Friday, September 25, 2015

If I Don't Mention This, Will You Notice?

Hi, guys! In case I haven't told you this, I am super excited about the progress being made on More Than Friends. I love this book, I love these characters, I love the story. I love love love it. And I'm almost 75% finished with the writing!

Seriously, I can't even tell you how hard I'm trying not to release a thousand chapters and sneak peeks and teasers (oh my?). I hope you all love Michael Kingsley as much as you have loved all of my characters so far.

Actually, the writing of that book is why the thing happened, the thing I'm not going to mention, the thing that you may or may not notice. (If you do notice, send an email to authorbrandikennedy@gmail.com with "That Thing" as the subject line. Reference this post, tell me what you think the thing is, and if you're right, you might win a little sump'n'-sump'n'.)

In the meantime, let me take a break from talking about myself to ask you something. Do you ever watch YouTube? Like, just kind of obsessively? And if you do, what do you watch? Who do you like? Which videos are your favorites? (If you're reading this on the blog, please feel free to comment. If you're seeing it through the newsletter, you can comment or reply to the newsletter with your favorite youtube videos. If I like the ones you share with me, I might pick one to talk about here!)

But okay, back to me. This morning, I saw this video from one of my favorite YouTubers, and it got me thinking. We all have things that piss us off, right? I know I do, so I thought I'd share some of those things with you. Here are:

10 Things That Piss Me Off

01.) ASKHOLES. Oh my gosh, I cannot stomach too much time spent with an askhole. People who are always whining like, "Oh this is so terrible! What do I do??" and then I, having generally carefully thought through the advice I'm about to offer, tentatively offer a suggestion. And then the person says something similar to, "Oh no, that couldn't work."

The thing is, that's feasible enough. In fact, you might even be right and for whatever reason, that really wouldn't work. I'm cool with that, I'm not a guru, you know?

But if we get down to my eighty-seventh suggestion and you're still shutting me down with no attempt to try or even think of trying any of the previous eighty-six suggested solutions to your problem ... I will assume that you don't really want to fix your problem, you just wanted to whine about it. Which is actually fine, but don't lie. If all you want me to do is hold your hand and listen to you cry, that's cool, just say so. Just don't give me a headache trying to solve a problem you actually wanted to keep holding onto. People with "it's not my fault" syndrome fit into this category, too.

*There is an exception to the no-askholes rule. This is Dana, and only because I can be a total askhole to her and she never minds. Therefore, she is allowed to be an askhole to me. Even though she is a problem solver so she doesn't usually act like an askhole.


02.) SPEAKER. PHONE. If you are in a restaurant, store, bus, train, plane, or pretty much anywhere near me, and you are on a call which you have chosen to broadcast to the world at large, you are guaranteed to have pissed me off. First of all, that is rude to the person you're on the phone with, who called you specifically to talk to you, not the whole room, store, restaurant, etc. This person now has to be careful of what they say and how they react, since the conversation is no longer private, as intended. And that's assuming that you at least had the subpar manners to let them know you were putting them on speaker.

This is also rude to me and to everyone else in the general vicinity, a group of people who are now uncomfortably aware of every word of your conversation and who are generally also required to be quiet so that you can hear the usually ridiculously quiet (or sometimes ridiculously loud) speaker call. This effectively makes the call a conference-type call, since everyone around is required to be quiet and therefore forced to listen in. It's even worse if you then have the unmitigated gall to be annoyed with people who are caught listening or who dare to speak up.

And don't even get me started on people who put me on speaker. I will seriously get so uncomfortable that I will end the call.

*Exception: People who use speakerphone etiquette. For example, if you're alone and need your hands for something and are not technologically forward enough to have a hands-free device. But even then, dude ... just get a bluetooth.

03.) CONSPIRACY THEORIES. I'm not even going to go into how much this pisses me off, or the list of really stupid theories that come to mind at even the briefest mention of this topic.

*Exception: If you are proven right, without a shadow of doubt. But I mean literally, without even one little tiny bitty halfway-there shadow. Because if you tell me about a conspiracy theory you've bought into, I might think you've gotten a few wires crossed somewhere. Then again, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. And I'm sure "they" know who "they" are. Just as long as you can prove "they" exist and have the motives/behaviors they're accused of having.

