Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cover Reveal: Half Cast, by Lauren Dawes

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I've done a good deal of promo here for Lauren Dawes in the past, both because she is my friend and I adore her, and because she is the amazing author of the Half Blood Series (formerly the Half Blood Trilogy), a group of books focusing on the adventures (and misadventures) of the Helheim wolves and their neighboring packs. These books are full of suspense, adventure, thrills, and good old bloody gore in some places. And to top all that off, there are also a few really hot sex scenes sprinkled here and there - for those who like their reading a little steamy.

So far, the series consists of: Half Blood, Half Truths, and Half Life, and now I'm proud to be able to help Lauren reveal the cover of the fourth book in this great series ...

Half Cast

Alex D'Angelo. Cop. Hard ass. Newly Bitten werewolf.

His life has been turned upside down and inside out. He has been born into a new world where the beast inside of him threatens to take over his life. Forced to stay in a pack far from home, Alex dreams of returning to find the woman he has loved, who has haunted his dreams for well over a year.

Saskia is nothing but a shell of her former self since she walked away from the human man she had fallen in love with. Now forced into a mating with another male, she barely gets through her days. But when the year anniversary of meeting Alex rolls around, she finds her heart aching for the future she never had.

An impossible meeting leads to their reunification, but pack politics and desires of the heart threaten to pull them apart

Yeah. Sounds good doesn't it??

In the weeks before the (estimated) late September 2013 release of this book, I'm going to reviewing the entire series here on the blog, but in the meantime, why don't you head on over and pick up the first three books - purchase Lauren's books in e-book or paperback from Amazon today.

If you'd like to keep track of the lovely Lauren as she makes her way around the web, here are a few places you can find her: Facebook / Twitter / Blogger / Website / Goodreads / Pinterest

NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that if you click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. This is, of course, at no extra cost to you - but my family and I appreciate your support! (To see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Twenty Questions, Part III

Before we dive into the last part of this series, you might want to take a few minutes to check out Twenty Questions, Part I and Twenty Questions, Part II. You'll see where I got the idea for this series as well as my answers to earlier questions. Reading previous posts isn't necessary (of course), but it will give you a more solid feel for why I chose to answer these - and I hope my answers will inspire you to think about your own. That being said, let's get to the rest of the questions:

Be aware that we're apparently starting the day with an immature little giggle.

13. Am I the only one struggling not to {fart} during {yoga}?
Hehehe ... okay I'm done now. This is another of those bracket questions where we can replace what's in the brackets with whatever we choose to substitute, and then contemplate whatever uncomfortable scenario we come up with.

Either way, the answer is, "No, I am not the only one." I know we all like to think about how special and unique we are, and in many ways this is true. I am the only person with my unique history, with my unique reactions, with my unique set of skills and coping mechanisms. But I'm also not the only person who loves books, or who loves the kinds of books I love, or who loves movies or makeup or music. Whatever it is I might be struggling with or living through - no, I am not the only one.

And neither are you.

14. What do I love to practice?
 This one's pretty easy ... the main thing I spend time practicing - other than washing dishes and re-making ponytails for the girls - is writing. My picprompts (short stories using only a photograph as inspiration) are one of my favorite practices too, although it can be surprisingly difficult to come up with a unique story that's just the right length for a blog post almost every week. Sometimes I take it easy on myself and write poetry instead, because it's shorter and sometimes comes more naturally to me - but that's still a practice too because it's an entirely different type of writing. My newsletter is practice; a few short articles written by myself, sometimes using personal thought/experience and other times using a prompt I find online or from a friend or reader. There's even a suggestion box in the newsletter where people can write to me and suggest newsletter topics. So between the picprompts, the newsletter, this blog, and my novels, I think it's obvious to anyone who knows anything about me how much I love to "practice" writing.

You know, kinda similar to how doctors "practice" medicine.

