Friday, November 30, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Elena Pignata of Ombradifoglia and Elena Pignata Bridal

Runway images by Simon Lau 

Designer image from Website
Please Share a bit about your journey to embrace Fashion Design as a career.

I began my fashion career, just after graduating from the Feller Institute of Design and Fashion. I won the Fashion Grand Prix Aware and was invited to show my collection at Tokyo's Fashion Week.  I was only 18.  Initially I’d like to be an architect as I thought fashion was  not my path. My family encouraged me to study fashion, and they always supported  me a lot.

How did you learn your skills?

I graduated from the Feller Institute of Design and Fashion in 2000. They offered great education and training that covered from all aspects of the industry from research, to illustration, to making models and tailoring. First I worked 6 years as designer with several important Italian brands. Then in 2006 I launched my own brand - Ombradifoglia. Then in 2015, I launched a second label -  “Elena Pignata” - for wedding and ceremony dresses. I personally create all the items of both collections in my studio here in Turin, Italy, We take care of all the stages of the collections, from the research and style, prototyping and production in house.

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

Being a fashion designer is complex work. You must be up-to-date, tenacious and have a mind that is always fresh in order to receive new ideas. Certainly it is difficult to maintain on a daily basis because sometimes, especially in some periods of the year, there is no time to devote to research. But I have to say that there isn't anything that scare me. I am very passionate about my work, so the difficulties are parts of the creative phase!


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

Inspiration can be found everywhere - in a song, in a place or in a museum. It is a feeling that in a particular moment suggests something to you, that inspires you precisely. The colors are very important because they define the "mood" of the collection. And the way you choose to mix them defines a precise period, thus giving the collection itself modernity.

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

The inspiration for this collection came from a combination of fabrics and photos of African women.
Going into deep in this topic, I came across the Sapeurs. These African dandies mix the tradition of their fabrics and colours with that of another culture,the cuts and clean lines of English blazers. I decided to give a kind of personal interpretation to this style. I combined materials with different fantasies, apparently all disconnected from each other, which together defined the Sapeurs style.


Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

Yes! One of the last outfits of the runway - a check silk taffeta top, multi color ottoman vest and cotton pants - is absolutely my favorite!

Where can readers purchase your designs?

At the moment unfortunately only in Italy or in Kiev. However, they can send us an email letting us know the dress they want. Then we can make it and sent it directly to their home!


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

A few weeks ago we presented the fall/winter collection in the fashion show. Then February 19 we will be present it again at the White in Milan, during Italian Fashion Week.

What advice to you have for young fashion artists just starting out?

"Being a fashion designer is not a good time. You have to be tough."


Links - 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pomegranate, Spinach, Mushroom and Almond Quinoa Pilaf

OMG - the almonds!!! SIGH!  

There is such a hilarious story to this recipe.  I wanted to have a quinoa pilaf on the side to go with the Crockpot Maple Honey Chicken Breasts I was making for a small family get together.  After perusing several recipes, this is what I mashed together.

It was tasty, but the broth I used dulled the light colour of the quinoa, so might try another type next time that keeps the lighter colour intact.  Also the almonds became one of those kitchen horror stories you just can't stop laughing about.

I decided I wanted on skin on thinly sliced almonds as I thought they would look great sprinkled on top and still at that crunchy note to the pilaf.  Roasting them brings out the nutty flavour more.

I placed 1/2 cup in the oven and watch and stirred and watched.  Then I got distracted and burnt them. Not a great smell in the house with company coming. It was my last prep thing to do, so I walked away for awhile and then tried again.  SAME RESULT.  My patience for standing by the stove was obviously missing that day and we all know a watched pot never boils, so it was always in the minute I walked away that things went south.

I had now used up all the sliced skin on almonds I had purchased and the house smelled like burnt nuts.  However, I was determined.  I found some sliced almonds in my cupboard and, while not the exact ones I wanted, I managed to roast them perfectly by setting the timer 2 minutes at a time. VOILA! Success!

30 minutes before supper, I got up from visiting with our company and started final prep on the pilaf.  When it was all cooked I popped it into a warmed bowl and set it on the table with a great sigh. It was only when half way through eating that I realized those crazy almonds were still sitting over in the prep area. They never did make it into the pilaf.

