-in in the team, for a collection – like a “movie on demand”- but are otherwise their own independent masters.

The most disappointing or “hardest” experience is when people, even friends and relatives, envy you and comment: “… what a lavish luxury life, all this travelling, the different exciting countries and places, the Fashion Shows …. And the limelight, the fame ...” and completely overlook the heart, mind - and body stressing work. Every new collection is like a childbirth – healthy pregnancy, labour, giving birth --- and then the “child-rearing” of your babies, till “they are mature – and leave the house”.


Where do you find inspiration for new collections?

My birth country Persia/Iran is a rich pool of inspiration, its history, its culture, poetry and literature, and its tremendous variety of historic clothing, of the different peoples and ethnicities, as well as the colours of the landscapes and seasons of Iran.

Another source is the clothing history of Central Asia and the Middle East. The strongest features of the designs of the past are comfort, and minimum waste. Long before environment- and resource scarcity-considerations became a public theme, they have been designed, with the optimum use of available size of material, for their time, in the context of their time; -- often full of, now forgotten, meanings and symbolism – reflecting professions, function, role and social status.

I started, some time ago, to look into the possibilities of bringing the beauty of the past back to life, by giving them a modern interpretation and “makeover”, for our time and a different clientele --- and have, by now developed my own individual signature style.

Since I’m scouting for new raw materials myself, sometimes the texture of a textile, the pattern, and the “feel” of a material is triggering the idea, what to do with it, what to make out of it, and it becomes the start of a full new collection.

My Husband, full time life-partner and part-time business partner is, occasionally, another source of inspiration. Being a Museologist, Archaeologist and Conservator by profession, with a special interest in Textile and Clothing History shares with me, his researches and findings. There, sometimes, by one term, one remark, I get a new inspiration, a new idea or consolidate, in dialogue, an already existing design or collection concept.


Further sources of inspiration are horrible designs, sloppy execution of designs and “wardrobe failures”.

As an old and wise woman in our family once said: “…nothing is so useless, that it can’t be used, at least, as a bad example ― and to learn from it to make it better.

How important is colour to your design process?

My relationship to colours is strongly shaped by the fact that my second passion, next to fashion design, is painting.

In the recent past I had Painting Exhibitions in Malaysia and the opportunity, by invitation, to exhibit my works in Galleries in Florence and Milan/Italy.

When it comes to importance of colours in fashion, I think all my previous and present collections are reflecting the essential role of colours, for me and the collections.

Everybody is nowadays talking about the importance of colours in offices, to enhance the productivity. Almost everybody knows that colours of dressing can be [and often are] an expression of mood, feeling; and can be used, in fashion design, to influence and change “a bad-mood-day” into a better one.


Readers would love to know more about the collection you showcased at Vancouver Fashion Week S/S19. 


The name of the spring/summer collection 2019 is “SHADES OF TERRA COTTA”.

The title terracotta (Baked Earth) refers to the results of backing earth; by the heat of the sun or man-made fire. According to the temperature and the air circulation, the earth develops into different shades of mature colours.

The title is also a homage to Ibn Batutta – the 14th century Muslim scholar, explorer, geographer and traveller from Tangier, in today’s Morocco.

Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the Islamic World and many non-Muslim lands, including North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and China.

Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling.

Inspired by Ibn Batutta’s travel log and the backed earth of this world FARAMAS created this collection with the title “SHADES OF TERRA COTTA”.

Drawn from the colours of my native country Iran, and its colours, the lands along the travel route of the North African traveller I got inspired to select the colours of this collection. The observations and experiences of my own travels, from east to west, as well as the rich dressing heritage of my own and the visited countries, contributed to the final development of the collection.

SHADES OF TERRA COTTA takes up the colour pallet of creation and seasons. The colours of the desserts, the multi-coloured rock formations, the colour of the earth and soil at different seasons of the year – and not to forget another type of “backed earth”, the shades of terra cotta, which is in the different nations and skin tones of people.


Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

My favourite is the last look (No. 12) of the show at the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, the closing piece of my show; the colours, carmine red and ebony black, of the long dress with side pockets and a semi-cape. This look allows the wearer, to be playful & flirty, or serious & official or elegant & glamorous – according to the occasion, the event or mood. Making use of different accessories, head covers or simply playing with the possibilities of the dress design; make each time a different look.

The bold colours of the flowing natural dress material create their own dynamic on different body types. Besides this, I think, that I developed, again, a design and dress-pattern, which combines comfort, gracefulness, elegance and glamour.

Like all pieces of my collections, also this one can be layered-over with pieces of other looks.

It is intended, that the owner and wearer of my designs is actively involved in the last and final design-process, the “styling it” and [re-] presenting it.

For me, this last look of the Shades of Terra Cotta Collection, is the essence of this collection – and has it all.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

FARAMAS designs are available at Malaysia department stores such as Metrojaya Midvalley; where they have “brick and mortar”, as well as online store:  http://www.metrojaya.com.my/

We also take online orders on our Instagram and Facebook page at https://www.instagram.com/faramasart/ and https://www.facebook.com/FaraMas


What's next for you as a designer and your brand?

Consolidating further the presence of FARAMAS Brand in Malaysia, Singapore and Germany; also we are looking to entering the North American market, with focus on Canada, after the positive reactions and responses at the recent 2018 Vancouver Fashion Show. Envisaged is the presence in well-established Boutiques, Fashion Malls and online platforms.

Besides this, the next year, FARAMAS is planning to start a “Prêt-à-Porter”, Ready-to-Wear line, slightly different from FARAMAS Exclusive, but with the same quality standards, concepts and style --- and produced in lager quantity.

FARAMAS Exclusive men’s-line will see, hopefully by end of 2019, the runway; maybe again in Vancouver. 

Anything else you'd like reader to know?

Often, being asked, where “… this restless search and passion for beauty is coming from”, I can only refer to what I said already, about my childhood and up-bringing. On a second thought, the fact, that during the first years of my life, the Iraq-Iran war was still raging – and the bombardments had reached also Tehran – may be another additional “triggering effect”, for what I’m passionate about. Sometimes a banging sound or a strong smell of burning wood or other materials, coming through the open window of my design studio, is kicking off the memories and vivid scary pictures of this time – destruction, suffering, chaos and other traumatic observations, a little child can’t be prevented from. But also the pictures of a half destroyed house, where the inhabitants had put up freshly planted Geranium in pots. I remember the little garden of my family, behind the house they lived in, after the others have been successively destroyed by bombing, with a garden for fresh vegetables, also a corner, where my mother grew “non- eatable stuff” flowers, just “for the sake of , some beauty”, in times and surroundings, which were, otherwise, the opposite of beautiful.

Maybe my search for and enhancement of natural beauty has also its beginnings in this un-conscious and, partly, conscious observations and experiences. Through my fashion designs I try to provide or offer help in self-improvement, supporting and/or enhancing something which is there, but not utilized for benefit of the wearer. I have encountered, throughout my career, so far, a number of women who are self-conscious about their body. The nature of my designs is, recognizing “beauty”, not in a flawless perfect image, but in embracing the reality of a person, regardless of age, size, race, nationality or religion. Art of Design & Beauty - and “enhancing natural beauty, which is in everyone and everywhere – and can be brought out of everybody and everything”, has become my passion.



What advice to you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Start small and grow, in the right pace. If you dream of quick fame and reaching the top in no time — wake up and get real. Fashion business is one of the toughest, most excluding, not easy to enter and closed trades of all — you’re either “in” or “out”.

Don’t forget that you should not imitate the big fashion houses and brands, which have already their market share and can afford to present at international fashion events, crazy, weird, extravaganza show-pieces, which are barely purchased. Study their designs and learn, but don’t copy them.

Have a concept, focus on carving your “niche” in the market and work on it. Be authentic, be you, but also be in dialogue with your clients, your buyers. Watch the market, the trends, and the forecasts Interpret them, incorporate them in your designs and themes, but stay the true you. Don’t compromise your values for the sake of short-lived fame. Be a Leader, not a Follower.