15. Where could I work less and achieve more?
For me, this is about being more productive and less scattered. I tend to be a somewhat flighty person, and so that's how my writing work schedule looks too. Some days, I write thousands of words on my current project, other days I spend almost exclusively blogging and setting up future posts. Some days I work only on newsletter articles, sometimes I put my focus toward preparing guest posts for other blogs, etc.

Other days, I look at my computer, sigh, and decide to ignore it for a day or a week or whatever time it takes for my muse to be rested and my creative juices to come back. Being a person who works hard to stay productive, I do often experience different levels of burnout and exhaustion - and in those times, the only thing that eases it is to rest.

That being said, I have noticed that on days when I can set myself a schedule and actually hold myself to following it, I really am much more productive ... if only I could consistently follow a schedule, which would be nice because:

16. How can I keep myself absolutely safe?
I think the most truly honest answer to this is that we can't ever be completely, absolutely safe. And the thing is, who would want to be, because inn protecting yourself too completely from pain and risk, you also effectively block yourself from any shot at success and victory. It was true what Dory said to Marlin in Finding Nemo: "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him."

It's true for you, too - if you never take a risk, you'll never accomplish the success you have the potential for.

17. Where should I break the rules?
I think this really depends on the rule, the people, and the situation. I am by nature a rule-follower and I'm not generally one to rock the boat. But even with that being as true as it is, if I happen to be driving a car with someone in it that's dying, you can bet that I'm going to be speeding - and I probably wouldn't stop until I got where I was going even if someone tried to pull me over.

Still, the rules of our society are in place to keep us mostly safe - from each other, from those who are not inherently kind and considerate people, from the thugs and thieves and murderers. And yet ... no one can deny that there are times when the situation calls for some rule-breaking and there are definitely times when the end justifies the means.

18. So say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants ... then what?
Hmm. Then I'd celebrate finally having gotten there. Every day for the rest of my life. But I'd also invest like you couldn't believe, so that I'd know my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and so on) would never know the poverty that I grew up in. I'd have a dozen cars because I've had so many times in my life that we literally had no car, or our only car was broken down, and I'd like to know that could never happen again. I'd take other measures too ... but mainly, I'd celebrate, knowing that I worked hard to get there and could finally pay it forward by helping others.

19. Are my thoughts hurting or healing?
This is a loaded question for any of us, isn't it? So often, we can sink so far into resentment or anger that we start to lash out in uncontrollable ways. Too often, we're lashing out at people who never even did anything to deserve our wrath to begin with - we're doing it simply because we've become so angry that it's bubbling out everywhere.

Our thoughts - even the ones we don't yet recognize - have an immense power over who we become and how we behave on a regular basis, so it's important for us to live each day mindfully, attending to our emotions in healthy ways. For me, when I'm angry or feeling something that I know could become hurtful to others if I don't express it, I actually go ahead and allow myself to unleash that poison - in a harmless way:

Like Annie did in Selkie, I sit down and write letters to people frequently. Sometimes they are freakishly adoring, other times they are so fearfully angry that I'm thankful no one ever sees them or would be hurt by them. In letters, I unleash passion, power, rage, fantasies, everything - and I do it with complete freedom. However horrible or mean or scary or whatever, in those letters ...

In those letters, I am allowed to say whatever I want. And then, I throw them away or even burn them. I find that giving myself the freedom to express in that way takes the weight off my chest, and I love that this is a way to do it without piling that weight on someone else. It allows me to keep my thoughts clearer too, because I'm not as tense, not as resentful, not as snappish.

