Saturday, August 27, 2016

How Romance Novels Gave Me A High Standard Of Men ... And Why I Like It.

You guys know how much I love YouTube by now right? You know I like to use it for entertainment, and that I follow several different YouTubers whose videos I especially enjoy for various reasons (which is coming up in a later post). Well, one of the ones I most recently found - and fell in absolute love with - is Richard Grannon, who calls himself the Spartan LifeCoach. I haven't seen all of his videos yet (I'm working my way slowly through them), but he's a psych guru with lots of knowledge into such interesting topics as co-dependence, narcissism, toxic relationships, etc, and his videos never fail to leave me with the feeling that I've learned something valuable that I can apply to my daily life and the relationships in it.

The video I was watching most recently was this one, where he talks about relationships and sexuality between men and women as a sort of economy. At least, he did in the first third of the video, which is where I had to pause it and take a break to come talk to you guys because you know what? I loved everything I was hearing - every bit of it so far already applies perfectly to my personal view of romantic/sexual relationships, and explains things I already feel in a very clear and concise sort of way.

The concept is this: sex and dating is an economy, right, like relationships are a job. When you go out into the world seeking a relationship with someone, particularly when it's of a sexual or romantic nature, you become a product you're trying to sell. So here's what we do:
  • FOR MEN: They work out more probably, trying to become what they think every woman wants, trying to make sure that biologically, they come across as strong and virile men with strong and virile DNA, ready to procreate and carry on the human race with what will assuredly be strong and virile babies. They take showers, wash their faces, turn on the charm, trying to appeal to a woman's need to be appreciated and pursued. They dress nice, act nice - to make sure the woman knows this man can love her better than any other man that might compete for her attentions. They lay on the compliments and give gifts and open doors. They throw money out and pay for dates because they want women to see them as good providers, providers who will keep a woman safe and protected and fed so that she can nurture the young and keep providing the sexual gratification that makes men feel so manly. Maybe they don't really sit down and think about it to do it on purpose, but they do it. Some men that I have known would even save their text conversations with women, making note of their birthdays, their favorite flowers/colors/songs, so that the man can use these things later to prove that they are good listeners who care. They learn how we need to be loved, and they either learn to do it, or learn to fake it, so that we will respond to them.
  • FOR WOMEN: We shave our legs because that smooth skin is really sexy and men like to touch it on the way to the promised land, where the procreation happens. We show off our bodies, partly on purpose because it turns on and seems to attract the manly and virile men we want, and partly on a biological subconscious level because breast and hip remind those men that we women are the other half of what is needed to carry on the species. We dress our eyes up so they look bright and shiny, we wear makeup so our skin looks healthy and vibrant. We make ourselves into a visual promise of sexual satisfaction so that men want us, and we point out every possible hint of health and vitality, so that men have a biological attraction response to the idea that we will bear them healthy children and we won't die while we do it. In moving away from looks and sex, we show interest in what they like so that they feel manly and fascinating, we laugh at all their jokes so they feel funny and confident, and we encourage them to go out there and hunt and gather like a boss for our well-being. We feed their need to feel strong and virile, manly, entertaining, and safe. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable, so that they will feel needed, as all humans want to feel needed, and men are not exempt from this. We show them the respect required to feel manly and all those other things, or we fake it, so that they will respond to us.
So basically, men and women alike, we're all whores. Sort of.

But seriously, it's like any other marketing of any other product, right? Everyone does it. Perfume/Cologne commercials tell you their products are THE BEST, and if you wear their products, you'll smell THE BEST. In fact, you'll probably be downright irresistible and members of the opposite sex will be utterly unable to control themselves in the face of your complete and total domination of our senses. (I'm looking at you, Axe products that make men think they have to smell like that to be attractive. Don't y'all know we like the pheromones in good old-fashioned working man sweat?)

Food commercials do it too. "This burger is SO GOOD that it turns women on." They can't not eat it, and they even have cute little miniature orgasms while they eat it, too. So not only will you attract hot, sexy, horny women if you eat this burger, you'll also probably get to bone them afterward because if you bring them this burger, your spectacular provision of sustenance is such an incredible turn-on that you'll instantly become irresistible. Who knows, the women might even get so hot that you can bone their friends too, which is even more chances to spread your manly seed and procreate and keep your AMAZING genes swimming in the gene pool. (Hardee's, making regular women feel totally unwanted and insecure since ... whenever.) You'll probably even be extra-super irresistible if you bring the burger while wearing the cologne ...