04.) LIARS. Oh, how I despise liars. Now, don't get me wrong though, because I'm a really flaky and absentminded person. I know it, I own it. I try not to make excuses for it. I forget things, which causes me to forget things I've said I'd do, places I said I'd be, even things I really truly meant to send. But I'll say that I forgot, and I'll get on it. Other people have that, too. What I'm talking about is the population of purposeful liars that unfortunately waste space and inconvenience the rest of us on this planet. The people who say they're on the way but they know they aren't, just because they don't want to be honest about being late and own the consequences of that action. The ones who say the check is in the mail but they haven't written one, because they truth is they don't pay their bills, but they definitely don't want you calling them out about it. People who tell you one thing happened, but something else did, and they could have told the truth but chose not to. People who willfully deceive others to get their way, to look better than they are, or to take something from someone else. These people are one of the worst kinds of horrible person.

And yes, a lie by omission is still a lie. There are no exceptions to this rule.

05.) GRAMMATICAL IGNORANCE. This isn't the same thing as a typo or something like that; we all have those, and while they suck, it's just a thing. But seriously, grammatical ignorance is when someone has gone through school, graduated high school, possibly moved on to college, and still doesn't know the difference between ask/ax, there/their/they're, and its/it's, among others. If you bid someone "a due" instead of "adieu," you fit here. If you use big words or fancy words to sound smart even though you don't know what the words means, and thus you like a pompous idiot, you fit here.

If you think "grammar Nazis" should "let it go," then you fit here. No, the "grammar police" shouldn't "let it go," and they don't need to "lighten up." Willfully ignorant people should try getting an education, especially before they try to use big words to sound smart because they believe they are smarter than everyone else. If you want to look smart, then make the effort to be smart.

It's even worse when I see things like that in the publishing world. Writers, no. If you are trying to make money selling a product to me that is based on your mastery of the English language as an art form, then you should know how to make words and put them together intelligently. If you can't, you need a different job. It's not an insult. I'm not being mean, I'm not shooting anyone down, I'm just sharing a hard truth.

I'm not going to get into a plane with a pilot who doesn't know the difference between a wing and a winglet, or the rudder and the elevators (and yes, I know the differences. I looked them up, because I actually want to know what I'm talking about, not just pretend I do). I'm not going to trust the cooking of someone who doesn't know the difference between cinnamon and paprika (got that one down, too). So why should I trust the writing (or speaking, for that matter) skills of a person who doesn't know the difference between then and than, or the difference between two/to/too?

Bingo-speak fits this category, too. If U R going over 2 the store l8r N U want me 2 go w/U, and if you actually type it like that, then no. I don't want 2 go w/U. I'll be busy, reading the dictionary to regain the brain power that text just cost me. Honestly, if you want to know how I really feel, check this video.

*Exception: Bingo-speak may used with discretion to force something to fit on Twitter. Otherwise, you can never tweet a full thought. At least, I can't.

06.) FOOD ON MY HANDS. I know, it's weird. But I seriously do not like food on my hands. I don't like goo under my nails, and I don't like crumbly stuff stuck all over my fingers. I eat chicken wings with silverware, I'm not even kidding. I am aware that this pisses other people off, and I am also aware of how annoying it is that I don't care.

To make it worse ... oh my gosh, if there is soggy wet food in the sink when I go to wash the dishes and one of my kids has left a bread crust or something? No. Absolutely not. I can't stand it. Ew.

07.) PEOPLE WHO NEED TO BE BEGGED IN ORDER TO CONVERSE. If I ask someone what's wrong because they keep sighing and moping and texting sad faces and stuff, and then they're like, "No, I don't want to bother you with it," then I will inevitably think, "Well, you already have, so you might as well tell me." Or if you say, "Oh my gosh, I saw the coolest new show last night! I'm so addicted to it now!" then I will almost always ask, "Cool. What show?" If after that, you tell me the name and only the name with no other details, I will roll my eyes and ask, "What's it about?" even though I would almost be willing to bet that you'll answer with "Google it."

Um, no. The point of a conversation is that there should be a back and forth. That's how it works. I did my part, I took the bait and asked the question. But I'm not going to beg. And here's the thing; if you can't come up with a few short sentences to tell me what this show is about, even though you are so totally excited ... then I'm not interested anymore. Sorry, not sorry. I'm not going to Google it unless it actually interests me, and it won't unless you make it more compelling with some actual details. I also can't sympathize as well with your big terrible horrible unbearable problem, if you've spent the last fifteen minutes making me beg you to tell me what it is. By that point, I'm probably so annoyed I don't really care.