20. Really truly: Is this what I want to be doing?
Yes. One hundred percent. The way my life has changed since I took my first trembling steps into the indie writing world ... I wouldn't go back for anything. Writing, reaching out to the world through my writing and being able to touch people with the power of my words and my characters ... yeah, it's exactly what I want to be doing. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Twenty Questions, Part II

For those of you who might be new here or are otherwise first joining this post series, please see the first post in the series for the first five of the twenty questions - and for a link to the article that got me writing these. For those of you who saw the first five and are ready to see what comes next:

6. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?
I love this one; it's the first really easy one of the bunch. You know, we're all born naked and witless. We can't speak; we don't know how to control these bodies we're born into. We can't fend for ourselves. Obviously I'm already much different than that, and if you're reading this, so are you. But there's more; there's more than just not being able to feed yourself and slowly growing into the motor control required to operate a fork. There's more than potty training, more than basic speech or even literacy.

There's character. There's that thing we call our conscience, that voice in our heads that tells us when we're going in the right direction - and when we're not. Over the years, my body has grown, my calendar age grows consistently higher, and I'm starting to look at myself in the mirror and see the age creeping on. But there's so much behind my face that most people can't see. There's more than pouty lips, faded freckles and heterochromic eyes. There's kindness, understanding, loyalty, empathy. Over the years, there have been varying degrees of hate, rage, resentment and other things too - but over the course of my life, I'd like to think I'm keeping the balance shifted toward the better side of who I am.

I like to imagine my older self as a wizened old woman, short and probably a bit portly, with long hair that'll likely be grey and eyes that will be faded in color. I'll be soft-spoken and understanding, quick to spoil my grandchildren and able to lend an understanding ear to the certain heartaches my daughters will suffer.

I do hope that when I'm old, I can still remember what it was like to be young, so that I can understand my descendants when they come to me ... and I like to hope that I'll be someone they can come to.

I've seen rejection, so I hope I'm accepting. I've seen persecution, so I hope I'm tolerant. I've seen anger, so I hope I'm peaceful. I've seen spite, so I hope I'm forgiving.

And you know what, being wealthy and well-traveled wouldn't hurt either.

7. Are {vegans} better people?
This is another question where you basically plug whatever you want into the brackets, and this time the article writer instructs us to insert something we might find intimidating. It's meant to be that group you want to be part of but could never do it for whatever reason. For some, it would say, "Are runners better people?" The diplomatic answer would be, "No, they're just regular people doing the best they think they can do, like everyone else." But the really honest answer would be, "Some of them think they are." There are runners in the world who look down on everyone else for "not bothering" or not having "the discipline" to run marathons and whatnot.

Another truth is that every group is like this. Working mothers often think themselves better than stay-at-home-moms because they earn a paycheck outside the home. Stay-at-home-moms often think themselves better than working moms because they stay home with their children and don't have to miss anything.  There's the group of people who have college degrees and feel the need to lord it over the "uneducated" public, and then there's the "uneducated" public who think degree-holders are just idiots with an expensive piece of paper on the wall. There are those who are gay and those who are straight, and each side of every group seems to think they are "right" and "better." But are we, really?

No. We are all just people trying to get by, doing the best we can with what we have. Sometimes that's more, sometimes that's less. Sometimes a person is giving their all, and it just doesn't look like enough, and other times a person is just so stinking happy to have risen to a level they didn't think they could reach, and we see them as proud.

This goes back to the previous question ... the only people that are truly "better" than the others are the ones who honestly try to understand each other on an individual level, and then accept that we're all different. And those kinds of people would never think themselves "better" anyway.

The truth is, we are not created equally - none of us are. Why? Because each one of us is the sum total of the things we've experienced; our lives create us differently, we grow and adjust differently, and once we're less concerned with who is "better," it won't be nearly as much of a question.

8. What is my body telling me?
This is one of my favorites of these questions. Some of the worst experiences of my life have been because I didn't obey my body. I didn't follow my gut feeling or didn't obey my instinct. Slowly, I'm learning to never ignore what my body says - from when it needs fuel to what fuel it needs, to when it needs to stop and when it's ready to go.

And I've never felt better.

9. How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?
Okay, in the article, there's a little paragraph that basically seems to boil down to, "Stop collecting stuff and start working on your mind and your spirit, because enlightenment is better than Jimmy Choos."

