Sunday, August 30, 2015

Excerpt: More Than Friends, Kingsley Series, Book Four

The excerpt below is taken from the working text of "More Than Friends", the Kingsley Series, book four. The following text is under copyright protection, and may not be duplicated.

© 2015, Author Brandi Kennedy
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“What are you doing?” she asked.

When he turned, she was standing there again, framed in the doorway of his kitchen, the living room light shining softly from behind her, her hands clutched nervously together in front of her. She had long, slender arms, softly defined from her work at the yoga studio; they met at the wrists, where she clutched her left wrist with her right hand, just above the apex of her thighs. Her eyes were soft, her hair was falling over her shoulders, she looked delicious, and he wanted nothing more than to walk over and touch her. If he did though, he might never stop. Whatever the cause, Michael had experienced a transformation in the way he saw her, and he was afraid she was right – they were no longer simply Friend and Friend. No, now they were Man and Woman, and he was afraid that if they acknowledged the change, there would be no going back. He shrugged, dragging his eyes away from her body and forcing them up to her questioning face. “I’m drinking,” he said, and turned to pour another glass.

“Michael,” she said softly, barely audible even in the silence. He heard the soft click of her throat as she swallowed, and the wet sounds of her mouth as she licked her lips. “What is this? Whatever this is that’s going on, this isn’t us, it's … not how we always were.”

Watching the bourbon fill the glass, Michael briefly entertained the notion that he should stop pouring – that he should mix the liquor with soda. That he needed to slow it down. Still, his hand ignored his head’s command, and then the glass was full. Too late for soda, then, he thought. Might as well drink it. He lifted the glass and took two large swallows, gasping slightly as he felt the liquor burn its way down his chest.

“No, this is not us,” he agreed. “This is definitely not us.”

“Why aren’t we talking?” she asked, and he turned at the sound of her voice, watched a tear slip down her cheek. “I don’t know what’s wrong between us lately, but … something’s changed, right? But we’ve always talked before.” She stepped into the kitchen, still watching his eyes, searching his face, and he felt the air around him thicken as she approached.

Slowly, deliberately, Michael raised the glass again and emptied it, his fingers clenched so tight that he wouldn’t have been surprised to have it shatter in his face. It didn’t though, and she was still looking at him when he lowered it. He reached behind him and set it on the counter, not breaking the eye contact between them, clenching his empty hand tight at his side. His chest was heaving – when had he started breathing so heavily? More importantly, when had she? His fingers were shaking when he reached out to touch her face, running the rough nubs of his knuckles down the curve of her cheek. “Maybe there just aren’t words for this,” he whispered.
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Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming release of More Than Friends, where you'll touch base with the cast of the first three Kingsley Series novels -- and you also have the chance to get to know the sensitive but terribly confused Michael Kingsley.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gratitude, and Other Updates

First, let me say that the release of Courageous was a great success! I'm so excited to finally have concrete proof that even though it's been a shocking twenty months since my last release, I have been writing and trying to dig my way out from under some serious writer's block.

NOTE: By "Writer's Block," I don't mean "lack of discipline to sit down and write." I mean "even when I sat down to write during that time, I rarely had anything of value result from the writing." I was writing, just not anything useful or good.

It feels good to hold a new book in my hands again, one that has my name on the cover. It feels. So. Damn. Good.

Know what else feels good?

Knowing that in October, I'm going to be re-releasing all of the first three Kingsley Series books onto all markets. Right now, those books are still under a Kindle exclusive contract term, but as those terms expire soon, I will be adding those books to iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and the other markets where three of my other books are already selling. Fat Chance, Prescription For Love, and Wrestling Harmony, will be releasing on those markets on October 10th, 20th, and 30th -- and I'm also having a little party on Facebook to celebrate! There will likely be prizes offered randomly throughout, spotlights on other authors I happen to enjoy, and lots of games and trivia just for fun. The party begins on October 1st, and there will be teasers and such, too; you can find out more about that event here.