Finally, when you have your first success, don’t rest on it and copy yourself; there is always room for improvement, further development and progress. Learning is a lifelong process.

Last, but not least: don’t forget to be grateful, thankful to the ones who helped you, provided you with opportunities, encouraged and supported you, and stood by your side all the way.

Here, I would like not to miss the opportunity to thank Mr. Jamal Abdul Rahman (Founder and Organiser) and Mr. Samir Saab (Main Sponsor), who have made the Vancouver Fashion Week 2018, again, possible and successful; and Miss. Sarah Murray (Community Relations Manager) and all the others, “behind the scene”, who worked hard and successful to make the event memorable, for designers and guests of the shows.


Links - 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Interview With James Anderson, Author of Lullaby Road

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Did you dream of being a writer from an early age, or did that come later? 

A few years ago I was asked in an interview what I wanted to be when I grew up. I responded immediately: "Someone else." In the second grade I was diagnosed as (in the parlance of the day) "retarded." Perhaps I was marginally autistic, certainly ADHD, and absolutely dyslexic. I didn't understand people at all and, candidly, I could be explosively violent.

As a result of all this, I was left to myself a great deal and slowly I began to read, and as I began to read and write I also began to understand people. Most of my early social skills were learned from books. My guess is that my writing, which began early, was an attempt to refashion the world and the people around me into ways that made sense—at least to me. (And gave rise to comments from Ben Jones, when telling of the unexplainable and horrific crime at the center of my first novel, like: "All people wanted is a reason that made sense, even if it made no sense."

I finished my first novel when I was sixteen and not attending high school very much, which I suspect was their choice as well. By the time I was nineteen I was beginning to have my poems and short stories accepted in magazines. At twenty-one and still an undergraduate at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, I started my publishing company. Though I continued to write, I generally stopped trying to publish my own work.  I wrote six or seven novels in my twenties through my forties, all prior to The Never-Open Desert Diner, which was my first published book—at age sixty-two. I have often thought that writing was how I achieved my goal of growing up to become "someone else." I have become many "someone else's," one of which is Ben Jones, and in the process became contented if not always happily myself.

While Lullaby Road is offered as stand alone novel, in many ways it is a sequel to your first book - The Never-Open Desert Diner. Did you mean for Ben Jones to be the main character in a series of books from the start, or did the idea for the second book come later?

Review HERE!
That is an excellent question. The answer is yes—and no. As I was writing The Never-Open Desert Diner, which I was almost positive would never be published, I simply wanted to write a novel that entertained and consumed me during a difficult time. All I wanted to do is write the best novel I could write, without regard to genre or formulae. I've never been much interested in coloring inside the lines. Not a "mystery" or a "thriller" or a "crime" story. Really, I don't care much about genres. Besides, I agree with Faulkner, who was an avid reader of mysteries, that all stories are mysteries of one sort or another. I wasn't really thinking of a "series" character, and that is still true.

By the time I completed the book, but before it was published, I sensed there was more to tell—more to the story—and thanks to Crown, I had a chance to do that with LULLABY ROAD. Still, my vision is not as a series, not even as a trilogy—rather a triptych (which is a term usually associated with visual art) that exists as (3) separate panels, where each panel can be appreciated alone, but when attached in sequence provide a larger, single work, a panorama if you will.

As the plot centers around the desert, the "desert rats" who live there and driving a big rig, I wondered what your experience was? Have you actually driven a big rig? Have you spent serious time in the desert? If not, what research did you do to make it feel so real?

I have never driven a "big rig," at least not as a job. Neither does Ben Jones. He is a "day driver" and not an "OTR" (over-the-road) driver. Ben drives a slightly customized medium duty diesel with a twenty-eight foot box (trailer) that has a small refrigerated unit built in to the back. He needs room, but not that much room. His truck and trailer economically accommodates what he usually has to deliver to the "desert rats" and the poor roads he must traverse on a daily basis. A semi-trailer would be a hindrance.  