I shared this story as we at ate and everyone had a great laugh. I swear the almonds will be in the quinoa next time, but for this time they just served as a humorous note to the evening.  And the photo I took for this column an echoing reminder.

I'll be replacing the pilaf image as I'm not happy with it anyway as soon as I get a chance to make this recipe again! And next time it will have those skin on toasted almonds decorating the top.

= = = =

Pomegranate, Spinach, Mushroom and Almond Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients -

2 T        Olive oil, divided
1/2        Medium onion, diced
1 C        White Mushrooms
1 C        Brown Mushrooms
1 C        Quinoa
2 C        Broth (chicken, low salt chicken or vegetable)
1 T         Parsley, chopped
4 C        Chopped Spinach
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp      Fresh lemon zest
1 tsp      Sugar (I left this out and didn't miss it a bit)
1/2 C     Raw pomegranate seeds
1/2 C     Diagonally sliced scallions
1/2 cup skin on sliced almonds, toasted and divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions - 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms until onion is translucent and mushrooms are slightly brown. Add the quinoa and stir to coat. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Add chopped spinach, cover the pan and let steam a few minutes until fully wilted.

Reserve a few tablespoons of sliced almonds as garnish.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, pomegranate seeds, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, zest, the rest of the sliced almonds and sugar. Add the quinoa/spinach mixture, toss gently,  season with salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the reserve almonds on top as garnish. Serve.

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Chicken

My son-in-law was in town for business. We were able to snag him for dinner one night - myself, my husband, my youngest son and my son-in-law.  Yup, I was the only hen in a room full of roosters.  Not the first time and won't be the last.

I grew up with 2 brothers only and my husband is one of 3 brothers with the other 2 never marrying.  Then I have 2 sons and a daughter, but she lives on the east coast.  So me and the men is a recurring theme at get-togethers.

As a distraction I decided to try two new recipes. This was brave move that could have backfired on me - especially as I always seem to try to make them my own with small changes - but one that made cooking more interesting for me personally.

I searched for a crock pot recipe so that I could relax and be a part of the pre-dinner conversation for a longer time.  I found a recipe that looked interesting on Skinnytaste.com for Maple Dijon Chicken Drumsticks and decided to use their sauce as my starting point, but wanted to use chicken breasts instead and needed to increase the amount of sauce and chicken. Cooking time was a bit of a question with the switch. Many recipes on the internet said 6 hours on low, but mine seemed to be pretty done by 4, so put it on the keep warm setting for the last 2.

With this I wanted to offer a quinoa pilaf. After perusing quite a few recipes and taking bits from each, I came up my own version - Quinoa, Pomegranate and Mushroom Pilaf. A vegetable side dish, some homemade biscuits and voila! Dinner was served.  For dessert, we opted to pick up slices of Tiramisu from the local bakery 2 blocks away. An easy way to end the night. And we were all stuffed!


= = = =

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Chicken

Ingredients - 

2-1/2 lbs.       Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (I prefer smaller size so more servings. If your
                      Chicken Breasts are really large, I would cut them in half lengthwise.)
2-3 T             Butter or Olive Oil
3/4 tsp           Garlic salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1/3 C             Pure Maple syrup
3 T                Balsamic vinegar
1/3 C            Stone Ground Dijon Mustard (love the flavour and the little flecks
                     add texture to the look of the sauce.
Cornstarch to thicken sauce (optional)

Directions - 

Season chicken with garlic salt and pepper, then brown in two batches in a skillet with 2-3 T of butter or olive oil. While they are browning, combine the maple syrup, balsamic, and dijon mustard in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

Place the browned chicken breasts in the crock pot. Add the syrup mixture to the hot pan to deglaze, scrapping up as much of the brown bits from the bottom as you can. Then pour the sauce over the chicken in the crock pot, making sure all chicken is coated.

Set on LOW and cook 4 - 6 hours. You want the meat cooked, but not overdone.

OPTIONAL -  I removed the chicken to a warm plate, put the sauce into a small saucepan and thickened slightly with mix of cornstarch and water as I wanted it to be more like a gravy, but this is totally up to your personal preference.

