Category: Media Connect/Finn Partners



Murray T. Holland

Murray T. Holland is a resident of Dallas, Texas. He graduated in 1975 from Washington and Lee University with a B.S. in Chemistry and Biology. He earned an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1978 and a law degree from Washington and Lee University in 1980. During the 1980s, he practiced corporate and securities law with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld in Dallas, Texas. In 1987, he became an investment banker in New York with First Boston and later moved to Kidder, Peabody & Co. where he was a Managing Director. In the early 1990s, he started the private equity firm of Convergent Associates, based in Dallas, Texas.
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Guest post

Will The U.S. Go Bust?

Will the government go bust? This is the question that everyone would like answered. America is in very bad financial shape, maybe the worst it has ever experienced. Even after World War II, when the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio was about 120 percent, the government was able to reduce its deficit to essentially zero without a massive depression, but it took 35 years to get that ratio down to a respectable 35 percent.

The United States is already caught in the first jaw of the Debt Trap because the economy is dependent on the deficit spending of the federal government. If the federal government instantly balanced the budget by either spending reductions or higher taxes, it would instantly reduce GDP by 4 percent, and this would put the United States in a severe recession.

When interest rates start to escalate, which they will as the debt continues to accumulate, the interest expense on the national debt will take up more and more of the budget, leaving less and less for other operating items such as military, medical care, and social security. Interest expense will become the largest budget item in the federal budget.

Debt Problem Not Created Overnight

The federal government debt problem did not happen overnight. It was not caused by some catastrophic event like a banking system meltdown, and no one stole all the money and ran off with it. The problem has been one of slow accumulation of more government regulation, spending, and commitment to do more things for people. The administrations and agencies referred to previously were not created in a single day. They were created one at a time over the last 80 years. The funding programs were also not created in a day. To normal citizens, the slow creep of more and more spending and regulation by the government has gone unnoticed. We each go about our everyday business and do not pay attention to the daily activities of Congress. This is simply human nature. Congressional actions are also human nature. U.S. citizens elected representatives to go to Washington and spend money…and that the congressmen and senators have done. Most people in government want to do something “for the country” and “for the people,” which inevitably leads to spending Other People’s Money.


Our government debt is rising every day. Our population is shifting as more people retire and fewer people are able to find work. Our social programs, including the Affordable Care Act, are only adding to our financial burden, and rising taxes are hindering economic growth. We are a nation in the red. “A Nation In The Red” by Murray T. Holland is a powerful wake-up call to leaders, investors, and citizens. Holland’s research reveals the surprising truth about our national debt – and what we can do about it.

“A Nation In The Red” presents a reasoned, straightforward approach to one of the most controversial issues of our time. You’ll also discover the fascinating psychological reasons that have led to the creation of our debt trap, you’ll learn about the 2,200 federal programs that we’re all paying for, and you’ll find five ways to reduce our nation’s debt, some of which stand as a viable solution to our country’s problems. In the book, Holland reveals:

· How large our debt really is – and is heading to be: It is far worse than previous calculations or projections – it is actually $19 trillion and may well be over $33 trillion in just ten years.

· How Congress and people on the street think “it can’t happen here,” but it can and will happen here.

· What the debt truly means to individuals, businesses, and the nation — and takes us through the doomsday devastation a debt out of control can unleash on us.

· How individuals and businesses can actually contribute to the solution – and how to best insulate themselves from a looming depression if Congress fails to act.

· Why just a small increase in the interest rate — which is bound to happen given the 50-year average is an annual rate of 6% — will more than double the amount of interest paid, and why that amount will swallow 25% of our tax revenue in the near future.

· Why the U.S. has, out of 183 largest economies, the 9th worst debt-to-GDP ratio – and why only two nations that have ever had a ratio worse than our 121% — averted a depression (but most experience a depression like Greece, Portugal, and Spain or long-term recessions like Japan, France and Italy).

· There are only five options for countries with our level of debt– and then recommends his strongest, viable solution – and even that will take 30 years to unfold in order to get us back to where we were five years ago.

· What the Federal Reserve must do – including its new chief – to steer the country properly.

· Why moms and dads, particularly with children in their teens, twenties and thirties, are the key to solving this mess.

Holland wrote the book as a call to action for the nation to take responsibility of this impending danger. He started to conduct research in wanting to know the impact of the national debt on his investments. He wrote it like he would an investment banking study. He ended up spending over three years researching the history of government defaults, what governments in the past and present do when they find themselves in this precarious position, how they got into the mess, what affect government debt has on the country’s economy and currency and how only two countries have ever gotten out of debt this high.

He He believes his book will:

· Educate the public and inform them of the debt trap the United States is in.

· Mobilize businesses, citizens and Congress to take action.

· Provide a complete analysis of the federal debt bomb and the implications for every American.

· Show why we are on the same path as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland – all economic busts.

· Reveal why bailouts, printing money, borrowing more, reworking loan terms, or defaulting are not realistic options to avoid the debt meltdown.

· Explain how to grow the economy but not overheat it – and why coupling this with expense-cutting, avoiding tax increases, and slicing government regulations can put us back on a tract to growth.



Genre: Finance, Free Enterprise, Economics-General
Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition
Publication Date: October 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 272 pages
ISBN-10: 0071829792
ISBN-13: 978-0071829793




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Guest Author JAMIE C. AMELIO showcase & giveaway ENDED



Jamie C. Amelio is the founder and CEO of Caring for Cambodia (CFC), a non-profit, non-governmental charitable organization which has dramatically changed the lives of more than 6,400 Cambodian children. CFC started in 2003 with the goal to provide Cambodian children education by building a school in the Siem Riep area. That initial goal of one school has grown into a mission to secure a better, brighter future for those children and so many more! CFC positively impacts not only the students but their families and the community. The organization continues to build on the initial premise that every child deserves an education by supporting existing schools, building new ones in the same district and implementing teacher training along with identifying mentor teachers. Along the way other essential programs have evolved: Make a Difference trips to build homes, Life Skills programs and continued follow up and support for local teachers as they deliver the curriculum provided by the Cambodian government. Health and Dental to teach students important basic hygiene, and Food For Thought to make certain every child in every CFC school receives two healthy meals each day. CFC even provides bicycles to those students who must travel long distances to school.

Jamie is a three-time recipient of the prestigious “Golden Hand Service Award” bestowed by the Cambodian government (2005, 2010, 2012) to those who give outstanding service to the Cambodian community. She and her husband, Bill, lived in Asia for a decade. They now make their home in Austin, Texas with their six children, including two from Cambodia, all of whom understand the importance of “Being Orange.”

Praise for Jamie C. Amelio
“Cambodia today is still recovering from a difficult past, yet I never give up hope that peace and prosperity are coming. My hope grows stronger because of the work of Caring for Cambodia and Jamie’s message in Graced with Orange that one individual can make a difference, and that many individuals together can create a cascading effect that has the power to change lives.”
—Sichan Siv, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and author of the international bestseller Golden Bones

“Jamie Amelio’s compulsion to breathe new life into the old Killing Fields one school at a time leads to a remarkably moving, personal, and candid journey. There is a profound irony in Amelio’s quest while she is on a mission to rescue perhaps the most decimated, war-torn nation of Southeast Asia; it is that same country that comes to her family’s rescue. Her hard-won lessons in building a whole educational system from scratch should be adopted by U.S. public schools today.”
—Christopher Graves, global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations
Connect with Jamie at these sites:



Bringing Education to the Children of Cambodia, a Woman Finds the True Meaning of Her Own Life.

Readers will be inspired by the children of Cambodia. They are legacies of a genocide that murdered their teachers and many of their family members yet they yearn for the same opportunities young people deserve and desire all over the world a quality education in a safe, nurturing environment with skilled, motivated teachers.

In Cambodia, providing such an education was a huge challenge, but a small group of women in Singapore made it happen. This is the story of how Caring for Cambodia built sixteen life-changing schools, the likes of which were formerly unknown in this troubled third-world nation. It is also the story of how CFC changed the lives of founder Jamie Amelio and many of her friends and family members.

You’ll start out learning how to build a charity from the ground up and end up understanding how ‘giving’ and ‘getting’ can become the same thing.

Cambodia today is still recovering from a difficult past, yet I never give up hope that peace and prosperity are coming. My hope grows stronger because of the work of Caring for Cambodia and Jamie’s message in Graced with Orange that one individual can make a difference, and that many individuals together can create a cascading effect that has the power to change lives. –Sichan Siv, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and author of the international bestseller Golden Bones

Jamie Amelio’s compulsion to breathe new life into the old Killing Fields one school at a time leads to a remarkably moving, personal, and candid journey. There is a profound irony in Amelio’s quest while she is on a mission to rescue perhaps the most decimated, war-torn nation of Southeast Asia, it is that same country that comes to her family’s rescue. Her hard-won lessons in building a whole educational system from scratch should be adopted by U.S. public schools today. –Christopher Graves, global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations

Graced with Orange is a warm, candid memoir that reveals Jamie Amelio’s visionary dedication to education and her journey to transform the lives of Cambodian children. Through Caring for Cambodia, Jamie has inspired legions of volunteers to believe in the power of education, and this engaging narrative draws us in to share that passion. –Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University

Read an excerpt

Rathana and Cherry

Rathana and Cherry

Join Our Family

After the dance troupe’s visit my routine returned to normal, which for

me meant visiting Siem Reap once a month or so in order to continue

improving the schools we had opened and to turn our sights toward opening

others. I also began talking privately with a handful of CFC members

about the idea of bringing a few Cambodian children to Singapore for

an extended stay, not through a formal adoption, but as a way to help

them through elementary and secondary school and perhaps even college.

Together, a handful of us imagined what it would mean both for

them and for our own families.

Meanwhile, I continued to get to know Rathana and Cherry better,

although communicating between visits was difficult. Neither of their

homes had Internet access, although I did occasionally send them short

notes by regular mail, usually just to tell them about my next trip to

Siem Reap.

On one visit I was horrified to learn that Rathana had spent nine

days in the hospital with a tooth abscess. She had become extremely sick,

with the entire left side of her face paralyzed, until the antibiotics finally

kicked in.

Rathana told me she had spent most of her time on a cot in a room

with thirty other sick children, including a number of constantly crying

infants. I was frightened to think of Rathana or Cherry spending their

teenage years in this environment, and it was definitely a motivating factor

in taking my idea a step further.

I hadn’t yet said anything to Bill about inviting a Cambodian child

into our lives, much less both Rathana and Cherry. I was still getting my

own mind around what it would mean for Bill and me and for our kids.

But as usual, Bill knew what I was thinking. Although we hadn’t

yet addressed the issue head on, he had given me plenty of hints that he

wasn’t exactly wild about the idea of adding to our already big, boisterous

family. He would see my reaction after visiting a hospital where parents

had abandoned their children, or hear me comment about how adorable

a little girl or baby was, and he’d say, “Don’t ask. Don’t ask.”

“All right, all right,” I would respond, but my acquiescence was

probably not entirely convincing.

I wanted to choose just the right moment to broach the subject

with Bill. The opportunity came when he had to be in Hong Kong on a

business trip that coincided with our wedding anniversary. I flew there

to meet him for a romantic weekend on a scorching spring day in that

intensely urbanized city-state. My news, I knew, was going to add to the

heat, but I figured I would drop the bomb after a bottle of wine at dinner.

In hindsight it wasn’t really a bomb; it was more like an ambush.

We shed some tears that night, but in the end we were on the same

page, together deciding to invite Rathana and Cherry into our lives. Of

the words we said a few flash in my memory: a commitment to raise them

together and raise them well; thinking outside the box; being blessed and

wanting to share our good fortune with others; and truly believing this

was the right thing to do.

Bill’s version more or less parallels mine:

Our fourth child had just been born when Jamie said to

me, “I really like kids!” I said, “I like kids too, so let’s have

a lot more!” But she said, “No, no, I think I would like to

have a child from Cambodia.” I thought for a while, then

asked if she was serious. “Yes,” she was serious.

I didn’t even think we could legally adopt a child

from Cambodia, particularly an older child, and I wondered

how we would even bring a child over to Singapore.

But Jamie had already come up with the idea of a

guardianship. She told me that others in the Singapore

community were interested too, and she suggested we

bring over a few girls and see how it worked out. One

would live with us, some with others.

Well, it didn’t work out exactly like that. Jamie

returned from Siem Reap one day and said to me, “I

can’t make up my mind. There are these two girls I have

really fallen in love with. They’re great girls and they

have great families over there and we could have them

both come live with us.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said. “Stop for a

minute. We went from zero to now two. This is not like

a buddy system. Why two?” But just like Jamie, she told

me it was all going to work out and she was right. We

ended up with two blessings in our life.

The decision did not end there, of course. This was a family matter,

so when Bill was home next we called a family meeting to discuss the idea

with our kids. We asked for their opinions, starting from the youngest to

the oldest, although we all decided that Avery did not get a vote since she

was only a baby, not even walking or talking yet.

Bronson was in kindergarten. CFC had always been a big part of his

life, so to him this seemed like a natural step. He said “Sure!” right off

the bat.

Riley was in the fourth grade, just a few months younger than

Cherry, and he simply said, “Fine, whatever.”

Austin, although he had just left Singapore for college, loved the

energy the girls brought into our home and gave the idea “a strong

thumbs up.”

It was unanimous.

By this time I knew my idea to have Rathana and Cherry come live

with us for a while would not come as a total shock to either girls’ parents,

but first I wanted to make sure they would be accepted by SAS. This was

only going to work if all the children in the Amelio household attended

the same school, which meant SAS needed to understand and accept the

challenge we were presenting them with. After all, there was no precedent

for this. The girls knew very little English, and surely they wouldn’t

be academically equal to the other SAS students their age.

To his credit, Bob Gross, the superintendent at the time, did not

immediately say no to my crazy idea. I just about begged him to admit

the girls, promising I would personally do whatever it took to make them

eligible for enrollment. Bob was patient and open-minded but also realistic,

more realistic than I was, I’m sure. He agreed to take the first step,

which was to give both girls an assessment test. “Let’s see how they do,”

he cautioned, “and decide after we see the results.”

Since Cherry and Rathana would have to take the test in Singapore,

it was time to talk to them. Rathana has a vivid memory of that moment:

That day when my mom first asked me about living in

Singapore we were in the library reading “The Giving

Tree.” We read it over and over and over until I actually

understood what the story was about. I just liked being

with her even when I didn’t understand a word she said!

I tried to copy her and say the words as she did. And

then she asked me, “Do you want to study, to have a better

education?” And I said, “YES! Yes, that’s what I want

to do.” And then she asked, “Would you like to come to

Singapore?” I thought she was joking. Then Savy came

and asked me, “Are you ready to live in Singapore?” and I

knew. I didn’t doubt myself and I didn’t want to say no. My

answer was, “YES, YES,” off the top of my head. I didn’t

know what it meant back then. I just understood that I

would get a better education.

Later that same day I asked Cherry if she would be interested in

going to Singapore to study. She remembers being shocked:

I didn’t really know what to do. I ran home and asked

my parents, “Ma, what should I do? Dad, what should I

do?” And they said, “You should do whatever you want.

You decide.” And I was like, “Okay, this is a really good

opportunity to see a different world, a different culture,

and learn new things, new experiences, so yeah, okay.”

But I knew it was BIG.

When I talked with Rathana’s and Cherry’s parents, Savy as usual

served as my interpreter. He explained to them that the plan was to have

the girls live with us for a year and see how it went. He tried to convey the

many things they would be doing and learning and seeing. He described

both SAS and our home. It helped that he had visited both. And he

assured them that the girls would stay in regular contact with them, with

frequent phone calls and visits during every school break.

Cherry’s parents in particular, were enthusiastic. They understood

she was being given an extraordinary opportunity, and Cherry was

already a hard-working student, looked up to by the other kids. But I

know the decision to let her go was not easy, particularly for Cherry’s

mother. Cherry is one of just two children and the only girl.

Rathana’s family understood the opportunity at a more practical

place, especially how it could lift her out of the poverty she had known

her entire life and would likely always know. Just being assured of three

meals a day would be something special.


As I left each home with the blessings of their parents I promised to

care for the girls as if they were my own. It was an easy promise to make

because I felt that degree of love for them.

Bill and I decided to ease into the situation by having the girls stay

with us for a week in March of 2005 so they could take the assessment test

and begin to get an idea of what living in the Amelio household would

be like for them and for us. Then, if all went well, and assuming SAS

admitted them, they would return a few months later before the start of

the school year.

We welcomed Rathana and Cherry to our home with a little fanfare.

We decorated the house with streamers and balloons and put up big welcome

signs in the bedroom they would be sharing. Our boys were great

and Bill was wonderful too, although we’ve since learned that his gruff

playfulness made them nervous. Over the years Rathana and Cherry

have come to appreciate his dry sense of humor, but back then it was a

little scary for them.

We spent a quiet weekend together, but to the girls it was anything

but uneventful. Just poking around the house, playing computer games

with the other kids, listening to their music, and even flushing the toilets

was an incredible adventure.

This was Rathana’s second trip to Singapore, but Cherry had never

left Cambodia before, so this first trip was particularly momentous for

her. Our bathroom was a special mystery. She couldn’t figure out how to

work the toilet, and I had to show her how to take a bath for the first time.

She remembers the experience like this:

I didn’t really know what to do. I was like, “You just go

in there and stay for what, for a long time?” I was really

confused. And then my mom explained to me, “You just

go in, lie there, and you just clean your body. For five

minutes or ten minutes, you just lie there, and then after

that you rinse yourself. And then after that, you’re clean.”

So I said, “Okay! It’s really, really weird, but I’ll try it.”

Not surprisingly, neither girl scored particularly well on the SAS

assessment test, but Bob Gross was phenomenal and decided to give

them a chance. It was both altruistic and courageous of him to take such

a risk and we will always be grateful for his belief in the girls and in us.

By the time I took Rathana and Cherry back to Cambodia we were

all excited about them coming back a few months later to live with us.

We decided they would both enroll in the sixth grade. Cherry is a year

younger than Rathana but they were at about the same level academically

and I thought it was important that they be in the same class for a number

of reasons. Not only could they support each other, but I would also

be able to help them with the same homework. In addition, SAS wouldn’t

have to have two separate levels of assistance in the classroom.

Our biggest priority during these first few months was improving

the girls’ English skills. Fortunately, Bill Hannagan, the director of SAS’

terrific English as a Second Language (ESL) program, was committed to

finding the necessary teaching staff and other resources to help transition

them into their new lives.

Their marvelous ESL teacher, Sharon Carroll, actually accompanied

them through the hallway the first few weeks of school and for many

years helped them maneuver through their studies. We hired her to tutor

both girls and that made a big difference as well. Once they were able

to communicate a little better, their confusion about almost everything

began to lessen.

Everyone at SAS—the kids, the faculty, the administration, and the

parents—were totally behind the girls’ success. That’s the only way it

would have worked. The welcoming attitude started at the top, with Bill

Hannagan personally telling the student body that these fabulous new

Cambodian girls, who barely spoke a word of English, were matriculating

through their school. He encouraged the other students to assist Rathana

and Cherry in any way they could, and he assigned them buddies who

stayed with them throughout the day. He thoughtfully chose classmates

who had participated in at least one MAD trip to a CFC school because

they knew a little something about where Rathana and Cherry had come

from. The SAS administration also agreed to bend school policy to help

them succeed. They allowed the girls to be graded pass/fail that first year,

an unheard-of act of generosity that totally blew my mind.

Not surprisingly, Cherry and Rathana were in utter culture shock

those first few months during the fall of 2005. Their English was next

to nothing, and everything else was foreign to them as well. Much of

our home time was spent learning words and helping them make sense

of their countless new life experiences. English-Khmer dictionaries were

always at hand, and every member of the Amelio family had his or her

own copy.

Mostly the girls observed for themselves, everything from the chores

they were expected to do around the house, to choosing what to eat in the

cafeteria lunch line. They watched what the other kids did—where they

put their books, how they used their lockers, how to get on a school bus

and buckle their safety belts, and so much more. On top of that, they sat

in classrooms, did their schoolwork, and of course dealt with the social

intricacies of middle school. When I think back on those months I am in

awe of both girls.

The Amelio household too spent the first few months trying to figure

out how all this was going to work. Everything was a learning experience

for all of us. Family outings like going to a restaurant, the beach, shopping,

or out for ice cream became a chance to help Rathana and Cherry

learn new things.

Riley, Bronson, Rathana, Cherry, and I loved watching silly cartoons

together. The girls especially loved Bugs Bunny. At first they couldn’t

understand a word the characters were saying, but the physical humor said

it all. They laughed and laughed, really deep belly laughs, something you

seldom see Cambodian children do. They must have watched the movie

High School Musical thirty times. They may not have understood what

was being said, but they loved the singing and dancing and the obviously

happy ending.

There were also some tough times early on. Cherry in particular

was homesick, and as you can imagine, the hours spent in classrooms

in which no one spoke their language were hugely challenging. Cherry


The first week I came to Singapore, I pretty much missed

my family. I didn’t know much English and I didn’t feel

people understood me. I had no way of really sharing

my feelings with other people. It was hard to be in class.

I couldn’t understand people talking, or the teacher

explaining. I couldn’t think straight. It was frustrating. I

just didn’t know how to speak English.

Rathana’s experience was similar:

All I knew in class was that a teacher was opening his

mouth, and all I hear is MUTE. It would be traveling in

the brain, like on a train traveling somewhere, but I don’t

know where it was going. I was thinking in Cambodian,

the teacher was talking in English, and I didn’t know

what he was talking about. I didn’t know what I was

supposed to do. I just knew it was scary and I didn’t

understand ANYTHING.

I was frustrated a lot when I couldn’t do my homework

or when a teacher would say, “You don’t have to

turn it in until next week.” I wanted to turn it in the same

time as everyone else. I wanted to have grades. I wanted

to be an actual student. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t do my homework. It was just HARD.

Many times I doubted myself. I thought I was not

smart enough, that I didn’t understand my friends, and

I missed my family. I’m Cambodian; I was so different

from everybody else. They all looked smart and cool and

knew what they were doing. Someone would say that the

boy was “hot,” and I would feel extremely stupid. “He is

not on fire! Why would you say hot?” And they would go,

“What are you talking about? He is on fire!” And I would

say, “He is not on fire!” Why are you guys saying ‘hot’?” I’d

keep doubting myself because I didn’t understand them.

Both girls, but particularly Rathana, also had some stomach issues

due to the radical changes in their diet. If food has been scarce your entire

life you will have a predictable response to suddenly eating three nutritious

meals each day.

At the beginning when Rathana and Cherry sat down at the table,

they would eat like there was no tomorrow. That first year we probably

didn’t say “No” enough. They adored spaghetti and asked for three or

four helpings each time we ate it, something that would make any belly

cry out.

Rathana also tended to get motion sickness in the car. The physical

changes were just plain hard for her.

Bedtime was also difficult. That’s when they missed their families

the most. While we lived in Singapore, they visited their families in Siem

Reap frequently, certainly every Christmas and spring and summer vacations,

but those first weeks away from home were challenging for them.

One night not long after they had arrived I went into their room to

check on them and they were both lying on the floor.

“Girls, come up to the bed,” I told them.

They refused; they did not want to sleep in a bed. They said they had

never slept in a bed and they wanted to sleep on the floor like they did

in Cambodia. They also did not want to be covered by blankets because

they had never slept with anything on top of them. They were not even

accustomed to sheets. After all, in Cambodia they lived in one-room


I lay down on the floor with them and we read a book together until

they fell asleep. All the while I was thinking, What have I gotten myself

into? I thought that a lot those first months, particularly when one of

the girls was moody or difficult like any pre-teen, but then she would

almost immediately do or say something that would just as quickly melt

my heart.

There were so many gut-wrenching moments, like when I’d see them

walk to the bus stop and board the bus, or when I observed how inseparable

they were. They even showered together. I would cry as I asked

myself, “Is this the right thing to have done? Who am I to say that my life

is better and that this is better for them? Should I have taken them from

their families?” I definitely questioned what I was doing, which I had

never done before about anything related to CFC.

Negotiating school and friends gradually became easier once the

girls began to have a better grasp of English. Meanwhile, Bill and I spent

a lot of time encouraging them to express themselves as best they could.

An important time for us as a family has always been evening meals.

Each night at the dinner table we have a tradition we call “highlights

of the day” in which each person, including guests, is expected to recap

their day’s key moments.

For at least the first year we all kept our English-Khmer dictionaries

beside us as Cherry and Rathana struggled to tell us what they had done

that day. Cherry would sometimes prepare what she was going to say and

memorize it in English. “But then I’d forget and have to open my dictionary

anyway,” she now giggles.

The girls did start to feel comfortable with the Amelio family pretty

quickly, and that at least helped them feel grounded, to feel they had a

safe place to return to each day after the bewilderment they experienced

at school. We also really worked together as a family to get the girls to talk.

As Cherry says, “By the second year I was getting more comfortable

and more confident in myself, especially once I could understand more

English and could say what I wanted to say. And the family gave me a

lot of love, and I just felt connected with them, like we were brother and


Another decision that I think helped was my rule of “No Khmer

spoken at home,” though I knew this was hard for them. Whenever I

heard them chattering in Khmer, I’d remind them, “English, girls; English


I suppose it was the right thing to do. I believed we had to be tough

about them learning English, a key to adjusting to their new lives. Every

day they expressed themselves just a little better, and one day, almost like

someone had pressed a button, they were speaking English. It really did

seem like that, like a remote control was stuck on fast forward. Today the

girls have even mastered teenage colloquial expressions, eye rolling and all.

I also pushed them to get involved in school activities. I thought that

sports would be a universal language, but for diminutive Cherry, this presented

just another challenge. I signed her up for every sport the school

offered, including basketball, soccer, and softball. For a while gym class

was a nightmare, but lo and behold, she ended up loving softball!

It sounds like tough love and I guess it was, but in the Amelio household

tough love always comes with a warm hug. We do a lot of serious

handholding that is quite foreign to Cambodians. If one of the girls did

something wrong, or if I was trying to encourage them to try to do better,

I would hold their hands or hug them as I told them, “Look, no matter

what, I love you.” After a while I think they embraced (hah!) our hugging

tradition with enthusiasm and understanding.

The girls also made a lot of friends that first year, including Alex

McConaghy, Emily Martin, and Cassie Miller. That more than anything

helped with their transition. When I put my ear to their door during

sleepovers or school-related events and heard them all playing and giggling

I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up.

It also helped that both girls knew that plenty of people were rooting

for them—not only their new family and community in Singapore, but

also their family and friends in Cambodia. Cherry explains:

My parent (in Cambodia) is the person who pushed

me a lot. My mom didn’t have much of an education

because of the Khmer Rouge, so she wants me to believe

in myself, and wants women to believe. I would NEVER

give up because I want my family to be proud of me and

so all the people in Cambodia could think that this little

girl can do it, so I can do it.

Rathana always took a more worldly view. She was like that from the

first time I met her in Spien Chrieve:

I had a lot of help from my friends, from my mom, dad,

teachers, and tutor. Everybody was willing to help. I

think about the encouragement I got from people when I

was down, how everybody was helping me. That’s one of

the things I told myself, that other people hadn’t given up

on me. That’s something that kept me going.

My mom’s speech at ArtAid, talking about how she

wanted to change the world and change Cambodia and

how her present as a Mother’s Day gift was a school,

made me realize that my coming to Singapore wasn’t to

be an “American girl.” My goal was to come here to get

an education, not to try and fit in with the girls at school.

There was so much more for me to worry about than just

trying to fit in. That’s what made me realize that this is

my dream, that I can’t give up now.

A turning point for me occurred in January of 2006 when Rathana

and Cherry returned to Singapore after visiting their families over the

Christmas holiday. When I went to pick them up at the Singapore Airport

all I could think was, “Here are my girls! They’re coming home!” It felt

so natural, like my own kids returning from summer camp. I just wanted

Rathana and Cherry back and to return to the swing of things. Best of all,

when they walked off the plane, I could see in their faces that they felt the

same way.

The girls gradually became more and more familiar with us and with

Western life, and our family with them. I think I know when I started

thinking that all this might actually work out. It was in year two, when

all the kids stopped being on their best behavior and started to argue like

real brothers and sisters.

Remember, Rathana and Cherry were pre-teens when they came to

live with us, and we all know the hormonal challenges posed by that age

and the subsequent teenage years. We had the typical tears and displays of

emotion, another characteristic contrary to the way Rathana and Cherry

were raised. Cambodians don’t cry. I had to explain to them that in my

world it was okay to cry if they were frustrated, mad, sad, or even happy.

Watching the girls grow and adapt to their new environment has

been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, like watching

a film strip of girls growing, coping, learning, blooming. Not all the

changes have been completely positive, of course. What parent hasn’t

been exasperated with her teenager and what teenager hasn’t decided at

some point that her parents are dolts?

Adopted children also have challenges all their own, and Cherry and

Rathana were dealing with two separate families. Nonetheless, I could see

that they were adapting. In the early days, for instance, the girls were very

careful and orderly about their space. They made their beds every day

and put away their clothes in just the right place. They really respected

and appreciated what they had. To take them shopping and get them a

pair of shoes was an experience for all of us. But like many kids, they went

through periods of entitlement in which they expected to be given rather

than to earn the good things in life. This did not happen all the time by

any means, but it happened, and it was something Bill and I worked hard

to confront in all our kids.

Having Rathana and Cherry become part of our family changed

us too. “We’ve had our share of struggles,” says Bill. “We’ve had sibling

rivalry that was difficult and we had to help the kids manage that, but I

think that having them in our family has helped ground all our kids by

learning the importance of sharing what you have.”

Bill and I have also had a ringside seat watching them grow into

young ladies. Bill says:

It’s been wonderful to watch them develop over the last six

years—to see the successes and accomplishments they’ve

had, but also the struggles and the way they’ve been able

to rise above all the obstacles they faced and still have a

solid connection with their families in Cambodia. That

connection is still there with regular Skype calls. Yet here

in America they’re part of our family. They call Jamie

and me “Mom” and “Dad.” They’re connected to all of

our kids. It’s been a privilege to watch, and the impact it

has had on our family is quite amazing.

Rathana and Cherry also offered us a window into the changes we

were making at our CFC schools, since they had experienced both the

before and after. Rathana remembers it this way:

The first time I went to school in Cambodia I remember

the grass being up to my waist and having to dig through

it. My class had eighty-eight kids in it. Many of them

would pay the teacher to pass them so they could go on

to the next class, but some of us didn’t have the money

to pay the teacher, so no matter how hard we worked we

would be at the bottom of the class.

All we knew about going to school was sitting

around the tables, listening to the teacher. It wasn’t really

about learning anything, but just being around people.

People would never talk about their feelings, their

problems, or what was going on at home. Or what they

knew about the world or politics. We didn’t think we

had the right to talk about it. My parents, they told me

not to talk about it because when they were growing

up, during Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, they were not

allowed to speak about their father or about politics or

if they loved the king or what they learned at school. So

I think that image of being afraid of your own people,

of people around you, scares them. Sharing your feelings

or wanting to change scares them. And they wanted to

teach their children that way too. You’re not supposed to

share your feelings; you’ve got to hold them in because

you don’t want to die. So that’s what the children did.

They learned to hold it in and keep it out, always smiling.

Smiling is the key.

Sometimes the teachers didn’t show up, or sometimes

they had outside jobs or they had family business

to do. We would just sit in class until 5:00 o’clock or when

it was time to go home. We would start talking, laughing,

dancing. Or sometimes we would pretend we were teaching,

or we would make up a song about the rain.

But I couldn’t really blame the teacher. She needed

the money to support her family. I was just frustrated

about the whole thing. It shouldn’t work that way.

Cherry also remembers what school was like in Cambodia:

Our school didn’t have much of a roof, so when it rained

we had to duck under the tables so we wouldn’t get wet.

There were a lot of spider webs everywhere, and we didn’t

really clean it. We didn’t really care about the classroom

that much. Now when I go to Cambodia and see all the

change, it is really cool. We have art and drawings everywhere.

And children sit reading library books. I was like,

“Oh my gosh, they actually learn things!” And they try

their best. It is really, really fun to see that.

Rathana agrees:

The teachers love teaching! They teach the children as

much as they can by getting them to talk, to communicate.

They’re aware of the Cambodian environment and policy

and politics and they try to share that with the children.

Rathana (center left) and Cherry (center right) at the Kong Much opening ceremony.

Christy and Madi Miller are to the right of Cherry; Jill Kirwin is to the left of Rathana.

and Bronson is behind her.

Predicting your children’s future is a fool’s errand, but if I were to

guess, I would say that Cherry will probably be the one to return to

Cambodia. She’s always saying that whatever she does, she wants to give

back to her country.

Rathana is more the artistic type. I can imagine her going to school

in Paris someday. But then again, Rathana says she wants to return to live

in Cambodia too, so maybe after Paris?

Rathana says:

After living with the Amelio family, I questioned the

world. I questioned a lot: “What’s my purpose here?

What am I doing here? What am I going to do with my

education? What am I going to do in Cambodia?”

I do believe that everybody is here for a purpose.

One is to help others, and the other is to help yourself.

By helping others, without realizing it you are helping

yourself too. And with this education I am having, I

definitely want to go back and share my story with the

children of Cambodia. I will tell them that everybody

has a purpose and that my purpose is to come back and

share my words with my people, telling them not to be

afraid, not to be afraid of change.

My mom in Cambodia would always tell me that

wherever you are in life, you have to go as the river flows.

You have to turn, you have to twist, you have to go backwards

if that’s where it’s taking you. Like a river, life is

always up and bouncing, bumpy, smooth, turning left or

right. But if you want to go toward your destiny, toward

your dreams and hopes, you have to turn the way it takes

you. If it tells you to go right, you have go to the right.

If it’s bumpy, you have go with the bumps, and if it’s

smooth, sometimes it’s just like that. Life is smooth and

bumpy and you have to go with it.

I constantly tell Rathana and Cherry that if any two kids can do

something amazing with their lives, they can. They already have.

“You came to a country where everyone spoke English but you spoke

none,” I remind them. “You never should have made it at SAS, but you

did. Not only that, but by the time you left, you were on the honor role.”

They are my heroes.


Genre: non-fiction.
Published by: Meadow Lane Publishing
Publication date: June 2013
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN 13: 978-0-9860258-0-8




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Guest Author DR. NORMAN ROSENTHAL showcase & giveaway ENDED



The New York Times-bestselling author of Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental MeditationWinter Blues and How to Beat Jet LagNorman E. Rosenthal, M.D., attended the University of the Witwatersrand in his native South Africa. He moved to the United States and was resident and chief resident at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the New York Psychiatric Institute. He has conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health for over twenty years. It was there that he first described and diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dr. Rosenthal is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School and has maintained a private practice in the Washington, DC metropolitan area for the past thirty years. Rosenthal is the author or co-author of over 200 professional articles and several popular books, including Winter Blues, the classic work on SAD. He currently serves as medical director and CEO of Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland, where he directs clinical trials in both pharmaceuticals and complementary and alternative medicine. Dr. Rosenthal and his work have been widely covered in the popular media and he has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, National Public Radio and many other forums.
Connect with Dr. Rosenthal at these sites:


Q&A with Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal

As a world-class psychiatrist, what have you found to be the most important tool your patients can armor themselves with when confronting adversity?
The most important tool is a clear head. Don’t panic. In most situations there is time to think; thinking is your friend, and impulsive action is your enemy. Analyze the situation, understanding what you’re up against and what resources you have at your disposal. Of course, in emergencies you will need to act quickly, but that’s when your primitive fight-or-flight responses will click into gear and – with a bit of luck and quick thinking – will save the day.

Our society seems paralyzed by fear of imperfection and adversity, yet you make the case that adversity can be a boon. How so?
Many of us hold up perfection as an ideal – and the media feeds this.  We are told how to get the perfect marriage, the perfect child, the perfect Christmas, the perfect vacation, the perfect job.  In reality, however, perfectionism can set you up for repeated disappointment and can sometimes be crippling. I learned this in a grade school art class where I produced a cardboard clown with no thumbs, but it worked out fine. The huge lesson to me then was that things don’t have to be perfect. That lesson has stood me in good stead throughout my life. So, from my years as a psychiatrist, I can tell you: imperfect marriages can be wonderful; imperfect children can bring boundless joy; an imperfect Christmas can be a time of giving and spiritual growth; that lousy vacation!   You will laugh and tell stories about that awful vacation for years to come; and finally, realizing that your boss and job are imperfect will make you less grumpy every working day.

Your previous New York Times bestseller, Transcendence, explored the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, and in The Gift of Adversity you also touch upon meditation. Is there research that shows how helpful meditation can be in overcoming adversity – and is this something you have experienced yourself?
In The Gift of Adversity I describe three individuals who overcame enormous hardship — homelessness, drug addiction, and imprisonment – and emerged successfully, drug free, employed, and happy. Although this transformation involved many elements, Transcendental Meditation (TM), was crucial to their success. Fortunately, I have not experienced adversity at this terrible level, but TM has helped me deal with lesser adversityies that was nonetheless important to me. For example, it helped me write again, and produce three books in three years – something I would never have been able to do before TM gave me the capacity to be alone with my thoughts and access deeper parts of consciousness then were formally available to me.

TM’s potential effectiveness in helping people deal with adversity is supported by research. Veterans with combat-related post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) and Ugandan refugees who had suffered devastating trauma sustained in their native lands responded very well to TM in controlled studies. Middle school children in violent inner-city environments have shown improved attendance, morale, and better academic performance following the introduction of TM programs. Physical adversities – most notably that silent killer, hypertension, heart attacks, and strokes – all decrease in frequency after people start practicing TM. As I write this, I realize that these claims are hard to believe, but they are supported by dozens of peer-reviewed articles, which I summarized in Transcendence and revisit in The Gift of Adversity.

You’re well known for being the first to diagnose and develop a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Can SAD amplify the effects of adversity – i.e., make an average challenge seem like a huge mountain to climb?
Whatever adversity you have, SAD will make it worse. The symptoms of SAD are low energy, low mood, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, overeating, oversleeping, and weight gain. These are the last things you need when you are trying to deal with adversity. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to overcome SAD, which I describe in my book, Winter Blues.

Reversing symptoms of SAD is just one example of attending to your physical and emotional needs as part of equipping yourself to handle adversity. In The Gift of Adversity I discuss many of the good habits that promote physical and psychological stability, which can put you in the best possible position for dealing effectively with adversity.

Your book draws on many experiences from your own life. How has adversity shaped you for the better?
I have often realized that, as a psychiatrist, I am most sensitive and in touch with my patients’ problems when I myself am undergoing my own difficulties. The reason for this is that adversity can sensitize people and help them tune in to the suffering of others. It can also harden people and make them mean. So we have a choice as to how adversity is going to shape us as human beings. As I looked through the lessons I have learned along life’s journey, I realized that the most valuable lessons came from difficult times – whether these were the result of bad luck, errors of judgment on my part, or self-imposed challenges. Adversity has made me more resilient and has helped me become a kinder, wiser, and better person.

You share a number of anecdotes in The Gift of Adversity – your own and those of others. Is there one anecdote or story that has been particularly inspiring to you?
There are so many inspiring stories in The Gift of Adversity, but one that stands out as unforgettable to me is a personal visit I paid to the great Viktor Frankl. For those who don’t know the name, Frankl is best known for his masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning. His book draws on his experiences during the Holocaust when he was imprisoned in concentration camps and narrowly escaped being murdered. He lost his wife and parents to the Nazis and emerged emaciated and in poor health. But he never lost his spirit of optimism. From this dreadful series of adversities Frankl developed key insights that he would turn into books that have helped tens of millions of people. One such insight is that when you are in a situation in which you have no control over the terrible things are happening around you, the one thing you can control is how you choose to view your circumstances. In The Gift of Adversity I describe the fascinating and terrifying years in Europe during World War II as related to me by a great eye witness and one of my all-time heroes – Viktor Frankl.

When life is hard, it can be challenging to see meaning or gifts in a given situation. What advice would you give to those who are experiencing hard times – are there specific things they should do or keep in mind?
I would say remember, other people have been this way before and have succeeded in overcoming these very same obstacles and, in many instances, have become stronger as a consequence. If they could do it, so you can you. Now you simply need to figure out what they did that worked and how you can implement a strategy that will work for you.

What is the most important lesson about coping with hardship that people should take away from reading The Gift of Adversity?
There is an old Eastern proverb: The fox has many tricks, but the porcupine has one big trick. When it comes to dealing with adversity you are better off being a fox than a porcupine. Here are some of the many tricks in dealing successfully with adversity

  • Accept that the adversity has occurred
  • Proportion your response according to the nature of the adversity
  • Analyze the situation
  • Regulate your physical and emotional state – for example, by keeping regular hours of sleeping and waking, eating regular meals, exercising and meditating
  • Reach out for help – to family, friends or even kindly strangers
  • Turn your predicament into a story – to help you process it
  • Reframe the adversity – think about it in a different way

When it comes to one’s health, what could be better than discovering the unexpected benefits of life’s difficulties, setbacks, and imperfections? There is growing evidence that positive people enjoy better mental and physical health than others. No matter your background, life experience, or current status, most of us have faced adversity in some form. Rather than attempt to ignore or escape these roadblocks, founder of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and top research Psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal tackles the topic of adversity head on in his new book: The Gift of Adversity.Drawing on his own unique upbringing in apartheid South Africa as well as on case studies and discussions with well-known figures like David Lynch and Viktor Frankl, Dr. Rosenthal shows readers how they can learn from adversity to become better, stronger, and more resilient. Using the tools illustrated in this book, listeners will learn numerous essential truths or lessons, including:
•           The importance of knowing your mind and your body
•           Why authenticity in yourself is important
•           How vital friendship is to overcoming adversity
•           Understanding that what makes us different makes us better
•           The 3 categories of adversity and 5 steps to dealing with crises
•           How each type of adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own form of wisdom
•           Forgiveness versus reconciliation and which is a more rewarding route
This book is the latest publication from Dr. Rosenthal’s scope of knowledge on adversity. In his New York Times bestseller, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation, Dr. Rosenthal explored a method being used by many—from war veterans to children—to cope with adversity. David Lynch and Dr. Rosenthal teamed up to give lectures on the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. Dr. Rosenthal has also been a featured contributor on,, CBSNews, The Wall Street Journal, and more.

Genre: Stress Management, Personal Growth – General
Publisher: Tarcher
Publication Date: August 29, 2013
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN-10: 0399163719
ISBN-13: 978-0399163715




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Guest Author JULIA CAMERON showcase & giveaway ENDED



Julia Cameron has been an active artist for more than thirty years, with over thirty books (including bestsellers The Artist’s Way, Walking In This World and The Right to Write) and countless television, film, and theater scripts to her credit. Writing since the age of 18, Cameron has a long list of screenplay and teleplay credits to her name, including an episode of Miami Vice, and Elvis and the Beauty Queen, which starred Don Johnson. She was a writer on such movies as Taxi Driver, New York, New York, and The Last Waltz. She wrote, produced, and directed the award-winning independent feature film, God’s Will, which premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, and was selected by the London Film Festival, the Munich International Film Festival, and Women in Film Festival, among others. In addition to making film, Cameron has taught film at such diverse places as Chicago Filmmakers, Northwestern University, and Columbia College. Her profound teachings on unlocking creativity and living from the creative center have inspired countless artists to unleash their full potential. Her site is an online course and artists’ community.
Connect with Julia at these sites:


Q&A with Julia

It has been 20 years since the publication of your bestseller, The Artist’s Way, and your many fans have long been asking for a book like The Artist’s Way for Parents – why did you decide to write this book now?
My daughter, Domenica, has just had her first child. I wanted to pass on to her the tips and insights I myself had used.

What creative tools did you employ in your daughter’s upbringing?
I wrote Morning Pages, I took Domenica with me on Creative Expeditions, I supplied her with toys for solo play. Above all, I modeled the joy of creative exploration myself.

Why do you think parents lose sight of their personal creativity, and why is it important that they reignite it?
Parents often feel they must commit themselves 24/7 to nurturing their child. With this as a mission, they often neglect their own creative nurturing. When they commit to self-care as well as child care, they experience and transmit joy.

Spirituality is an important theme in this book. What is the connection between spirituality and creativity?
I often say that spirituality and creativity are one and the same. As we commit to deepening our spirituality, we awaken our creativity. As we commit to awakening our creativity, we reignite our spirituality.

You describe this book as a “toolkit” for parents and their children. What are some of the key resources that will they discover in its pages?
The Artist’s Way for Parents aims at awakening inner wisdom. Its essays and tasks provoke thought. Parents will learn the attitudes and aptitudes that best serve their child’s creativity. For example, they will learn how to cultivate safety, inventiveness and independence.

This book is geared toward parents with children newborn through age twelve – does it get harder to inspire creativity in children as they grow older?
No. Children crave self-expression, and as they mature, their avenues for self-expression increase.

You encourage parents to write “Morning Pages” at the start of every day – can you explain a bit about the process and how parents, and their children, will benefit from this exercise?
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, morning writing about absolutely anything. Virginia Wolfe advised wanna-be artists that they would need “a room of their own.” Morning Pages constitute such a room. As parents write their pages, they come in contact with their authentic feelings. This allows them to relate to their children without resentment. Instead, they find themselves tabulating the many tiny steps in their child’s development and their own reactions to them.

In what ways has our changing culture influenced people’s creativity over the years and generations?
Morning Pages are an old-fashioned tool. Writing by hand, we achieve a hand-made life. Writing by computer, we race along, ignoring our true feelings and perceptions. Emailing and texting, we tune out on our environment. As we focus on old-fashioned tools such as crafts, we awaken our child’s originality. Keeping our own technological indulgence to a minimum, we encourage our children to do the same.

How did your own parents encourage creativity in you and your siblings?
My parents encouraged creativity by supplying rich resources for our creative self-expression. They encouraged us to draw, paint, write and make music. They applauded our efforts. Their encouragement was pivotal in developing our love of self-expression.

Why is it so important for parents to awaken their children’s creative minds
Just as blood is part of our physical DNA, creativity is part of our spiritual DNA. Awakening our children’s creativity gives them the opportunity to become fully rounded individuals.

What is the most important takeaway for parents who are reading The Artist’s Way for Parents?

Readers of The Artist’s Way for Parents will find themselves cultivating their own creativity. They will see how their common sense and simple encouragement will benefit their children. They will learn the value of their alert participation in their children’s unfolding lives.

“For decades, people have been asking me to write this book. The Artist’s Way focuses on a creative recovery. We re-cover the ground we have traveled in our past. The Artist’s Way for Parents focuses on creative cultivation, where we consciously—and playfully—put our children on a healthy creative path toward the future.” —Julia Cameron
From the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way comes the most highly requested addition to Julia Cameron’s canon of work on the creative process. The Artist’s Way for Parents provides an ongoing spiritual toolkit that parents can enter—and re-enter—at any pace and at any point in their child’s early years.
According to Cameron: “Every child is creative—and every parent is creative. Your child requires joy, and exercising creativity, both independently and together, makes for a happy and fulfilling family life.” Focusing on parents and their children from birth to age twelve, The Artist’s Way for Parents builds on the foundation of The Artist’s Way and shares it with the next generation. Using spiritual concepts and practical tools, this book will assist parents as they guide their children to greater creativity.

Genre: Non Fiction, Parenting & relationships
Published by: Tarcher
Publication Date: August 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN-10: 0399163727
ISBN-13: 978-0399163722




We think your readers would be interested in learning about the charitable promotion that Tarcher/Penguin is running now through August 15th: To celebrate the release of The Artist’s Way for Parents, Tarcher/Penguin has teamed with the LilySarahGraceFund and the International Child Art Foundation to help underprivileged children everywhere gain access to the arts. For every copy of The Artist’s Way for Parents sold now through August 15th, Tarcher/Penguin will donate $1 to these organizations. In addition, if the total number of copies sold within this timeframe (hardcopy or ebook) exceeds 1,000, Tarcher/Penguin will double its contribution. To make each order count, simply e-mail your receipt or an image of your receipt to:

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Guest Author M.D. KACZKOWSKI




M.D. Kaczkowski founded The Center for Alloplastic Facial Reconstruction in Little Rock, AR, where he serves as lead practitioner designing and fitting ocular and facial prosthetic reconstructions. He is also an artist and medical inventor, with many of his technologies in use by hundreds of patients worldwide. The seeds of his debut novel developed from his work in the science and medical fields.

The story of his debut novel revolves around individuals with special powers to “see” what others cannot see and to use their “visions” to help humanity. Meanwhile, there are dozens of unsolved murders of the homeless, where the victims are found dead without their eyes.

Fascinated with his studies of theology, physics, philosophy and ancient civilizations, as a young man he embarked on a personal spiritual quest driven by a hard-wired obsession to harmonize the demystifying discoveries of science with the enlightened virtues of religion. His journey continues today with much of his findings reflected within the rich metaphor and symbolism of The Seers.

A New York transplant, he spends his time between his homes in Little Rock, AR and Brandon, MS enjoying the company of his wife, Pippa, and three children: Rachel, Daniel and Lily.
Connect with M.D. Kaczkowski at these sites:


Welcome to a new world where science and spirituality are not separate, but coexist on opposite ends of the same spectrum. Creator M. D. Kaczkowski sheds light on the unseen laws of the universe with a fantastical, page-turning thriller. The Seers introduces a world where good battles evil for the world’s soul. The fate of humanity rests in the hands of the Seers, a handful of humans with the rare ability to see the unseen, who call their Angels into action to do battle with Demons. This captivating, fast-paced story blends two classic genres: part apocalypse and part detective story. Through the characters’ lives, readers are introduced to the prophets of humanity, known as the Seers. Between chapters, Dr. John Alderson, a well-traveled Seer-physician, shares his inside knowledge and encourages readers to delve deeper by guiding them to sections in The Seers’ Handbook, which makes up the final third of the book. Welcome to the universe of The Seers. Your journey has only just begun.


           A sudden uncharacteristic cold breeze fluttered the tattered sheers at the window, touching the sweat on the boy’s thin back.  He shivered, goose pimpled.

            His hands instinctively left the Rosary to retrieve the bed sheet at his feet.  He briefly opened his eyes, searching for the cover – but discovered something else entirely.

            Floating before him was a glowing Spirit, massive in size.  Its dark ominous eyes were piercing, filled with strong intent that conveyed wisdom, knowledge and power.

            Johnny opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out.  He was paralyzed, locked within the Spirit’s powerful gaze.

            The Creature wore armor over a flowing robe of luminous white, its folds fluttering, as if somehow being blown by the strange breeze from the window.  There was a breastplate, engravings of meticulous ancient detail etched across its burnished surface, matching the vambrances on the Creature’s forearms.  The Apparition’s right hand gripped the ornately figured hilt of an ancient sword, ready to be unsheathed in a heartbeat.

            Johnny managed to break free of the Spirit’s powerful gaze, immediately shielding his face from the terrifying brightness.  He regained his voice and screamed in horror.

            The Apparition cocked its head curiously and moved closer to the boy.

            As Johnny’s scream continued, the massive Entity scanned the corners of the room, rapidly turning its head, fingers clenching and unclenching on the sword hilt.  It settled its dark gaze on Johnny once again and put its finger to its mouth, as if to shush the boy.

            Johnny peeked through his fingers and saw the Being’s strange gesture.  He threw himself under the covers, hiding his face in his pillow.  “Go away!” he shouted.  “Go away!”


Genre: Apocalyptic/Crime Fiction
Published by: Scilestial Fiction Press
Publication date: March 15, 2013
Paperback | 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9884928-0-6



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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me,
in exchange for my honest review.
No items that I receive
are ever sold…they are kept by me,
or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or
Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate.
I am providing link(s) solely for visitors
that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Guest Author ARIC DAVIS showcase & giveaway ENDED



Born in Ithaca, New York, Aric Davis has lived most his life in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author of A Good and Useful Hurt and the acclaimed YA novel Nickel Plated, called by Gillian Flynn a “dark but humane, chilling and sometimes heart-breaking work of noir” and given a “Top 10” Booklist designation in 2011. A punk-music and tattoo aficionado, Davis worked as a professional body piercer for sixteen years. He and his wife and daughter live in the chilly Midwest, where they can enjoy roller coasters, hockey, and cold weather.
Connect with Aric at his website here.


Of all the blessings that being a full time author has brought me, there are few that I’ve appreciated more than being able to always choose my own music while writing. I’m sure some of you reading this might think that I’m being ridiculous, that there are far worse things about an honest day’s work than music, and I suppose that I am a little particular about what I choose to listen to. That said, how many of you have worked in a tattoo shop before?

To say that the music one can listen to in a tattoo shop would not be workplace appropriate in nearly any other scenario would be an understatement painted with a very broad brush. I can think of more occasions than I can count on my fingers where I was working on a minor and had a coworker fire up some very offensive rap music. That the tunes in question were both horribly misogynistic and full of swears would be bad enough with just the customers in the building, but listening to such things whilst touching the stomach of a fifteen year old girl can make you feel like you truly are a horrible person.

As bad as the rap could be, far worse was the heavy metal listened to on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I like metal, I just don’t like some of the stuff we were listening to, and I definitely hated the volume that it was played at. Trying to write during downtime at work and listening to a band called Terror at utterly earsplitting volume is not something that I would recommend doing anytime soon, but at least when I would write I always had access to the delete and backspace keys. Piercing someone while such acerbic rock roars from the speakers is a whole other animal entirely, and while our rooms had separate speakers and volume controls, one coworker turned his up so loud that it was typically the only speaker even turned on in the shop.

While writing my new project-as yet unnamed-I’ve been listening to the new albums by Captain We’re Sinking, The World is a Beautiful Place and I am no Longer Afraid to Die, The Wonder Years, and Restorations. These are all bands that I can enjoy through my headphones or on the iPod dock that sits on the desk by our kitchen table, and though my daughter might prefer the new Taylor Swift record to any of the above-mentioned bands, I don’t have to worry-for the most part-about coarse language on these records.

It seems like such a small thing, but of all the joys that have come from my ability to stay home and write, there are few that I appreciate more than not having to listen to bad music at the tattoo shop. There are far worse workplace gripes to have of course, and certainly I’ve been through some of those as well after 17 years of pushing needles, but this one is one of the sweetest. I owe a huge debt to my fans and publisher for allowing me to pick all of the songs on my personal playlist, and for that, I thank you.

Aric Davis’ novel The Fort is available now on At turns heartbreaking and breathtakingly thrilling, The Fort perfectly renders a coming-of-age story in the 1980s, in those final days of childhood independence, discovery, and paradise lost.


THE FORT tells the story of three young boys enjoying freedom in the tree house fort they’ve built in the woods behind their homes. But a killer- a deranged Vietnam vet- lurks in their midst, and when the boys spot him near the fort with his latest victim, a teen named Molly, they know they must do their part to save her. Doubted by the police and their parents, the boys decide to take action on their own – to find Molly, to protect themselves, and to save the small corner of the world that remains theirs alone. Told from the alternating viewpoints of the boys, the killer, and the detective on his trail, this is an electrifying story of its time and place – the Grand Rapids of the 1980s, when economic uncertainties and the looming shadows of the Vietnam War lingered over many neighborhoods.


Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (June 11, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611099390
ISBN-13: 978-1611099393




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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.


Guest Author KATHLEEN LONG showcase & giveaway ENDED

When I rad the synopsis of today’s featured book, I knew I wanted to share it with all of you.  So Brianne, from Media Connect/Finn Partners is stopping by to introduce us to the author, Ms. Kathleen Long.  Welcome to CMash Reads!

Kathleen Jones
Kathleen Long is a RITA®-nominated, RIO Award and two-time Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence winning author of fourteen novels of contemporary romance, romantic suspense and women’s
fiction. Her additional honors include National Readers Choice, Holt Medallion, Booksellers Best, and Book Buyers Best award nominations, as well as appearances on the USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. After a career in PR spent spinning words for clients, she finds great
joy spinning words for fictional characters, places and plots. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Kathleen now divides her time between suburban Philadelphia and the Jersey shore. When Kathleen is not busy writing her next book, she spends her time bribing her little one to pick up her
toys, begging the dog to heel, and experimenting with jewelry design.

Connect with Kathleen at these sites:


Writing and Reading:  
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Yes and yes. Much of the emotion in my writing and (in the case of Changing Lanes) a few scenes are borrowed directly from my life. I’d imagine that many authors operate in the same way. For character emotions to work, they have to be real and relatable. What better way to achieve that than to mine my own experiences and memories. As far as current events go, I am forever jotting down story ideas based on a new article or an overheard conversation. If only I could unlock the secret to getting every story idea written! I suppose that boils down to more butt in the chair time, quite simply.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Every book is different. Back when I wrote suspense exclusively, I rarely envisioned the ending of my books. I would start with the premise, then build the characters and go from there. I used a very linear process and frequently broke down the entire book on a color-coded plotting board. For my two women’s fiction titles, Changing Lanes and Chasing Rainbows, I wrote the last scene—or at least a very detailed idea of the last scene—before I wrote the book. That being said, I wrote the rest of the story basically in order—start to finish. If I got stuck, sure, I’d skip to another plot thread and write a scene or two to kick my brain back into gear, but I find the emotions and turning points of a story resonate more strongly if I write them in order. That way, I feel the conflict and growth just as my characters do.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
My only routine is the lack of routine. I have good intentions of writing faithfully each morning, but I confess to being easily distracted. Between the Internet, the house, and my family, my brain is constantly hopping from what it should be writing to what it should be doing. As a matter of fact, my best writing is done when I leave the house—preferably for the comfort of our local library. That brings me to my biggest idiosyncrasy. I cannot sit at the computer and write. My creative brain is happiest anywhere BUT in front of the computer, preferably the library, a sunny spot outside, or on the beach. That’s my idea of the perfect writing location.

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Yes, writing is absolutely my full time job. How lucky am I?!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are Claire Cook, Kristan Higgins, and Elizabeth Berg on the women’s fiction side. They are Lisa Gardner, Lisa Unger, and Harlan Coben on the suspense side. Actually, there are countless other writers I’d like to include on both lists. Narrowing down favorites is a tough job!

What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg. The beauty and emotion of her writing never ceases to leave me humbled and in awe.

Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes! I am actually working on two projects. The first is a new women’s fiction novel which follows a group of four women on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Are We There Yet? deals with relatable crises that face women of a variety of ages—late teens, thirties, forties, and fifties. My second new project, Vanished, is a romantic thriller that will revitalize The Body Hunters, a team of cold case investigators who were at the center of a reader-favorite trilogy I wrote a few years back.

Fun Questions
Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
That is a fun question! It’s also an easy question for me to answer. One thing about my writing process that I neglected to mention in my earlier answer is that I make a collage for every work in progress. For Changing Lanes, the background of the collage was a map of the fictional town. The foreground included photos of buildings, small town streets, bridges, and my imaginary cast. I always pictured someone like Rachel McAdams playing the lead character, Abby. The second-chance romantic interest, Mick, definitely deserves to be played by someone like Gerard Butler. I can picture his personality in this part. Abby’s two best friends, Jessica and Destiny, would be perfectly played by Jessica Capshaw and Sara Ramirez (both of Grey’s Anatomy fame). A movie…wouldn’t that be a dream come true?!

Would you rather read or watch TV/movie?
I am not a huge TV watcher at all. I do love to curl up with a good movie now and then, but honestly, I’m a book lover through and through. I don’t read as much as I used to, and I miss it. The time I used to carve out for reading, I now carve out for writing. I hereby resolve to do a better job of managing both! Great question.

Favorite food?
That’s a tough question! The answer varies by time of year, actually. Right now, I’m shamelessly hooked on shrimp and pasta. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because it’s an easy meal, and my husband and I are both on the same kick. In the summer time, my favorite meal is a slice of Mack and Manco’s pizza from the boardwalk. There’s just something about the boardwalk, the salt air, the sound of the ocean, and that pizza. Yum!

Favorite beverage?
My favorite beverage is coffee. Boring, I know! I recently gave it up completely and was successful for about five weeks. Then, I started sneaking one cup each day…then two…now three. Perhaps that’s part of my writing process. Actually, that’s not a bad excuse for drinking even more!

Thanks for the great questions, Cheryl, and for including me in your Author Spotlight!



Abby Halladay has the perfect life. Or, rather, she will…as long as everything goes exactly according to plan. Abby never leaves anything to chance—not her job as a syndicated columnist, not her engagement to her fiancé, Fred, and certainly not her impending wedding in Paris (New Jersey, that is).

Unfortunately for Abby, even the best-laid plans often go awry—like when Fred runs away to Paris (France, that is), her column is canned, and her dream home is diagnosed with termites. Forced to move back in with her parents and drive her dad’s cab, Abby’s perfect life has now officially become the perfect disaster.

Then a funny thing happens. Slowly but surely, Abby begins letting go of her dreams of perfection. As she does, the messy, imperfect life she thought she never wanted starts to feel exactly like the one she needs.

Poignant and heartfelt, Changing Lanes celebrates the unexpected joys of everyday life—and the enduring promise of second chances.


Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Amazon Publishing; (May 14, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611099455
ISBN-13: 978-1611099454




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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.


Guest Author BOB ADAMOV

Did you have a nice weekend?  I hope you rested because it is going to be another busy week here.  Today, Boryana from Finn Partners is stopping by for a first visit, which I hope is one of many, to introduce us to the very busy and talented author, Mr. Bob Adamov!!  Let’s give them a warm welcome!!!


Bob Adamov is an Ohio mystery adventure writer whose stories are based in the Lake Erie island resort town of Put-in-Bay. He often can be seen in Put-in-Bay, Key West and the Cayman Islands where he writes and markets his novels between boating, sailing and jet skiing with his scuba diving and treasure hunting friends. He had worked for an Arlington, Virginia-based defense contractor in the intelligence sector. A KentStateUniversity graduate, Adamov resides in Wooster, Ohio – not far from the shore of Lake Erie.

Sandustee is the seventh novel in the popular Emerson Moore series and Adamov’s string of island best sellers which include Rainbow’s End, Pierce the Veil, When Rainbows Walk, Promised Land, The Other Side of Hell and Tan Lines. Adamov’s writing style has been compared to Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy.

Adamov was the featured author at the 2006 Ernest Hemingway Literary Festival in Key West. He was recently named Writer of the Year for 2010 in regional competition sponsored by the University of Akron’s WayneCollege. His first novel was a 2003 runner up as the top fiction novel in the Great Lakes (won by Pulitzer Prize winner – Middlesex.) All of his novels were rated 5 Stars by the Midwest Book Review and named as top novels in northeast Ohio by the Akron Beacon Journal. His novels have won awards at the Hollywood Book Festival, London Book Festival, New York Book Festival and the Indie Awards.

“Bob Adamov is a superb craftsman of hanging-on-the-edge-of-your-seat mystery adventures…” – Midwest Book Review

Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s staff compared Adamov’s writing style to Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. Cussler has become a fan of Adamov’s, had him speak at his October 2008 and September 2010 conventions and endorsed his novel, The Other Side of Hell.

A screenplay has been prepared on the first novel, Rainbow’s End, at the request of Dominic Sena, director of Kalifornia, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Swordfish, Whiteout and Season of the Witch. The screenplay is currently being revised. A screenplay is under development on The Other Side of Hell while the completed Tan Lines screenplay is under review by a Hollywood producer.


Sandustee was an interesting and exciting write. It started one summer Saturday on SouthBassIsland when I was signing books in front of one of the island shops. An island bar tender approached me and told me about research he had conducted on the Masons in Sandusky, Ohio, which is located nearby on the mainland. It captured my attention (and imagination) as he said I could use the idea in a novel.

I started additional research and the outline for the plot began to form. I had no idea that a dinner with a treasure hunting friend would add another dimension to the plot.

Over a sumptuous dinner at Kelley’s Caribbean Restaurant and Bar in Key West the next April, Kim Fisher, whose family discovered the wreck of the Atocha and her vast treasure, told me about the Legend of 13. I was hooked and started listing names and places to see which had 13 letters.

The Legend of 13 holds that people and places with thirteen letters have a significant impact on our history. Included is this category would be: Osama Bin Laden, Jesus and the twelve disciples, a judge and 12 jurors, Andrew Jackson, Bourbon Street, The White House, Jeffrey Dahmer, Saddam Hussein, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, and Marilyn Monroe.

Following are a few more notes about the Legend of 13:

  • The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted 13 days.
  • Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed died when their Mercedes struck the 13th pillar in the Alma tunnel in Paris on August 31 1997.
  • The Apollo 13 spacecraft exploded at 1:13 in the afternoon (1313 military time) on April 13, 1970.
  • Companies file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  • Our barcode system is made up of 13 characters.
  • There were typically 13 steps leading to the gallows.
  • The hangman’s noose has 13 turns of the rope.
  • The 13th amendment passed during Abraham Lincoln’s term as U.S. President outlawed slavery.
  • Sandustee was published in 2013 and listed on Amazon on 3/1/13.

It was amazing to me how the pieces of this puzzle began coming together as I wrote. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing this mystery adventure. I’ll be thinking of you all as I sip a rum and coke while watching a Put-in-Bay sunset.


If you liked National Treasure and DaVinci Code, you’ll love Sandustee. It’s a worldwide chase for clues to finding a lost Biblical scroll, the Nazarene’s Code, which gives the holder the power to control nations. Running through the novel is a thread which links Osama Bin Laden to Jesus and the twelve disciples to Abraham Lincoln to Lincoln’s assassination to Booth’s escape to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s house to Mudd’s imprisonment in the Dry Tortugas. The thread is the Legend of 13; words with thirteen letters have stunning implications on the plotline.

This action-packed novel is filled with murder, cross and double-cross, scuba action, a touch of Knights Templar, Masonic symbolism, and political intrigue in D.C. and the world intelligence community. Washington Post investigative reporter, EMERSON MOORE, is accompanied by a beautiful blonde German antiquities researcher, KATRINA BIEBER, as they try to stay one step ahead of the shadowy Russian KARAPASHEV in finding and interpreting the clues. Moore is aided by former NSA cybercode breaker STEVE NICHOLAS and retired German BND spymaster ANDREAS KALKER.

From scuba diving in the Red Sea to the allure of Bodrum, Turkey, Moore and Bieber chase clues in Germany, the island of Rhodes, London, Key West, the Dry Tortugas, New Orleans, the Washington, D.C. area, and Ohio’s Huron, Sandusky and Put-in-Bay. Death is close on their heels.

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No items that I receive
are ever sold…they are kept by me,
or given to family and/or friends.