As a driver, the medium duty trucks were the ones I drove, though not well and not for long. My first job, delivering masonry building materials ended after three weeks when I slammed into the rear of a 7-Up truck scattering bricks and mortar and broken green bottles of 7-Up all over the road. The load came forward and crushed the cab flat. I was uninjured and unemployed. Then I drove a 1937 REO for a thrift outfit raising money for Vietnam vets. A few months. Top speed was maybe forty miles an hour. It had an old Brownie transmission that required about four shifts all double-clutched just to get to walking speed. The cast iron tailgate hydraulics failed and dropped several hundred pounds of iron across my knees. I was young and healed quickly but never returned to the job. I had made enough money to go back to college.

As for the desert, yes, I have spent a good deal of time in the desert, particularly the deserts of the American Southwest, most notably Utah. I do some research, though not a lot. Usually I write something and I think it is and then go back and check it. Nothing is more dangerous, to a writer or a human being, that what one 'thinks' he or she KNOWS. As anyone who has read the novels, or knows me personally, will say, the natural world is very important to me, and very personal. In that way the desert, the desert of Ben Jones, is both harshly beautiful and at the sometime surreal, often spiritual. 

The Utah desert is different from other deserts (in my opinion) because of the unique quality of the light. Deserts (all deserts) are usually defined by what they do not have—people, resources, particularly water. At the end of The Never-Open Desert Diner the crazy itinerant preacher John, says to Ben Jones, almost exactly what I just said, and then concludes with: The desert is home to light." It is no accident that my novels are preoccupied with the desert weather and landscape and their symbiotic relationship with the people who choose to live there. Ideologies melt away. 

What becomes clear in such a sparse and unforgiving setting is the connections between people, the abiding interdependency, almost in a form of high relief that wouldn't be nearly as dramatic and clear in any other kind of setting. What is absolutely essential in life, and to life—our reliance on each other and the land— rises from the flat, desolate environment of the desert. That, I believe, is the true essence of the desert and why so many readers have found my novels so evocative and atmospheric and those qualities are not really 'facts' you can research, you simply have to feel them.


Previous Ben Jones Novel
Your characters were very solid and believable. Can you share a bit about the process of creating and fleshing out people so they feel real. Are they composites of people you know? Are there elements of you in them? Do you create a cast of characters ahead of time you refer to or are they created as you write the story?

The praise my novels have received with regard to their characters has given me the greatest sense of accomplishment. The answer to your question, again, is yes—and no. I don’t work from an outline. My rough draft is my outline, and most of the events and characters spring from the page even as I write them.

Recently I was asked how much research I do, especially on people, and my honest answer was, not much. I know these people, or variations on them. When I was young, doing all kinds of jobs, I worked doing hard physical labor. My sister and I grew up in poverty and saw first-hand how tough life can be working day in and day out just to make ends meet. I just heard Alice Walker speak of this, her line: “Fighting for life everyday.” The characters in my books seem “real” because they are “real.” Part of what makes a character appear real is building the truths of their lives and entwined histories and shared hardships through simple, though often obliquely complex conversations that arise from common daily tasks and habits.

A good example of this is a scene in LULLABY ROAD where Ginny, the teenaged unwed punk teenaged mother of an infant, tells Ben Jones how she fell asleep working the nightshift at Walmart—her total exhaustion as a new mother, alone in the world, working two jobs, going to community college. But the other women, all older, gather around her, protect her from being seen by the supervisor, and just let her sleep as long as they can. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book because it comes in part from seeing what my own mother went through and how the women around and helped and protected one another as they each cared for their children.

Lullaby Road is not upbeat. While a mystery is being solved, we are surrounded with damaged people living sad lives.  What do you do an author after a day of immersing yourself in that literary world to shed the gloom and bring you back to reality and a happier place?

Now that is a truly original and tough question. First, however sad and damaged the people might be, most are heroic in some way, just as the truck driver Ben Jones is heroic. It is not so much a matter of winning or losing but the valiant daily struggles with which they contend. I admire their stoic, exhausted determination. I think readers do too. But yes, there is sadness, great exhausting sadness that often personally overwhelms me.

