Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cari Kamm's "Internal" Thoughts, plus a giveaway!

***The giveaway is now closed*** 

Thank you to all those who entered!  
Please stay tuned for more book reviews from various genres and other giveaways
The winners of this giveaway was chosen by 
Congratulations to Hailey Fish and Lisamarie!  
Thank you to all that entered and please keep an eye out for more book reviews and giveaways!

Up until recently I wasn't one to obsess over their appearance.  It was a bonus if my hair was perfectly done and make-up made it on my face.  Interestingly enough, it wasn't until recently when I underwent a significant transformation, losing 30 lbs., that I began to pay more attention to these things.

Though vanity does play a role in my weight loss and interest in looking more put together before I leave the house, it was the inward changes that took place during my weight loss journey that have played an even bigger role.

There is no denying Cari Kamm is a beautiful woman - just look at her picture.  However, after reading her interviews on various blogs, and the answers she gave to the questions below, there is also no denying she is a beautiful person on the inside too!  Cari worked over a decade in the beauty industry and currently works for a corporate social media company.  She is also the author of Fake Me Perfect and the recently released novel, For Internal Use Only.

I'm honored to have Cari agree to an interview and to be the first author to visit this blog.  Thank you!

Cari can be found at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to Cari, and her publicist Amy Bromberg, I have TWO copies of For Internal Use Only to giveaway to lucky readers in the US and/or Canada (print or ebook).

How has your background in the beauty industry influenced your writing?
This is the first time someone has asked me this question . . . I eventually came to realize how living in New York City and working behind the scenes in the beauty industry shaped me as the woman I am today. I didn’t realize the influence it had on me until I began creating my first character for Fake Perfect Me. Working for a decade in this industry, I got to experience the fake and dark side of beauty and how empty it all was if there wasn’t self-worth attached to it. I write women’s fiction/chick lit because I love writing and reading stories of women, their issues and gaining that sense of empowerment. Yes . . . we can be intelligent, funny and have a shoe obsession even though we’re struggling. I love creating characters that are on this journey and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a romantic one or about a man.

You have a new book out, For Internal Use Only. Out of all the characters in that book, which was the easiest for you to create and develop? Which was the hardest?
The easiest was Stephanie and Alexander Cudney: who met and married with fairy tale love. One of my biggest mentors met and married the love of her life 15 years ago. Over the years, her sharing their life together inspired me to create a couple like them for Chloe to observe.

The hardest was the mysterious International diplomat . . . Christoph Kostas. You’ll just have to read the novel to find out! I’m sure you will then understand. Ha!

Of all the characters you've created, which one is the most like you and why?
I would say the protagonist, Chloe Kassidy (For Internal Use Only) because she is a dreamer. She’s fighting for a passion. She’s a hopeless romantic, but cautious because she’s terrified of heartbreak. On some level, I feel that I’ve experienced a taste of this character. To be successful. To find balance. To find love. To live a life with passion.

What is your favorite food to snack on while you're writing?
Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

If your life were being turned into a reality TV show, what would the premise of the show be?
Writing isn’t my job. It’s my passion. It’s a daily habit. My biggest obstacle is to remember that while I’m creating a life at my keys, I need to still have one that exists beyond my computer screen. I get so caught up in these characters’ lives, I tend to become be very anti-social. This is difficult when I live in New York City and my friends are extremely social! I’m running out of excuses on how to get out of dinners, events, openings, parties... Perhaps, it would be titled... Her secret life in sweats.

Tell us about the first concert you ever went to:
I was ten years old and my mother took my best friend and I to see Whitney Houston. I can still recall her on stage singing I Want to Dance with Somebody!

My favorite way to relax is:
Turning off my phone and computer. Slipping into cozy P.J.’s, grabbing my dog Schmutz, and sinking into the couch with either a great book or endless hours of T.V. It’s not the most glamorous thing, but it feels like heaven!

Of all my hobbies, my favorite one is:
Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t exposed to a wide range of delectable bites or cuisines. When I moved to New York City, in my early twenties, the foodie within me was unleashed. Honestly, I never knew it existed.

Whether it’s booking a reservation in the latest hot spot or participating in a food walking tour in an afternoon, my favorite hobby is eating! The recipes. The architecture of the food presented on the plate. The quality of ingredients. I adore the entire process and how it transforms me in that moment. Seriously... I take pictures of my food. Ha!