Hmm. Agreed. But the question? I'm still speechless after reading that.

10. What's so funny?
Everything, depending on the situation and my current sense of humor. Seriously, I've found some of my best giggles during some of my worst times, just because sometimes it's either laugh or cry and I generally choose to laugh if I can. So I crack jokes that may or may not always be appropriate and I laugh at certain stupid words hard enough to make any twelve year old proud. If that doesn't work, I'm on the phone to my cousin, and ... well, ya'll just wouldn't believe some of the stuff we come up with even if did tell you, so I won't. But the point of this question, I think, is just to remind us to find the humor in life, because too many of us go too long too often without laughing our troubles away.

11. Where am I wrong?
Wow ... so many places. I yell too much. I swear too much. I have things I'm ashamed of, things I wish I hadn't done, and things I wish I didn't have to do. There are places inside my heart that are dark and dusty, and I don't talk to God near as often as I ought to. And there's still so much about life and love and this world that I don't know. But when you get to that moment when you've realized that you don't know what you're doing or where you're going, or you just messed up so so bad ...

12. What potential memories am I bartering, and is the profit worth the price?
In the article, the author talks about a book where memories can be sold or bartered like currency, but what it brought to my mind was the movie, the Neverending Story. In both stories, someone is losing their memories. But the question isn't really about memories that you already have. It's about potential memories. The ones you don't have yet. The ones you might never have if you always walk the safest path in life. If you're too scared to ask out that girl because she might say no ... you're trading the potential first-kiss memories. If you're too afraid to try that food you've never tried because it might be gross, you're trading the potential memory of finding a new favorite. Or, you know, the potential memory of how gross that was, which could still be cool.

Honestly, I so love this question that I'm not even sure how to answer it. My memories (the good ones and the bad ones) are so precious and so valuable to me that I can't imagine giving them up, and to share a little secret with you, one of my biggest fears is Alzheimer's/Dementia - because I just can't imagine walking through my days with no memories. My memories give me hope, they give me strength, they keep me going. They make me who I am ... I wouldn't trade any of them for anything. But when I'm too afraid to try something or risk something or go somewhere, what am I losing?

... intermission ...

While you're waiting for me to come back and answer the rest of the questions tomorrow, go on and get out there. Take a risk. Live some life.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Summer Sun Award!

A few days ago, I woke up to find a little notification on my phone, letting me know I'd been tagged for a Summer Sun award by Aurelia B. Rowl, who is a total sweetheart for thinking of me! She's gearing up to start hyping a new book AND she's planning to skydive for charity! Awesome huh?

As part of the process, I'll be answering a few summer-themed questions, and then I'm going tag/challenge some other authors to participate! Let's get right into it, shall we?

Favorite song with "summer" in the title or lyrics:
I love this question ... there are so many great summer songs, and I am one of those people who loves music in such a wild way. It might surprise you then, that my song for this question (the first song that came to my mind) was a Kid Rock song. Now, I know a lot of people out there really love him and his music, but I generally don't. I'm sorry, Kid Rock-ers, but I just can't get into his hippy-rocker-country man combo thing over the years ... I just can't. But I still love "All Summer Long." I can't help it.

Favorite book about summer:
Just This Once, by Rosalind James. This book was so fun to read, and even though it wasn't really "about" summer, it definitely had an active, sunshine, summery feel. For me, at least.

About The Book: Everyone needs to be rescued sometimes. Everyone but Hannah Montgomery, that is. She just needs a vacation. Three weeks in New Zealand to sort out her life, figure out what she wants, seems just right. Oh, and to relax. She should definitely put that on the agenda. She certainly isn’t looking for a sexy fling with a professional rugby player, no matter how attractive he is. Hannah doesn’t do casual. But maybe just this once ...

As much as he’s shared with Hannah, Drew Callahan has kept one very big secret: that he's the captain of the All Blacks, New Zealand's international rugby team, not to mention the best-known rugby player on earth. And learning the truth, now that she’s back home again, has made Hannah warier than ever. Drew knows that she’s right for him. But how can he convince her to let down her guard enough to explore what they could have together?