Ben Jones gets severely physically injured, as do others, in LULLABY ROAD, and I confess I felt just as beat up when I completed the novel. The violence in my novels, when it happens, is not comic book or melodramatic violence that can be shaken off with an ice pack and a couple Tylenol, or a six-pack of beer and a good joke. The same is true of the emotional and psychological damage. If you survive you do eventually go on, but you live the price you paid everyday. This, too, happens in a kind of personal geological time where the consequences of being a victim, or even a witness, can unfold over generations.

One of the absolute best novels I’ve read in a long time is BULL MOUNTAIN, the debut novel by Brian Panowich. You see the geological life of crimes played out over generations in a rural Georgia crime family.

As for how I shed the residue left over from writing such harrowing scenes, all I can say is that sometimes it takes good friends and family, and a long, demanding workout at the gym. That said, some of it never goes away. That’s how I know I’ve succeeded in telling the truth and that there is lasting value and accomplishment in what I’ve written regardless of how well a book sells or is received. Every page must risk it all. A writer always knows when he or she has achieved authenticity. It has to—it must—leave real scars. If it doesn’t, why do it at all?

What is your writing process (scheduled time, when inspiration strikes, etc.)?  What do you enjoy the most? What part of the process is your least favourite?

I really like what Pam Houston says about this topic. She thinks and thinks and when an idea reaches critical mass you simply must begin committing it to words on a page. But along those lines, both Steven King and Dennis Lehane have said, “professionals get up and go to work and amateurs wait for inspiration.” Somewhere in there is my process. I am always thinking about an image, or a piece of dialogue—or just a sensibility that is the seed of a story. I usually am up very early in the morning about 4am, before the fires of the day begin and I am awake though still with a residue of sleep—it’s quiet. But I will often write until I am exhausted, oblivious to the time and everything around me and inside me is inside the narrative and the world I have created.

Again, the best, really the only important part of writing or any form of artistic creation, is doing the work. Falling in love with the blank page as Michael Chabon says. The least favorite? Final proofing. No matter how many times I’ve been over a project, along with terrific, detailed copy editors—damn! There is always, always something. It drives me crazy.


Most of the writers I know did not study in university. As you have you MFA in creative writing, I am curious to know what you feel was the most important thing you learned in school? Also, what do you feel that training has brought to your craft?  

 I wrote my first novel when I was sixteen, followed by several more, none of which I even tried to publish. I read a few hundred books a year in the sciences, environment, biography, philosophy, poetry and novels. My life, as a publisher and writer, has continually been blessed with friendships with many writers. BUT—I didn’t go for an MFA until I was in my late 50s. An MFA will not make you a writer, though it might make you a better writer by adding new tools to your tool box, or helping you learn different ways to use the tools you already have. It also helps to be around others struggling to do the same thing. You learn from their struggles, and successes.

I went to a program in Boston at Pine Manor College, the Solstice MFA, where Dennis Lehane is the Writer-in-Residence. They accepted me. All the others to which I applied rejected me; and yet, it turned out to be the best program for me because my instructors, like Sterling Watson, Sandra Scofield, Venise Berry and Jaime Manrique looked at what I was trying to do and then simply worked with me NOT to change what I was doing, but to help me do it better. I wouldn’t trade that MFA experience for anything. It challenged me to throw away everything I thought I knew and become a beginner again—at 57. No one expects a surgeon or an accountant or an attorney to simply wake up one day and start operating, or defending a client or whatever. You work. And work. And learn everything you can about writing in every way you can from everyone you can. I am still learning. Still failing. Still adding tools to my tool box.

What's next for you as a writer? Any new books in the works?

Good question. I am working on a memoir, as well as two other novels and a collection of short stories/novellas. One of the novels is the third Ben Jones, but if LULLABY ROAD does not do well I might not have a publisher. Of course I will write it, but it might take a backseat to the memoir. As the Zen Master said: We’ll see!