NOTE - Many recipes I looked at said to cook chicken breasts 6 hours on LOW, but the size of your chicken breasts will influence cooking time, as will the crockpot you use. Mine seemed to be done at 4, so I set my crockpot to WARM the last few hours. You don't want them overcooked as they get very dry and stringy, but you do want to be sure they are done through.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spring Thaw: A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery Novella and Other Mystery Short Stories by Lauren Carr

"Lauren Carr could give Agatha Christie a run for her money!" - Charlene Mabie-Gamble, Literary R&R

Synopsis - 

In today’s hectic world, many whodunit fans don’t have time to get their mystery fix diving into a whole novel. Lauren Carr’s SPRING THAW AND OTHER MYSTERY SHORT STORIES is for these fans—but that doesn’t mean whodunit fans who do have time can’t dive in as well.

A novella, Spring Thaw features retired federal agent Chris Matheson from Lauren Carr’s newest bestselling cold case series. When his late father’s former friend is indicted for the seven year old murder of a church bishop, Chris renews old broken friendships to thaw out the cold case.

Featuring Mac Faraday from Lauren Carr’s popular Mac Faraday Mysteries, an estate auction turns into a deadly affair after Gnarly's antics cause Mac to purchase a gem of a dress, which isn't his color in Killing Bid. (Previously published in Lauren Carr’s BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Beauty to Die For features the Lovers in Crime, Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates in a race against the Angel of Death to clear the name of a dying woman's son, who was framed for murdering Miss Pennsylvania. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Countdown to Murder returns to the Lovers in Crime where Cameron and Joshua try to solve the murder of a young pregnant widow before it happens. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Mystery fans will see that every dog has his day, especially if that dog is Gnarly. In Lucky Dog, Gnarly helps Mac Faraday to solve the murder of a wealthy society girl. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Dog Loving Mystery Fans will get a special treat when they read The Gnarly Rehabilitation Program. In this Gnarly Mystery Short, Bert and Ernie learn the hard way that crime does not pay when they dog nap Gnarly. (Previously published as a bonus feature with A WEDDING AND A KILLING.)

Gnarly, the rambunctious German shepherd, is also features in Lauren Carr’s Christmas short, A Gnarly Christmas. It is Christmas day and Gnarly has been up to his old tricks again. Now he's in the dog house--or rather the boathouse--after stealing the Christmas feast! Moments after Archie and Mac leave Spencer Manor, Gnarly hears a call for help from Rocky, the Maltese down the street. Four assassins for hire have invaded the home of Rocky's elderly owners. While the home invaders wait for instructions from a mysterious caller, Gnarly must plot to stop them. Can Gnarly save Christmas with only the help of an 8-pound Maltese dressed in an elf suit? (Previously published as a single short story by the same name.)


Review - 

I only found the work of Lauren Carr a few years ago. Although late to the game compared to her other fans, I dove immediately into deep water and have managed to read all of her full-length books. However, this is the first time I've had a chance to read shorter works by this author. All I can say is "Bravo."

Spring Thaw contains seven short stories - Spring Thaw, Killing Bid, Beauty to Die For, Countdown to Murder, Lucky Dog, The Gnarly Rehabilitation Program and A Gnarly Christmas.  They all contain what I consider Carr's classic strengths - intelligent, strong characters (both men and women),  quirky pets that can steal the limelight, interesting story lines, a plot that needs solving (sometimes darker, sometimes lighter) and humour (sometimes a touch, sometimes an all out party).
And despite the shorter length, each story was still fully told.

What was best about reading this book of short stories, it that often I lose sleep when I start a new Carr mystery.  I just keep turning those pages until the wee hours of the morning, totally caught up in the plot. The next day sees me happy but dragging.  With Spring Thaw I was able to read just a story or two and put the book down while I savoured those stories on their own. This meant I finally managed to stretch out reading one of Carr's books for a full three days I think. WOW! A record for me.  In the end, while I enjoyed all the stories, I particularly loved the humorous ones featuring Gnarly.  He is one crazy character and his antics made me smile.

I hope the author will consider offering more shorter stories in this format.  It makes it so easy to tuck into a shorter period of reading into the end of a busy day.

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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Monday, November 19, 2018

Crispy, Crunchy Apple Fennel Salad With Walnuts and Honey

Image from http://bit.ly/2QTDVSX

I love having people over to my house for dinner and conversation.  It just is so much more intimate than a restaurant. And as I get older, the hearing isn't as good in loud environments. Too much gets missed.