08.) SPEECH CENSORSHIP. Recently, Donald Trump went under fire for not "defending" the President when someone "accused" him of being Muslim. Without speaking to my personal views on either President Obama or Donald Trump, let me say that I would like to know when it became an insult to be referred to as Muslim. Just like I'd like to know when it became an insult to be called "black," or "retarded," or whatever. The word Muslim means, "a follower of the religion of Islam." This is not an insult, it is a religious specification. Some people are Jews, some people are Christians, some people are Muslim. And despite the worldwide issues with certain groups of terrorist assholes, it still isn't an insult to be Muslim. Just like the word "black." When used to refer to a person of color, it is not a racial comment, it is simply a specification. Some people are black, some are white, some are yellow, some are red. These are colors, tones of skin. Not insults. And for the record, the word "retarded" is defined as being "less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age."

Let me also specify that that definition is qualified as the "dated offensive" definition of this particular adjective. There is also an "informal offensive" definition (I'm not kidding, look.), which is written as "very foolish or stupid," which to me might indicate that a person is "less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age."

 Let me say that if any of those words (or a long list of other ones) should come out of my mouth, it is because I feel that the use is justified, usually as a specification or a way to describe something I think, see, or feel. And I'll use whichever words I feel best for any situation, regardless of the politically correct value of the chosen word. That's my right, purchased with the blood of millions of servicemen and servicewomen who fought and died to defend the rights of the citizens of my country, and no one else is allowed to stomp on that. Should anyone attempt to, I'd be pretty quick to inform them of how f-ck-ng r-t-rd-d that is.

Also, if you stake claim to a word like retarded, and then say something like, "You're not allowed to say that word because my best friend's cousin's daughter's first friend in Kindergarten was retarded," and if retarded is such a bad word that no one should ever use it, then who the hell do you think you are to assign that kind of word to someone?

Again, sorry, not sorry.

09.) SLOBS. I cannot stand it when someone leaves things laying around instead of putting them away, especially if they expend the energy to complain without actually doing anything about it, or when they are always asking other people where their stuff is because they can't find it, since they didn't put it away. This is one of those things that makes me feel completely insane with frustration. I mean really, if you drink a coke in the living room, and then get up to go pee in the bathroom, and you will pass a trash can along the way, take the can with you and throw it away. Do it now, while you're up, instead of waiting until later and saying you "forgot" as a way of excusing your slob-ness to others. Or hell, if you're that lazy, at least catch someone else heading that way and ask them to do it. If you're going to be lazy, own it. But don't be a slob. Also, if you go out to eat somewhere, especially a fast food type of place, clean up after yourself. That's why they make the trash cans so easily accessible, right there next to the door on the way out. Yes, the employees get paid to work there, and they will have to clean up if you don't, but really, how hard is it to just throw your own trash away or pick up your own laundry, etc.?

10.) IRRESPONSIBLE PARENTS AND PET OWNERS. Honestly though, it's irresponsible people in general. Even the flaky ones like me. Everyone should, in general, keep their own chaos, kids, pets, and problems under control. Sometimes this is hard, and sometimes it involves making hard decision or facing hard truths. But as an adult, it is our job to suck it up, make it right, and keep going. That's what makes this world work. So if you know you forget stuff, make lists. Monitor your productivity. I try to. If you know you're a lax parent and your kid's behavior is starting to show it, straighten up and get your kids in order so I don't have to deal with the consequences of your inaction. Same with pets. If you're on the other side of the spectrum and you tend to be dictatorially strict, try to loosen up a little. Say yes more. Branch out more. Relax. If you aren't sure which side you're on but you know you don't have the right balance? Ask someone who loves you, and ask them to be honest.
_______________

Did you relate to any of my ten things? If so, which one hit you the hardest, and is that because you hate that, or because you are that?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Last Weekend, I Met ...