Lullaby Road by James Anderson

In LULLABY ROAD, readers will find themselves enthralled by
Anderson’s vivid sense of place and his beautiful and heartbreaking narrative.
Synopsis -

Winter has come to Route 117, a remote road through the high desert of Utah trafficked only by those looking to escape the world and those the world has rejected. Local truck driver Jones, still in mourning over the devastating murder of his lover Claire, is trying to get through another season of his job navigating treacherous roads and sudden snowfall without accident when a mute Hispanic child is placed in Jones’s path at a seedy truck stop along his route bearing a note that simply reads “Please, Ben. Bad trouble. My son. Take him today. His name is Juan. Trust you only. Tell no one. Pedro.” From that moment forward, nothing will ever be the same. Not for Ben. Not for the child. And not for anyone along the seemingly empty stretch of road known as Route 117.

​Despite deep misgivings, and without any hint of who the child is or the grave danger he’s facing, Jones takes the child with him and sets out into a landscape that is as dangerous as it is beautiful and silent. With the help of his eccentric neighbors—Phyllis, who turned up one day in her Rolls-Royce with two children in tow and the FBI on her tail; Andy, a Utah State Trooper who is on or off duty depending on if his hat is on or off his head; and Roy, an ex–coal miner who has lived in Rockmuse, off Highway 117, his whole life and survives on odd jobs and the kindness of his neighbors—Jones uncovers buried secrets of the desert that are far more painful than he could have imagined.

Review -

Lullaby Road is that wonderful genre of fiction where the people, especially the main character, guide the story rather than having them as secondary to the plot. We follow the main character - Ben Jones - whose simple and solitary life of driving a rig in the lonely desert to make deliveries to "desert rats" takes a decisive turn right that the start.  In chapter one, he has a mystery young girl with her dog and his tenant's baby thrust on him as he begins his daily run. What follows is a complex plot that only begins to become clear near the end.

There are two literary descriptions that come to mind for Ben, an anti-hero and a tragic hero. In looking up the definitions the second is most accurate - "...damaged emotionally; it's someone who has lost everyone and everything that have mattered to him; became a recluse and avoids getting attached to anyone or anything anymore in case he may lose them again." As we get to know him more, we do find out he has lost his love tragically and gets comfort from his long hours on the road, alone in the desert.

Ben is pulled out of his comfort zone as he is drawn in to not only the mystery of the young girl and her dog, but the disappearances (and deaths) of several key men who might have answers and the hit and run attack on another desert character who is a staple in his life. As he struggles to find answers, his interactions with the other characters helps them to come alive. They are not your everyday people. They all have pasts and secrets that have drawn them to the desert.

This is a great read, but in many ways a sad one. It is full of interesting, but damaged souls living fairly isolated lives.  The beauty and unforgivable nature of the desert is also made clear, especially when Ben is out all night in it looking for the mystery girl who has fled. And there are a few violent passages to be aware of.

I really enjoyed this reading this book. I did find out after reading it that it is the second in a series.  While it does stand alone, I wish I had read the other book first.



Meet the Author - 

Fab author interview HERE!

JAMES ANDERSON was born in Seattle, Washington, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College and received his MFA in creative writing from Pine Manor College. His first novel was The Never-Open Desert Diner. His short fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines, including The Bloomsbury Review, New Letters, Solstice, Northwest Review, Southern Humanities Review, and others. He currently divides his time between Colorado and Oregon. 

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Slow Cooker Carne Asada

Image from Slow Cooker
I love any recipe that is Mexican inspired - especially if it is for flank steak.  This cut of beef has become a lot harder to find in recent years.  I have no idea why.  Fortunately my local Costco offers it in 2 steak packs (about 3 pounds total). You can separate them and freeze one for later or cook them both at the same time and freeze half of the cooked beef for use later.

Flank steak can be tough if not either cut across the grain into thin strips or slow cooked until very tender and shredded with 2 forks. I personally love to do the second, but in the image here from a blog site called Slow Cooker, they gently cross cut the very tender meat.  I love the look of this presentation, but after slow cooking, the meat really falls apart, so it couldn't have been easy. For now I'm sticking with shredding it.