(Want to read it? Click the cover photo to pick it up from Amazon!)

Favorite hot summer film:
Dirty Dancing - for sure! And it's not just about summer either, or romance ... it's a magical combination of sensuality and innocence paired with good moves and the inspirational message of a girl finding her own way in the world. This is among my top ten favorite movies. Of. All. Time. And I think it probably always will be.

About The Movie: "Baby" is one listless summer away from the Peace Corps. Hoping to enjoy her youth while it lasts, she's disappointed when her summer plans deposit her at a sleepy resort in the Catskills with her parents. Her luck turns around, however, when the resort's dance instructor, Johnny (Patrick Swayze), enlists Baby as his new partner, and the two fall in love. Baby's father forbids her from seeing Johnny, but she's determined to help him perform the last big dance of the summer. (From Google)

(Want to read it? Click the cover photo to watch it on Amazon!)

Favorite Summer Memory:
I'm not sure I have a favorite summer memory ... I'm not generally a summer person. Typically, I prefer the milder temperatures of Spring and Fall, but if I had to have a favorite summer memory, it'd have to be a collection. A few summers ago, I used to spend a lot of time driving back and forth to my cousin's house with the kids. We'd have a mostly quiet drive there, a good long day playing in the sun, and then a long drive back home where my oldest daughter and I would have lots of long and serious talks while her little sister slept off the sun exposure. Those drives were good for my soul, and the times spent with my cousin watching our kids grow up together are among my favorites.

Favorite Summer Holiday Destination:
We aren't big travelers in my family because it's expensive and tedious - and usually more costly than most of my family can afford - but I grew up in Central Florida so I think my ideal summer destination couldn't help but to always involve the ocean. There's just something about the beach that brings peace to me, and even looking at photos or videos of the ocean still brings back the salt smell of the water and ghost memories of what it sounds like when the waves crash along the shore.

What Books Will Be In Your Suitcase This Summer?
Most likely, the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. I have literally read the entire series several times, but am currently rereading the books in impatient anticipation of the next book coming out soon.

What's Your Likely Destination This Summer?
As mentioned above, we don't travel very much, and living in Knoxville keeps us away from the beach for long periods of time. That said, my family does enjoy the local sights when we can. For the most part though, my "destination" is my laptop. I'll be working on finishing Fighting For Freedom and getting it released, moving into Wrestling Harmony (which is book three in the Kingsley Series), and then I have a few other projects lined up and patiently waiting.

What hottie would you most like to be sharing the hot days and long nights with this summer?
Oh, wow, talk about a hard question! But the first one who came to mind was the undeniably delicious Jensen Ackles. But should he find himself unavailable, Jared Padaleki wouldn't be a waste of either, eh girls?

And that's it, my summertime favorites! For my nominees, the rules are:

  1. Display the summer sun logo and link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions as listed above.
  3. Nominate 8 people to participate, one for each ray of the sun on the logo.
Good luck! My nominees are a little short of eight because a lot of the people I know have already been tagged, but my nominees are:

NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that if you click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. This is, of course, at no extra cost to you - but my family and I appreciate your support! (To see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

"Isn't It Grand?" Excerpt

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.

Photo courtesy of VinnyCiro |
Isn't It Grand?
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

"I'm here ..." I breathed in the cinnamon-scented air, took in the glory of the Christmas tree beside the fireplace, and turned quietly to smile at the delightfully elderly doorman. “I’m finally here!”

“Yes, it appears that you are,” he answered, smiling back at me, his dark eyes warm and friendly as they vanished in a sea of wrinkles. “I take it you’ve been wanting to come for some time?” His voice was weathered but smooth, and he watched my face with a certain pride as I nodded silently, still gazing around the beautifully decorated lobby. He waited for me to take in the beauty of the opulent hotel, and when I turned back to him at last, he signaled the two young men standing in the shadows beside the door. They stepped forward at exactly the same time, and I realized with surprise that they were twins.