Several months ago, I was pointed toward the registration form for a lecture that Liliana was going to be holding in Indianapolis about self-publishing and where the industry is going. I know, it's not really something for readers, and maybe you guys aren't totally thrilled about this, but I was. The publishing industry has undergone so many major changes in recent years, especially in the quality and perception of self-publishing, and I was really curious to hear what a truly successful self-published author might have to share. You might be thinking that this really has nothing to do with you as a reader of my books, but hold on, because what I learned is going to make me a better business woman and a better author. This is of course very good for you.  *wink*

So, how was my trip? Well, I traveled with Felita Daniels, the mind behind Lilac Reviews. We made the drive from Knoxville to Indianapolis in pretty good time (five and a half hours or so, wow!), but we were both tired from the drive and I was getting a little hoarse from the abundance of great conversation! Five and a half hours of enriching talk over books, business, movies, and our own personal lives was enriching, but that was a lot of talk!

Our hotel had a small social/happy hour sort of thing going, so we stopped in the little kitchen area for complimentary drinks and popcorn, and then scrapped our original Friday night dinner plan in favor of somewhere closer to our hotel (which was amazing, BTW. Embassy Suites in downtown Indianapolis is both very beautiful and beautifully accommodating.). After asking for some recommendations at the front desk, we headed out.

Unfortunately, the restaurant we had chosen had a bit of a wait, and we were ready to find some dinner and put the night to rest, so we headed across the street to a little Italian place called Buca di Beppo that was serious perfect. Felita and I were sort of in awe the whole time we were there -- the entire place is covered from wall to wall (and almost floor to ceiling in some places) with small photographs and bits and pieces of art that ranged from beautiful to inspiring to amusing, and the background music is all bluesy and romantic. We were seated in a sort of back room, so we were led down the hall and past the kitchens, and we of course had our order taken by a top notch and very personable server who was a delight throughout the entire meal.

I don't think I've ever been in a restaurant setting quite like that one, and I'm not sure I ever will be again. Over dinner, Felita and I talked shop, the things that make a romance so appealing to romance readers (because it's what I write), and the things that make mysteries so mysterious (because that's what she writes). Over the course of a conversation about murder methods and the best choice of weapons, I began to notice that the waiters who had been singing along with the music while they swept under tables and rearranged chairs, had gone quiet. In fact, we were down to one waiter in the room, who was very silently and very quickly sweeping the floor while maintaining a noticeable distance from our table. Perhaps it was to give us privacy, but when I saw his eyebrows shoot up as the list of possible murder weapons grew longer, I couldn't hold back a laugh.

"Felita," I said, "I think we're scaring that poor guy over here." He commented that maybe we sort of were, since he had only caught bits and pieces that ranged from her son's experiences in military training to love and lust and murder motives and weapon options. We laughed and laughed, explaining that we're writers, and so then we had a great conversation that drew the service staff back to our table as we discussed the books one of the guys was reading (Omg, you guys, he had a Kindle In. His. Pocket. SWOON.), which eventually led us to a discussion of several movies I've now added to my "must-watch" list. Seriously, one of my best dining-out experiences ever. If you're ever in Indianapolis, don't forget to check out Buca's. It'll be worth it.

Anyway, from there we moved on to dessert. And let me tell you, when you read the dessert menu and it says "Colossal Brownie Sundae" ... they are not lying. Seriously, you guys, check that thing out! We saw it on the menu in a little martini glass and thought, "Oh sure, that'll be yummy!" And then it came. And for some perspective, let me tell you that that water glass next to the sundae is a normal-sized water glass. So, that sundae? Huge. We both ate two small servings out of it in an effort to make it worth the price, and we barely made a dent.

It was delicious, though, just like everything else. I still can't get over what a great little find that place was!

Saturday we woke up refreshed and happy, looking forward to attending the lecture. We headed downstairs to enjoy the most in-depth complimentary breakfast ever. Seriously, you guys, this wasn't just over-cooked hard-boiled eggs and instant oatmeal. I'm talking omelettes made to order and thick french toast with fruit and whipped cream. Yum.

Really though, that's all before we get down to the business of the trip. I mean, the drive up was great, the hotel was great, the food was great. But Liliana? I can't even. She's gorgeous, she's talented, and she's smart. She's really funny, she's business-savvy, she's inspiring. I took notes about running my business, writing and promoting my books, covers, and social media, and how and when to work certain other aspects of writing as a business that I love. Seriously, lots and lots of notes.