I have one amazing group of 7 couples I try to have over once a year, but with everyone's schedules it is tough. It had been 18 months since our last full get-together. Finally this week it happened and as soon as I learned it was a go I dove into menu planning.

For larger get-togethers, I try to pick recipes where almost everything can be cooked or prepped the day before so my time after they arrive is relaxed.  This time, I chose a menu of Marabella Chicken, Roasted Orange Anise Carrots, Roasted New Potatoes, Rolls, assorted cookies and Pumpkin Pecan Pie (made even easier by using a purchased crust). 
Thanks Alyson for
this pic of my menu.

All was in prep the day before when I felt I needed one more item, a crispy salad that would not wilt.  I decided the base would be Fennel and after exploring lots of options settled on this one where the fennel is paired with tart Granny Smith Apples.  I tripled the recipe as it only serves 4 and we had 13 in total, and I left off the walnuts to fit in better with the other dishes.  It was the prefect companion to all the cooked dishes. I'll be making it again.

This recipe came from a site called Chef Steps. I've put their instructions below with what I did personally in parenthesis. Enjoy!

= = = =

Crispy, Crunchy Apple Fennel Salad With Walnuts and Honey
I tripled this for my large crowd, so instead of 4 this makes 12 servings. I have the chart showing the original proportions below.

Ingredients
3         Granny Smith Apples, Skin on
3         Large Fennel Bulb, stalks and frond removed
1/3 C  Chopped Walnuts (plus a little more - I didn't add these) 
1/3 C  Olive Oil
1/3 C  Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 C  Honey
1 tsp   Salt

Adjust your mandolin to slice at a thickness of 2 mm (I just used a sharp knife and a cutting board and before slicing I cut the bulbs vertically into quarters and the apples into eighths).  Slice fennel bulbs and apples crosswise and mix with nuts in a big bowl.  Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey. Pour over ingredients in bowl and sprinkle with salt. Combine well.

Chill and serve. 

(Note - be careful about making this one too far ahead of time as the salt and vinegar will pull moisture out of the apple and fennel. I sliced and dressed with the oil a few hours earlier, then added the salt and vinegar just before the guest arrived.)


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Crimes Past (A Mac Faraday Mystery Book 13) by Lauren Carr

"Lauren Carr could give Agatha Christie a run for her money!" - Charlene Mabie-Gamble

Synopsis -

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former colleague, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case—even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former colleagues was the killer.

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

Review - 

This 13th book in the Mac Faraday Mystery series opens in the past at the wedding of 2 members of Mac's former homicide squad.  The flashback ends when someone goes to looks for the newlyweds as their guests are getting antsy and finds them both murdered in their private room. Then Carr whisks us to the future for another wedding - that of the daughter the slain female police office.

Mac decided to offer as a wedding gift to the bride, a fully paid affair at Spencer Manor including not only the wedding itself, but the cost to host all the guests.  Driving the decision to offer this incredible gift lurks a second ulterior motive as well.  He promised the young woman those many years ago that he would find the person who murdered her mum. Instead the case has gone cold.  So this is his last chance to have all the suspects in one place and hopefully finally give her closure.

Things to NOT go smoothly.  First the lead investigator on that cold case killed and the hotel damaged. Another involved is flung from her balcony. After the wedding everyone will be returning home closing the door on this opportunity once and for all.  Can Mac stop the killer from claiming more victims and finally find the answer the young bride deserves? The clock is ticking - and the answer doesn't come until those final pages.

Another great title from mystery writer Lauren Carr.  Can't wait for her next!

Buy Crimes Past: Amazon Add to Goodreads

Watch the trailer:


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



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Consultant: A Jonathan Hunter Thriller by Tj O'Connor

Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere. 
Synopsis - 

When a rogue CIA consultant goes AWOL from his Middle Eastern post in response to his brother’s plea for help, he arrives just in time to witness his brother’s murder. For years, Jonathan Hunter and his brother Kevin Mallory had not spoken―until Kevin’s final words, “… Khalifah … Not Them … Maya.”