The first of the two met my eyes with a secretive smile, his amusement only faltering slightly as he bent to the job of moving my bags onto the shining luggage cart tucked into the corner; his brother stepped toward me with a much more open smile, offering his arm. "Come along with me, ma’am; I'll lead you to your suite."


Edited to add: Isn't It Grand has now been edited and revised, and has doubled in length. The above portion is only a small snippet of the 2400-word story, the whole of which is now available exclusively to my Patreon supporters. To view this story and others like it, please support my writing here. (December 2016)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Twenty Questions, Part I

I spent some time yesterday surfing around online, and I stumbled across the most thought provoking article: "20 Questions That Could Change Your Life." I was intrigued by the concept, and then even more intrigued by the questions themselves - and to be honest, I'm not sure if these 20 questions will really change my life  in any significant way, but after I read the intro to the article, I left it sitting and came here to start this post. As of right now, I haven't seen the questions - I'm just going to share them with you as I finish the article, answering as I go.

I guess we'll see together if it "changes my life", but in the meantime I'm really loving this bit:

"Asking them today could redirect your life. 
Answering them every day will transform it."

And the questions are ...

1. What questions should I be asking myself?
Hmm. Maybe this is more serious than I originally thought. As the author stated, asking oneself this question "creates an alert, thoughtful mind." It makes you tune in to your life, to who you are - because in searching for questions, you tend to look at the difference between what's right and what's wrong in your life. And then you begin to ask yourself other questions:
  1. "What am I doing with my life?"
  2. "Where is this particular adventure going to take me?"
  3. "Am I really who I want to be?"
Sometimes those are really the most difficult questions, aren't they? If I had to choose one to meditate on, I think I like the idea of combining those to end up with something like, "Where am I going in life?"

But for me to answer that one - for you or for me - you'll just have to follow along as I live it out.

2. Is this what I want to be doing?
Wow, what a question. You know, if I take this question in my general, happy-go-lucky, always-joking kind of way, I'd say, "No, what I want to be doing is lying on a chaise on a beach somewhere tropical, basking in the sun while sexy, muscular cabana boys bring me cocktails and offer to entertain me in various ways for the duration of my stay." But the truth of it, if I answer the question in a serious way - in a way that's as real as it can possibly be - then I'd say simply, "Yes."

All I've ever wanted to do is write. All I've ever wanted was to write books and make a name for myself. And while I'm a long way from where I eventually want to be, I still haven't come close to meeting all my writing goals yet.

I love that I've taken this step, that I've pushed myself so hard to get where I am now; it's only been just a few short months since I published my first novel, and I've made a lot of progress toward my goals in that time. But I'm still anxious to keep moving forward, to get where I'm going, to meet those ultimate goals ...

In the meantime? "Yes, I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing."

3. Why worry?
Honestly, I try not to worry very often - but we're all human and we all have things in our lives that are wrong, things that hurt us. Everyone has some goal that they're trying to reach, something they're afraid of, or some problem they aren't sure how to solve. We all have worries.

But we don't have to give in to it, do we? We can focus on where we are right now, taking little bitty baby steps toward where we want to be - still mindful, still grateful for what we have and where we are in our lives.

Sure, there will always be things that are wrong, but worrying won't make them right. So make a plan, take the steps, and solve the problem ... don't just sit around stressing. At least, that's the way I try to do it. Mostly.

4. Why do I like {cupcakes} more than {people}?
Okay, in the interest of honesty, who doesn't like cupcakes more than people??

But seriously, for this one, the writer of the article instructs us to replace the bracketed words with things more personally appropriate to our lives, with the first thing being something we do like and the second being something we should like. So then ... hmm.

I could change it to, "Why do I like {reading} more than {housework}?" or I could change it to, "Why do I like {texting} more than {talking}?"

