Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Year In Review, and 2016 Goals.

At the end of 2014 I was kind of at the end of my proverbial rope. I hadn't been writing much because I couldn't. Life was in the way; my personal life was chaotic, I was depressed, and I felt like everything was falling apart. I wasn't posting as much across my social media platforms, I wasn't sending newsletters, and I wasn't blogging ... because I had nothing positive to say, and I didn't want to be online spouting negativity. I spent the end of that year trying to figure out how I had made it all work so well the previous year (2013), with five books published, newsletters going out regularly, blog posts being written often, and so much progress made in my career as an author!

You know what I learned, the simple difference I saw that changed everything?

I enjoyed 2013. I enjoyed the writing, I enjoyed the media exposure, I enjoyed putting myself out there and meeting new people. I enjoyed it until I started doing things the way I was "supposed to." When I started setting up accounts on every social media platform someone told me I "needed" to be on, and struggling to find something relevant to say ... when I started setting insane deadlines for myself because someone told me I "needed" to be insanely productive in order to be noticed ... when I started kicking myself constantly for not meeting those insane deadlines that I shouldn't have set in the first place. And I think people could tell when things began to change and I stopped enjoying it, because that's when it stopped working. My books still sold, but I wasn't feeling as connected. I wasn't scouting reviews, and I was losing traction fast.

So at the end of 2014, I made a simple decision for 2015, the decision to just do what I should have been doing the whole time. I decided to go back to basics and let myself enjoy what I was doing again, and it worked (sort of). Maybe I didn't write five new books in 2015, but I did write again ... and I loved it. I published a contest-winning short story that I'm proud of, followed by the fourth book in the Kingsley Series, More Than Friends, which was a huge challenge for me because it was my first full novel from a male perspective. I streamlined my social media use to include platforms I thought I would enjoy using (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), I streamlined and redesigned my blog site, my newsletter, and my writing. I even attempted to set myself a schedule, although that didn't work quite the way I wanted it to.

I didn't kick myself on days when I couldn't write, but I did track my writing days and word counts to keep myself accountable. I released myself from feeling pressured, even as I set goals and what I like to call "soft deadlines" for my writing. I networked. I learned more about writing as a business, and I allowed myself to love the process.

Career life is going much better now, and I'm satisfied, though I do have goals and things I still want to work toward accomplishing.

Personally ... well that's a different story. Many of you know that my family has been dealing with my mother's failing health for some time now, and although she is one hell of a survivor, there are many signs that she is beginning to go downhill a little faster that she was before. In 2015, she fell countless times, she had more moments of increased agitation, confusion, and combativeness. She broke her arm, her collarbone, and her hip. It has been a mess.

And in the midst of that, life goes on.

So. What can you expect from me in 2016?
  • I intend to keep NOT kicking myself on days when I can't write (like this past week when my mother's broken hip/replacement surgery/hospitalization AND the birth of my brother's beautiful new baby kept me a little busy), BUT I do still intend to get lots of writing done. I use an app called Writeometer to track my current project; it has a place for me to enter a projected word count, a projected (assumed) goal date for finishing, and what/when I write. I'm going to keep using that app faithfully. And in 2016, I hope to release 3 new books.
  • I'm going to keep blogging/newslettering on "5th days," too, and I'm going to keep offering a monthly $5 Amazon giftcard to one of my email subscribers (sign up at the top of the sidebar on the right side of the blog).
  • I'm attempting to build more regular interaction on my social media platforms, so if you see me online somewhere, stop and say hi to me!
  • I'm opening my street team to ten members in 2016. Members who have reviewed all of my books will receive a starter package in the mail stuffed with swag items and other things members can use to help them promote my books. Interested? You can apply here.
  • I'm going to be appearing at two public signings in 2016, the first of which is called Romancing The Smokies. This event is an elegant VIP luncheon (tickets are still available for purchase and there are still two seats left at my luncheon table!) followed by an open booksigning. This event is scheduled for March 19th, 2016, and will be hosted in Alcoa, TN by the Hummingbird Place (BlogTalk Radio). Later in the year, I'll be signing at the annual Thunder Road Author Rally on September 10th, 2016 at the Maynardville Public Library in Maynardville, TN.
Wow, it's going to be a busy year! I'm tired just writing all that ... so maybe I'll just go take a tiny little nap before I head over to visit my mom in the hospital. What are your goals for 2016?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!


Christmas is usually one of my most favorite parts of the year. Even when I'm struggling with depression or other things, I love Christmas. I love giving gifts to my daughters and I love watching them open what they got from Santa. I love giving gifts to my family members -- and even my friends when I can.

You know who else I love giving gifts to? You!

Every month I give a $5 Amazon giftcard to one of my newsletter subscribers, and now and then I give away books or swag on my social media pages. In March, I'll be giving away gift baskets full of books, swag, and other products to the people seated at my luncheon table at Romancing The Smokies (order your ticket here), and I may even have some gifts for people who stop by my table at the signing afterward (the signing is free, but registration is appreciated)!

But you know what? That's in March, and this is December, so ...

I wanted to give you something, and there's no time like Christmas to give the gift of a good book. So I'm giving you one of mine: Fat Chance. For a limited time only, you can download a FREE copy of my book from an amazing website called StoryCartel.com. The site is free to register, the book will be free to download, and all you have to do in exchange is read the book and review it once you've finished. (How's that work? Check out the StoryCartel FAQ.)

First released in January 2013, Fat Chance is the first book in the Kingsley Series, and this story is a New Adult Contemporary Romance. The official blurb says: Cassaundra Keaton is an outsider; still living with the after effects of the death of her family and a young adulthood spent in the foster system, Cass has been shuffled from one place to another nearly all her life. Add to that the loneliness of rejection and a heartbreakingly low sense of self-worth, and you have a woman who is broken and confused, depressed and debating the unthinkable. Only her love for her adoptive family (and knowledge of their love for her) pulls her back from the brink, and she reaches out to the one person who can truly help her -- her therapist. Mac shows Cass how to find her own sense of self-worth, and what he teaches her gives her the strength to turn things around. And then ... there's Drew. Drew Kingsley is a man with demons of his own, but a chance encounter brings them together in a way neither of them expected. When she breaks down again and pushes him away, will Drew have what it takes to help Cass see how beautiful she is? Or will a disaster for Drew in the line of duty mean that Cass is too late to take a chance on love?

This book is personal, it's heartwrenching, and it was the beginning of what came to be my company slogan: Real Characters. Honest Love. Brandi Kennedy Books.

I do strive to write real characters, the kind of people that jump right out of my books and into your heart. I strive to make them feel, and through them, to make you feel. But I'm a dreamer, a hopeful, a romantic at heart ... that's why I try to give all of my characters an honest love, the kind that's perfect and beautiful, but most importantly, believable. I write love stories, but I write stories you could easily find yourself right in the middle of. And at it's heart, that's what the romance genre is, a genre of love, and of hope, and of incredible feeling.

I hope Cass makes you feel something special this Christmas: compassion for yourself and those around you, understanding for people just like her, who are filled with silent pain and living stories we can't always understand. And after you feel like you're drowning in her pain and lost in her sadness, I hope you're lifted up on her wave of hope, taken into the warmth of the loyal and always patient Drew Kingsley. And I hope this Christmas, you feel the love.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Somehow, I Still Find Time To Read. And Review.

Reading is one of my most favorite pastimes. I love books from almost all genres, and I find that I can't write as much (or as well) when I'm not reading books on a regular basis. In recent years, as I learned more and more about how important reviews are from an author's perspective, I've been making it my policy to review everything I read ... unless I choose NOT to review a book out of respect for an author I like personally but whose book didn't really hit the spot for me.