How to win For Internal Use Only:
1. Please tell me, what is your favorite hobby?
2. Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
3. Share this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends April 1st at midnight CST.

Book Review: For Internal Use Only

It's not a well-known fact, but amongst my many hobbies is a love of photography.  Being able to capture a moment in time with the click of a button is a feeling I cannot explain, but a very special feeling to me nonetheless.

With the love of photography comes a special way of looking at the world around you, even when you are not in back of the lens.  Even the smallest detail doesn't escape you.  This is how I believe the main character in For Internal Use Only by Cari Kamm feels about photography.

When readers first meet photographer, Chloe Kassidy, she is on the edge of change in both her professional and personal life.  Just as she is accepted to a prestigious photography exhibit, called "Love Through Light", her personal life experiences a boost as well when she is introduced to a charming man named Christoph Kostas.  After many years of putting off love for her career, Chloe sets out to see if love is something she can experience both behind and in front of the camera.

Chloe is a wonderful character.  I feel she represents a strong woman with a good sense of who she is and isn't afraid to speak her mind.  This is especially something I feel is important when it comes to matters of the heart.  She continually seeks to figure out what love is, and if it is possible to have a successful career and personal life at the same time; a question I feel a lot of women struggle with in our society today.  Though Christoph wasn't my favorite character in the world he is someone I love to hate.  I believe he is a realistic portrayal of men I've known before and I see how Chloe can be drawn to him.

From the very first page, Cari Kamm paints detailed pictures of Chloe and her world that makes you feel like you are right there living each moment with her.  I also like how she incorporated e-mail and text message correspondence seamlessly into the story.  I have a special fondness for this type of storytelling as I feel modern communication is now so prevalent in the stories of day-to-day life.

Lastly, I like how this story has a unique twist.  I won't spoil it for you, but what I will say is that this story doesn't end with everything resolved at the end.  Usually this irks me to no end, but as time goes on I'm growing fonder to this approach as it stays true to how life is.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Change Is On The Horizon

When it rains, it pours. 

Honestly, I'm getting use to this fact.  A big change from a few years ago when I did everything I possibly could to avoid it.  That said, this post is not about the changes in my life.  It's about some changes coming to this blog.

Every once in awhile I've been posting book reviews to this blog.  This started in November.  This isn't totally unexpected considering book blogging/publicity is a BIG part of my life these days.  So what's the change taking place you might wonder?  Basically, starting this week the frequency in which book reviews show up on my blog will increase.  Furthermore, author interviews will be popping up here, too.  Unlike the work I do for Chick Lit Central, I will not be focusing on a particular genre.  Basically it will be whatever catches my interest.  Hopefully, it will be something that catches your interest as well!

Oh, and as for my life... there are some major changes going on her too.  Hopefully, I will be able to pause for a second to tell you about them.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Once A Parent, Always A Parent!

It's Thursday Blog Project time!  Yay!

This week, Susanna asked us to write about the following topic:  As teens or young adults we all did something our parents would not have been real happy about. What did you do? Did you ever tell your parents about it?

I laughed and smiled when I saw this topic.  Hmmm... Where shall I start?  After pondering this question for awhile I decided on something that happened not too long after I moved back to the Chicagoland area.

It was around late October/early November when I traveled from my suburban oasis to the "big bad city" to meet up with a coworker to explore venues for a company holiday party.  It was a Friday evening and we were to explore two potential places to hold the shindig. Since I knew we'd be in some congested areas and parking would be rare to find, I took the El from my quite suburb area into the city.  Not thinking to check when the various lines run at any given time of the day I hopped on the  purple line and then transferred to the red line.

After doing are due diligence we decided hangout longer and went to check out some other places around the area.  Before we knew it hunger overcame us and we sought out food.  Given the time of the evening it was, we decided a breakfast place was the ticket and my new friend coworker new the perfect diner to satisfy our appetites.

Two eggs scrambled, hash browns, white toast and grape jelly.  That's what I had (which is STILL my favorite simple breakfast until this day!).  Afterwards, I got a ride the closest El station and headed home.