And don't even get me going on underwear commercials that try to make women believe that if they just wear THIS bra (Soma), their breasts will magically be young enough to be appealing again, or if they wear these underwear (Victoria Secret), then men will automatically find them sexy and want to be with them (because they stop at a certain size, of course). My point is, there's a reason we use sex in marketing though - it's because sex is how we open the door to sell ourselves to the opposite gender (usually).

So once we open that door, then the marketing campaign continues. We talk about our jobs and such, our political and religious views. We try to find a good match, a buyer for ourselves as a product. We try to find our appropriate market, and we attempt to sell ourselves to those we are attracted to. In the video that spawned this post, Richard Grannon talked about how sometimes we don't do that though, because we don't realize we need to. He talked about how women whine about how men "only" want this, and how men whine about how women "only" want that. Right? Well, okay ... so if you want someone to "buy" what your "selling," but it isn't what they seem to want, here's a duh: you either sell it to someone who DOES want that, or you change your product so that it appeals to your market.

And it's in books too, where we also sell sex for entertainment, and we all individually seek out the book that holds the type of product we want. But since I'm talking about romance and not erotica, I'll get off sex for now and move on to what's next - the part that comes after the initial contact, when we're on to the real meat of the marketing campaign. We've already used our sexual health, willingness, and vitality to get the initial attention, so what now? How do we KEEP it, so that we don't have to keep cycling, searching for a new customer to buy what we're selling?

How do we keep them coming back for more?

Well, in our modern society, we often don't, and that's the simple answer. Boy meets girl, both attempt to be as attractive as possible. Both are attracted (ideally), and they embark on a relationship. But once the woman has captured the man and the man has conquered the woman ... well, then what?

Ahem. Yes, I'm aware of the imagery. I'm a romance novelist, remember?

Now I know we all go on and on about how we hate commercials (except for during Super Bowl season, where we watch TV almost as much for the commercials as for the programming, if not actually more), but the truth is, those commercials work because they appeal to what we want. They say, "Come, enjoy this fresh product that's lovingly crafted and visually appealing. It looks good for you and will bring you pleasure of some kind. You need this. Come and get it." And we listen, because we DO need that. We do need to be sustained with fresh and healthy food. We do need entertainment and companionship. Most of us do need the love and attention of the opposite sex. Most of us do feel the biological need to reproduce. We just do.

Honestly, I don't watch that much TV because the commercials work. They do appeal to me and they do make me want things. Sometimes I can get those things, sometimes I can't. And it's the times when I can't that make me avoid the TV.

But romance novels are my favorite commercial. They sell me a product that I WANT, every time - and this is one that, when the right circumstances present themselves WILL give me what I want. They sell me a woman just like me, who is maybe a little flawed and maybe a little insecure, and maybe in a little bit of danger or distress of some kind that's relatable to me on a personal level.

They sell me a feeling of solidarity, a feeling of not being alone in my human struggles as a woman. They sell me the hope that I can find and appeal to and capture the kind of man I want in my life. They sell me fights that lead to actual discussion, problems that actually get resolved ... resolution that can sometimes be heartbreakingly hard to come by in real life (unless, of course, you're the kind of person who makes a concentrated effort to better understand yourself, your spouse, your friends, your family members, and those with whom you engage in relationships of any kind. Because I'm that kind of person, which is why I'm always trying to learn more and grow more and become better. If you're that kind of person too, you might like the resources available at Regain.Us, which is a great site for personal and relationship growth and counseling.).

But perhaps the thing I love most about romance novels is the way they sell me understanding and compassion that makes emotional me feel safe and loved and protected, if only in a virtual sense, by a man who is strong and loving and willing to meet my needs through the needs of the female character I relate to. And yes, they sell me sex, the kind where a man cups my face in his hands and looks me in the eye and promises me I'm his everything, and HE MEANS IT, and he makes sure every single day of forever, that I believe it. They sell me the high of a strong palm on my waist, on my thighs. Elsewhere. They sell me the satisfied contentment of his fingers intertwined with mine, laying on the couch just because it feels good to be in each other's company. Romance marketing sells me emotional hope and fulfillment in the same way that visual marketing sells men sexual virility and gratification.