Why would I do that?

I do it because along with my personal policy of reviewing almost everything I read, I also have a policy of only writing HONEST reviews. I won't tell you that I like a book just because someone wants me too, and I won't tell you I didn't like it just because I don't like the author (however, there are authors that I so dislike as people that I have no interest in their books. See? Honesty.). I want you all to know that whether I'm talking to you about books I've read, songs I've heard, movies I've watched, or products that I've used, I'm talking from the heart, and I mean everything that I say.

To that end, I thought I'd let you in on a little secret. Many of you know that I review books here on my blog from time to time, but in an effort to keep our interactions personal and not turn this blog into a running stream of book commercials, there are a lot of reviews that I won't post here. Often, I'll just review on Amazon and call it a day. Either way, I've written up a policy that I'll be using as I write reviews, to help me get a more solid handle on what I'm feeling as I read.

Do you review books and products? I hope you do; I hope you know how important your feedback is, especially to authors like me. So let me share something with you; let me tell you ...


So many people have books that inspire them, books that heal the scars on their hearts, books that push them on when they want to quit, books that help them let go of burdens they've been carrying. We get caught up in the hot cover models, the steamy sex scenes, the moving dialogue. We love our favorite characters so much sometimes that they become real to us. We wonder what our favorite characters would do, would say, would feel. 

Sometimes, those characters become so real that they even overshadow the minds that created them. But then we need a new read, a new fix for that emotional drug we call "a book." That's when we remember the mind, the writer. The author. We remember their names, and we type those names into the search bars of our favorite book markets, hoping they have something more to offer us. Sometimes we forget how important we are to those authors, how much they love us and need us and want to hear from us. We love their work; we love their characters, their stories. But sometimes, we forget to love them back. Or maybe we just don't know how ...

Well, I can help with that. Here are three easy ways to show the authors you love that they matter.


Reviews, again. They keep popping up, huh? But it's because they matter. Reviews are one of the best way for an author's work to be discovered by new readers, and they help to tell an author what is most (and least) loved about their work. For you (and me, and any reader), it just takes a few minutes, a few words. But for the author, those words are the lifeblood of a career, and they mean so much.

I know, no pressure, right?

Seriously though, as important as a review is, it's not as complicated as some people think. It's not a book report like you used to hate writing in school. It's not a summary, or a sales pitch, or any of that. It's just your opinion. Even still, writing a review can be a little intimidating, right?


Well ... I can help with that, too.


And now, I'd like to thank you for reading this post, and I'd like to leave you with a promise. If you review any of my books, please send the permalink for your review to authorbrandikennedy@gmail.com. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the email, and I'll send you a signed bookmark to thank you for your time.

Happy reading ... And I hope you have a very merry Christmas week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Life, Writing, and the Holidays.

Life gets a little crazy around the holiday times, doesn't it? Mine sure does.
The girls and I went over and spent Thanksgiving evening with my mom at her house, and the holiday season hasn't settled since. We're gearing up for Christmas; the tree is up and decorated, the gifts are purchased and stashed (but not yet wrapped -- eek!), and our mischievous elf has not spent much time on the shelf. Instead, he's been found hiding in the Christmas tree, the bathrooms, vases, behind clocks. Inside lamps.

While that's all going on in my home life, my writing life has heated up for the holidays as well.

  • On December 6th, I hosted a marathon takeover party on Facebook for SIXTEEN HOURS. It was tiring, it was long, it was super busy ... but it was also lots of fun. Twelve other authors came and took over the party to introduce themselves and their books. There were games, there were giveaways ... it was a great time! One of the major things about the party was the set of Secret Santa games that we played in the week after Thanksgiving. Players were asked to participate simply by commenting and/or liking, and then three winners were randomly chosen to receive Secret Santa gifts in the mail. These gifts were flat rate medium shipping boxes, stuffed with donated swag, books, and other items created and donated by various authors involved with the event. This past weekend, I sent those packages out in the mail, I'm sending good wishes for happy holidays to each of those winners. This coming weekend, I'll be sending packages to the winners of other giveaways that I offered during that event. Immediately after the holidays, I'll be setting up a similar event for Valentine's day, so if you haven't followed my author page on Facebook, you should! You can even friend me if you'd like to ensure that you'll get a personal invite.
  • Also this past weekend (on the 11th), I attended the Christmas party version of the East Tennessee Creative Writer's Alliance meeting. Together with my friends and colleagues, I munched on cheese and crackers, chili petros, and several other goodies -- I also had my first White Russian, courtesy of Ms. Felita Daniels, the blogger behind Lilac Reviews. T.G. Franklin brought along some entertaining Christmas party games, J.K. Ensley charmed us all with adorable wine glasses filled with mints, and it was just a lot of fun to sit back and let go with like-minded creative people. Following that party, I took the opportunity to fancy up and head out to a second party with Felita, and we had an amazing time winning (and losing) gambling chips at a Blackjack table run by a highly charming and rather sprightly gentleman who was a pleasure to spend time with.
  • In the coming days, I'll be taking over a Facebook party hosted by Jodie Pierce, an author friend of mine. As she writes romantic vampire books, I haven't had the pleasure of reading her work just yet, but she and I have grown to be pals over the last few months, so when she invited me to takeover her cover release party, I was thrilled to be able to do it. I'll be taking over the party on Sunday December 20, from 10-11am US Eastern Standard Time -- you should come check it out!
Along with all of this, I'm still busy writing! Selkie II is coming along beautifully, and I even know what the last scene will look like already, though I have a lot of words left to write before I wrap up the end of this book. Still, I'm in love with the way Annie and Malik are developing, and I hope you'll all love the story when you get a chance to read it. (Status report: currently, Selkie II is weighing in at just under 10k of a planned 100k words, with an estimated release in March 2016.)

I think those are all the major updates for today, and I'm off to the writing cave -- but I'd still love to hear from you, so leave a comment and tell me your favorite thing about the holiday season!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

10 Best Ways To Stuff An Author's Stocking.

Alright you pervs. That's not what I meant. Unless you're married to an author who wears stockings ... and has a high sex drive ... and likes it when you ... well, never mind. Let's just get to the point, shall we?

10 Best Ways To Stuff An Author's Stocking.

Because authors love their stockings stuffed. At least, romance authors do. Well, this one does. Now and then. Anyways ...

01.) Scented Candles. I don't know about other authors, but this author loves scented candles. I almost always have one burning while I'm writing, and I even recycle the jars. The little bitty tiny ones? So cute! Right now I'm burning a  Better Homes jar candle from Walmart, and it's the Cranberry Apple Martini scent; it's one of the few I've gotten recently that had a smell strong enough for me to pick up on the entire time it's burning. I love it. And oh my gosh, those ones with the wood wicks? Did you know that when you stop typing to think of where the story is going next, you can hear them burning? You can. It's like a little miniature fireplace, just happily crackling away. I love them! 

02.) Coffee. Most authors I know have some sort of addiction to caffeine, whether it's coffee, tea, or soda. Many of us have a hard preference, that one go-to drink that we love above all others; I wish I could say that I did, but I don't really. When I'm drinking soda, I like a Mountain Dew, but I like tea too. When I'm drinking tea, I'll drink green tea with honey and lemon, or black tea if it's the right amount of sweet-but-not-syrup. I like McDonald's tea, and I always ask for half-sweet-half-unsweet. But I like coffee too. Sometimes I'll make it at home with a little International Delight thrown in (to make it delightful ... ba-dum-shh.), but my favorite is the Starbuck's Mocha Frappuccino with two pumps of hazelnut. It's like a slightly toned-down version of Nutella. Yummy. I've also gotten a Caramel Frappuccino with two pumps of butterscotch. It's like I imagine Harry Potter's butterbeer to be. And it's yum. When they figure out a super thick, really creamy, lots of spices eggnog coffee frappuccino? You guys, I'm all over that.