Pursuing his brother’s killer, Hunter stumbles into a nest of horrifying terrorist activity by Middle Eastern refugees, which sparks a backlash across America. In the shadows, Hunter’s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. Neither Hunter nor LaRue realizes that a new threat―the Iranian threat―has entered the game. Stakes rise as two shadowy players are one step ahead of Hunter and LaRue―Khalifah, a terrorist mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who dances with the highest bidder.

As attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another Middle East conflict, innocent refugees become trapped between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere. Is this who we’ve become? Before the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the next terror target, and pray he’s in time to stop further annihilation.

Review - 

It's been a while since I've read a more serious murder/suspense/international intrigue novel, so was excited to snag a copy of The Consultant. It did not disappoint. What makes it so effective is that it brings the fear of terrorism into small town America. It is right in our own backyard.

The race begins right from the opening chapter.  CIA consultant Jonathan Hunter, after receiving an unexpected letter from home,  has slipped away from his post to visit his estranged brother. He lands in the middle of a confusing scene involving a sniper, his brother dying in his arms while whispering some important clues and a truck that is torched as the sniper flees the scene.  What is going on?

A mix of characters move in and out of the storyline - a sister-in-law and adopted nephew he knew nothing about, government operatives, heavy handed local police officer, innocent refugees, terrorists who exploit them and an illusive, unknown person playing puppet master behind the scenes pulling the terrorist's strings called Khalifah.  As hundreds of people perish during terrorist bombings, there is a hint of the biggest yet to come.  Can Hunter unwind all the threads in time to avert the terrorist's biggest threat?

The pace in The Consultant is fast and furious with danger, physical abuse and death a constant. Not for the squeamish.  If you love darker political thrillers then this is for you.




Meet the Author - 

Fab Behind the Scenes Interview HERE!


Tj O’Connor is the author of The Consultant, the first of The Jonathan Hunter Thriller series from Oceanview Publishing, and four paranormal mysteries from Midnight Ink and Black Opal Books.

Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Labrador companions in Virginia where they raised five children.

Dying to Know, Tj’s first published novel, won the 2015 Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) for mysteries and was a Finalist for both a 2015 Silver Falchion Award and the 2014 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Mystery Book of the Year.

Connect with Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Interview with Tj O'Connor, Author of The Consultant: A Jonathan Hunter Thriller

Can you share with readers a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? I know you dabbled as a kid, but how did you move from an interest in writing to publishing five novels? 

Actually, I wrote my first novel right out of high school. But, as one might imagine, it was horrible so I hid it from the world (where it remains to this day). Over the next many years, I wrote two more novels which were progressively better, but still not worthy of publishing. These books were before the internet made it easier to find agents, edit, publish, and follow all the rules that go along with author’s lives. However, I was working and travelling and raising a family so my writing was more a hobby then. In the early 2000s, I returned to being an independent consultant where I could make my own hours and could devote time to writing again. I studied the process of publishing, tried out a couple manuscripts, and pushed forward toward crafting a book truly publishable. It wasn’t until 2010 that I told my adult daughter about a 20-plus year nightmare that plagued me constantly. She encouraged me to write the nightmare as a novel. I did, and Dying to Know landed my agent, the amazing Kimberley Cameron, and my first book contract. From there, it was still tough, but I kept moving forward, writing more and more, and luckily landing other contracts with Black Opal and Oceanview Publishing. I think the secret to publishing, other than a lot of luck, is just writing and writing and getting to “The End.”

How much of the inspiration for your storylines and characters you create come from your extensive career as a federal agent, an anti-terrorism agent/investigator and international security consultant? Do you ever find ideas for plotlines or characters from other sources?

Most of my inspiration (and perspiration) comes from my life’s work. Storylines are bits and pieces of my own adventures and the characters often Frankenstein-like collections of various people I’ve encountered—heroes and villains. Since my world has been largely the topics I write about—murder, high crimes, terrorism, and intelligence work—for now, I’m content to stay on those plotlines. As an independent security consultant, I often work in the areas of risk and crime, so there’s a never ending flow of ideas, characters, and plots there, too. I sort of work in the “bad news” world. Geez, what does that say about me?

Review - HERE!
How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ? 