But then there's this idea going around that romance novels are bad for women - and bad for relationships in general - because "novels give women unrealistic views about what to expect out of a relationship because they, well, romanticize love." (Quote from Susan Quilliam, relationship psychologist, Cambridge)

What? I don't think so.

Romance novels are not "bad" for me. Romanticizing love is not "bad" for me. A romance novel is a commercial for the product I want, and the booming romance novel industry tells me that I am not alone in my infatuation with romanticized love. (Which is also a good reason for sites like the one linked above to exist in the first place - to help us learn more about how to relate to each other so that we can meet the needs of our loved ones.)

And it is totally true that romance novels have impacted my standard of attraction. They have impacted what checkboxes and essay questions are on the "application" for the "job" of being my romantic partner. And as unromantic as it may sound, the fact is this: if you aren't qualified to "work" here, then you don't get the "job."

Any other occupation has standards and requirements, right on down to dating. Some men prefer big boobs, some men prefer smaller. Some men prefer business women, others prefer the housewife type. Some men enjoy the challenge of juggling the multi-faceted needs of a woman who is both. Women have requirements too though, right? Of course we do! And while I learned a good deal of what I like and don't like from real-life trial-and-error relationships with boys and men throughout my life, I have also learned a good deal from studying the ideal "business" model as it applies to relationships - the romance novel.

From studying that "model" of relationship success, which is what all good romance novels really aim to be: I learned that I like the way I feel when I am complimented and treated with dignity and respect. I learned that I appreciate pretty words and flowery promises. I learned that those pretty words mean nothing without appropriate dependable action behind them. I learned that I like how it feels to dress up and go on a date with a man I know I can have a good time with. I learned that a free afternoon walk in the park is just as romantic as an expensive night out. I learned that, particularly as a larger woman, I like how it feels to feel physically small next to a large man (let's not let this get confused with emotionally small, which is not the same and will have an opposite result on my affections). I learned, after experiencing various forms of domestic abuse, that I like how it feels be held by someone who makes me feel safe and protected. I learned the desire for acceptance, the desire for compassionate understanding, the desire to feel like I am an equal and valued part of a team that works together for the greater good of all parties involved.

Most importantly, I learned that it is perfectly okay for me to want these things, these "High Standard" items of requirement that come from the way I as a romance reader have learned to "romanticize love."

It's okay for me to be attracted to men somewhere between 5'10" and 6'2" because they are taller than me and I enjoy the way my head fits on their chests. It's okay for me to be attracted to men who are on the thin or athletic side because their hardness balances out my softness. It's okay that I want my man to be physically and emotionally strong so that I can FINALLY feel safe enough to be weak sometimes. It's okay that I'd like to know someone is there to pick up the slack. It's okay that I like men who smile and have a good sense of humor, because that means we'll have fun together. It's okay that I prefer men who take care of their physical and mental health, because despite the limitations of my body, I take care of my physical and mental health too, and I want a long-term partner with the best chance of growing old with me. It's okay for me to want a man who is already as whole and happy with himself as I am with myself, because while I accept the responsibility of my own mental health and welfare, I cannot and will not accept the responsibility for his. It's okay to want him to have a steady job and a decent income, because that shows me he's ambitious and mature enough to maintain himself in a professional environment. And there's so much more, so many more things on my "checklist" of "requirements," a checklist that I am perfectly happy waiting for the right man to check off ...

Not because romance made me unreasonable, but because romance helped me learn what it's like not only to value myself, but to be valued by others. So I'll keep my high standard and my unromantic "application process" in the "dating economy." I know my own worth, and here's another thing I learned from romance novels: what I'm "selling" is incredibly valuable, and if you want to "work" here, I deserve to know that you're "qualified." Because here's the thing: at the risk of sounding cocky, my own personal acceptance tells me that as a product, I'm the difference between Louis Vuitton and Walmart, and with the marketplace I'm shopping in, that value standard is worth way more than "free."

And now, I'm off to write some more, so that I can keep helping my readers romanticize love and grow some really high standard expectations for the relationships we allow to touch our lives.

Until next week,
Happy Reading.

NOTE: This post is a partnership with Regain.Us, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving couples a better, more personalized way of learning how to communicate more effectively with their partners in order to nurture thriving relationships. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How To Snaughle

Well, there's a word I never thought I'd need to learn to spell. Anyway. I've had a stressful week. Those of you who follow me on Facebook possibly saw my post on my author page about my mother having a stress test done this past Tuesday, and any of you who have gotten to know me on a more personal level know that I tend to be more than a little anxious about my mother's health.