03.) Booze. Usually wine, sometimes various liquors. After a long day of caffeinating ourselves half to death so that we can make up (and live in) the various worlds that we create for your amusement, we authors usually need to tone down a little and get back into the swing of the real world. Or maybe we're just closet alcoholics as a society, I'm not sure. But if you look at our instagrams, you'll see that when we aren't talking about writing or coffee, we're often talking about booze.

04.) Papermate Inkjoy Pens. I know authors who hardly ever write by hand, but I also know authors who write almost exclusively by hand. And I know from personal experience that the Papermate Injoys? They are so smooth and so comfy. I love them. Love love love them. I love them so much that I've left all my other favorite pens rotting in the bottom of my purse in favor of the Inkjoy that's pinned to the little pen sleeve thingy on my planner (which I also love). Which is part of why Dana is always telling me that my purse is a suitcase. If only she knew how many pens were in there.

05.) Sticky Notes. Authors love sticky notes. Heart shapes, circles, squares, lined, graphed, plain, you name it, we'll find a way to love it. We can stick them to the table, the wall, the computer screen. Our writing journals. Steering wheels. If I had a waterproof pen, I'd be looking for waterproof sticky notes to keep in the shower so I could stop using eyeliner on the shower wall when a good idea hits me mid-shampoo. Yeah, we love sticky notes.

06.) Index Cards. Because sometimes you don't want your notes to be sticky. Or because you're trying to make a character catalog. Or sort out scene ideas. Or plot snippets, or dialogue chunks.

07.) Books. Authors write books. Which means that in general, we love books. We get all passionate about them, and we fangirl (or fanboy) over our favorites because for us, the authors are the real stars of the world. Sadly, we often love books so much that there is no possible way we can afford all the books we want (unless we're J.K. Rowling, but usually we're not), so you could almost never go wrong with giving the author in your life a book that they can read when they aren't writing.

08.) Literary Tee Shirts. Chances are, the author you're shopping for has a favorite book (or book series). And chances are, that author's favorite book has some sort of quote or significant bit that stands out to your author for some reason.  If not, go with whichever one you think your author might like best, whether it's a litograph version, or one with a more obvious meaning. 

09.) Warmth. Authors have jobs that require a lot of sitting (unless someone gives them a standing desk), and because we spend so much time being still, we often crave warmth. So if you really want to show some love to an author you care for, give them warmth. You can do it like this, or like this, or even with these. Either way, your author will love it.

10.) If all else fails, stuff those stockings with gift cards for any of the above listed items. And if you can't decide which item to go with ... go with Amazon. Your author can use that giftcard to get anything there. Unless you wanted the giftcard to be used to feed your author something other than coffee and booze. Then you should get it from a restaurant. Bonus? Your author will finally have a good reason to put some pants on and leave the house. 

But if you really want to be the coolest damned stocking stuffer your author has ever known? Give them this William Shakespeare action figure.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Are You "Fearless"?

It's December now, and lots of people are turning their thoughts to the approaching new year. People are beginning to think about 2016 and what it might bring, what their plans are, what they're hoping for in the new year. Some people are beginning to think about their New Year's Resolution ... and some overachievers people have already chosen one!

In recent years, there has been a wave of people that are getting away from resolutions and just choosing a word. "Learning." "Focus." "Meditate." "Organize."

Have you ever had a word chosen for you? I have, but it wasn't on purpose. I didn't ask for the word ... it was given to me.

What's the word?

Fearless. I've had friends tell me they admired my fearlessness. Boys and men who were intimidated by my fearlessness. People who have come and gone in my life who insisted that I am fearless even as I insist that I am not.

So I thought that for this newsletter, I'd share with you Ten (of the million) Things I'm FearFULL of, along with the thing that gives me courage to keep moving in spite of my fears, just like Franklin Roosevelt told me to.

01.) Let's start with spiders. I am so, so afraid of spiders. There's something about their creepy little eyes and their million legs that terrifies me. Then when you add in the fact that some of them are actually venomous and they can hurt me, and I don't always know which is which? And the fact that they can crawl on me, or even bite me in my sleep? Guys. That's a straight up Hell. Naw.

But I can kill them. Even though my hands are shaking and I break out in a sweat and I want to scream (and write a lot of run-on sentences too, apparently), I can still walk right up to them (usually) and make sure that that particular spider can't bite me. Or my kids. Or my pup. Even when I can't walk up to them directly, I can still at least get close enough to spray them to death with hair spray. Once, I even saw one that was kinda cute. I think he was a little wolf spider, and he wasn't fast or jumpy or really very scary at all. So I caught him in a mason jar, even though it was a little frightening and if he'd somehow gotten on me, I'd have probably died of shock.

02.) Creepers with chain saws. I loved scary movies as a kid, and I still love them now, now and then. But there was one that I never liked, never. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre scared the hell of me, y'all. Seriously. It scared me so bad, I've only seen it once. Maybe twice. And that's it. Why? Because it's TERRIFYING. Seriously. At the end of October, I took my daughter to a haunted trail for Halloween, and I wasn't really scared by the clown or the knives or the bloody stuff or the creepers that jumped out or sneaked up or acted like they were gonna get me. I was scared of the creepers with the chainsaws though. They'd sneak up behind me and fire it up, and I could hear the engine rev. I could smell the fuel burning. I could almost feel myself losing an arm or something. Or like, an ass cheek or something.

But I kept telling myself they weren't really gonna hurt me, that the chain wasn't in it. And I kept going. I suppose eventually, I'll even own one, and I'll make a point of learning to use it. I'll learn to understand it. I'll carve a tree trunk into an eagle or an old man or something. Maybe then I won't be so afraid of them. Maybe I will. But I'll learn it anyway.

03.) Dementia. We all have a "worst way to die," and that's mine. It's been my "worst way to die" since I was a young teenager and first learned what it was. Dementia is terrifying to me; I could think of a dozen other ways to die that are less horrifying than that. I could drown. I could be decapitated in a horrific car accident. I could burn to death. But I don't want dementia. I don't want to forget my life, my memories. My children. I don't want to forget the things that make me me, that make me strong and capable. It took me so long to learn to love myself and accept myself ... I don't want to lose who I am. And as I'm watching that happen to someone close to me (or more honestly, trying desperately to not watch it happen), I'm forced to face that fear. I'm forced to accept the reality of what it means, and contemplate the horror that it could mean for me.

I'm also forced to face the idea that dementia can be hereditary. It very well could be my future. So what can I do to face that with courage? I can educate myself. I can treasure the memories of the loved one I'm losing. And I can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available, the knowledge that can help me to protect myself.

04.) Elevator failure. The idea of that fall if the elevator malfunctions? Just the whole thing sliding down the elevator chute at top speed, unheeded by the pulleys and other things that usually keep elevators safe? The landing? No. Just no. I think of it every time I get in one.

It's easy enough to battle that one though. I suck it up and use elevators anyway. And it may or may not be partially because I'm too lazy to spend that kind of time on the stairs. Oddly, in spite of this one, I am not really afraid of heights.

05.) Bridge collapse. But only when I'm in my car and the bridge is over water. I can walk across a bridge, even if it's a high one or a long one. But if I'm driving across one and I for some reason get stuck anywhere on it? No. Just no. You can bet I've got my seat belt off so I don't get stuck in it, my window rolled down for easy escape, a death grip on the wheel, and a sense of utter terror in my heart. Especially if my kids or my dog is also with me.

There's a bridge near where I live, and it goes over a pretty good sized lake. I have to cross it at least twice every quarter, once to get to the other side and once to get back. If one of my kids is sick, I have to do it more. If I'm meeting up with Dana to hang out or do something, it's over that bridge, and that bridge is a testament to how much I love the people I'm willing to cross that bridge for.

Could I go another way? Yes, I could. But I don't. Why? Because no matter how afraid I am, how fearFULL I am, I will NOT allow fear to control me.

06.) Failure. But this one's self-explanatory, right? Everyone is at least a little bit afraid of this ... whatever it is that you most desperately wish to accomplish, you're probably afraid of failing to achieve it. Maybe you're afraid of failing as a spouse or a parent. Maybe you're afraid of failing your parents.

How do I get past this? I keep trying anyway. I forge forward, afraid, because I don't want to be paralyzed by my fears. I don't want to guarantee failure by lack of trying. But I also straighten my shoulders and face failure when it's in front of me. I'm okay with admitting that I've failed, that whatever it was I was trying to do or get or achieve is just beyond my abilities. If I can try again, I do, with fear but also with courage. If I can't try again, or have true believe that whatever it is just isn't for me ... then I let go of the old plan and create a new one.

07.) Dying while my children still need me. Right now, my daughters are eleven and six. They need me still, to wash their laundry and kiss their booboos and read them bedtime stories. They still need me to teach them to cook and stand up for themselves and drive cars and put their makeup on properly. I like to think they'll still need me when they're afraid to bathe their newborn babies, because newborn babies are SO SLIPPERY.

I know someone else could wash their laundry for them. But would someone else remember that certain soaps break out their skin? Probably not. Would someone else remember their favorite foods, and how to console them when they need consoling? Maybe not. Would someone else remember that you have to be a little harder on the one because she's got a super tough outer shell, and a little more gentle on the other one because she's what we lovingly refer to as a "marshmallow?"

But somewhere in the mommy corner of my heart, I've become convinced (as most mothers are) that no one else can do it like I can. And I just don't want my children to learn that the hard way. But I gotta face that. I still gotta be a good mom, and I still gotta love my babies. I want to give them what I can, for as long as I can, because being afraid of leaving them is a constant reminder that I won't always be here for them. I want to be what I can, while I can.

08.) Snakes, and other things that can bite me. Especially if it's going to be painful or poisonous. Seriously, have y'all seen what rattlesnake bites look like? I don't want any part of that kind of thing. No. Just no.

Still, I might go hiking, if the waterfall at the end promised to be pretty enough. And if there was appropriate medical care within reach. You know, and if I had a gun.

09.) Bees, and other things that can sting me. Again, especially if it's going to be painful or poisonous. I don't want that. I don't want the ouch, or the welt, or the possible side effects of the stuff that stinging creatures inject you with when they sting you. I don't want it.

But I do still force myself to spend time outside now and again. And I've killed a bee or three. Wasps, too. I might be scared, but those little bastards better watch out, because while I'm screaming hysterically, I'm going to be plotting HOW TO KILL THEM.

10.) But more than all of these things, I'm afraid that someday if all my fears come to pass, just as I'm faced with never becoming everything I've always wanted to be, I'll have some weird asshole walk into my life and kidnap me and cover me in venomous spiders while chasing my ass through a cloud of bees into an obviously broken elevator full of snakes on a bridge with a chain saw, while my children are crying and in need of just one more something that I can't give them if I'm dead. And to make it all even scarier? I'd have to face it without Dana. Now that's scary.

Not looking so fearless now, am I?

And now, I'm off to go skydiving. In the dark. With my pet sharkigator.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Romancing The Smokies, 2016

You may remember me talking before about my next signing appearance, an event called Romancing the Smokies, which will be held in Alcoa, TN on March 19th, 2016 (I also got a GORGEOUS new banner, and several awesome swag/giveaway ideas). In the past two weeks, I've gotten a few emails from readers wanting to ask me about this event, with questions varying from "what day is it" to "how can I get there" to "how much does it cost", so I thought I'd take a few minutes to put together a little FAQ for those among you who want to know about this event or are planning to attend.

What's the event about?
Romancing the Smokies is an event hosted by the Hummingbird Place, and is a signing event / meet-and-greet luncheon for romance authors and their readers. At Romancing the Smokies, readers will be invited to come in and purchase books (or bring books you've already purchased) to be signed by the attending authors. This might also be a fun time to grab a quick photo with your favorite authors, a memory you can keep forever after the event is over. But the major excitement of this event lies in the luncheon to be held prior to the signing, where VIP attendees will share good food and more intimate conversation with the attending authors. If you're especially lucky, you may even find yourself sitting right next to your favorite author during the luncheon!

Alright, so who's going to be there?
The keynote speaker for this event is USA Today Bestseller, Tonya Kappes. Featured authors (at this point, according to the event website) will include the following: Destiny Blake, Hallee Bridgeman, JK Ensley, Leanne Tyler, Mallory Kane, USA Today Bestseller Nancy Naigle, Sandy Sullivan, Shannon West, Suzan Tisdale, Trista Ann Michaels, and of course, myself. But that's still not all! Also attending (and signing) as sponsors of Romancing The Smokies are: Andrea Renee Smith, Carolynn Carey, Debra Parmley, Jean Joachim, Juli Alexander, Kate McKeever, Kathi Daley, and Vicki Vaught.

All those authors under one roof? And I can hang out with them? How much does it cost?
If you're a blogger, author, or other industry professional who would like to network at this event, Gold and Silver sponsorships are still available here (for $265 and $107, respectively), and the perks of either option are listed on the event website. Not a professional but still want a chance to enjoy a fabulous luncheon with the authors you love? That's easy, too. Just click here, and purchase a reader's luncheon ticket for just $44!

Do I need to purchase books there, or can I bring my own?
Most authors will have books available for purchase at their tables, but as some authors are coming in from out of town, you can guarantee having your favorite book signed by contacting the author to preorder a copy or bringing your own copy with you.

How much will books cost?
Book price varies by author, but most range from $5 to $20. Most authors are also able to take your credit/debit payment via a paypal or square card-reading device, but you can also use cash, which is generally easier on all parties. It might be good to have both on you though, just in case you happen to find that one book you just can't go home without.

Where/When is it again?
Romancing the Smokies will be held on Saturday, March 19th, 2016, at the Knoxville Airport Hilton in Knoxville, TN.

What if I'm from out of town?
Not to worry, the hotel has reserved a block of rooms for out of town travelers wishing to fly in for the event! The hotel is right next to the McGhee Tyson airport (for easy traveling, there's even a connected walkway!), they have room service and a few other on-site dining options, and the surrounding area is equipped with everything you could find yourself in need of. Once you've got your flight all settled, you can register to book your room here.

Where else can I find more information about this event?
Check out the Facebook like page. And make sure you mark yourself as attending on the specific event page, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What's On Your Bucket List?

Did you ever see that movie, The Bucket List? It's got Morgan Freeman in it? And Jack Nicholson? It's one of my all-time favorite movies -- I still remember how incredibly inspired I felt the first time I watched that movie ...

For those who haven't seen it, it's a movie about two men with terminally ill cancer, and as they come from very different backgrounds, they have led very different lives. But they meet in the hospital, and as they get to know each other, dying together sort of forces an unwilling friendship between them. As they each face their own impending death, they have conversations about their lives, the things they did ... and the things they didn't do. And then, they decide to get up and go do those things while they still can.

So I guess you can see why it's called the Bucket List, then.

Do have a bucket list? There are so many people who keep them, and I'm always touched by them, especially the really heartwrenching ones people put together for kids, or the sort-of-funny-even-though-it's-sad ones people do for their dogs. It amazes me to see people checking huge things off their bucket lists, and I can only imagine the satisfaction of totally finishing one. Hell, I've hardly even begun to check things off of mine!

Although I did check off one small thing, one very small thing:

A few weeks ago, just for kicks, I paid for the car behind me for the first time. I didn't need to, I didn't know what the total was, I didn't know if maybe the car behind me at Starbucks was buying one coffee for the driver, or one each for the driver and passenger, or one each for the driver and passenger and people I couldn't see in the backseat ... or if they were two people sent out from some office somewhere to pick up coffee for everyone back at work.

I'm glad it wasn't that last one though.

Still, it felt good to wonder if the person behind me was having a bad day, one of those days where you're just like, "Screw it, I deserve a treat today! I'm getting a coffee/pair of shoes/new couch/whatever!" I wondered if maybe they just got the news that they're getting a raise, or if there were two people in the car because one of them broke down and the other one came to pick them up. Maybe they just came from the doctor's office. Maybe it was good news, maybe it wasn't.

Who knows, maybe it was just two people on their way to a meeting like I was, and they wanted something to drink like I did. Whatever. I didn't need a reason, other than that I could do it and it had been on my bucket list for quite a while. So, I ordered my coffee, I pulled up to the window, I held out my card to pay the barista, and I couldn't hold back a smile as I said, "Swipe this for the car behind me, too."

She looked at me for just a second in surprise, broke into a grin, and said, "No problem." I heard her tell someone else when she turned away to swipe the card, and I grinned a little harder.

And really, maybe it doesn't mean anything, you know? I mean, it's just a coffee. It's not going to change the world. But I can tell you what it might mean to me if I pulled up to that window in the midst of a really horrible day and held out my card to pay for a coffee I felt guilty for splurging on anyway, only to be told that the car in front of me had taken care of it for me, just because.

I know you can imagine as you read this what it might mean for you.

Have you ever had someone pick up your tab somewhere? Or have you ever picked up the tab for someone else? If you have, tell me about it in the comments.

(For those of you reading this by email subscription, just click here to get to the online version of the blog.)

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Which of Your Books Is Your Favorite?" -- Part IV

Several weeks ago, I had someone ask me which of my books is my favorite, and lately I've been thinking hard about that question. Maybe I could have taken it easy and said that Selkie is my favorite because it was my first novel and it's fun to write fantasy. Or I could have said that any of the first three Kingsley Series books were my favorite, because they deal so closely with real life issues and I love stories that show the depth of the human personal journey. On that tack, I could have said that Fighting For Freedom is my favorite, since it fits so closely with my personal life and the experiences I dealt with in my childhood.

Actually, I did all of those.

But that didn't cover all of my books, and I have to tell you honestly that all of my books are each my favorite in different ways. I've explained that in previous posts (each of the "my favorite" links above goes to a different post), but what I haven't gotten to yet is why my newest release, More Than Friends, is my favorite of my books.

More Than Friends is the fourth book in the Kingsley Series, and is about Michael Kingsley's attempt to heal and move on after divorce. Michael is the first of his family to ever get a divorce, and that alone would have been a hard blow to his spirit and his pride as a man. But when you couple that with the fact that his wife left him with no explanation, you have a man with a truly broken heart. We come into his story a few years after the fact, and the worst is behind him, but he's still struggling to cope in a way that's constructive and healthy. Lucky for him, he has a friend ...

This was the first book I ever wrote that was truly from a male perspective, complete with input and opinions from more than a few men that I talked to during the writing process, and it was very hard. I'm not kidding; I even threw it out and completely started over a few times, and this book is responsible in part for a two year gap in my publishing schedule, because even though I knew the characters and the story, the words simply would not come. This book represents something real for me, something that every writer knows -- the fear that I'm all done, the fear that there are no more words. The burden of disappointing myself and my readers. The pressure to get the book out. The emails from readers. And a heavy depression as I continued to let myself and my readers down. Depression as I sat in front of my computer each day, staring at a blank screen that stayed blank no matter how many words I put together.

This book represents my commitment to myself as a career author, and to you as a Brandi Kennedy book reader. It represents my seriousness and my willingness to keep trying.

Just like Michael, who did decide to try his hand at love just one more time ...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Which of Your Books Is Your Favorite?" -- Part III

Now that you know why each of the books in The Kingsley Series qualifies as a "favorite" book for me (Part I), and you know why Selkie (Part II) is also a "favorite" for me, I'd like to spend some time telling you why Fighting For Freedom is my "favorite" of my books.

For those of you who have followed my writing for any period of time (or read the author letter at the end of Fighting For Freedom), you'll already have an idea of why this particular book means so very much to me ... but for those that might be new to my writing, let me tell you about a girl.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, the daughter of a single mother. The mother was a high school drop-out divorcee struggling to get by with two kids and often, two jobs. She was probably scared and overwhelmed and terribly, incredibly lonely. She'd dated around a little without much success, and had broken off a relationship with a man she loved very much because he was young and she didn't want to saddle him with two kids he shouldn't have been responsible for. I was one of those kids, and I can tell you with all honesty that my brother and I still think of Greg from time to time. We missed him when he and mom broke up.

She missed him, too. A lot. You might even say she was ripe for the picking.

So when she met HIM, she probably thought he was charming, with his bad boy look and his abundant charisma. She probably thought his tattoos were sexy and his drinking/drugging lifestyle was a fascinating contrast to life as a responsible single mom trying to shoulder all the full-time responsibilities. In the beginning, he was charming. He was funny and different, and I think he had a gold tooth, too. He was intriguing and he rode motorcycles, and his best friend's name was Pork Chop and his mother had a horse. He took me for a ride on it once, when I was little. I rode in front of him, and he kept one hand on my waist to hold onto me.

My hands are shaking, writing this. They shook a lot when I wrote Fighting For Freedom, too.

The wedding was beautiful but by then, things weren't quite so sunshiny. I remember feeling pretty in my dress, which was a cream lace dress with a cream silky-satin tank slip underneath. I feel like I remember having the slips in a couple of colors, but maybe I'm just remembering being at the store and seeing the slips, all hanging together in so many bright colors. They held the wedding at his mother's big house, but I didn't want the wedding. I didn't want them to get married. Maybe I was already afraid of him by then. Now, looking back, I wonder if my mother was afraid of him yet. I have to think she wasn't, that she didn't realize what she was doing to us as a family, or I'll hate her for what I went through and the things I remember seeing.

Once they were married, she was as good as trapped. She lost everything because of him. Her car was repo'd, she ended up losing her job at least once. She almost lost her life. So did my brother.

Damn, this is hard to write. Maybe that's why I've put it off.

Do you like bologna? Back then, we were poor white trailer trash of the worst kind, and we ate cheap Oscar Meyer bologna sandwiches on white bread with Miracle Whip and Kraft American Cheese for lunch more often than we didn't. And HE liked things done right, you know? He liked the trailer kept a certain way. He liked his wife to behave in certain ways. He appreciated a certain measure of fear in the children. And he ruled with an iron hand.

I still remember being filled with horror, standing in the driveway outside the trailer one afternoon, watching him wrap that iron hand around my mother's throat. I remember looking down and realizing that her feet weren't touching the porch anymore. What I can't remember is whether it was because she put too much Miracle Whip on his sandwich, or not enough.

I remember a blue glass bowl. My mom used to be the kind of mom that would make dinner and actually serve it all at the table, in serving bowls. She had made something with french fries that night, and they were in this big blue glass bowl, lined with paper towels. I don't know what set him off, but if I close my eyes, I can still see that bowl flying toward me, over my head. I can still hear it shattering in the hallway behind me.

I've heard this story a thousand times, the one where HE was playing with my older brother in the trailer we lived in. They were playing cops and robbers, shooting at each other with BB guns. My brother ducked into a bedroom, poked his head back out to see where HE was, and HE fired a BB toward my brother. My brother ducked back, the BB passed him, ricocheted off the microwave door in the kitchen, and when my brother stepped out of the bedroom, the BB hit him in the eye. I have never actually believed that story.

He tried to murder his daughter once, but I wasn't there so I don't know the whole story. I know that my mother tried to save the girl, told her to go hide in the car. I know he got into his truck and threatened to run it right over my mom's car, with his daughter inside. I know my mom stood in the way. I know he did it anyway, and she ended up pinned between his truck and her car, for the sake of his daughter's life.

I remember being beaten with a ping pong paddle and watching the broken paddle fly across the room because he hit me so hard that it snapped right off the handle.

I remember being humiliated, standing naked in the office at school while police and investigators took pictures of the bruises all over my body. On more than one occasion.

There are countless other stories too, ones so gruesome that I've blocked them away and I can't remember.

By the time I was in fourth grade, it was over -- at least for me. I was removed from the home for my own safety, and my mother and brother were left to fend for themselves for a year. Until it finally got so bad that he ended up in prison and my mother ended up dead.

That's how I know it's totally possible for what happened to Christine in Fighting For Freedom to have happened. It's possible to be in such a horrible situation that it kills you, and yet somehow you hold on. It's possible to just hold on for long enough to be saved, like my mother was.

She was about my age when she had her first heart attack. She had a blood clot move through her heart and into her left shoulder on its way to her brain. Had it not gotten lodged in the veins in her shoulder joint, she'd have had a massive stroke that day when the clot hit her brain. She'd have died in a way that there's no coming back from.

But that blood clot was the start of everything changing. I wish I knew how it all happened. I wish I knew how it happened that HE ended up fighting to save her arm, that she ended up dead on an operating table, that she ended up so sick she had to move in with my grandmother to be taken care of for months at a time.

I wish, too, that I could remove her memories of him. I wish I could have back the mother she was before HE killed her. Now she's messed up forever because of everything he put her through, and I can only imagine what she remembers that I don't.

Still, her memories are a part of her, as mine are a part of me. I know she has PTSD, and I know that I have it too. I know what it feels like to triple check the locks on your house, and how good it feels to know your dog would eat someone to protect you. I know what it feels like to walk around in the dark, listening to every sound, attending to every breath of the wind.

I know what it means to see shock on a boyfriend's face when a moment of play crossed a memory line for me and I reacted without meaning to, protecting myself from a flashback danger that wasn't even there. I know what the guilt feels like, to think I've become what I once feared and despised with all my heart. And I know the shame that came with having to explain that reaction. (Thankfully, he was very understanding.)

But I know too, what it means to walk around armed and ready to protect myself at any cost. I know how hard it is to move on and rebuild, to become strong and unafraid in spite of my own fragility. I know the pride I felt in that first moment when I realized I wasn't afraid anymore.

And I wrote Fighting For Freedom because I want other women to know those things too. That's why it's my favorite of all of my books. (It could be your favorite, too ... check out the blurb and buy links here if you're interested.)

And now that I've written so much for this post, I guess I'll have to tell you why More Than Friends is my favorite of my books next time. I promise, it won't be as hard to read as this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Guess What's Live?

More Than Friends is now live!!

Michael Kingsley is a broken man. How could he not be, when the wife he thought he’d love forever, the one he thought would love him forever, just picked up and left him with no explanation?

It took him a while, but he’s finally putting his life back together. He’s doing his job, he’s paying his bills – he’s even getting back into his old hobbies. He’s finally doing alright again … mostly. And maybe he does drink too much, but at least he’s finally stopped sleeping around. Now he’s settled on one woman, a curvaceous and flirtatious bartender who never misses an opportunity to warm his bed.

But when Michael’s mother ends up in the hospital, it’s his best friend Renee who stays by his side, and he begins to see her in a whole new way. When they take a step beyond the boundaries of friendship that cannot be undone, what will happen to their relationship?

Will they find something more, something neither of them even realized was there? Or will the fear of changing – and maybe losing – their friendship, be the thing that ends it all?

Introduce yourself to Michael and the rest of the Kingsley family today; books 1-4 are available wherever books are sold. For direct purchase links to each book on each of the various markets, please see the Kingsley Series page.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Haunted

I wanted to take a break from talking about myself and my favorites of my books (because, hello narcissism) to tell you about something that has been haunting me for days.

Sort of.

Y'all know it was Halloween last weekend, right?

Okay. So let me set the stage here. My oldest daughter is eleven, and I feel that she is getting too old to be trick or treating. It's increasingly difficult to find costumes of what she wants to be that aren't oversexed hooker versions, and I just don't want her dressing like that. Not to mention, we never actually eat the candy anyway. Last year she stayed home with me to hand out candy while her dad took our youngest trick or treating. And this year she was going to do it, too. But ... we still wanted to do something big, something fun, something "grown up" to replace the old trick or treat tradition.

"So," we thought, "why not go to a haunted something and get the hell scared out of ourselves?" She loved the idea. I loved the idea.

We began planning.

I looked up several different places, including one that's apparently so scary you have to sign health waivers before you can get in. You know, in case they actually prove that it's possible for someone to be scared TO DEATH. That particular place has five separate attractions, and if you actually make it through all of them, they give you a refund. And I think they don't let anyone under 18 in or something.

Because they take scaring people VERY seriously.

Unfortunately for them, I don't like urine running down my legs, so I chose to look elsewhere.

Frightworks? No, they recommend no one under 12 years old. Hmm. Stumped.

But then, what about the haunted trail at Cherokee Caverns? It's local, it's not too costly. They recommend no one under ten. Perfect!

So we set off on Friday October 30, in company with my cousin Dana and her little charmer of a son. He's the same age as my oldest daughter, so these two have literally grown up together, and they were excited, although I'm not sure anyone was as excited as me.

We get there, we check in, buy tickets, wait in line. And then it starts. Outside, you guys. In the woods. At night. And all I could think was, "Screw all the scary stuff! Don't they know there's bugs out here!?"

We go into this beaten little shack, get told a creepy story about an old abandoned town run by a man who lets the townsfolk stay around (as long as they keep luring in "fresh bodies" for him to "experiment on", of course), and we go out through the back door. In the dark. In the woods.

And I'm the caboose.

It's Dana's son, then Dana, then Josephine, then me. So of course I'm noticing every rustle of leaves, every crunch of grass. From behind me. Because someone is following us. Scarily. Of course.

From this point, everything becomes a foggy haze of alternating fear and amusement, so I can't remember which order all the creepers came in. But here's the rundown, as best I can give it.

There was a clown, because why the hell not? But not like a circus clown ... sort of like circus meets Saw movies, whatever that creeper's name was. Jigsaw?

Anyway. That was fun. Not. I think my poor kid will never see clowns the same way again ... and she's got these big gorgeous eyes that used to be the purest blue and have now gone a bit green, and let me tell y'all, I thought her eyes were going to POP. OUT.

But that was just the beginning. I got startled a lot, but I didn't really feel the first licks of genuine fear until a guy watched us walk by without trying to get us. He welcome us to town, and welcomed us to dinner.

To BE dinner.

Ew.

It was after that that the chainsaws started.

And I mean, I've joked a lot over the years about the size of my booty, and I've joked that if someone could just cut it off ...

