Liz Ratajczak Ratel



ArtFlakes Portfolio

Vancouver-Born Liz Ratajczak Ratel was born and raised in the 80's. Surrounded by cartoons, sparkling animated female rock musicians, hockey and swords & shields made out of old broomsticks and tin garbage can lids, she took an interest in the arts as early as three when she declared in her living room that she would be writing and reading now. 

Trained as a classical musician, a jazz vocalist and academic from an early age, Liz went to Trinity Western University for English Literature, Human Kinetics, Chemistry, World Religious Studies and Film. By the time she realized which of those majors held her deepest passions, she arose from the editing studio in the bowels of the Strombeck building when her Film Prof poked her with a stick, a bowl of granola and a cup of hot java. 

"Girl, you're gonna make a good producer. Produce." She took his advice (and his endless supply of coffee), ended her time at TWU with several concentrations and an overwhelming desire to take a nap. Instead she began planning a documentary to be filmed in West Africa. After returning from Ghana in 2009, Liz and her Film School Buddy Chris Wyatt filmed a TV Pilot for Blood Lost, a horror comedy about a sleepy Canadian town where a Werewolf and his Vampire Roommate battle B.O., Organic Produce and the local High School Science Teacher Vic Hal Singh who fancies himself an expert on garlic, baking soda volcanoes and killing vampires. Little did Liz and Chris know until halfway through production that the BBC had done a similar premise. 

Packing that away for a better time (and taking out the aggression of an insane filming schedule), Chris introduced Liz to the martial arts. Liz hasn't looked back since, becoming an award winning instructor, competitor and Black Belt under Sr. Master Scott Karpiuk, Canada's first Master Instructor for the WTTU (World Traditional Taekwondo Union). She splits her time developing Vraeyda Media and teaching discipline, confidence and a firm left hook kick at Walnut Grove Black Belt Academy.

At Vraeyda

Liz is Vraeyda. Taking the company name from a pet name her Norwegian grandfather called her when they sat in the living room singing and learning to count in Norwegian, Liz began what she hopes becomes a life long culturally relevant empire. 

Liz heads up the entire Vraeyda Team, and specializes in Film, Literary and Events. 

Book Review: Second Start Second Chance Second Wind

Second Start Second Chance Second Wind: How to Restart your Clock; Regain your Purpose; Recapture your Passion; Renew your Dreams; and Really Restore the Thrill of Living Again.Second Start Second Chance Second Wind: How to Restart your Clock; Regain your Purpose; Recapture your Passion; Renew your Dreams; and Really Restore the Thrill of Living Again. by Danny Moe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a lot of books about purpose on the self-help market. None of them are like Danny Moe’s Second Start Second Chance Second Wind: How to Restart your Clock; Regain your Purpose; Recapture your Passion; Renew your Dreams; and Really Restore the Thrill of Living Again.. Second Start Second Chance Second Wind does what it promises: It restarts the clock and teaches its readers how to find the thrill of living with a refreshed, real point of view. For anyone whose tasted failure or down times, Second Start is the cup of cold water we need to recoup, and restart our dreams. Danny Moe’s cadence as a writer is identical to his cadence as a motivational speaker: the prose is refreshing, conversational and fun.

I can’t speak enough about how much fun I had with Danny’s lessons in Second Start Second Chance Second Wind. Where other inspirational books can be staid, unreal or full of the detritus of ‘five easy steps to life fulfillment’, Second Start Second Chance Second Wind is effortless in execution, and builds a reader up. Full of real world examples and his own life story, Danny pulls no punches and lives without fear.

There isn’t a whole lot I can say negatively about the book, as it’s both well written, well edited and well put together. It’s the sort of book I wish other motivational books could be. It’s worth the cost of admission, and as appropriate for teenagers as it is for 50+. Definitely worth a read.

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Novel Review: A Spy in Hell by Charles David

A Spy in Hell by Charles David

Rating: 2.5/5

It’s a hard day when the novel I review is one I find less than suitable for at least three stars. I don’t want to be unfair to author Charles David’s work, but A Spy in Hell is definitely one of those novels which had an excellent concept and a less successful execution. Think of this as Dante’s Inferno for the modern age with an African and Canadian twist.

The positive of this novel is its’ concept. David is obviously incredibly knowledgeable and secure in the Christian faith and that was a huge plus when dealing with a story which is supernatural in nature. Satan’s in it. Demons dressed as baseball fans are in it. Protagonist (Anti-hero) Kirl goes to Hell. Literally. The Catholic dogma used is bang on, and as a concept, this novel excels. David’s concept rocks! His use of the Christian faith makes this a book which should do well in the Christian fiction market. His colourful representation of the layers of Hell is one of the best and most expressive parts of this book, and a section which shakes Kirl from unbeliever to experiencer of the spiritual realm.