But that old phrase about laughter being "the best medicine?" It's true. I mean, it really is - there's nothing to cure your ills like a good hard laugh with a friend. Unless of course, you have really, really, REALLY good reasons not to laugh. Like the one mentioned in the meme to the right .... then maybe you shouldn't be laughing just yet, let alone snaughling.

All that to say this: I haven't done as much writing this week as I have in weeks past - certainly not as much as I had wanted to, because there's just been so much going on. Mom stuff, kid stuff, back to school stuff. Prepping for the Thunder Road Author Rally in Maynardville on September 10th ... 

But don't get me wrong. The words are coming, just not as fast as I'd like them to. However, with everything going on, I've been stressed. And since I've been stressed, I've been self-medicating. A lot.

With laughter.

Sometimes, I even go all out and veer into outright snaughling. But never snaughlatuling. Because come on you guys. I'm a f@ck!ng lady.

Anyway. Last September, I gave you guys a list of ten things that piss me off - so since I've been self-medicating with snaughter (?) so much lately, I thought I'd counter that list with this one, a list of ten things that make me laugh. All of the links below will take you to video or video playlists on YouTube, because that's where a great deal of my laughter comes from (when I'm seeking it out on purpose, that is), and that's where most of my laughter morphs into high pitched wheezing with bulging eyes and streaming tears, aching belly muscles, and a right sexy phlegm cough.

Click the links below; it's well worth your time to learn the fine art of snaughling for yourself.

10 Things That Make Me Laugh

01.) The "Idiots of the Internet" video series by Joe Santagato. Seriously, this guy bashes his own head in a closet door out of frustration. He shoots himself in the face with a water bottle. He falls over a chair. It's good times. Plus he's dreamy. I mean seriously, that smile, though.

02.) The "Mad Libs Madness" video series, also by Joe Santagato. Joe and his brother fill out mad libs together, and then read them back, but with a twist. Whoever is currently listening to their mad lib has to have their mouth full of water or something. The idea is that this should keep them from laughing, but ... well, it obviously never works. I've seriously laughed until I almost threw up watching these.

03.) The "Watch Ya Mouth" video series, also by Joe Santagato. Have you caught onto the theme yet? These videos also feature Joe's other siblings, and they are a hilarious bunch. This series is also a sneak peek / advertisement for a game called Speak Out, which is a new Hasbro game. I'm almost positive this isn't coincidental.

04.) "People of Walmart." This one is another Joe Santagato video series. I'm not even kidding you guys, I can watch these over and over, and he never fails to make me laugh. And there's still that whole "he's easy on the eyes" thing, so ...

Joe uploads a new video every week, and I am almost always laughing so hard I'm crying after watching his videos. He's my number one most favorite comic YouTuber, and he also has a podcast, which is usually linked under all of his new videos. If you decide to go check him out and you think he's as funny as I do, leave a comment on his videos and tell him I sent you because he always makes me laugh.

05.) This video of babies laughing. How could anyone watch this and not laugh with/at them?

06.) These animal jerks. Because sometimes, animals can be jerks.

07.) This video series of Ryan Abe eating things that make him react in the THE most hilarious ways. Ryan is really sensitive to certain flavors and textures, and his reactions to eating things he doesn't like are hilarious! I'm not sure why this video isn't part of the playlist, but it's totally worth watching.

He's also a total sweetheart with a really soft side. I love his videos, whether I'm laughing or crying with him, and I always find him entertaining. Same as with Joe ... If you go over and check his videos out, please leave him a comment and let him know I sent you because I love his channel.

08.) Here's another thing, celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves. Honestly, these make me laugh sometimes even if I don't know who the person is.

09.) But you know, I'm not a famous person. No movie star, actress, athlete. No major celebrity. But hey, we authors get mean reviews instead of mean tweets. Here are some thick-skinned authors reading mean reviews hilariously. I've even thought of doing a video of this myself.

10.) And last but not least - when I was growing up, I seriously loved watching America's Funniest Home Videos. Truthfully, I still love watching bloopers, fails, and other videos in that style, so I just couldn't leave out my favorite fail channel and their Mega Fails of the Year playlist.

