Making Your First Car Money Stretch

Driving is a big thing for teens, with 50.9% of teens behind the wheel. That’s good news for you, as a teen, as it means there’s a strong market in which to get the very best deal on the various costs of your first vehicles. How exactly do you save dollars, though? There’s a few ways, and a few you might not even know.

Value Of The Vehicle

Before you think about how to save your dollars and cents on, or after, the point of purchase, remember what your vehicle is going to do for you. Having a car opens doors (and no, not just literally) by giving you the opportunity to branch out and explore career opportunities – whether that’s easily being able to travel for a job interview, or picking up mobile part-time work.


This is the biggie – there’s no way around it. Parents will find a 44% teenager insurance premium rising to 62%. The fact is, teen drivers are seen as the most likely to be in an accident and the cost of insurance reflects that. There are, however, ways around this.

The first is less of a trick and more of a good practice; look around. Take your quote elsewhere, and make sure you’re finding the best insurer you can; your insurance could save hundreds on a quote price you found elsewhere. Aside from that, there are several ways to reduce the premium by combining drivers and vehicles, and when you’re 18, taking out your own plan for long-run benefits. You can also take on small alterations, like a dashcam, that give insurers a sense of assurance that you’re going to drive well and be able to prove any claims that weren’t on your head.

Go Cheap!

Yes, every driver wants to be in the luxury Mercedes or BMW. If you’re lucky enough, or have put in the hard work, that means you can – good for you. Honestly. However, if you’re a first time driver and it feels like you don’t have a dollar to rub together, go for a cheaper car to save money. You don’t need that huge estate when you don’t have a family to lug around, and so long as the thing runs you’ll be more than happy with a smaller and/or older vehicle.

Driving is frequently considered a crucial part of the American teenager’s upbringing, but the costs can be prohibitive, even for those with a bit more spare income than the rest. It needn’t be, though, and with a little bit of guile and mindfulness over your options, you can stretch your dollars.

Golden Rules For Your First Job Application

Applying for any job is as much about mastering an art rather than following a specific science. There is no tried-and-true formula that will always work and guarantee you an interview. It depends entirely on the person reading the application and their own personal – and highly subjective – feelings on the matter.

The above makes for a confusing time, full of asking yourself an endless litany of questions. Do you go all out, fill your application with detail, and hold nothing back? Or should you focus more on brevity? You find yourself wondering ‘how long should a cover letter be?’ and ‘what do I include in the work history section if I don’t have any work history?’. What’s too much information; what’s not enough information?

See? Confusion just about covers it.

So, rather than continue to wonder, let’s try and keep it simple. If you’re applying for your first job, the majority of the application process is rather perfunctory and basic. Which is fine; provided that you remember the golden rules for a first job application. If you manage to tick these off, then you should be able to make everything else fall into place.

1) Be Detailed… And Succinct

Okay, so kicking off with a contradiction might not sound like the best way of going about things – but bear with it!

You should always look to include detail on a resumé. If a recruiter is thinking about asking you to interview, then they’re going to want to dig a little deeper. If you have opted for the ‘short and sweet’ method of applying for a job, they’re not going to be able to do that; there will be no further information for them to learn. You want to avoid that situation, so you should be looking to include a fair amount of information should they wish to use it.

However… that detail has got to be in the right place. If a recruiter has to go digging through your application just to find basic details, then they’re not going to bother. You have a very short time frame to capture their attention, meaning that you’ve got to ensure you cover both types of recruiter.

The Brief Recruiter: They’re only interested in basic information. They will scan this, then determine the rest of what they want to know at interview.

The Detail Recruiter: In direct opposition to the above, a Detail orientated recruiter wants all the information before they think about bringing you to interview.

So how do you bring the two together? You use a personal statement. This should be the opener of your resumé; a short introduction to who you are, what you have to offer, and why you are applying for this job. You should tailor this personal statement to each recruiter rather than sending out the same one every time. It offers enough detail to satisfy The Brief Recruiter, and then the rest of your resumé can go on to provide the details that The Detail Recruiter is looking for.

2) Talk About What You Can Do

When confronted with the “employment history” section of a job application, it can be difficult to know how to respond when you don’t have an employment history. It would be truthful if you were just to write ‘I don’t have an employment history’ in this section – but that’s not really any use. It might be accurate, but how is that meant to make a recruiter think you have anything to offer?

Instead, use this section to explain that while you might not have an employment history, that doesn’t mean you don’t have something of value to offer. Use this section to highlight anything you have done in your history that put you in a position of responsibility.