But again, if I tell the entire truth here, it doesn't matter what words I put in the brackets. The answer will almost always be some variation of "because I'm a procrastinator." I like to do things on my own time, when I "get around to it." And nothing bothers me quite like feeling rushed or feeling like I have to do something. I find that even if it's something I inherently love to do, making it something I have to do automatically seems to make it something I don't want to do.

 5. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?
Wow, just when I was getting a little afraid that I wouldn't be able to answer all these, huh? I think it's a hard thing for any of us to grasp the reality of our place in the world. We really do have that kind of power - the kind of power to impact and maybe even change the world by the things we do and say and accomplish while we're here. Even our greatest stars and most famous people all started out as children, regular children who ate weird foods and drooled a little and fell down a lot. But look, little Barack Obama grew up to be the first black president of the United States. Little Katie Holmes grew up to be a famous actress, and little Justin Bieber grew up to be ... well, we'll come back to that when he actually grows up, but you get my point.

But we get caught up in that, don't we? We get caught up in thinking, "I'm just one person, I can't change the world, I don't have that kind of power or influence." But the thing is, yes you do. You do have that kind of power.

In your daily life you interact with men, women, and children who might remember you. They might be left with an impression of a more loving world if you love them. They might be left with an impression of a more accepting world if you accept them. They might be left with an impression of a kinder and more forgiving world if you are kind and forgiving.

You can change the world; you can have an impact on the world, just by being a good person and touching the people around you. Because as we all know ...

But to give a more honest and personal answer ... I think my children are my most valuable contribution. If you sit them down and ask them if the world is all sunshine and roses, they'll say no because I have been honest with them and I don't go out of my way to protect them from inevitable disappointment. But if you ask them if their mother loves them, they'll say yes. If you ask them if they are special, they will say yes. If you ask them if they have potential, they will say yes.

None of this seems like anything special or terribly impactful just yet, though, does it? After all, I'm "just" a mom. But these little girls will grow up knowing they can chase (and catch) their dreams, because I am determined that they will see me chase (and someday catch) my own. They will believe in their own potential because I will encourage them to find and nurture their passions. They will know that even when the world is cold, home is not. And because they are given a sense of safety and future and potential ... who knows what legacy I will leave behind in them?

The best part is that I don't have to know that answer right now. All I need to know is that I'm leaving something meaningful in the world, and that's really all that matters to me anyway.

... intermission ...

Wow, what a post! I am loving working my way through these questions - but in the interest of keeping this post from being obnoxiously long, I'm going to answer more of these 20 questions in a new post, coming soon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Reaching For Success" Excerpt

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.

Photo courtesy of scottchan |
Reaching For Success
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

Sitting in the line of chairs outside the double doors, I clutched the sheaf of papers in my sweaty fingers, hoping desperately that this was my chance, that this time would be my time. The room was filled with the scent of fear and silk flowers, too much perfume and the chalky smell of freshly applied makeup. My stomach fluttered again, perhaps protesting the variety of smells, perhaps protesting the churning nerves that had filled me for weeks. I closed my eyes - again - and heaved a breath, trying to gather my scattered emotions, trying to latch onto the ones I'd be needing to lean on in just a few short minutes, when it was my turn to give a second-round audition.

The sound of clapping from behind the doors dropped my heart from my chest, freezing it, turning it into a cold rock in the pit of my stomach. I tipped my chin back, my face turning up to the ceiling, perfectly in time with the girls who sat to either side of me.

"No, they can't have chosen already," the girl beside me whispered to herself.

"I know, right?" I answered quietly. She took my hand in hers, smiling as I settled my script in my lap and took the hand of the girl to my other side. We sat quietly, watching those double doors. Fear rolled through me, anxiety brought my shoulders to my ears, and the quiet dread sharpened everything.