Y'all, it's pretty FREAKING scary when someone actually tries to. In the dark. In the woods. While your kid is screaming bloody murder.

I swear, I was running with my ass tucked in so far, I probably looked like I didn't have one. My ass was pulled in like the curve side of a comma. My body was a parenthesis. I ain't kiddin'.

Then we walked into this room, all creepy with a tv on that just had static on the screen like the old days when channels would actually go off the air. The guy in there was standing next to a sink counter,  cutting up body parts with a machete, and everything was covered in blood. The counter, the walls. The guy.

He was pretty chill, though, he didn't even try to be scary. He just turned to the curtain behind him, looked at us, and opened the curtain for us to pass through.

Except he used his bloody machete to do it, and the space was so small we almost had to rub up against him to get by.

I won't lie. I got chills. I shuddered a little. I might have pushed Joey a little to make her go faster when I realized the guy was still behind me.

And then more chainsaws. I remember A LOT of chainsaws.

But I'm pretry sure that's the best $26 I've spent in a long time. I can't wait til next year. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

"Which of Your Books Is Your Favorite?" -- Part II

In my last post to you, I talked a little bit about how Jodie Pierce got me thinking about which of my books is my favorite. I told you why Fat Chance and Prescription For Love and Wrestling Harmony are all my favorites of my books. I even hinted that More Than Friends (Kingsley Series #4, coming November 12, 2016) might be my favorite too!

What I didn't mention specifically in my last post (because I've mentioned it before) was that my Amazon exclusivity is almost over! During the month of October, Fat Chance and Prescription For Love went live on extended markets, and now all of my books are available on Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iBooks, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Kobo, and Inktera/Page Foundry! Except for one ... Wrestling Harmony. But that's changing, too, and today, Wrestling Harmony is going live on the same extended markets as the rest of my books! (You can find the most up-to-date purchase links for the Kingsley books here.)

And now that you know how much I love the Kingsleys, and how much I want you to love them (insert completely tactless self-promotional winking here), let me get on to Part II of "Which of Your Books Is Your Favorite?"

I've told you about Fat Chance, Prescription For Love, and Wrestling Harmony. Now, let me tell you why Selkie is my favorite of my books. In Selkie, I got to play with an old legend, I got to make up a world and set the stage for a culture. The Selkie Trilogy is a romantic fantasy, increasingly heavy on the fantasy as the series goes on. In Selkie I, you get to know Annie and Malik, and you'll love them as they take you on an adventure into a whole new world, a whole new way of life. Selkie I is my favorite of my books because it was so much fun to write, because it was the place I went to hide while my mother was going through a cancer scare, because it connected me with a legend/myth that I've been fascinated with for many years.

We've all heard of werewolves, and with the current craze for all things were-animal, lovers of werewolves, weretigers, were-etc. will love getting to know a creature informally known as a wereseal ... the Selkie of old Celtic lore. In the legends, A selkie was usually a woman, a siren of the deep who could walk out of the sea on seal flippers, shed the sealskin, and transform into an irresistible woman. Legends said that if a man could find a selkie pelt and hide it, he could stop the selkie woman from being able to re-enter the sea, thereby trapping her as his mate. Legend spoke of the Selkie female as an amazing wife, and a wonderful mother. But in all the stories, the human knew what they were doing. The man would trap a Selkie woman purposely, wishing to keep her for her favorable qualities as a wife and mother. But what if the sexes were reversed? And what if the human knew nothing of the legends? And what if ... what if we could follow a Selkie back into the water? What if we could learn their ways, their culture? What if?

You can see where I'm going with this. Selkie is like my other books in that there is a strong romance with beautiful characters that you can relate to and feel for. It's like my other books in that there are sweet moments and hot sex. There's fun banter. But it's something totally different, too, in that there is much more external conflict, much more adventure, and even a little bit of suspense. It's my favorite because it's so novel (to me), so different from what I usually read, and from what I usually write.

I can't help but love it ... and that's why it's my favorite. Want to introduce yourself to Annie and Malik, too? I bet you'll love their story just as much as I do. Check them out here.

Want to know why Fighting For Freedom and Courageous are my favorite books, too? Stay tuned for the next post, where I'll tell you all about why I love Christine and Aiden, and why I might even revist Allie and Jason for a full length novel ...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Which of Your Books Is Your Favorite?" -- Part I

Usually, I answer reader questions directly, but since the answer to this one is pretty long (and I actually get asked this pretty regularly), I thought it would be fun to answer it this way. Most recently, I was talking to Jodie Pierce; we were chatting about writing life, my upcoming street team launch, and publishing/marketing/etc, and she asked me which of my books was my favorite. My answer? All of them, for various reasons.

I'm a romance writer because I love romance stories. I love watching two people overcome something that stands between them, whether it's a jealous ex, a misunderstanding (or series of them), or just one person's hangups keeping them from accepting love from other people. I love reading a romance novel and watching someone's journey as a person, watching the journey of a couple as they learn to make life together a workable concept. I love feeling good at the end because it worked out. And when the sex is sweet and not raunchy, I love that, too. After all, I'm in it for the romance, not the sex ... if I wanted the sex (which, truth be told, now and then I do), then I'd head over to erotica. But that's another post.

Ahem ... back to the question at hand.

As I mentioned above, I don't really read romance for the overabundance of drama; I like the story to be about the personal journey of each person in the story, and I don't always like it to be triggered externally. Sometimes, like in real life, it isn't a jealous ex or a nosy parent or some other external burden that keeps lovers apart. Sometimes it's the demons in our own heads that force us to endure loneliness for long periods of time. And that's why The Kingsley Series books are my favorites of my books.

Fat Chance is my favorite of my books. In Fat Chance, there is a little bit of external drama, but the story itself is about Cass's journey as a woman without confidence. She doesn't love herself, she doesn't show herself compassion. She doesn't feel worthy of those things, because she's gotten caught up in what the world thinks is okay or normal or beautiful. She's sad and she's bitter, and I've had people tell me that the first half of that book made them feel a little depressed -- and that makes me happy. Why? Because it means I've done my job. I've taken you inside her world, inside her sadness, inside the feelings of hopelessness and depression. But there is hope, and the second half of that novel is all about what it feels like to learn to love yourself, and how important it is to love yourself before you can ever expect to receive love from anyone else. The thing is, no matter how much someone loves you for the good things they see in you ... you can't actually receive that love until you believe the good things are there. Fat Chance is Cass's journey to believing. And it goes without saying (even though I've said it many times in various interviews and posts on my blog) that Cass is very personal for me. I've dealt with a lot of what she feels, a lot of what she's been through. In some ways, she's me. In other ways, she's other women I've learned from or felt empathy for. But in all ways, she's every woman's journey, fat or thin, short or tall, regardless of race, color, or religion. Or at least, that's what the readers tell me. (Want to read her story for yourself? Purchase for KindleiBooksNook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)

But then there's Prescription For Love, and that's my favorite of my books. In that book, the worst of the external drama is behind us, but we can still watch Cameron struggle to let go of the past. And haven't we all struggled with that? Many of us still remember school bullies, or childhood abuse, or that first bad relationship, or the way we struggled with our own self images. Sometimes it's something deeper though. Sometimes it's something that scars you forever, like witnessing a crime, or being robbed, or being assaulted. Sometimes it's grief over losing a loved one. And letting go of the past is not always easy ... that's why bookstores and libraries almost always have a self-help section. It's why counseling and mental health are such huge topics in societal conversation. Because it's not always about what happened to you; sometimes, it's about how you let whatever happened affect you afterward. Cameron and Mac? They're heroes. They're inspiration, they're the desire and urge to move on, they're the wish for companionship that we all walk around with. They're the need for support and comfort that we all feel. And for each other? They're the satisfaction of those desires, the meeting of those needs. They're the example of basic human compassion. They're the example of what happens when you let go of the past and find the courage to move on. And Cameron? She's the reason every woman must first learn to be her own hero. (Check out Cameron's story, and see if she's as inspiring to you as she has been to me. Purchase for KindleiBooksNook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)

I love those two stories, and I'm so proud to have written them. They're my favorites of my books! But then there's Cameron's little sister Harmony, as she wrestles with herself and who she wants to be in Wrestling Harmony, that book becomes my favorite, too. Harmony's a spunky young woman facing some tough choices at a really vulnerable time in her life. She's facing the existential questions we all face: Who am I? Where am I going in life? Who do I want to be? What am I going to do? What are my dreams? And how can I bring them to fruition? And on top of everything ... what about love? Is it worth it? What if I get hurt? What if something bad happens? What if it doesn't? She, like every other woman, is on a journey of self, and though she doesn't suffer from Cass's lack of confidence, she has her own personal barriers that keep her alone and afraid to taste the joy of romantic love. It's amazing what fear can hold us back from, even if we know in our heads that the fear is irrational. And it's so much more amazing when there are people to push you beyond that fear, people who are willing to hold you hand and pull you into the water so that you can learn to swim. Harmony's willingness to get outside of her comfort zone, and Xander's undeniably sweet persistence, are why these two make Wrestling Harmony my favorite of all of my books. (Want to meet this spunky sweetheart and the man who coaxes her out of her comfort zone? Purchase for Kindle, or find this book on October 30, 2015 on iBooks, Nook, Kobo or Inktera/Page Foundry.)

Want to know more about my favorites of my books? Stay tuned for Part II of this post, where I'll tell you why Selkie, Fighting For Freedom, and Courageous are all my favorites of my books. Maybe I'll even give you a sneak peek into why I loved Michael Kingsley enough to struggle for almost two years to bring you a Kingsley book from a male perspective (More Than Friends, coming November 10, 2015) ...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Top Ten Things That Are Happening Right Now!

  1.) Prescription For Love is releasing to an extended market today! Cameron Kingsley is ending her exclusive Amazon relationship, and now you can purchase her story on all of the popular e-book markets. You can find an updated list of purchase links here.

The Kingsley Series is a series of stand-alone contemporary women’s fiction romance novels, each connected to the next by the bonds of family. Each book in this series follows the personal journey of one of the Kingsley couples – however, each story is continued and updated in the following book. These books can be read in any order, but are best enjoyed in order of publication. This series contains mild sexual content.

Prescription For Love is the second book in the series:

Cameron Kingsley is jaded; a traumatic event from her past is still haunting her, and even running her own wedding planning business isn’t enough to make her believe in love that lasts. She spends her days choosing flowers and china settings with serial brides who marry serial grooms, and she spends her evenings locked in a cycle of flashbacks and panic attacks.

But a family wedding changes everything; a request from her brother’s fiancĂ© sends Cameron to the office of sexy Mackenzie Caswell, who might be just the man to help her see things in a new light.

Mac is a widower and a single dad who still treasures the memory of his deceased wife and loves nothing more than his young son. A man with heavy baggage, he’s been walked away from more times than he cares to count, and he’s ready to try one more time. But who is the one with the heavier burden – Cameron, or Mac? And will they be able to help each other shoulder the weight of moving on?

  2.) Harmony Kingsley will be ending her exclusive Amazon relationship too (on October 30), and then you'll be able purchase her story on all of the popular e-book markets as well. As it happens, I'll be updating those purchase links too ... you can find them on the Kingsley Series page on my website at authorbrandikennedy.blogspot.com

For those who may not know, Wrestling Harmony is the third book in the Kingsley Series:

Harmony Kingsley is a failure. All her life, she has worked toward one goal – to compete on the Olympic gymnastics team. But she didn’t make it in time, and now younger competitors are edging her out of the sport. Now she’s just a trainer, and to add insult to injury, she’s not training competitors – she’s training kids. And even though she loves the kids, she hates the loss of her dream.

A misunderstanding sets her at odds with the uncle of one of her students, but under the angry tension is a tension of another kind.

Xander has been on his own for a while, and he’s built a good life for himself. He’s got a nice house, a good job, everything a young man could want … except love. But when Harmony’s best friend can see what Harmony and Xander can’t, and she contrives to push them together, what kind of sparks will fly? Will Harmony and Xander find something deeper than the fires of passion, or will her trust issues cause them to crash and burn?

  3.) This month, I'm going to start giving my newsletter subscribers a monthly thank you gift! At the end of this month and every month from now on, I'll be using random.org to choose a random subscriber to win a $5 Amazon giftcard! The monthly winner will have 48 hours to open the newsletter, find out they won, and claim their prize -- otherwise, they'll miss out, so make sure you're receiving and opening my newsletter regularly. The winner will not be announced here on the blog -- the new winner and list of previous winners will only be found in the left column of the newsletter.

(If you're seeing this on the blog, you can subscribe to my newsletter by filling out the form at the top of the right sidebar.)

  4.) I'm also going to be sending out Christmas cards for the first time this year, but the mailing list will close on November 1st so that I can order and send the cards before Christmas. If you'd like to receive a Christmas card from me but haven't signed up yet, you can find that sign-up form here.

  5.) November 10th is coming, and that means release day is coming! More Than Friends (the fourth book in the Kingsley Series) is now well into the editing process, and is on track for a great release day! I'm so excited!

More Than Friends is the fourth book in the Kingsley Series:

Michael Kingsley is a broken man. How could he not be, when the wife he thought he’d love forever, the one he thought would love him forever, just picked up and left him with no explanation? It took him a while, but he’s finally putting his life back together. He’s doing his job, he’s paying his bills – he’s even getting back into his old hobbies.

He’s finally doing alright again … mostly. And maybe he does drink too much, but at least he’s finally stopped sleeping around. Now he’s settled on one woman, a curvaceous and flirtatious bartender who never misses an opportunity to warm his bed.

But when Michael’s mother ends up in the hospital, it’s his best friend Renee who stays by his side, and he begins to see her in a whole new way. But when they take a step beyond the boundaries of friendship that cannot be undone, what will happen to their relationship? Will they find something more, something neither of them even realized was there? Or will the fear of changing – and maybe losing – their friendship, be the thing that ends it all?

  6.) With More Than Friends almost ready to go live, I've been thinking about my next major focus project. I'm currently working actively on several different projects, but I do usually have one major focus, so what's my next major focus? Well, I looked back on the feedback I'm getting from my readers, and it looks like my next most wanted project is ... *drum roll please * ... Selkie II!

  7.) I received an email recently from a reader asking if I have a public mailing address that readers can use to send things to me, and after sending that address back in a reply, I thought I'd go ahead and share it here, too. Readers can send letters, book art, etc., to me at P.O. Box 12035, Knoxville, TN 37912

You can also find my other contact information and social media links here.

  8.) I've designed a brand new banner to take with me to RTS16 in the spring! The signing will be held in Knoxville, TN on March 19, 2016, at the airport Hilton -- how's that for easy travel? Admission to the signing is free, but for just under $45, you can purchase tickets to a special VIP luncheon, too! And ... there is talk of a Carnival-style social event afterward, which is going to be so exciting!

  9.) I can't think of a number nine, so ...

10.) You guys, I am so addicted to McDonald's half-sweet-half-unsweet tea right now. Like seriously. I think I need a support group or something ... is that a thing?
REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.