I don’t really have a finite writing process. I write whenever and wherever I can. That is normally in my den but not at any one time per se. I write before I start my professional day, often over lunch, after work (and after I cook the household meals and deal with my Labs!), holidays, weekends, etc. If I’m travelling for business or an overnight book event, I write in the hotel or coffee shops. It’s not a chore for me to do that, either. I love it! It keeps me sane and if I couldn’t write, I’d be done for. I even dictate scenes, notes, and plots while driving or on the plane/train using my cellphone. If I could just win the $1.6 billion lotto, I could quit work and write full time. Of course, I’d have to actually play the lotto to win, but that’s sort of a technicality!

Do you have to do a lot of outside research on locations or specific details for accuracy or to deepen the story's sense of reality?

I do use a lot of research although most of my plot points come first from my head. Then, I do research to make sure I have the most up-to-date information and go from there. I’ve run homicides and other violent crimes, burglaries, embezzlements, terrorism cases, protection operations, undercovers, et al. But, since some of my experience is dated and those professions are constantly changing, I research to make sure my knowledge is fresh and up to date. Also, I like to have real places in mind and people’s faces on my characters. So, I jump on my Harley and cruise around until I can find just the right places for scenes. I’ll photograph them, Google Earth the maps and details, and put together scene outlines for each one. For people, I’ll spend hours on the internet finding faces of people that I want my character to look like. I’ll download those, build a character outline, and build dossiers on them. I build my stories much like I run investigations or other operations. Again, it begs the question, “what’s that say about me?”

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore? Do you have any resources you find invaluable? 

There’s really not much I don’t like about actually writing a story. Though, I am not big on social media, although I do a lot of it. In my profession, you don’t open a web site or Facebook page to talk about yourself and your life’s work in details and play-by-play. There, I sort of try to keep a low profile. As an author, that doesn’t work. My agent would kill me! So that part is tough but I do it. Editing is painful, hurtful, destructive, and depressing. I mean, I wrote the words, so if I didn’t want it said or show or done, I wouldn’t have written them, right? So when I have to edit, it hurts! But, when my editor or agent says, “Kill that one. Lose 10,000 words. Off with their heads!” I groan, moan, cry a little . . . and do it. It often requires some bourbon and sleepless nights, however.

As The Consultant takes you through a very dark journey at times, what helped you personally walk away from it at the end of a day's writing to relax and embrace a lighter mood?

Wow, I hope this doesn’t come out wrong, but The Consultant might be dark to some, but it’s not as dark as what I’ve seen. That’s why I wrote Jonathan Hunter as sort of a smartass and sarcastic character who uses self-deprecation and his own life-stories to lighten the mood in places. It’s how I cope and how many in my profession cope as well. I have tons of my own stories about autopsies, crime scenes, and terror attacks where dark humor and storytelling kept me sane. So really, I didn’t need a break from Hunter, though he might have needed one from me a lot!

Any advice for writers in the process of starting or working on their first book?

Easy! Write and finish it. There is nothing more satisfying and motivating then typing “The End” after months of writing. It is an amazing accomplishment even if the novel doesn’t get published. There is no more important advice I can give—and it’s the most important advice I received some many decades ago.


Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stage?
Yes, of course. I actually have two. I am working a pseudo-sequel to The Consultant and a standalone mystery. Both are finished but I plan on reworking them to update for the date and change around a few characters and plot sequences to improve the stories. I love these two books and will focus my time on getting them out to my agent and hopefully the marketplace. Truth is, I have a couple dozen outlines of novels I want to write. I don’t starve for ideas or characters—just time. So, if anyone rich and famous wishes to adopt me, or someone can give me the winning lotto numbers, I can write full time and get whittling away at my novels! And if you do, I’ll make you the hero in a book!

Connect with Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook



Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Yeqi Tang of NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)

All images provided by NABA unless otherwise marked.

Image by Arun Nevader of Getty Images
Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Jiaxing, a small city in south-east coast of China.

What you like when you were young? What were your interests in your teenage years?

When I was young I liked watching movies and participating in outdoor activities, like hiking or traveling.

Looking back, can you remember any early signs that you would end up in fashion? A personal story would be great here.

Before studying fashion, I didn't have any art background, so studying fashion design was a little difficult for me at the very beginning.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?


Actually, after my college entrance examination, my first choice was foreign language. I wanted to be a translator in the future. But I didn't reach the entering test score. I was actually accepted by my third choice. So it's a coincident for me be in this career, but I really do like being a fashion designer.


