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 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 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.