There are plenty of examples of what you can include, but here are a few ideas to get you started along the right track:

  • Details of any babysitting work you have done. This shows you are responsible and can keep to a schedule.
  • Any involvement you have with clubs or societies, which demonstrates a focus, outside interests, and an engaging mind.
  • Any charitable or voluntary work you have done, even if it’s just running a lemonade stand one summer.


This kind of detail is designed to round you out as an applicant; make you seem like more of a person, rather than someone who has just been waiting for their first employment opportunity to fall into their lap. It shows you have an interest in the world and a drive to do well.

3) Educational History Should Be Brief

For the formative years of our life, grades matter. They matter so much we obsess over the fine details between an A- and a B+; grades are how we judge ourselves and our intelligence. It’s also how other people – our parents, our teachers – judge us.

Yet employers… well… they don’t really care about grades. It’s not going to look great if you have an endless report card that’s D-, but even if that’s the case, it won’t be a decisive factor for any enlightened recruiter. Just because someone isn’t academically gifted doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer. It’s well known that grades don’t correlate with intelligence and any recruiter worth their salt is going to know that.

So while you should definitely include a mention of your standout grades, it’s far more important to think about how what you have studied impacts what you can offer to an employer. For example:

Maths can demonstrate an aptitude with numbers and an ability to follow complex patterns.

English Language proficiency shows a good grasp of how language works and how to use it to great effect.

Focusing on how the subjects you have studied have influenced your ability to work is far more important than just an endless litany of grades.

In Conclusion

While there might not be a tried-and-tested works-for-everyone way of applying for jobs, by focusing on the above, you will be able to produce a well-rounded and information-rich application. Good luck with whatever it is you’re applying for!

How To Survive Your First Week At College

If you have just finished high school, you are about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of your life, as you set off for college or university.

Once you have arrived safely, one of the first hurdles you will have to negotiate is the first week. Fledgeling students are flung headlong into college life where they will spend the next seven days finding their feet and learning a little more about themselves. This week will mark your first foray into life as a student. Tread carefully, and you will have the time of your life.

Plan ahead

Finances are always tight when you are a student, and those initial funds won’t last long. So avoid the temptation to spend spend spend and be sure to budget carefully for the months ahead. Hopefully, you will have managed to save some money from a summer job to boost your bank balance so resist the urge to blow it all in the first week and put it aside to help with the purchase of any books and equipment that you are going to need. Remember, the campus ATM is not a bottomless pit so think twice before each withdrawal that you make.

Stay Active

With money in your pocket you may be tempted to join a local health club, but think again! Your student budget definitely won’t stretch to a gym membership. Instead keep up to date with all the health and fitness news online, where you can read some reviews about piyo and then go for a run to feel energized and decompress. Remember to take advantage of the gym/exercise equipment available for all students at your school. At most schools all you need is your valid student ID to have access to everything you need to be active.

Be Yourself

When meeting new people, it can be tempting to portray yourself as someone that you are not. Just remember that you are going to be living alongside these people full time now and any lies or embellishments are guaranteed to come back and bite you. Stay true to yourself and people will like you for who you are. Don’t feel overwhelmed by peer pressure and be proud of your faith!

Get out there

Socializing and making new friends does not come easily. If you are shy by nature, then the prospect of attending social events with a group of strangers will be daunting, to say the least. Be aware, that many others will be feeling just the same as you, so take a deep breath and introduce yourself to just one person. You could make a friend for life.

TCB (Take Care of Business)

Finally, it is important that you do your homework. Aside from all the parties and socials this week there will also be a lot of administrative tasks to complete ahead of the new college year. Make sure that you stay on top of any paperwork and always attend any mandatory meetings. You may be feeling a little worse for wear, but sorting out the preliminary issues will mean that you can hit the ground running when classes begin.

No More Fear: Nailing Your Future Career

Entering the adult world of jobs and responsibilities is scary. It’s overwhelming, and you’ve no idea where to begin. The most comforting thing to remember is that everyone’s been there, and it’s much easier to handle than you’re currently envisioning in your head. Everybody stumbles and feels their way around at first, but that’s all part of the learning curve.

Whether you’re studying at college and worrying about the future or you’ve just graduated and you’re wondering what on earth you’re supposed to do next, there’s no rush. It’s better to think carefully about the path you should take to the career of your dreams rather than simply grab the first thing which comes along. If that doesn’t help and you’ve still no idea where to begin, here are some tips that might help you nail that career of yours wherever it’s years in the future or something you want today.