Why did you choose to study in the program at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)?

I am a exchange student from SUES. My Chinese university has an exchange program with NABA.

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

Where I didn't have any art background before, I sometimes felt my ideas or inspirations were very limited.


What was the inspiration for the collection you showed on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week?

The inspiration for my collection - called Salute Antoni Gaudi - is the decorative art of Antoni Gaudi, his mosaic porcelain and stained glass.

Describe your collection – customer, day-evening-sportswear-separates-casual-luxury-glamour-stage-costuming-punk?

I would describe my collection as stage.


What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

The colors of my palette were extracted from the architecture decoration of Gaudi. The main fabrics are cotton and synthetic fiber.

Do you have a favourite look?

My favourite look is the one in predominantly blue tones.

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

A modern Chinese style. As a Chinese girl, I deeply love my culture. I want to find a way to introduce Chinese culture to the world through my Fashion Design.

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


I will be going back to China to look for a job working with an Asian brand.


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

"Fashion design is window for me to meet a better me."

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For more information on the Fashion Design or Fashion and Textile programs at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti), please visit the website at https://www.naba.it/en/fashion-design.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Arianna Bonifazi of NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)

All images provided by NABA unless otherwise marked.

Image by Arun Nevader of Getty Images
Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I grew up in the countryside, basically i spent all my childhood being outside between my grandma’s violets and the smell of wheat.

What you like when you were young? What were your interests in your teenage years?

When i was young, i was intrigued by math, geometry and everything tat linked me to signs and pictures. My grandma was a seamstress and the lines her patterns always affected me because they let me get carried away and stimulated my creativity.

Looking back, can you remember any early signs that you would end up in fashion? A personal story would be great here.

As i have already stated , my grandma was a seamstress and my mom, even if she didn’t follow her footsteps, knows really well how to sew so I always had something to do with clothes.

I often went with them to the fabric shop and i always loved to get lost in it. Both of them tried to teach me how to sew but at the beginning I was completely unable. I remember when I tried to sew my first skirt with my grandma…after the third wrong seam my grandma got mad at me and got out the lab screaming that she would have never tried to teach me anything. That moment triggered something in me. I started to develop a passion for something that apparently I wasn’t good at it but that was able to take my mind completely. I had to lose myself in it.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

My formation is not purely about fashion. I got a bachelor in product design but fashion has always been a challenge that I wanted to face soon or later in my life. My parents didn’t support me 100% on the choice of a master in fashion at the beginning but after a lot of fights I convinced them that was the thing that I had to do. 


Why did you choose to study in the program at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)?

I chose the Naba’s fashion and textile master because firstly NABA is an academy. I was coming from a technical education and I felt the need to free myself from the same method that I always loved, I had to free my mind and creativity till the end, so I thought the academy could be the right place to do it.

I liked also the fact that it wasn’t entirely focused on the creation of collections, but there were courses about history of art and above all others concerning fabrics and experiments on it.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What was easy for you? Are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?
Actually there’s nothing particularly difficult, for me to create garments it’s a kind of communication, my way to speak and express how I feel inside. I like experimenting and fashion has always allowed it!

Perhaps thinking about it, the most difficult step is the realization of the garment itself, but above all the re-entry into all the traditional rules of sewing and tailoring. 

Illustrations of this collection
What was the inspiration for the collection you showed on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week?

I created the collection “Je me suis perdu en cherchant les chevaux blancs” during a somewhat dark period of my life ... that fact justifies the highly present of black color.

During those months, fate confronted me with bad situations and I didn’t feel very well ... It was all tight, confused, and I was totally wrong. So I needed to talk in some way, to make people understand myself, then open up and overcome that moment.

And I thought that maybe I had to go back to the concept of “dirt” (taken in the white look) but at the same time transmitting that sense of suffocation and solemnity, of confusion of the “me not me”, and the difficulty I had doing that thing...I arrived to the narrow silhouettes, long and sinuous, that often don’t allow the model to walk and “breathe” comfortably.

I was also very inspired by the concept of puppet, both at the philosophical level and the object itself.