But ... there's one more thing. You may have noticed a certain pattern to the dates chosen. If you did, then you've already guessed what this is all leading up to.

Currently, More Than Friends (the fourth book in the Kingsley Series) is approximately 40% finished (for the last time, I promise), and is on schedule to be released in November. This novel will be available for pre-order during the last bit of the Kingsley Open House party in October, and will release on November 10th if all goes according to plan.

A few other things I want to make sure I share with you:
  1. Recently, I attended an amazing workshop by Felita Daniels (owner of LilacReviews.com), and I learned a ton about how important book reviews really are to me as an author. Let me tell you, they are important to me in ways I can't even express to you. Another thing I learned is that you guys don't know if I don't tell you. So this is me, telling you that your feedback is important to me. If you've read my books, please review them. It only takes a few minutes, and it isn't hard. You don't have to write a lot -- just one short, genuine paragraph. Pretend you're telling your best friend about the great (or horrible) book you just read. It's simple, and it really does mean a lot to me.
  2. Next month on the 11th and 12th, I'll be in Indianapolis with Ms. Felita Daniels, as we are attending a seminar together taught by the very talented Liliana Hart. I'm not signing or doing anything special, so don't travel there from Idaho or anything -- but if you might be hoping to catch me, that's where I'll be. I might even be willing to try to arrange some sort of I-hide-and-you-seek-me fun, if you comment on this (if you're seeing it on the blog) or reply to it (if you're seeing it by email), and give some books or swag away. Because I'm fun like that.
  3. On November 9th, I'll be speaking about the release of More Than Friends (and who knows what else, since it's a live show) on the blogtalk radio show, The Hummingbird Place. There may or may not even be giveaways ... of signed books ... maybe ...
  4. For people who really do want the chance to schmooze with me in person and got all excited while reading #2, I will be signing on March 19th at the Romancing The Smokies event at the airport Hilton in Knoxville, Tennessee. This event is being sponsored by the Hummingbird Place (see #3 for more information), but is also open to other sponsorships. This promises to be a great event to come into town for!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Courageous Is Now Live!


"When Allie Jensen opens the door to let the new bodyguard in, the last face she expects to see is that of her high school crush, the boy who broke her heart. She tries to play it off, but the past is heavy on her mind. So when danger intrudes on her quiet little haven, will Allie be courageous enough to leave the past behind her?"

Courageous is now live, available for only $0.99 at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Page Foundry/Intera. Get your copy for only $0.99 today!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I'm So Embarrassed.

A few days ago, I posted a status on my Facebook author page, and I said that I'd been chatting with my cousin about something really embarrassing that had happened to me a few days before that. Well, we laughed until we cried, and then we moved on. Now and then, one of us would randomly burst out in helpless giggles all over again, but still, we had left it sort of behind. You know, the usual. But then, we were talking about a concept I had heard of recently from a friend of mine (Hi, Felita!) ... the concept was to take a short moment in real life, a memory, and write it as if it were fiction.

So then, the wheels started turning. Seriously, though, you guys, this is a really embarrassing story. For a while, I almost didn't post it, even though several people really seemed to want me to. But then, because I had said on my facebook page to "Click like on this status if you think I should tell it anyway," and some people actually really bothered to click like ... I'm posting it here. For all the world to see.

Flashbulb Fiction, Based on a True Story

She had slept well that night, turning a few times maybe, but mostly lost in the relaxation that only truly comes with sleep. It had been a long day, and she was in desperate need of the rest; when it is the spirit which is tired, and not only the body, there is really nothing like giving oneself over to slumber.

Maybe she dreamed, maybe not. There she lay though, peaceful, dark hair spilling over her pillows. Her shirt had twisted around her in her sleep, rucked up around wide ribs, opened by the growth of her children during their pregnancies, to reveal creamy white skin, once smooth and taut but now striped with the scars of age, weight change, and childbirth. She wore shorts, and the glow of white thigh in the dark made it clear to anyone looking that shorts were not part of her daily uniform. The legs were strong though -- short maybe, but thick and heavy with muscle. An eight inch shadow marked the oversized boutonniere tattooed on the curve of one round calf muscle, a tribute to the children sleeping quietly nearby.

For all its flaws, it was a strong body, and she had spent many long years learning to love it for what it was.

It was flawed though; she slept on one side, her face turned away from the fan, subconsciously protecting a sensitive ear, one that would ache painfully if exposed to the breeze. Narrow nostrils and the slack-jawed posture of sleep left her mouth slightly open, lips parted to allow more easy breathing -- and the escape of a slick trail of saliva that pooled over the back of her hand, resting just beneath one round, slightly freckled cheek.

It was perhaps a dream that woke her suddenly, or some unexplained noise of the night. Whichever; when she awoke, she was immediately aware of the cool moisture slimed against her cheek. Grimacing in revulsion, she scraped her face against the pillow, firmly pressing her lips together in a futile hope that they might stay that way. She moved the offending hand, sliding it down behind her, beneath the blanket that swathed impossibly round hips. The frown of disgust still pulling at the corners of her mouth, she slept again -- for a time.

Now though, the peace had departed; the sleep was light and shallow -- and increasingly fitful. The thought of drool repulsed her even in sleep, and she woke continuously, reminding herself to press her lips together. It didn't take long for her sense of comfort to flee completely, and she turned over, the blanket rustling softly as it slipped over the bare skin of her right knee.

She leapt out of bed in a flurry of activity, the blanket falling away as she stumbled to the floor. On the other side of the bed, the dog opened his eyes and looked up at her, startled awake by the sudden movement.

So frantic was she, she hardly took notice of the dog -- it was almost as if he wasn't there with her at all. All she could think of just then was the cold wet spot on the blanket that had slipped over her knee. Had she wet the bed somehow, in her sleep? Surely not; a questioning hand slipped between her thighs to find the same dry cotton she had been wearing all night. But the blanket was wet, and there was no mistaking that.

She looked down, disbelieving, at her dry hand, now falling away from dry cotton shorts. She took notice of the dog, still watching from beneath a wrinkled brow, floppy ears perked up in question. The dog? Could the dog have done it? She flared her nostrils, scenting the air, searching for the ammoniac smell of dog urine. No, the air was fine, smelling of cool night and body heat, of shampoo in her hair. She smelled soap in the bedsheets, and the faint doggy musk of the animal in the bed.

But then, she remembered -- it was as if a movie flashed before her eyes, playing at hyperspeed. Her senses remembered the tangy scent of saliva pooled beneath her cheek, the quick flash of disgust, the sensation of the blanket on her arm as she moved the slimed hand away from her face. It must have rubbed off on the blanket, must have been hidden in the folds of the blanket while she slept, only to be uncovered by chance as she had turned to change positions.

Chest still heaving with momentary panic, she closed her eyes, thankful that no one had seen her foolishness, that aside from the dog, no one knew what had transpired in those few short moments.

She shook her head, embarrassed, and climbed back into the bed, careful to avoid the wet corner of the blanket as she pulled it close and slipped beneath it. And then, again, she slept.
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So there you have it. You're laughing, I'm embarrassed, but hey. It was worth it. What should I tell you about next?

P.S. "She" is ... me. In case you might have missed that part.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Small Update, Big Developments

Many of you know that I've been working on ending my Amazon.com exclusivity and diversifying the markets my books are listed on. It started with Fighting For Freedom - and that went well for me! Not nearly as scary as I had thought diversifying as an independent author would be ... so when Selkie got its recent makeover, part of that process was to let my KDP Select (Amazon exclusive) term run out, and when the makeover went live, it went live on all of the larger markets.

Now, those two books are both available for Kindle, just like they always were (and Kindle is still my preferred platform for giveaway gifting, etc), but they are also available now to Nook, Kobo, and iBooks users. There are, of course, more in-depth links available in the Freedom Series and Selkie Trilogy tabs listed in the drop-down menu above, and those links can also be found with my new pre-order release, Courageous.

But that's all old news, right? Yeah. So let me give you some new news. Throughout the month of October, I'm going to be opening up once again to other markets. In preparation for the upcoming release of More Than Friends (Kingsley Series, book 4), I will be releasing Fat Chance on all platforms - with a slew of new updates and editing/formatting repairs. This will happen most likely on October 10th, to be repeated ten days later with Prescription For Love, and again ten days after that with Wrestling Harmony.

There will be teasers. There will be giveaways. And once that's behind me, there will be one other announcement. Wanna guess what it might be?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite (& Not-So-Favorite) Things About Reviews

Today, since I'm late (I missed the fifth day, darn! I had been doing so well, too!), I thought I'd keep things simple. Some of you may have noticed that one of the entry options for my current giveaway is to suggest a "Top Ten" list idea, and that's because lately, I love list-making. I keep a bullet-journal now, and a bulleted to-do list ... which may or may not have sub-bullet lists ...

Anyway.

I love the ideas you've been posting there, and that entry is actually one of the options you can use multiple times (once a day, I think), so I thought it would be fun to use one of those ideas today. 

I'm sure you've read about the love/hate relationship between authors and reviews: you know that we seek them out, you know that some of us can't handle reading them, and you know that we're almost always talking about how important they are. But you may not know why reviews are so important, so I think this little love/hate list should go a long way toward explaining what reviews really mean to authors ... at least, by the end of it, you'll know what they mean to me.

So, without further ado:

My Top 10 Favorite (& Not-So-Favorite) Things About Reviews.

          1.) I love reviews because I love your feedback -- being able to see what you liked and didn't like, what you reacted to emotionally, which characters are your most/least favorite, and how you relate to my stories.

          2.) I hate reviews because sometimes, they are really hard to read. Now and then, you get reviews that are so good, and so perfect, and you just know that that reader really got the story ... and it tears your heart out in the most beautiful way imaginable. Now and then, you get reviews that are so bad, and so hateful, and you just know that you have failed your reader in some way, and it tears your heart out in the most excruciating way imaginable -- for an author. I have gotten both of these.

          3.) I love reviews because they sell books. Lots of people use reader reviews, or at least the general star-rating - which comes from averaging the ratings of all the provided reviews - to decide whether or not they will buy a book. If I see that a book I'm interested in has lots of reviews, I'll read some and see if those readers liked the same things I would like. I'll read some of the bad ones too, and see if those readers noticed things that I know I'd notice too. Reviews help me decide, and I know they help lots of you decide, too.

          4.) I hate reviews for being so necessary to sell books. Because of the points I mentioned above, sometimes books with few reviews are hidden from customers, buried under books that have more outspoken readers. This isn't always because the more visible books are better ... it's just because the more visible books are better reviewed. The sad thing is, marketing algorithms don't care if the reviews are good or bad - for instance, a book with 100 reviews and an average 1-star rating would be much more visible than, say, Fat Chance, which has 37 reviews and an average 4.4-star rating.

          5.) I love reviews because sometimes, they are hilarious. I'm not even kidding, look. I've read so many pages that list hilarious product reviews, and whether they're good or bad, I always love them. I've even gotten a hilarious review myself.

          6.) I hate reviews, because sometimes, people just use them as a way to be mean. And that's really just not nice. Thankfully, I don't have any of these ... yet.

          7.) I love reviews because they tell me when I've touched someone in a way they won't forget. I love it when I find reviews or receive messages from readers who loved my stories, who related to my characters. It makes me weepy when I'm told that one of my characters changed someone's perspective on themselves or their lives.

          8.) I hate reviews because they tell me when I've touched someone in a way they won't forget. Readers sometimes say things on reviews like, "I'm never going to read this author again!" Luckily, when I went seeking through my few one-star reviews, I couldn't actually find one of those ... though I'll admit I didn't look that hard; I just checked my amazon page.

          9.) I love that reviews inspire such a range of different feelings. From pride to excitement, to heartbreak and disappointment ... reviews move us, and there's no denying the truth in that.

          10.) I hate that reviews stress me out. I know that, as an author, I need reviews on my books. I know that, as an author, it's my job to ask you, as a reader, to read and review my books. And I know that my asking that stresses you out. Which stresses me out. I'm introverted so I don't know how to ask, and some of you still think of book reviews as being akin to a school book report. But they aren't, and they don't have to be - all a review really needs in order to be valid is an opinion, your opinion. So if you've read any of my books, take the time to leave a review would ya? Please?

This would be the perfect place to set up a giveaway where you can review my books and leave your review link in a rafflecopter as a giveaway entry. But since I'm not allowed to do that ('cause, you know, ethics and stuff), I'll just ask you to review my books, and I'll offer you my heartfelt thanks in advance.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Today, I'm A Little Bit Chatty.

I've been all caught up in the excitement about the cover reveal of Courageous (my new short story/novelette) lately, haven't I? Sometimes I feel like it dominates every moment of my life right now, but definitely in a good way. This is a story I'm pretty proud of -- Courageous is my first contest win, it's my first foray into the suspense genre, and it's one of my favorite stories so far! It's currently available for preorder on AmazoniBooksNook, and Kobo, it will go live on August 20th, and I'm hosting a giveaway, where you can have a chance to win one of FIVE release-day e-copies and TWO signed paperbacks! There are lots of ways to win, it's all totally free, and there are even a few entries that can be done multiple times to better your chances of winning. And who doesn't love winning, right?

But in the midst of all the new-release craze, there have also been a lot of other things going on.

1.) Selkie got a makeover! You can check out the gorgeous new cover by clicking the Selkie Trilogy link below, or visiting this makeover cover reveal post.

2.) I've revamped my website, adding a landing page, separate series pages for the Kingsley Series, the Selkie Trilogy, and the Freedom Series. Each of those pages has cover images, quick blurbs for the series as a whole and the books individually, and of course the purchase links for whichever markets those books are available on. I've also added a page where you'll find a growing list of single titles with the same set of information.

3.) I've been grouping/integrating my different social media pages as follows: I post pretty regularly on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Google+/Tsu -- sometimes it's book related, sometimes it's a blog link, sometimes it's cat pictures, other times it's dog pictures. Now and then it's what my kids are up to that day, and there are even occasional random thoughts I just felt like sharing.Usually, because there are some people that use "this" platform and others that use "that" one, I post the same thing on those five. So you can pick and choose, follow just your favorite one, or all five to make sure you never miss anything. But that's just part one of my efforts to streamline my social media. Part two is this neat little trick: I've set my blog up to auto-send to newsletter subscribers. This means great things for you in two different ways. One, if you prefer not to "subscribe" to things for whatever reason, you can just come to my website at anytime and check my blog to see what I'm up to. I try to post on every "fifth day" (you know, the first, the fifth, the tenth, the fifteenth, and so on), but I'm not always on time. Still, these posts are obviously less random and more pointed. Yes, they are also longer, because I take full advantage here of being able to really talk to you. Now, if you don't like having to remember to check websites and chase blogs, simply sign up to receive my newsletter (if you haven't already, you can fill in the simple form at the top of the blog's right sidebar), and my updates will come directly to you. You'll get posts that include book release updates, cover reveal updates, appearance news, giveaways, and sometimes even random subscriber-only prize offers.

4.) Some of you might remember when I posted a little teaser about a signing that's coming up soon, where I'll be signing alongside some really amazing authors! Remember this save the date photo? Well, I've posted some small updates since then, but now there are real developments falling into place for this! There's a Facebook page you can check for news and updates. There's a registration page, where you'll want to register early to attend the signing (free), and/or purchase tickets to the up-close-and-personal luncheon with the authors and VIP guests. There are even a few sponsorship options to check out, too. For more information about the authors involved, please see RomancingTheSmokies.com.

Wow, I wasn't kidding about being chatty, was I?