At this particular El station stop, there were two other girls waiting for the train as well.  Since it was in the early hours of the morning the frequency of trains was less than I was use to and we had a bit of a wait.  That's when this guy came up to the two girls waiting and started harassing the two girls.  What exactly was said to them escapes me, but he wasn't leaving them alone.  Thankfully, they weren't taking this guy's shit and got him to leave them alone.  Next thing I knew they came over to me and told me they were going to stand with me so the guy didn't bother me either.  (LOVE THESE CHICKS!)  For the remainder of their time on the train I hung out with the two girls.  Safety in numbers!

When the train finally arrived at the last stop the red line made I got off and began to wait for the purple line to arrive.  However, after a few minutes I began to question when it would arrive.  That's when I FINALLY looked at a a schedule.

OMG!!! Was the first thing I thought.  The next purple line train didn't arrive until two/three hours later and this was not a great neighborhood I was in.  At the same time I was having this awakening, so was another individual.  Immediately we both booked it down the platform and sought out a cab.  As fate would have it, there were two cabs.   At the end of the day, I did get home safely.

So how does this tie in with today's topic?  Well, a few years ago I was at lunch with my mom and a few of our coworkers.  I'm not sure why, but I told everyone the above story.  A story my mom had never heard before.  She wasn't happy.  I heard all about "what could have happened" for awhile and how I really should have been more careful.  Once my mom finished speaking her peace I simply replied, I'm obviously ok, right?!   Also, I was 26 when this all took place, it's not like I was a kid who didn't know how to take care of herself. 

Yeah... That didn't sit well with my mom.  Not well at all.  She never really brought it up again, but I know she didn't like hearing that story (which is why I never told her in the first place).  Since then, my mom and I have our moments where she gets uber sensitive about me being out late.  Though it bothers me, I can imagine once you are a parent, you are always a parent no matter how old your child is.

Now that I've talked about a time my mom found out I didn't something she wasn't very happy about, please take a moment to read what my fellow bloggers have done that wouldn't sit well with their parents:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Special Kind of Thank You for a Special Kind of Man

Last November I listened to the memoir, 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik during a car trip to West Lafayette, IN.  I found this book as part of a project I was doing on the power of gratitude.

The book had an impact on me and immediately after I finished it I bought a bunch of thank you note cards and went to town.  Since that time I've thanked friends and family for things I had never expressed before.  However, this whole time there is one person I have not been able to thank because there is no address for me to send his "thank you" to.

This week for the Thursday Blog Project, Melissa asked us to: Make your "Oscar" speech. Thank someone (can be as many people as you feel necessary) for something special that has happened in your life. 

I talk about my dad a lot.  Sometimes I feel like I need to apologize for how much I talk about him, but then I get over it and realize that I can pay talk about my dad all I want - this is my blog after all!

To My Dearest Irving (Dad),

I say this so often, I cannot believe you haven't been with us for over 23 years.  Living a week without you seemed impossible and now it just part of life as we know it.  Yes, I know that might sound as though I know longer miss you, but know that is the farthest thing from the truth.  I do, indeed, miss you.  However, I also understand that though you are no longer here physically, reminders of your time with us still remain.  It's this reason I write you...

From the deepest depths of my being thank you so much for being my dad and that I can be a reminder of your lifetime.  Many times over the years I have found myself wondering what parts of you I possess.  Of course there are the dimples that grace my cheeks each and every time I smile, but it took me a long time to figure out what parts of my personality are you, and what parts are mom.  This is what I've come up with thus far:

  • Thank you for the love of writing.  Mom keeps telling me what a wonderful writer you were and how it is obvious I got my talent for it from you.  
  • Thank you for your outgoing personality; if I didn't have this quality my painfully shy side would prevent me from meeting the wonderful people that I have. 
  • Thank you for helping to foster my creative side.  
  • Thank you for my ability to express my emotion... Yes, I am an emotional person - just like all the rest of the women on your side of the family.  Many times I wish this wasn't the case, however at the end of the day it isn't a bad thing.
 With that said, it's not only the qualities that you have given me that I thank you for, it's the memories too... 
  • Thank you for the green dress.  For years I had it with me even though it had been decades since it fit. Then, one day, it disappeared.  I wish I knew where it went, but I can tell you I will never forget it.  How could I??? "You made it for me", remember?! :)
  • Thank you for teaching me how to disappear, and then reappear.  Our magic shows were truly one of a kind and personally I think they ROCKED!
  • Thank you for exhibiting such a strong work ethic and instilling it in me.  Not to say mom didn't show me that too, but it was a 50/50 job.
  • Thank you for telling me that I could watch tv even though I was grounded.  
  • Thank you for constantly reminding me we "don't own the Edison Company".  It makes for a really good story.  There are a few people I know who've given me a hard time for the way I control the "zone lighting" in my home and I laugh every time I work the "zone lighting" because I know we still "don't own the Edison Company".
  • Thank you for letting me watch "M*A*S*H" with you.  
  • Thank you (I mean the "tooth fairy") for pulling the wrong bill that one time.  I'm not sure how much you the tooth fairy meant to give me for my three teeth that I had under my pillow that night, but $20 sure seemed like a fair amount to me. : P
  • Thank you for all the little things you did for me that are so little I can't remember them, but still meant a lot at the time.
  • Thank you for all the BIG things I don't remember... I am getting older, ya know!  Though I like to think my memory is still pretty good, I know there are things that slip it from time-to-time.
 Thank you, thank you, thank you for our nicknames.  I cannot remember how they came to be, but I DO remember the first time you used them.  I am very protective over them and DO NOT let anyone call me by mine.

Most of all, thank you for your love and parenting.  I know you probably never expected to have another baby to take care of at 56 years of age, let alone a teenager at the age of 70.  I knew you were tired, but I also knew how much you loved me, cared about my well-being and would do whatever you could to make sure mom, J and I were taken care of.  

Though I wish I had been around more the summer of '89, I am thankful for the time we did have together, and that we got to see each other before you moved on.

I hope you are proud of what I've accomplished thus far and can do you proud as I continue my journey in this thing we call life.  

I hope this thank you finds you, wherever you may be.  It is sent with endless love and an infinite amount of gratitude. 

With all my heart and soul... 

Shirley (Tracey)


Please take a moment to read the "Oscar Speeches" of my fellow bloggers:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest Book Review: The Last Runaway

By Sara Steven

The Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier takes place in 1850, featuring a young Quaker woman named Honor Bright. After traveling from tame England to the the wilds of Ohio, Honor finds herself surrounded by much that is unknown and completely foreign to her. The women are callous and tough, not at all concerned with swear words or getting their petticoats dirty. Shooting a wriggling snake from ten feet away with a rifle is par for the course. If that is the behavior of the local females, imagine how the men behave; spitting in the streets. Mass quantities of alcohol consumption. Having no regard for anyone around them, and certainly not a prim and proper lady, like Honor. Even the nature surrounding the farmsteads and blossoming towns are indistinguishable, with trees that grow unkempt, and flowers that are prickly and unsafe.

Honor has her quilts to keep her reality in check. A master seamstress and quilt maker, she submerges herself in what she knows, while trying hard to learn and adapt to what she doesn’t. It’s a definite learning process.

Set in the time of the Underground Railroad, Honor finds herself an intricate part of the system, aiding and guiding slaves on to freedom and safety, despite her family’s wishes and the threats she receives from others. It seems as though Honor is breaking from what she has been taught as a Quaker, and going against the grain. She is doing what she feels is right, living up to her name as much as she’s able to. There is a bit of a showdown that ensues due to her choices, and we find that Honor evolves as a character; at first a small, timid woman, now growing into a strong, capable fighter.

I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to this book, written fictitiously from a historical standpoint. It’s simple and sweet, and although in the beginning it took some time for me to connect with the background and plot line, there came a point where I wanted to keep reading and not put the book down! The take on slavery as well as the personal connections between Honor and the people she helps along the way is very touching and runs deep. I really was pleasantly surprised.

Sara Steven is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two rambunctious boys in Bellevue, NE. When she’s not running marathons, getting certified in group fitness instruction, or working on her novel, she takes a break and opens up a good book (or turns on her Nook). Find her at her blog, Momarock.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting "Fired"-Up About Flu Shots

The last time I got a flu shot was in 2009.  I was working at a school at the time and figured it might be in my best interest to get it - just in case.  Plus, it was free to staff so why not?!

 For last week's Thursday Blog Project, Sara asked us to read this article about some nurses who got fired for refusing to take a flu shot.

My initial reaction to this is that this nurse should not have been fired for refusing to take a flu shot.  My sophomore/junior-ish year in college I worked part time at a pediatrician's office that was located in the professional offices of a hospital.  During flu season we were not required to get a flu shot.  No one in the physician's network was - even hospital staff.