Describe your collection – customer, day-evening-sportswear-separates-casual-luxury-glamour-stage-costuming-punk?
I don’t want to give a specific definition to my collection, rather I would simply transmit and make clear to the viewer how I feel, what I want to tell. In general all the garments has its own style, but there are both! Experimental pieces and clothing that can be worn normally. 


What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

It’s mainly based on the black color,the black that make dirty the white...I wanted to create a clear and well visible contrast. Black is dark, fear, confusion; while white is light, it’s purity.

I also managed to “speak” through the touch and visually thanks to the fabrics; the denim canvas in black tells the heaviness but is approached to the lightness of the gauze, up to the idea of “fake” with the nylon, with I wanted to create also the sound effect during the walk of the model. In general I tried to combine fabrics very far from each other, just because on the body they are modeled in a different way and create disorder in the order.

Even the accessories, for example the zipper, are so important, clearly visible and bright.

Do you have a favourite look?

I don’t have a favorite look! All represent a path...my path; and all of them have different tastes, as if we are walking, traveling from one space to another. 

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

I think the world of fashion is saturated, and empty at the same time...I try to bring something that cause a feeling, something that could be a mess but also clear and “clean”. Ironically, I could say that something new is myself with all my contradictions! 

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

I would like to work immediately and make as many experiences as possible, not only in the fashion design, I want to experiment myself in all the fashion’s faces. And maybe, yes...I will open something mine, like a big open space where people as me can go deeply into art’s world.

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

"Fashion design means using a different way to talk with people."

"Garments tell us their stories and it’s up to us to understand, recognize ourselves and then start a connection."

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For more information on the Fashion Design or Fashion and Textile programs at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti), please visit the website at https://www.naba.it/en/fashion-design.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Gaoming Chen of NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)

All images provided by NABA unless otherwise marked. 


Image by Arun Nevader of Getty Images
Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in a small city called Xinchang, in Zhejiang province of China.

What you like when you were young?  What were your interests in your teenage years?

I started learning Chinese traditional painting when I was a little child, I like drawing and writing the Chinese Calligraphy, also like reading the novels and watching movies.

Looking back, can you remember any early signs that you would end up in fashion?  A personal story would be great here.

My mother loves fashion a lot. When I was a young, almost all my clothes were designed and made by her. Also, we have many, many pattern making books at home. Maybe because of that, when I choosing the university I wanted to attend and my major, I chose fashion design without any hesitate.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design.  Was you family supportive?

Like I said before, my mother loves fashion and she dreamed of being a fashion designer. Now her dream has become my dream. My parents are very support me

Why did you choose to study in the program at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti)?

Firstly, Milan is my favorite city in Europe and one of the most fashionable cities in the world. Also, NABA has my favorite program - “fashion and textile design.” After learning so much about pattern making and stitching techniques, I wanted to learn more about textile design to improve myself. That’s why NABA was my best choice and yes it still is.


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

While I am learning the fashion design, I think the pattern making has been the most difficult part for me. But I like draping and sewing and am good at them both. The happiest moment for me was when I heard my collection would be shown on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week.

What was the inspiration for the collection you showed on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week?

This collection was my thesis collection. My inspiration came from the movie “The Shape of Water.” I was so impressed with the love story between a deaf girl and a mysterious creature from the water, combined with my personal connection with the ocean. I do want to spread the spirit of harmonious coexistence between human and nature through this collection by the power of design.


Describe your collection – customer, day-evening-sportswear-separates-casual-luxury-glamour-stage-costuming-punk?

My collection is more day-wear, but with a lot sportswear details and an oversize silhouette, which is very my style.

What is the palette?  What fabrics did you use?

The mainly colors I used were white and blue to which I added some red as decoration. For fabric I use a lot plastic and washable-paper. I wanted to show a “plastic wave” to represent the growing problem plastic pollution.

Do you have a favourite look?

Yes, my favorite look is the jacket and skirt with ruffles on the jacket sleeve and skirt.


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

I am pretty good at Chinese traditional paintings, it is already part of my design blood, and I think it can make me do something different from others.

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

I am heading back to china and to launch my own brand,

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

"For me, fashion design is just like water. It is part of everyone’s life and gives us energy everyday."


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For more information on the Fashion Design or Fashion and Textile programs at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti), please visit the website at https://www.naba.it/en/fashion-design.