Now for my feedback on the blog's recipe shared below (a few changes which I noted).  This is makes a very, very mild flavoured beef which my husband prefers.  It can be used in burritos, tacos, on rice (drizzled with some of the cooking juices), in taco salads, on top of fries like a poutine, or even in a Mexican inspired casserole. If sliced, you could serve as is.

The sides you choose to top it with can amp up the flavour and/or heat - cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, ripe olives, lime slices to squeeze, salsa of any heat, etc. Or you could adjust the recipe before cooking. I listed a few ideas at the bottom that could be added to the crockpot to bring more flavour or heat.  Enjoy!

Left - the beef shredded with 2 forks *** Right - cooked beef in the crockpot before shredding with 2 forks.

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Slow Cooker Carne Asada

Ingredients

3 lb.       Flank Steak
1/4 C     Olive oil
1/4 C     Orange juice
Juice of one lime about 2 tablespoons
2 tsps     Minced garlic
1 tsp      Chili powder
1/2 tsp   Cumin (original recipe uses 1 tsp)
1 T         Honey (might increase to 2 T next time)
Chopped Cilantro (original recipe was 1 tsp, but I love Cilantro so added about 1/3 C wo 1/2 C stirred the last 30 minutes of cooking) so it was fresher.
Green Onion (this was not in the original recipe, but I added about 1/3 C stirred in the last 30 minutes of cooking). Fresher added then and stays greener for a little colour.

Instructions

If you want to cut the steak into slices like in the photo at the top, add to them to the crockpot whole. If you want to shred the beef after like in the second photo, then cross cut the flank steak into thirds, then add to the crockpot. This will be the length of the beef when shredded so cut into smaller sections if you prefer, but 1/3 cuts work for me.

Whisk together the oil, orange juice, lime juice minced garlic, chili powder, cumin and honey.  Pour over the steak making sure all pieces are covered and cook on low 7-9 hours until tender. I actually mix the pieces of meat up about halfway through, moving those on the bottom to the top and those on the top to the bottom.  Then try to push them all down under the juice as much as possible.

Remove from slow cooker
and slice. Serve immediately or return to slow cooker on keep warm and let soak in juices. OR shred the meat with 2 forks right in the crockpot and leave in the juice until ready to use to keep it moist. I shredded it about 30 minutes before serving and then added the cilantro and green onion to warm them up and cook slightly.

NOTE - Possible additions to crockpot to amp up the flavour or heat include diced jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, a spicier chili powder such as Chipotle, crushed red peppers, a little more honey, maybe orange juice concentrate instead of fresh squeezed, and I even thought about playing around adding a little grated orange and lime grated in. It would help those citrus flavours pop a little more. So play around with this recipe at will. It's a great basic for those wanting a milder taste, but don't be afraid to make it your own. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week S/S19 - Lasalle College Student Showcase


I always have to tell people I didn't retire from everything, I only retired from event coverage. The exception to this is fashion design student shows.  From day one, I felt strongly about providing media coverage to young designers just starting out and I will continue to support the local design students as long as I am work in media.

These young artists bring new ideas and directions to the fashion world. Watching their shows gives the audience a glimpse into the future of the industry.  Because they are not bound by what can only be sold at this time in stores, they are free to be more conceptual in their garments and dream big.  What they offer not only inspires me, I also find myself wishing I could snag a one-of-a-kind garment or two right off the runway for my closet. In fact I've done that very thing at least once.

This was LaSalle College Vancouver's 19th consecutive season challenging a carefully selected group of the strongest students from the school's design program to create collections for this special show. Every season a new show theme is chosen that they must incorporate. This time the four students selected for this honour were asked to pick an inspirational woman to base their designs around.  The results speak for themselves.

Special thanks to everyone who worked behind the scenes to make this show spectacular - Creative Director/Fashion Show Producer Tracey Pincott, Make-up Johnny Bellas, Video Production Trevor Brady and the beautiful Lizbell Agency models.  Well done!