The fantasy elements of demons in Hell are fantastic. The setting and description of the characters in Hell is fantastic. These sections redeemed a lot of the otherwise clunky book. You could finish the review here, with the positives in the novel. I will say going forward that the next few paragraphs are about the less successful parts of the book.

Let’s break it down: The most blaring issue I have with A Spy in Hell is the clunky, unnatural dialogue. I didn’t find a single line of dialogue which flowed to my native English-speaking ear. Maybe it’s the author’s South African origins, but even when taking the time period into account (the book jumps from the 1940′s through to the 2030′s) the dialogue is always worded with the utmost formality. Canadians of European descent don’t speak in formal language to their spouses, parents and friends. They speak in slangs, contractions and conversational flows. It was this constant use of the most formal English language which had me stumbling along the prose from paragraph to paragraph and down the rabbit holes of decades-old backstory to the meat of Kirl Johnson Fonder or KJF-14′s plot. 

Kirl’s character itself was a bit of a struggle. Here we have the caricature of a super spy for the Canadian Government (presumably from the age of 16/17)  denied proper health care (and in a country with a universal health care system), who was born in the 40′s, and somewhere in his progress through life married a sexually abstinent Catholic college girl, because Russian hookers couldn’t get her out of his head. Although she is described as being graceful and well put together, Carol comes off as needy and distrustful from her very first paragraph. Why would an atheist spy marry a distrustful woman with a strong belief in God? This was one of the pieces of A Spy in Hell which never did click in place for me. In chapter 2, Kirl is described as having worked at the SISC (Canadian Secret Service) for over ten years, and that Carol was perhaps 21-22. This would place them somewhere in the 1960′s or early 70′s. The time period was never clear. Kirl looks Carol up on his iPad. When I first read it, I had to go back to see where the timeline actually put them. This must have been an old sentence from a previous edition of the book, because iPads didn’t exist until 2010, and RFID microchips (implanted in Caro & Kirl by SISC) weren’t invented until the 1990′s. Suspending disbelief while reading a novel about the afterlife should be a given, but most of the choices made felt pre-programmed and unnatural to the lives David built in Kirl, Carol, Ravi and Kirl Jr. Everyone in the book seemed unnaturally tragic and emotionally unstable or sad.

None of this makes up for the structure of constantly switching time periods, extraneous information and additional characters. I would love to read A Spy in Hell’s second edition, one with a bit more polish. All in, I lay a good deal of this at the feet of the editorial staff. This is a novel with a publishing company’s backing. They should have caught these inconsistencies and helped David through his editing process. I don’t know what kind of relationship the company has with its’ authors, nor do I know the specifics of Charles David’s deal, but if this book was looked at by an editor, these sorts of issues ought to have been addressed. 

Ultimately, this is just one woman’s opinion of a novel with a cool concept. If you can get past the negatives I’ve listed here, then A Spy in Hell is a book worth reading. It’s the sort of book I could see in the hands of undergrads in Christian colleges, or in Secondary schools. A cautionary tale with grace at its’ core, one could do worse than purchasing A Spy in Hell. 

Novel Review: A Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks

A Theory of Expanded LoveA Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hidden within the context of America’s volatile 1963-1964, A Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks is the sort of novel I wish came my way much more often. Annie, the protagonist and narrator is a spunky 12 year old Catholic girl in 1960’s California surviving her gigantic family of 13 kids, tired mother and military father. I think of Annie as a sort of American Anne of Green Gables mixed with The Catcher in the Rye, if Anne weren’t a windswept orphan in PEI. Annie is spunky, doubtful, vigorous, hard working and alive. She is quintessential ‘growing up’ and her quest is both full of mundane and life-altering importance. Her family is vivid, overwhelming & intense. I wanted to re-read it the minute after putting it and my bookmark down. I can’t find a single fault in this novel. It took me through the horror of forced adoption, misogyny and into the exhilaration of hitchhiking, kittens and the realizations of growing up.

I had to lock this book in my car, to stop from reading it at my work desk. Caitlin Hicks is a true and undoubted treasure, both as a performer and as an author. She brought this coming-of-age tale to true and vibrant life. I struggled and rejoiced with Annie, Madkap and Clara. I hated John-the-Blimp and the strict hypocrisy of 1960’s catholic misogyny and the Shea family patriarch.

Every woman should read this book to feel that shared connection of the feminine experience, and every man should read this book to remind them of how far we’ve come and still need to go. Fantastic, Caitlin.

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