Finally the doors opened, and the girl who'd been auditioning stepped out, her dark hair slightly mussed, her makeup trailing with her tears down her cheeks. Her eyes were swimming, flooding, and my heart was breaking. She'd gotten the part. I just knew she'd gotten the part.

"Oh honey, you got it?" An older woman asked, walking over to drape an arm over her shoulder.

"No, Mom, but they said I'm perfect for something else they have on another show," the girl sobbed. "I got a part though; I made it. I finally got a break." Her voice trailed off softly toward the end, and her mother smiled.

"I knew you would. Come on, let's get you some lunch," the mother said. They walked away together and I exchanged a look with the girls sitting with me. We were the last three; one of us would leave knowing that we'd finally gotten our big break.

"Candace Middlesworth," a woman called from through the open doors.

"Oh God, oh God, that's me," I whispered.

"Go," said the girl to my left, releasing my hand and nudging me with her shoulder.

"Good luck," whispered the girl to my right.

"Candace Middlesworth!" the woman said again, louder. I gathered my script and leapt from my seat, straightening my dress as I walked.

"I'm here, I'm here," I said nervously, walking into the room and turning to close the doors. Taking one last breath, I turned back to the panel of studio executives. Now was my time to shine. "But I'm not Candace," I said, slipping into the silky voice of the character I was hoping to play.

"My name is Olivia James, and I'm here to speak with Michael Masters." I delivered the line from the script effortlessly, watching with false confidence as the handsome actor on the other side of the room looked to the panel for guidance. The man on the left nodded, and the actor stood, lifting his chin, becoming his character.

"That's me," he said, stepping closer to me. "I'm Michael Masters. What do you want with me?"

"I want to know why you took my sister out that night. I want to know why you drove her into that dead town. I want to know why she was given to the demons there. And I want to look into the eyes of the coward who left her."

"Left her?" he whispered, his hands drifting up to cover his heart. "You think I left her? Olivia, I didn't. I couldn't."

"You did," I answered coldly, feeling the anger of my character wash over me. "You left her to be possessed, to be driven insane. You left her to find her own way back, scared and broken and ... different."

"No!" he shouted. "No, damn you! I didn't leave her there. I didn't, and I won't be accused of it either!"

"You are accused!" I shouted, stepping forward, moving closer, bringing my hand back behind my hip as I prepared for the slap.

"No! She left me!" he shouted, and I swung my arm in a graceful arc, my palm connecting firmly with his cheek as his face turned away from me. He brought his hand to his face, rubbing the burn away from where I'd hit him. "I'm not lying. She did," he whispered.

"Why, then?" I asked, forcing myself to tremble in sadness, his face blurring in front of my as tears flooded my eyes. "Why would she do that? Why would my sister do that?"

"I don't know," he whispered, stepping closer to gather me in his arms. "But I miss her too, you know. I loved her, too. I begged her not to go in that house, Olivia, I begged."

"You begged -"

"Alright, then, that's enough," the woman from the executive panel broke in. I stepped away from the actor, pretending that I hadn't seen him in a dozen movies, pretending that I wasn't completely starstruck. He took my hand and my breath caught as we turned to look at the woman who held the ultimate power.

"Okay," I said quietly, wanting to ask how I'd done, knowing that she hated that question, knowing that she hated any indication of insecurity.

"How do you think you did, Candace?" she asked, surprising me. Closing my eyes, I prayed that I wasn't about to say the wrong words.

"I told you," I said coldly. "My name is Olivia James."

She stared at me silently for a moment before exchanging looks with the men that flanked her. Finally, she turned back to me, her face softening slightly. "For a minute though, I thought so too," she said. "You got the part."

And as I left the room, shedding the character to be just myself again, I stifled a smile. I was triumphant - I had reached the great success of my career thus far. But in the lobby were two hopefuls headed for heartache.

I stepped into the lobby, feeling their hungry eyes searching my face. "I got the part," I said. "I'm so sorry."

But I wasn't. It was just the break I'd been waiting for.