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ZHENGYU “JO” ZHOU

Influential Female: Influential Female: Grace Jones (Jamaican-American supermodel, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress).

“ I see beauty in both men and women and create garments that are gender fluid – that is the type of designer I want to be.





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SI-MAN “JACKIE” CHEUNG

Influential Female:  Florence Nightingale (An English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing).

“I am hoping to make a positive impact in the Vancouver fashion scene using gently worn clothing that I can upcycle and I hope to have my own brand that follows this philosophy.”





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NASRINE DAMROUDI

Influential Female:  Violet Trefusis (An English socialite and author).

“ I am inspired by listening to people's journeys in life and try to emulate that in each garment.”





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YA-TING “ALICE” CHUNG

Influential Female: Jean Harlow (an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s).

“I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be showcasing in Vancouver Fashion Week with my other classmates.”




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For more information on the fashion design program at Lasalle College Vancouver please visit the school's website.

About LaSalle College Vancouver (www.lasallecollegevancouver.com)
Established in 1998, LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is an Applied Arts school accredited by Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia and which meets the provincial British Columbian Education Quality Assurance (EQA) standards. LCV offers over 35 exciting applied arts programs in the fields of Fashion, Game Design & VFX, Audio & Film, Culinary, Interior Design, and Graphic Design, with credentials ranging from Bachelor degrees to certificates. E-learning programs are also offered in Fashion Marketing, Administrative Assistant, Video Game 3D Modeling, Interior Design, Graphic Design – Branding and Event Planning and Management.

About the LCI Education network (www.lcieducation.com)

LCI Education traces its origins back to LaSalle College in Montreal, which was founded in 1959. Present today on 5 continents, the LCI Education network consists of 23 select higher education institutions, and some 1,500 employees offering instruction to over 10,000 students throughout the world each year. LCI Education is also known as a leader in online training in Canada. LCI Education encourages program harmonization across the various countries in order to ensure greater flexibility, better control over the quality of its services and respect for cultural diversity.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mantis Force: Decimation (Marium Kahnet Book 2) by R.J. Amezcua

Book 1 review HERE!
Book 3 Review - HERE!

Synopsis - 

Led by Victoria and Balese, the rogue sisters of the Marium Kahnet have successfully completed their life-long quest for revenge against the sorcerer’s guild. Now a new mission has begun, one of survival, as their enemies seek their lives with a vengeance. As planned, the sisters who managed to survive the destruction of the testing facilities have joined their adopted family’s nefarious criminal organizations, plotting to escape with detailed plans of the Leviathan project to justify their actions to their home world of Ramah. But they are unaware they are being  hunted by elite mercenaries hired by the sisterhood.

Review -

​Book 2 in this series picks right up where book 1 left off. I appreciate when an author doesn't spend pages and pages of a sequel recapping what happened in the previous book. BUT, if it's been awhile since you read the first book, then you might need to glance through it go get up to speed

In Decimation, we follow what came after the destruction of the testing facilities. Deadly radiation has killed millions and is slowly spreading further and further. Some of the Marium Kahnet rogue sister have lost their lives, others are struggling with the scale of the death toll they have caused. This story follows several of them as they try to deal with the guilt as well as struggle to find a way back home.

The story is flowing and the multitude of names of people, places and technology is close to the same as the first book, so not a lot of new things to understand and absorb.  The author has kept the storyline tight and to the point. And the book is on the shorter side like the first, which works well for a SciFi trilogy set in the far reaches of space.  And as in the first book, he ends in a way that makes you want to reach for the next book.

Definitely written for SciFi fans. 

Buy the book - Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iTunes 
Meet the Author -

Read a fab author interview HERE!

R. J. Amezcua was born and raised in Silicon Valley, and is happily married to Sheryl. As a young boy, one of his favorite TV shows was Lost in Space. Being an entrepreneur and visionary by nature, he has begun his journey as an author and writer. Using his love for science fiction, he created the epic saga “Mantis Force,” which encompasses a vast universe.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook