My Secret Life With… Cari Kamm

I think I “met” the lovely ‘Cari Kamm‘ through the gorgeous Jen Tucker or was it the fabulous ladies over at Chick Lit Central? Either way, I’m pleased to have the very talented Cari visit my blog today. I asked her the question, I’ve been asking lots of guests on the blog lately – What does Cari do with her time when she’s not writing? And she came up with a very MOUTH-WATERING answer!!! 

Welcome Cari:

cari kamm

When I’m not writing . . .  I’m eating. Well, I’m thinking of eating or where I want to be eating.

I’m a self-proclaimed foodie and seriously enjoy every bite. My rule is “don’t pick before pics.”  I love to look at food. Take pictures of food. Dissect food. And of course eat food. A chef is an artist and unlike admiring a painting or absorbing words, you get to literally bite into their work and digest it.

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, I enjoy every part of the experience. 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.

So… when I met my boyfriend several years ago and realized he was a foodie too . . . It was magical! From our very first date, over juicy, medium-rare beef on buttery toasted buns, (minus the onions as who knew where the night would lead) gave birth to our fairy tale. The restaurant was a burger joint in New York City that had survived the Depression, Prohibition, two World Wars, and an ambush of high-rises and office buildings. Now, several years after, we often return to our designated spot at the bar and reminisce over dripping beef. Looking back, the strength of our relationship resembles the very history of the restaurant where we shared our first meal together.

Our experiences range from $ to $$$$ spots, big cities to small towns, the U.S. and beyond. Any place where we can create a new experience, try a new chef and avoid cooking at all costs. With this, we launched he8she8.com.

Fast-forward four years later and the symbolism and history of the food and restaurants we share are still writing our story.

On January 27, 2013, my boyfriend and I walked to a special area in Central Park called Literary Walk. It’s the only straight line in the park, lined with American elm trees and decorated with statues of prominent writers such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. I had no idea I would be a writer one day and that this landmark would mean more to me today than it did twelve years ago when I moved to NYC. There, proudly with my new novel in hand, ‘For Internal Use Only,’ and my boyfriend to take a picture with my book. I walked into the park as a proud author and walked out as his fiancé. It was a sparkling moment with all things love.

With a celebration in order, an intimate dining experience was next on the list! A restaurant called Dovetail was just steps away from the park. Dovetail is defined as, “To connect or combine precisely or harmoniously.” We did just that.

When I’m not writing, I’m a focused foodie with my partner in crime. Well, I should say my fiance.

 Congrats on your upcoming nuptials Cari! We’re all about romance here, so weddings are VERY exciting.

You can grab a copy of Cari’s new book FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. But in the mean time, check out the fabulous excerpt below 🙂 

Book cover

My love for photography had led me down an unimaginable career path. Most currently, it led me to anxiously sitting on a stoop outside the New York City mid-rise building that contained my overpriced one-room apartment. I closed my eyes, allowing the morning light to calm me while I took in the delightful bird chirps and excruciating taxi beeps of the East Village, ignoring the slight smell of urine that accosted my senses.

I started my afternoon again with stalking. I eagerly awaited the mailman’s arrival between 1:06 and 1:13 p.m., while he transported paper fate, sporting his pale blue polyester trousers, tucked in long-sleeve shirt pressed, and Converse sneakers.

We lived and loved through technology, so I was frustrated that my fate was arriving via snail mail and the timing matched every part of the description. Technology was the trusted source of banking transactions, meeting your husband, ordering your groceries, making restaurant reservations and even spying on your pets through a kennel cam while sunburning on a beach. But today, this life-altering letter crawled its way to me by a government official, a man I rarely saw, and never exchanged words with. I was waiting to hear if my dream would come true, and dreading it would never be.

“Good afternoon,” I said, with a smile, merely able to stare at the navy stripe that lined his pant leg. The clock showed that it was 1:11 p.m. I made a wish.

“What a surprise,” he muttered, while he manhandled the heavy stack wrapped with a thick, green rubber band and passed by me. I studied him meticulously stocking the empty boxes, one by one, approaching my slot.

“Do you mind if I just grab the mail for three-C, please?” I interrupted.

“If that’s what it’ll take,” he moaned.

Between my J. Crew catalogue and my electric bill was a fancy rectangle of heavy stock ivory paper with gold trim. I squeezed the four-by-six response card. Contained in this saliva-sealed envelope were the words that would inevitably change my life. The weight of those words was heavy in my fingers and I was hesitant to open it. Without the answer the card contained, I still was able to hold onto hope.

My destiny was in my lap with the warmth of the sun counteracting the fresh chill October presented while I flipped from sweating to freezing like an on/off switch. I reassured myself it was only rejection. I had my health and photography. Whether it was amateur or professional, it was still my first love. Even if it was a two-letter response, I would remember my love for art, and how every time I shot I searched for the immense beauty that existed within the balance, tone, and temperature of my tiny frame. Having an image worth a thousand words was never my intention. I wanted to capture one word to describe each photograph. One word can define everything, love being a true example. There is something compelling about visualizing a picture and capturing it. There is nothing compelling about the words, We regret to inform you.

My fingers trembled and taking a couple photographs would be soothing. Photography to me was the perfect cocktail: one part heart, one part head, a dose of imagination, with a splash of patience.

The tearing of the envelope felt like scratches on my heart. I proceeded with caution, hoping this document wouldn’t be only a keepsake to remind me what if.

Inch by inch, I slid out the card to reveal the twelve-point Apple Chancery font and held it to the light, observing the maker’s name in the watermark. Rubbing my index finger over the engraved symbol, I was impressed. The brand, Smythson of Bond Street stationery, supplied paper to the British royal family. I was holding the same stationery as the Queen.

________________________

Dear Miss Kassidy,

We write to inform you of your acceptance into the exclusive Bruce Smith Gallery as part of our exhibit for emerging artists, hosted by curator Grayson Gates. You will be receiving your review and luncheon date via e-mail. Please be prepared to present your theme for the Love Through Light exhibit within the deadline. You will be required to exhibit three pieces.

Opening Night & Reception

Friday, February 7, 8:00 p.m.

Bruce Smith Gallery

504 West 22nd Street

 

How To Bake The Perfect Cover

I’m actually making a cake tonight for a school function tomorrow, so the baking analogy sounded right, but the truth is, until recently I’ve never had much to do with ”baking” my Harlequin Australia covers.

The first time I saw the covers of MAN DROUGHT and JILTED, they were final! And you know what? That was absolutely fine with me.  I fell in love the moment I clicked open the emails, however I know that some authors haven’t been so pleased about their covers, so I consider myself lucky! The team at Harlequin Australia do fabulous covers if you ask me and I’m sure they’re are a zillion times better than anything I’d ever come up with.

For JILTED I’d imagined a woman in a wedding dress (Ellie) and a suitcase at her feet, with a country setting/farm house in the background.

Jilted_front

For MAN DROUGHT, I thought they might put the heroine in front of a country pub.

0113_ManDrought_C2 (1)

And both guesses, I was WAY off the mark! So, imagine my surprise when last week, I got sent a cover brief to fill in for OUTBACK DREAMS (September 2013). I actually  panicked for a few moments because I didn’t want my ideas (whatever they were and I wasn’t sure at the time) to hinder the creative genius of the team at Harlequin. However, I took a breath and then tried to imagine how I envisage the cover of OUTBACK DREAMS.

Nothing came to me as visually as it had when I’d thought of my previous covers, but I thought I’d share with you (below) what I sent back. I can’t wait to see what they make of my notes 🙂

Sub-genre/themes: Rural; Friends to Lovers.

Synopsis:

OUTBACK DREAMS is a friends to lovers story about Daniel Montgomery and Faith Forrester. Faith is at a crossroads in her life – single, twenty-nine and living on the family farm in a small rural Western Australian town. Wanting more from her life than to be her father and brother’s kitchen slave, she embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart – Dogs for Autism.

Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend for as long as she can remember. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property (in Faith’s town) and moved to Perth to be closer to support services for his autistic brother Will. Ever since this day he has worked towards buying a property of his own (his dream) and returning to a life on the land.

Monty pursues this dream at the expense of all else, but when a drunken night with his best friend Faith, ends in them sleeping together, he’s suddenly faced with a whole load of other challenges.

Both Monty and Faith are ready to find a life partner and settle down but until now, have they both been looking in all the wrong places and missing what is right beneath their noses?

 Story setting:           Small rural town of 2,000 people; coastal Western Australia

Story locations:                   Bunyip Bay (fictional WA town), farms, small town,

Story time period:  3-4 months, present day

Featured holidays: none

Seasons:                    autumn to winter

Landmarks:              jetty, beach, farm houses

Character 1:             Daniel Montgomery

Age:               29

Occupation:             Farmer/handyman

Character theme:   Chasing dreams; realization family more important than possessions.

Character traits: hardworking, determined, sunny personality

Hair colour:              Dusty, dirty blonde. Slightly long and mussed up look.

Eye Colour:               Brown

Character 2:             Faith Forrester

Age:                           29

Occupation:             farm hand/ domestic duties

Character theme:   Finding true self and love; mending family rifts.

Character traits:     Tom boy, feels like a Plain Jane, sporty, feisty.

Hair colour:              Golden blonde

Eye Colour:               Blue

General cover direction/notes – do you envisage anything in particular?

I’d really like the same sort of fresh, young feel as was on the MAN DROUGHT cover. I think the rural readers like sexy farmer heros, so having the hero or at least a glimpse of the hero (like there was on MAN DROUGHT’s cover) would be awesome. Maybe an old but well looked after traditional homestead-type farmhouse in the back ground and the hero and heroine at the forefront. I’d love to show real spark, fiest between them, but deep underlying passion only just realized (if you know what I mean). Basically – do your stuff! Whoever, you are, you’re awesome at it!!

And then, because I’m nice like that, I included the below photo of how I envisage Monty (the hero):

monty

I cannot WAIT to see what Harlequin Australia come up with for this one!!!

The week that was (and my reading round up)!

This week was one of those weeks where I really felt like an author – yes, probably even more so than when I sit in front of my computer and will witty and intelligent words to come. I went to four different libraries and talked about romance writing and my books, which was fitting considering this week held Valentines Day!

I cringed when my old teacher listened to me at Midland library, going on about how I didn’t really like English in high school and never read any of the books! I enjoyed meeting the gorgeous Natasha for the first time and the equally gorgeous Janine again at Bayswater library. And at Vic Park, I caught up with Brodee (gorgeous too, who happened to teach my oldest son a few years ago) and got the sweetest little gifts as thanks for attending. At Bayswater and Southern Cross I indulged in pink bubbly drinking, which I think is extremely fitting for a romance writer and in all the places, I spoke about my road to publication and how it was fifteen long years before I achieved my dream.

Everyone is always so happy and lovely at these events and I still marvel when people want ME to sing their copies of Man Drought and Jilted. I’ve had a few people say I must get sick of signing and can I just say I NEVER will!! Me and my pink pen will happily sign until my dying day! I’m so honoured to be doing a job that I absolutely love and that brings me to meet such fabulous readers along the way.

In Southern Cross I was met at the door with a bottle of ice-cold Diet Coke, so it seems my reputation proceeded me! And somewhere amongst all this travelling and book-talking, I managed to finish reading a couple of books.

This last week or so, I’ve read FAST FORWARD by Juliet Madison and THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion. Two totally different books but I enjoyed them both. They were both funny and clever in their own ways. While FAST FORWARD is about a model who is catapulted twenty-five years into the future (with hilarious predictions of what kind of things the future will hold), THE ROSIE PROJECT is about a geneticist with aspergers falling in love for the first time. My uncle is a geneticist and I swear some of the men in my family have aspergers traits, so I found this novel fascinating. I can’t recommend either of these books enough.

Next on my agenda is HOUSE FOR ALL SEASONS – a debut by my friend the lovely Jenn J McLeod and THE SUNBURNT COUNTRY by the gorgeous Fiona Palmer, another good friend. I feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful people through my writing. I reckon about 75% of the books I read now are by people I know and love!

So what are you reading this week?!

Books I’ve read (lately)!

Well, when I wrote the first Books I’ve Read post almost a month ago, I planned on it being a weekly thing and I still do, but with the end of school holidays and a few other things going on, I fell behind. Therefore this post is a recap of the other books I read in January (well, the ones that aren’t top secret).

And there lies the reason this post is going to be short. For the first time ever I entered the Romance Writers of America RITA Award with my rural romance book JILTED. In order to enter this esteemed contest, you must agree to judge books that are in categories not your own. You must read these books, rate them and then send your scores back but are not allowed to tell ANYONE what books you got. Therefore I read six books in January that I cannot tell you about.

I will say that four of mine were category romances and I hadn’t read a Mills & Boon category romance for quite some time. I had a mostly great selection, which reminded me why I strove to write these books for so long. As a result, I’ve decided to make sure some category romance books make it into my reading list this year.

So… with six books unspeakable, I’m left with one!

And that book is LEAH ASHTON’S A Girl Less Ordinary. I loved everything from the title to the two quirky characters – reformed geeks, who I have to say as one of my favourite type of characters. The interesting thing about Leah’s book was it wasn’t the usual geek guy/girl has crush on popular kid in highschool, makes good and then meets again and the popular person falls for the new ‘them’. Hero and heroine in this story were both the school outcasts and therefore it’s also a bestfriends to lovers story (another one of my faves), in which they meet again and reconnect on so many levels. Another great book from New Voices winner Leah Ashton.

Currently reading – Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer and Fast Forward by Juliet Madison. Will report back on them next week!

So, what are you reading right now!?

PS. Does anyone know how to save pics from a website on a Mac? Once I learn how to do this, these book posts will be prettier I promise 🙂

My Secret Life with Juliet Madison

Today it’s with absolute pleasure I welcome debut author Juliet Madison to my My Secret Life segment. Juliet’s first book FAST FORWARD came out only yesterday with Escape Publishing. I can’t quite recall when I first “met” Juliet – although I know the first time I met her in person was at an RWA conferences – but she can probably remember. Why? Cos she doesn’t drink Diet Coke and so her memory is probably a lot better than mine!

Anyway, I was lucky enough to read one of her manuscripts in a writing contest and then I “met” her and critiqued the synopsis of FAST FORWARD for her. I absolutely loved the concept and Juliet’s fun and humorous voice shone through even in the synopsis! I cannot wait to read the novel in full! 

But it’s not me you’re here to “listen to” so without further rambling, here is the new author extraordinaire herself:

JulietMadison

Do You Have The Creative Curse?

The desire to be creative is something I can’t escape. Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the concept of ‘making something out of nothing’; turning a blank page into art, or expressing myself through the written word. I love the inspired energy that comes with it, the creative process, and the rewarding outcome. When I’m being creative, I’m being ME.

I’ve always loved a good story so it’s no wonder I discovered a passion for writing fiction myself, even if it did take until my thirties to figure it out! But before then, my creative muse was fed by other means. I still wrote in some form or other throughout my life – poetry got me through the turbulent emotions of adolescence, and I’m pretty proud of my eight year old self’s illustrated short story ‘The Secret Coffin’, but my creative urges resulted mostly in drawings and artworks. You could never leave a blank piece of paper lying around near me, it would soon become a fairy sitting in a magical tree, or a catwalk-worthy fashion design of my own creation (well maybe not catwalk-worthy, but I probably thought so back then!).

Needless to say, art was my favourite subject at school. I went onto art studies after leaving school too, and continued experimenting with different artforms and mediums. One of my favourite things to do was draw portraits of my favourite celebrities. Here are a couple of them – a young-looking Johhny Depp:

JohnnyDeppDrawing-JM

And Janet Jackson (who also inspired my love of dance):

JanetJacksonDrawing-JM

I don’t draw very often nowadays, but recently tried my hand at creating canvas wall art. The purpley-red swirling design is titled ‘The Vortex’. I hope to create more wall art when I get the chance, but time seems to be going faster these days and I find myself preferring the creative expression of writing.

TheVortex-JM

Before I got into writing seriously, my other creative pursuit was dancing. I did a bit of ballet as a child but mostly taught myself to dance growing up; making up dance routines to Madonna in front of the bedroom mirror (hands up if you did that too – I can’t be the only one!). I did the odd dance class here and there, but got into it seriously when I was accepted into a dance show in Sydney when I was nineteen. After the thrill of performing I started going to classes in contemporary dance and ballet, and after I had my son I joined a new class especially for adults where I met other mums and was eventually asked to teach some of the classes. I taught, attended classes, choreographed, and performed in local concerts for about five years and that time holds many great memories for me. Dance was an emotional expression in physical form, and I loved how it created something that was visually appealing and interesting to watch. After leaving the dance world to focus on my health career for a few years, I then left my health career to homeschool my son and begin my amazing journey into the writing industry…

I love the power of words and the power of the imagination to create characters and weave a story together. Through writing I can experience everything I’ve wanted to experience. I can, in a way, dance through the written word, and create an enriching sensory and emotional experience both for myself and (hopefully) the reader.

Some of my characters have creative talents and hobbies too, I can’t help but bring my experience into their lives. I have a character who is a stay-at-home mother trying to find time for drawing and painting and make money from her passion, and I have another character who has a creative gift in playing and composing on the piano. Kelli, the main character in my debut novel FAST FORWARD (just released – yay!) has a creative gift in design that she’s been suppressing ever since a traumatic childhood experience. Through her journey in the story she’ll have to come to terms with her past in order to be the person she was meant to be.

Whether it’s through art, dance, poetry, or fiction writing, doing something creative is a NEED for me. Almost a curse in a sense, but a good curse to have 🙂

Do you have the creative curse? Tell me about the creative pursuits you enjoy or would like to enjoy, and you could win a $50 or $25 Amazon gift card. Plus, if you purchase my debut novel FAST FORWARD and forward me the receipt you’ll get an extra entry!

Here’s the blurb for FAST FORWARD:

FASTFORWARD-JulietMadison

Aspiring supermodel Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her 25th birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.

Trapped in the opposite life of the one she wanted, Kelli is forced to re-evaluate her life and discover what is really important to her. Will she overcome the hilarious and heartbreaking challenges presented to her and get back to the body of her younger self? Or will she be stuck in the nightmare of hot flushes, demanding children, raunchy advances from her husband, and hideous support underwear forever?

Buy now from your preferred online ebook retailer, or through the publisher at: www.escapepublishing.com.au

To buy from:

AmazonEscape PublishingiTunes Bookstore or Kobo Books

And HERE’S A GIVEAWAy!!!

Prize: First prize of a $50 Amazon gift card, second prize of a $25 Amazon gift card.

How to enter: Leave a comment about the creative pursuits you enjoy or would like to enjoy. Get an extra entry in the draw by purchasing Fast Forward and forwarding* your receipt to fastforwardbook(at)gmail(dot)com

(*remove (at) and (dot) and replace with @ and . This email address is only for the competition and not for enquiries)

Terms: Open worldwide. Winners drawn at the conclusion of Juliet’s February blog tour and notified via email. Winners have one week to respond or new winners will be chosen. Good luck!

Thank you Rachael for having me on your blog today!

You are ABSOLUTELY welcome Juliet! Everyone be sure to enter Juliet’s contest AND buy Fast Forward because I KNOW it’s going to be an awesome read!!