Get all the experience you can.

There’s a horrible cycle in a lot of industries whereby people can only stand a chance of being hired if they have experience in that particular job role, but experience in that particular job role could only ever possibly be gained through being hired in the first place. In this brutal, competitive world of business, you’ve got to learn to dig deep and chase opportunities wherever they may be. Whilst you’re young and you have it all ahead of you, you should be chasing all manner of volunteering and work experience opportunities.

Working for free may not be an option for you in the future, but whilst you have no financial responsibilities and you’re struggling to get hired in jobs related to your dream industry, you should be taking up all the opportunities for a good dose of work experience that you can get. If you want to work in media, get a volunteering job in your local radio station; if you want to be a writer one day, apply for some administrative experience for your local newspaper. Whilst there may not be many jobs available for the inexperienced in your industry of choice, there are always roles available for a motivated, eager individual willing to work for free. That’s just the way the world works.

The application.

Your CV is crucial here. You’ve likely built up more experience than you realise over the years, and your qualifications are worth a whole lot to an employer who’s looking for fresh-faced graduates. This is all new to you, so you might want to start with a resume builder to help you put all your experience together in a coherent and employer-friendly format. There’s an art to painting your experience in a good light, even if you don’t think you have much. Helping family members when they were ill, volunteering at a local charity and working hard night after night on essay after essay to get your degree: these are all things which impress an employer. Don’t undersell yourself.

Don’t apply for any and every job.

As a young person who is panicking and just wants any job at all, it’s tempting to choose the first “okay” opportunity which comes along. Don’t do this. If you know which career you want to pursue, you need to work hard and pursue it. It may not happen at first, but nothing good in life every does. You need to dig deep or you might end up in a career you hate.

Moving Out: What To Do When You Get Your First Apartment

Living by yourself for the first time is one of the most exciting things you can do. Not only does it make you feel independent but the fact that you have your own space for the first time in your life feels incredibly cool. There are no more of the ‘my house, my rules!’ issues that you may have had with your parents, and you’ll probably feel extremely relieved to leave your old college roommates – and the dirty dishes they always used to leave in the sink – behind. But living by yourself for the first time definitely isn’t perfect. Here are some tips on how to cope with different aspects of it.

Your Décor

Now that you have your own place, you get to decide exactly what you want it to look like. If it’s rented then obviously there are limits to what exactly you can do when you want to change things up – you might not want to paint the walls and end up losing your security deposit, for example. But there are other things you can do to brighten it up, even if it’s a small space. If you can’t paint the walls, what about brightly colored wall hangings? You can also get cheap rag rugs to make the floors a little more colorful, and soft snuggly throws that you can put over your couch so you can snuggle up on there during the winter. If your bed isn’t quite comfortable enough and you’re getting a sore neck or back when you get up in the mornings, why not try out new pillows and a memory foam topper on your mattress? Finally, make sure that you open the curtains every morning and let the sunlight stream into your home. This will add some natural light and heat to your home, meaning that your energy bills might just go down. You could also add LED bulbs to your sockets for the same effect – they use less electricity and they last for longer.

Your Finances

If you’ve only just moved out, then chances are you’ve never really had to think about your finances before. You’ve probably already realized that organization is absolutely key to staying on top of your money. Make a spreadsheet so you can list your incomings and outgoings each month. If you’re spending more than you’re bringing in, you might be in trouble, so you need to rein it in a little. If you really want to budget, take out the cash that you want to spend that week from the bank. Making sure you don’t put anything on your credit card will ensure that you don’t spend more than you want to. Finally, if you have any debts, make sure that you pay them back as quickly as you can so the interest doesn’t accrue. Not only will this ruin your credit rating but it’ll also mean that you have to pay a lot more money back in the long run. You’ll soon find that very few material possessions are worth being in debt for.

Your Utilities

If you’ve never lived by yourself before then chances are, you’ve never had to figure out all your own bills – so it might come as a huge shock to you when they start rolling in! The most important thing to do is to stay organized and to pay each bill as soon as you get it. You should also make sure that you know just about how much your bills will come to every month so you don’t end up accidentally using the money for something else. Remember that there are plenty of things you might be charged for that you didn’t think about before. Not only is there your cell phone bill but you’ll also have to pay for internet, TV (if you’re looking for a good deal, check out, electricity, gas, water… And the list goes on. It might seem overwhelming, but that’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re as organized as possible.

Your Motivation

Without the watchful eyes of your parents on you, it might be difficult to get motivated every now and then – but believe me, after the third Saturday in a row you’ve spent watching Netflix in bed, the unmotivated life will get old fast. Make sure that you set yourself goals, whether that’s personally or professionally. If you’re living in a new city, you might be wondering how exactly you meet new friends. Look online for meet-up groups and people who share your interests. You might find a book club where you can talk about your favorite authors to your heart’s content, or maybe you want to join a rock climbing class and fulfill a lifelong ambition to finally get to the top of one of those huge climbing walls in the gym. Maybe you want to find a new group to game with – but no matter what your interests are, there will be others out there who share them. Make it your mission to find those people and to make plans with them, so you have a reason to get out of bed at the weekends. If you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself to do things like cleaning during the week, make sure you reward yourself at the end. You’ll probably also find that you feel much happier about taking care of your own space than you did about cleaning your room back at your parents’ house.

Your Love Life

When you move out for the first time, you might expect your love life to take off with a bang (not literally!). Now you’re no longer having your every move observed by your parents, but the truth is that real life doesn’t work that way. When you’ve left school and college, you have to work much harder to meet people and form friendships – and the same applies with relationships, particularly as you might start to realize that there are more people your age in long-term relationships than you’ve ever noticed before. If you don’t want to be in a relationship and you’d rather focus on your career for now, go for it! But if you do want to find a partner then you need to be aware that you should actively look for someone. Join dating websites and make sure that you’ve spoken to people thoroughly before you meet up with them – and tell a friend where you’re going and what time you’re expecting to be home by. If you’re out at a cafe with your friends and you get talking to someone, why not be brave and ask them if they’d like to go for coffee some time? You have nothing to lose. Just make sure that you feel safe with whoever you’re with and trust your instincts – if someone seems unsafe or creepy to you, make an excuse and go home. Make sure you never tell anyone your home address – keep your apartment your sanctuary and your escape until you fully trust whoever you’re dating.

Your Health

It’s easy to fall into bad habits when you’re living by yourself – after all there’s no one there to judge you as you finish off that family sized bag of potato chips instead of making yourself dinner. But you’ll soon find that it isn’t a great way to live. Not only will you feel bloated and you might gain weight, but your skin and hair will soon become greasy and lacklustre. It’s important to make sure that you’re cooking and eating healthy meals containing all of the food groups. You could try batch cooking if you’re spending a little too much on your lunch at work every day, or you could make salads to take in with you. If you don’t have much time to buy groceries then you could get them delivered, or get a fruit and vegetable box every week so that you can experience different foods and be inspired about new ways to cook. You also need to make sure that you exercise. One of the best things about living alone is that you can get sweaty and red-faced in your sports bra and shorts while you do a yoga or aerobics video in front of your laptop, without any fear at all of being judged!

Your Safety

Make sure that a friend or family member knows where you are all the time and that you stay in communication with people. As we said before, trust your instincts – if you’re in a situation that makes you remotely uncomfortable then it’s time to hightail it out of there and get yourself home. Download Uber or another taxi app to make sure you can always get back safely. If you’re worried about offending people then you can always use the stomach bug excuse – no one wants to question or get closer to that! Make sure that your windows and doors are tightly locked at night and when you go out and make sure you install an alarm. If you’re really worried about security and you have plenty of time at home, you could even use this as the perfect opportunity to get the dog you’ve always wanted.


Make Sure Your Ready For That First Interview With These Top Tips

Whether it’s school interviews, internships, colleges or even first jobs, we all face that first interview at some stage of our lives. It can feel quite an overwhelming prospect where you might feel tested beyond your ability or even worry about not doing so well. All of which are emotions that every one of us will face, even after our tenth, fiftieth or one-hundredth interview. Nervous energy is good, and of course, the adrenaline should kick in the moment you step through the door for the interview. But, there is a lot you can do before the main event, and I thought it was worth sharing with you some top tips to get you ready for your first interview.

Preparation is key

Who else agrees that when you are prepared for anything in life, you are calmer about what is ahead? It goes without saying that preparing yourself mentally for an interview process could stand you in good stead and even give you the edge against other candidates. You’ll know what the interview is about, be that a job or even a college place, so use this to your advantage and find out as much as you can before going. Research is key for feeling prepared and using the internet is bound to give you some golden nuggets of knowledge to help you through the interview itself. It’s also worth preparing yourself physically. By this, I mean getting to bed early the night before and eating some of the right food. Don’t do yourself an injustice by keeping yourself awake all night worrying. A great tip is to plan nothing the night before and do some of the things that help relax you or make you happy. That might be getting into a new book, taking a long soak in the bath, or enjoying a good movie.

Sort out the outfit

What you wear is vitally important as we all know that people can make a snap judgment in the first few seconds of meeting you. But don’t despair and keep things simple when it comes to choosing the perfect attire. Stick with something like Dickies Work Pants, a smart shirt and even a tie for the boys, and perhaps smart trousers or a skirt and a shirt for the girls. Of course, keep the skirt length to the knee or just above if you can.

Have confidence in your ability

Sometimes it’s worth investing a bit of time to how you feel and your confidence levels. After all, predicting you are not going to do well before it happens isn’t going to serve you too well during the interview process. Have confidence in your skills and ability.

Keep a positive attitude and approach

Finally, try and keep a positive attitude and approach to your interview. Negativity will only have a detrimental effect on your ability to communicate with the interviewer. It can be hard to combat those negative or self-critical thoughts, but try and turn what might be making you feel nervous into something much more productive and positive.

I hope these tips help you if you are about to embark on your first interview.

How To Take The First Steps To Making Your Career Dreams Come True

vetHave you dreamed of doing something since you were tiny? Can you remember the day you decided what you wanted to be when you were older? Have you recently made up your mind and set your heart on a specific career path? Whether you’re 15 or 55, it’s always good to aim high, and try and make those career dreams come true. If you have plans for the future, here are some top tips to help you fulfill those goals.

Find out about academic qualifications

If you’re still in school, it can be tempting to choose subjects based on what you enjoy. However, if you have a career goal in mind, it’s best to check what kind of qualifications you need. Do you want to be a doctor or a vet, for example? If so, you’ll need to take scientific subjects. Have you got aspirations to be a teacher? If so, you’ll probably need Math and English. It’s wise to plan ahead if you know what you want to do. If you decide later, it’s not the end of the world. But you may have to take additional courses and sit more exams.

Take advantage of work-related opportunities

If you’re 16, you may not want a full-time job. Juggling studying and working can be tough, especially around exam season. However, it is beneficial to take advantage of work-related opportunities. Perhaps you could do some work experience. Or take part in schemes like work shadowing. This gives you the chance to see what the world of work has to offer. You get an insight into what day to day work involves, and you can see if it still appeals to you. Some jobs look more glamorous than they are. You may follow somebody for a few days, and decide that actually, you’d rather do something else. Work experience is also really valuable when it comes t getting a job or a training contract.

Be confident in your abilities

Confidence can propel you to the big time. It can also hold you back much more than any bad grades. If you doubt your abilities, you’ll find it hard to reach your targets. If you want to do something, believe that you’re going to make it. Think positively, and don’t give up. It’s very rare to get the top in life without at least a few setbacks. If you can bounce back, learn from mistakes, and keep going, you’ll get there.

Make sure you’re prepared

It’s essential to be prepared for any job. You could be the best musician out there. But if you don’t have anything to show a record company boss, you may blow that precious opportunity. If you’re keen to break through, order customized CDs from sites like Nationwide, and book some gigs. If you’re hoping to work in business, make sure you’re ready for interviews. Practice your presentation, and ensure that it’s slick and engaging.  

If you have designs on a dream job, it’s never too early to start planning. Choose your subjects carefully, and take advantage of opportunities to get experience. Make use of careers fairs, and showcase your talents. Make sure you’re prepared at all times. You never know when that shot at the big time may come around. Most importantly, be confident, and believe that you can achieve your dreams.

Chit Chatting with Singer Kathryn Dean

Written by: Jill Sheets


Kathryn Dean

Picture credit: Josh Williams

Recently I had the honor of interviewing singer Kathryn Dean.  Continue to read on and learn more about her, five things people may not know about her and what is the strangest question she has ever been asked.

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got in the music industry?

K:  As I am sure is the case with other singers, I have been singing since I could make sounds. What began as a sure-fire way to annoy my older brother, Andrew, quickly became a life-long passion of mine. Music has always been my way of escaping from the world, but when I started to write songs 2 ½ years ago, I was able to not only escape my reality but to create an entirely new one. Then, in November of last year I began to build what I call the “Kathryn Dean Dream Team” (or KDDT) and my dream of being a recording artist/songwriter/performer started to become increasingly plausible.

R:  Tell us about your self-titled album?

K:  This EP is my first release. Each of the five songs represents a different part of who I am as an artist and as an individual: sentimental, sarcastic, romantic, mischievous, and perhaps a little bit crazy!


R:  What is your favorite song off the album and why?

K:  I would say that asking me this question is like asking a parent which child is their favorite, however I’m almost convinced that I am my parent’s favorite- sorry Andrew!
R:  Tell us about the song “You Wish She Was Me .”

K:  A little over a year ago, I found out that this guy that I liked who had been flirting with me for a while all of a sudden got a new girlfriend. That night I went home and asked myself, “Is she prettier than me? Is she smarter than me? Is she funnier than me?-Ha, that couldn’t be, I’m hilarious!” And the song was born.
R:  I read that you also write your music. Is this true?  If so, what is your favorite one that you have written so far and why?  Also, what is the writing process?   Do you start with the lyrics?

K:I am either the sole or co-writer for all of my songs. The hook of my songs usually writes itself for me and then I go to one of my instruments to complete the rest of the song. Typically, if I am trying to figure out the chord progression, I go to the piano. For the tempo, I go to the guitar and if the lyrics aren’t coming easily I go to the ukulele. The exception to this rule is the first song on the EP “I’ll Show You Crazy,” which I wrote when I was on family vacation. I had brought my ukulele with me, but as you would imagine, the song didn’t carry over well to the ukulele, so I grabbed a sharpie and kept time by hitting it against the tile wall of the shower and recorded myself singing the song a cappella on my phone. I then sent that recording over to one of my amazing producers, Matt Pavolaitis, who created the arrangement and instrumental track.


R:  Do you have any up and coming tours?

K:  Upon completion and release of my full-length album early next year, my band and I will begin to tour, however we have a few shows coming up in the next two months in LA. We will be playing at the House of Blues Voodoo Lounge on October 30th, opening for Chris Pierce at Genghis Cohen on November 15th, and performing at The Mint on November 23rd. The best place to find all things Kathryn Dean, including upcoming shows is on my website:
R: Where can people get your music?

K:  My music can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and all other online music sales outlets.
R: If you could tour with any five people or / and Bands, who would they be?

K:  I would love to tour with Adele, Sam Smith, Mumford & Sons, OneRepublic, and Bruno Mars because they all write their own songs and their love of and passion for music is evident in every performance (whether recorded in a studio or live on stage).


R:  Do you have any charities that are close to your heart?  If so, tell us a little bit about them.

K:  There are many charities that are close to my heart including, but not limited to: One Voice (dedicated to bringing music to underdeveloped countries), Girl Up (giving girls around the world the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders) and Pets for Vets (training and rehabilitating needy shelter animals and pairing them, based on their personalities, with American military veterans, in order to help heal the emotional wounds that may remain even after returning home from a war).
R: What are your future goals?
K:  I am fortunate to be able to wake up everyday and do what I love to do. I hope that as time passes, my music will reach more and more people and that I will continue to make music and perform for a very long time!


R:  Being a teenager is not easy.  What advice would you give them in general?

K:  Parents may not like this answer, but I’d have to say that sometimes you need to cause a little bit of trouble! One of my favorite quotes says it all; “you can’t expect to be old and wise if you were never young and stupid.”


R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

K:  I have a very unique sense of normalcy, so even if a question would be considered strange to most people, I probably would not think so. The strangest question I have ever asked someone however, is, “if you were a fruit based on your personality, what fruit would you be?” (I would be a mango because there is a lot going on on the outside, but I am sweet on the inside).


R:  What are five things people may not know about you?

K:  I was legally blind in my left eye until I was 6 (to improve my depth perception, I had to play Where’s Waldo? with a magnifying glass…).

I have been trained, by the Red Cross, in CPR and first aid.

There are few things in this world that make me happier than corny jokes, pickup lines, and One-Hit Wonders.

The GPS in my car is an Australian male named James, and I will refer to him as I would any other real person.

After years of fostering orphaned puppies and volunteering at my local animal shelter back when I was in San Diego, I am basically a dog whisperer…
R: Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their

addresses?  What about an official website and/or youtube page?

K: Website:

Twitter: @RealKathrynDean

The Facebook:

Instagram: KathrynDeanOfficial

Youtube: KathrynDeanOfficial


R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

K: Just that I hope that my music will be as therapeutic for you to listen to as it is for me to write!

Kelly Clarkson: Wrapped in Red

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

kelly clarkson, wrapped in redI’m a ginormous Kelly Clarkson fan.  Secretly, she is the standard to which I hold up all other vocalists, and no one has ever matched her.  Or even come close.  Her personality only fuels my adoration.  But I won’t go there.  This is a music review, after all, although, admittedly, it’s not an unbiased one.

That said, I do have one complaint about Kelly’s Christmas album, and that is, it’s too secular.  I want her to take me to church (and she could, you know, since it is a Christmas album, without getting too much backlash from other critics).  I want her to sing a new song that when I hold up my hands and say amen, I don’t feel like I’m worshipping her.  Alas, it doesn’t happen with this album.  Maybe it will on her next one.  The sticker on the cd said it was her first holiday release, which only leads me to hope for another one in the future…

Regardless, it’s not a total wash, and once I got over my disappointment at the lack of Jesus songs, I found it quite enjoyable.  I’m not sure I will listen to it year round, but boy, is it fun to listen to as I decorate the tree, make holiday cookies, and watch the fire with a mug of hot cocoa.   My favorites, and this surprises me, includes “Run Run Rudolph.”  Most of the critics are saying the guitars are cheesy (uh, hello, it’s a song about a reindeer with a red nose), but it’s the horns that get me moving, and I don’t even notice the guitars.  Another favorite is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  Again, this surprises me, and again, I want to argue with the critics who say Ronnie Dunn sounds bored.  The conflict of whether to stay or go is all within Kelly, and she nails it, while Ronnie’s voice is so smooth, I wonder how she could walk away.  It’s so darn alluring.

Five of the songs are originals, and while “Underneath the Tree” is the lead single, the clear winner here is “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song).”  While she is known for her introspective, and somewhat depressing lyrics, she proves that she can write happy ones, too.  “4 Karats” is sassy and fun, incredibly addicting.  And while “Winter Dreams” proves that Kelly is happy and in such a good place, “Every Christmas” reveals a time when Kelly didn’t have such stability.  Her honesty in her self-penned songs make her that much more endearing and relatable.

The classics are done beautifully.  Unsurprisingly so.  I think this is the first album she has released in her decade long career where her vocals and her versatility are front and center, and these songs showcase her gifts.  They really are little morsels of presents to the listener.

“Just For Now” is the one track that I will include on the various Kelly playlists that I enjoy year round.  It is a cover of Imogen Heap’s song, and it is flawless.  The “Get me, get me, get me out of here” is heartbreaking, and I love that Kelly included songs like this and “Every Christmas.”  It keeps the album from being too sickeningly sweet, so slippery it falls off the map without any heart.  “Silent Night,” featuring Trisha Yearwood and Reba and the bonus track from Target, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are the brief glimpses that Kelly reveals of her Christianity, and while I appreciate their appearance, I am saddened I didn’t hear more.  Next time, I want an album that focuses a little more on the joy and less on the happiness and sadness of an emotional season for all of us.

Please visit for more information and be sure to download or purchase at Target (the only place that has the Deluxe and the not to be missed “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Chit Chatting with Author Lisa M Stasse

Chit Chatting with Author Lisa M Stasse

Written by:  Jill Sheets

Photo Credit: Alex McAulay

R: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

L: I’m a debut author—THE FORSAKEN is my first novel and it’s the start of a trilogy for Simon & Schuster. I’m also a digital librarian at UCLA (which basically means I spend a lot of time digitizing old manuscripts so that people can have access to them online. It’s really fun!)

R:  You have lived in many unique places.  Which ones is your favorite and why?

L: Even though I’ve lived in a bunch of different countries (including Russia and Spain), my favorite place is probably the Outer Banks of North Carolina because they have amazing beaches and great weather (at least in the summer). I’ve spent a lot of time camping there on the beach. I also love Santa Monica, CA, which is where I live at the moment.

R:  Tell us about your book “The Forsaken.”  By the picture of the book it says “ Book1.”  Should we be looking forward to more books to follow?  If so, how many?

L: THE FORSAKEN is going to be a trilogy. The second book, THE UPRISING, is already finished, even though it’s not going to be released until summer 2013! I’m already working on Book 3. I’m hoping the books sell well enough that I can write a 4th installment or a prequel or something, because I don’t want to leave the world of the series! I feel really wrapped up in it.


R:  What kind of research went into the book?

L: I mostly read about prison systems and tropical islands (part of the book takes place on a harsh prison island, where different tribes of teens fight each other and try to escape). I took the creepiest and best parts of stories of prison life and incorporated them into the book. The prison island in THE FORSAKEN, know as the “the wheel,” is based on the terrifying circular “panopticon” prisons that were used decades ago.

R:  Speaking of the second book “The Uprising.”  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

L: It’s bigger in scope than THE FORSAKEN. It continues Alenna Shawcross’s (my heroine’s) journey as she travels across the globe and mounts an attack on Prison Island Alpha in an attempt to liberate her friends. But of course things go wrong, and soon Alenna discovers that nothing is what she thought it is, and she no longer knows who to trust. She gets tested in every way possible. I think, and hope, that it’s going to surprise a lot of readers! It’s pretty epic.

R:  If they were to make a movie out of your book “The Forsaken,” who would your dream cast be?

L: Great question! I love movies (I just saw “Sinister” last night with my husband—it was his pick, but I actually thought the movie was pretty good). So my dream cast would be as follows:

For Alenna Shawcross: Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”)

For Liam Bernal (her crush/eventual boyfriend): Tyler Garcia Posey (from “Teen Wolf”—a really underrated actor)

For Gadya (Alenna’s best friend): Chloe Moretz (“Let Me In”)

For The Monk (the crazed cult leader who controls the prison island): Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of the Rings”)


R:  Where can people get your books?

L: THE FORSAKEN is available in pretty much all bookstores right now, from the indies to B&N and other chain stores. And of course it’s also available from Amazon and all the usual online outlets.


R:  What is the best advice you have ever gotten and by who?

L: “If you want to be a good writer, then you have to read a ton of good books” –my dad


R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to be a writer, but is scared of rejection?

L: Oh, I’d tell them to not even sweat it. Rejection is just a natural part of the process. I would advise them to just try writing and sharing it with others, and see what happens. I’d tell them “Don’t even worry about rejection! Everyone gets rejected sometimes! Even Stephen King and JK Rowling got rejected by lots of people!” Writing is so subjective. There is no right or wrong. It often comes down to a matter of personal taste. I really believe that if someone works hard, reads a lot of great books, and works on their writing to make it as polished as possible, that they will be able to find success with it.

R:  What are five things people do not know about you?

L: Another great question! Here are five things off the top of my head:

1. I’m trying to learn how to surf, but I’m horrible at it, and should probably just stop before I hurt myself (or hurt someone else!)

2. I drink coffee all day long. It’s a pretty bad habit, but without my coffee I really don’t feel like myself. I’ve been a Starbucks addict for many years now.

3. I love cats, and really want one, but I don’t have any right now.

4. I love Jack in the Box breakfast jacks and hash browns. Again, these are probably really unhealthy and gross, but for some reason I just love them. I’m a big fan of eating breakfast food for lunch or dinner (cereal, eggs, oatmeal, etc).

5. Because I live in Santa Monica I have to drive a lot, but I’d prefer to not even own a car and to just ride my bike around. I did this for a while when I lived in San Francisco and it was awesome.

Photo Credit: Alex McAulay

R:  I read that you like science fiction movies.  Is that true?  If so, which are your top five?

L: Oh yeah! I love sci-fi movies! Again, just off the top of my head, here are five of my favorites:

1. The Matrix

2. Dark City

3. Inception (I don’t know if this counts as sci fi, but I think it kind of does?)

4. Star Wars (the originals, not the more recent ones)

5. 2001

R:  What are you future goals?

L: I want to just keep writing and get as many books out there as possible. I already have ideas and notes for another trilogy, once THE FORSAKEN gets wrapped up. I’m also working on a mystery set in Detroit about a girl who gets involved in a murder investigation. My goal is to write and write, and hopefully one day have a #1 Bestseller!  Or failing that, at least a book that everyone really falls in love with—like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “Looking for Alaska.” I love telling stores and coming up with interesting characters.


R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

L: Someone asked me if I was the girl on the cover of the book (the girl whose face is comprised almost entirely of colored computerized lines). I explained that I was not.


R:  Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  Do you have an official website?

L: Yep! Come visit me anytime! Here are all my links.


Twitter: @LisaMStasse /

Official Book Trailer:


Forsaken Facebook Fan Page:

R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

L: If you have a spare minute, check out the book trailer for THE FORSAKEN! I made it myself with a lot of help from my husband and S&S. I think it gives a good feel for what the book is like. Here’s the YouTube link:


R: Lisa, thank you for the interview.  Have a great day.

L: THANK YOU!!! I really appreciate it! Hope you’re having a great week!