Since Sara gave us this article to read I've been waiving back and forth on how I feel about what happened and how I would feel if I were in this nurses position. Honestly, this week my post isn't going to be very in-depth because of this back and forth. 

Given my professional background in HR and my interest in the law I should have an absolute opinion on this... but I don't.  Instead just when I "think" I've made up my mind, I change it. 

Instead, I'm going to encourage you to read the article, and what my fellow bloggers have to say about the topic:

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Fear of Success and/or Failure - An Informal Survey

About three weeks ago I was at a book event.  During the event, I got to talking with another attendee about what they do for a living.  This particular individual, a woman who I will refer to as "R", told me she is a social worker and owns a hotel.  Ultimately, it is her goal to make a enough money by the time she is 40 so she can pursue a career in social work full-time without having the financial strain of having a social worker's salary.  Oh, I didn't mention that she also started a not-for-profit, too.

I have to admit, I was impressed! 

As she was telling me all this, R told me about her reluctance to buy the hotel she did and how she thought about it for TWO years.  As she went into detail about this she ventured off into tell me that she believes woman, more often than not, have a fear of success than they do failure; whereas, men, more often than not, have a fear of failure than they do success.  An interesting theory, I thought to myself.  Though I had never really thought about it, I was intrigued and started wondering how that theory applied to my group of friends.  I was especially curious about this because I happen to know A LOT of attorneys and was curious to find out if any of them feared success (especially amongst the attorneys I know who are guys).  I told R I found her theory interesting and that I would have to run a random poll amongst "my peeps" to see if it held true.

So, the next day I got to work on my random poll.  I texted 5 guys and 5 girls ... (I guess I should say "women" and "men", but in my world we're still all guys and girls!).  The unsuspecting victims participants were:  Girls: J, M, GD, A, K  Guys: P, OD, J, A and E. 

(Yes!  Yes!  I realize I didn't put any names down, but I have this thing about protecting my friends privacy.)

Of the guys, three of them are attorneys, one is a law school student and one is a trainer/author/photographer.  Of the five, two said they feared success.  One I wasn't too surprised said they feared it, but the other I was quite surprised about because it was my friend who is in law school and he doesn't strike me as the type that would fear success.... then I heard his reasons as to why they feared it. (BTW - I just asked if they feared it or not.  Any additional feedback was voluntary.)  Then I asked, via text, if they feared failure.  Two answered yes, and the other three answered no.  This one I was not surprised about at all, but you have to remember this is from someone I know quite well - none of this person's answers shocked me. 

Of the five girls I contacted, one is an attorney. (Side note: This random poll made me aware that I know a lot more guys who are attorneys than I do girls who are attorneys.)  The others are a graphic designer, teacher, author/former teacher,  and copy writer.  All but one said they do not fear success.  Only one of the girls said they fear success.

Some interesting observations I made...
  • Half of the folks I asked these questions to asked me why I asking.
  • My guy friend who feared success said the reason he feared it had to do with the effect their success could have - like people they knew being jealous of their success.   
  • My girl friend who feared success said the reason she feared it had to do with it not being real.
  • Two (maybe three - I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to check my text messages to verify the number) of those poled asked me what my answers to those questions were.
I still think about what my friends who are afraid of success had to say as to why they were afraid of it.  I can see where they are coming and feel they are valid reason for fearing success.

As for me and the question of whether or not I fear success and/or failure.... The answer is no, to both.  I believe there are people who know me well who might think otherwise, but that isn't the case.  I wonder about the assumptions those that were made by those who didn't ask me why I was asking these questions.  Ultimately, I do have my issues with failure; I also have my thoughts regarding success.  However, this is not the post to include them in.

I realize that my results don't really say much in terms of a broad population.  I think this would be an interesting sociological study to conduct.  The conclusion I drew from it was that of the people I know, some of the gender generalization were true while others not.

At this time, I'd like to send a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those who participated in my "informal survey"!  I don't feel the thank you I sent you via text could express how thankful I was for you humoring me by answering all my questions.

Also, thank you to R for giving me the idea.  It's truly an interesting topic to explore!
This week for the Thursday Blog Project, I asked everyone to write about whether or not they were afraid of success and/or failure.  Please take a moment to see what they had to say:

•  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

•  Mom of Many (Susanna)