But now, because writing is my passion even more than it's my business, today I'm back to the grind, keeping two great main ideas from Liliana in the forefront of my mind. One, "Be Bold." And two, "Write The Next Book." So bye for now ... I'm off to work on applying what I learned, boldly writing what I think just might be my best book yet. And while I'm doing that, you might want to catch up on the Kingsley Series, because More Than Friends goes live on November 10th.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Conflicted

I haven't written in over a week, and I totally missed fifth day! But in my defense ...

Lately I've been super pressed by plans to rehype the Kingsley Series, in preparation to release More Than Friends on November 10. I'm in line to do that, and most of the plans I had set for myself are working out nicely, which I love, but I have been thinking a lot lately about my choices for the plot and character conflicts within my books.

In Fighting For Freedom, there is external conflict. In Selkie, there is external conflict. In Courageous, same thing. External conflict is a valuable tool, a way for authors to endear their characters to their readers. A way to express a character's strength and morality, the way they view the world and the way they work within it.

But what about when a writer purposely chooses to (mostly) ignore external conflict in an effort to get deeper? Throughout the Kingsley Series, internal conflict is the largest focus. Yes, this creates a slower pace, and yes, it doesn't have a lot of super exciting action. But what it does is get down to the heart of why we read ... to be touched by the way people can grow and develop in spite of the external factors. Fat Chance has some external conflict, but only to fuel the pain and rejection Cass is already feeling internally. Only to fuel her depression, because a woman like Cass ... the truth is, the world at large tells women like Cass that they aren't good enough, that they don't deserve to exist. You've all probably heard about, read about, or seen the recent youtube video that caused such a fuss by doing exactly that -- and I'm purposely not linking it here because it's vile and disgusting. It's why people like Cass need books about people like Cass; to remind us in our hearts, we, like everyone else, want to belong to something. To be accepted, to be wanted, to be loved. To be somebody's somebody. The struggle is no less real for the fact that it's internal ... and maybe the fact that it's internal makes it more real.

In Prescription For Love, the theme continues. Cameron doesn't have a lot of external conflict, because I felt that what she had endured in the past was more than enough. It helped to make her who she is in the beginning of the story, and it helps to bring her around to who she'll be in the end. We're all made up of the sum total of the events in our pasts, right? And Cameron's conflict exists now in the deepest places in the back of her mind, in the most vulnerable corner of her heart. It's internal. A terrible event still affects her daily life, but it does it by hurting the way she sees things, the way she feels about things. She isn't fighting a monster or running from a bad guy, but she's living with a struggle just like everyone else, and yet a seed of longing still exists -- a longing to believe that love can be a real and lasting thing, in spite of the horror that she has experienced. The external conflict is over long before the story begins, but it leaves behind an internal monster that does not die easily.

In Wrestling Harmony, there is a very small amount of external conflict, but there is still plenty of battling for our character to deal with. She's living under the grip of crippling anxiety, spawned by one singular but very traumatic memory, and is somewhat stagnant in her daily life because she's too nervous to move forward. She has no idea what she wants or where she's going. But then, along comes a boy, and her calm everyday routine is gone. Everything changes. And sure, there's external issues like work and friends and fitting into the Kingsley family dynamic. But the deeper conflict is the one that changes Harmony from what she was to what she can be, as is true of the entire series.

When you read The Kingsley Series, don't read it seeking bullies and fight scenes, drama and crashes and things like that. Even if it's there you won't catch me focusing on it, because that's not what these stories are about. But if you want to open your heart to real characters who are buried in the process of becoming, and you want to watch them learn to be something even they didn't think was possible, then it's past time for you to meet the Kingsleys.

Introduce yourself to Cass and Drew, Cameron and Mac, Harmony and Xander. See them learn to open their hearts, not just within the bonds of family, but in love.

And if you like them, then you will LOVE Michael. I already do.


In other news:
  • I was interviewed last month by Jodie Pierce, an awesome author who loves to shine her spotlight on others. It was great to sit down and answer her questions! Check it out here.
  • Also, I won a spotlight post from Just Another Girl and Her Books (blog). In it, Katie was so sweet to share not only the info and links to one of my books, but for all of them! There are a few teasers you may not have seen, too, and there's another interview!
Interviews are an amazing way to get to know your favorite authors, so if I'm one of yours, don't forget to check the links above, and leave a comment to tell us your favorite part!
REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.