And just in case none of those videos did it for you, try this. Or this. I can't even tell you how much I love looking at those memes. But alright, now that I've giggled my way through building this post for you, I've really got to go get some writing done. Until next week ...

Happy Reading,

P.S. If you wanted to see other lists like this one, check out my master list of Top 10 lists here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

StoryTime: "A Grasshopper Almost Killed Me"

This past weekend, a grasshopper almost killed me.

Most of y'all know that my mom is in bad shape. She has Congestive Heart Failure and COPD and Diabetes and Osteoporosis and about twenty other things that all have a strong impact on her daily life. My mom is just 58.

So anyway, this past weekend I took the girls and we went over to hang with her, drive her to the grocery store, and push her around while she told us what to toss in her little wheelchair basket. Joey was driving her through Kroger (because after almost running Eden over at Walmart once, Mom refuses to drive herself in an electric wheelchair), and everything was going great - we had just passed the cakes and breads in the bakery, picked up a coffee cake I was afraid she'd devour the second we left her house, and moved toward the grapes. My mom really loves grapes.

Well, Joey let go of the wheelchair handles to grab some grapes, and I had headed toward the peaches. Mom loves those too. So when Joey turned around to go back to driving, she said, "Oh, I think there's a bug on this chair." Which is where it all started.

I whipped my head around, Eden started chattering about if there was a bug or not, and my mom started squirming in that wheelchair like she was about to wet herself. She kept muttering, "Get it off, get it off," and acting like she wanted to get up out of the wheelchair. Ordinarily, she could - my mom can walk and talk and everything, she's just really fragile and uses a cane because she is super clumsy. Plus the wheelchair was ... on wheels. And the basket thing attached to it goes right over the person's lap. So thank God it wasn't full at the time because she'd have thrown groceries all over the floor and we'd have made a scene.

Anyway, now Joey won't even approach the chair, mom is slowly rolling it in a jerky little circle as she tries to escape, and I'm scared to go closer because ... well, what if there really is a bug?

There was a bug. It was a grasshopper in an absolutely stunning shade of green, just hanging out below the handle of the wheelchair. The problem with the grasshopper was, it was about as big as the handle of the wheelchair. *cue panic mode

So I take the coffee cake out of the basket, hand it to Joey, who is about to bolt across the store, and lift the basket so I can let my mom out of the chair - while holding myself back from bolting across the store. In the meantime, Eden's still standing next to me (she was really cuddly that day and stayed very close to my side) chattering away. Nonstop, as is her style.

When I got my mom out of the chair, we were too far to walk back to the door, so I left her with Jo, and Eden and I headed back to either trade out the wheelchair, or find something/someone to get rid of the horrifyingly large grasshopper.

For any of y'all who don't know me well enough yet to imagine this, the idea of me pushing that wheelchair through the Kroger while in panic mode with a seven-year-old almost literally attached to my ass is utterly laughable. So ... here I go, pushing this chair, holding it by the one handle that isn't near "the bug," trying both to stay as far from it as possible, and be fast before my poor mom can't wait anymore and her legs give out.

So we make it back to the door, where I see that there are no other chairs to swap out with. I'm stuck with the damn chair we have, Grasshopper Model #437. Great. So we get into the little vestibule, and Eden immediately takes off to buckle herself into one of those cart things that has a car on the front of it for toddlers to ride in. I snatch a sale paper from a table by the door (where the woman in charge of handing them out was laughing at me, by the way), and go outside to freak out while trying to get close enough to slap that grasshopper without being close enough to have it jump on me.

Because I'm not kidding, if that thing had jumped on me, I'd have run streaking through that parking lot. Screaming. Flailing. Probably leaving a river a fear-pee behind me. Which wouldn't have been good because my kid, as previously mentioned, was stuck to my side that day, and would have probably followed me, also screaming. And wouldn't have looked for cars because when she hears, "Stop. Look. Listen," she thinks, "Ain't Nobody Got Time For That."


The grasshopper took my feeble swatting like a champ, and moved from the handle at the top of the seat to the wheel handle that you can use to manually wheel yourself. Terrified that he'd wedge himself in somewhere and prepare for a jump attack, I stepped up my swatting, no longer caring at all that I probably looked like a total idiot.

Did you know grasshoppers have wings? Well they do. And they can fly with them. Seriously. Look. So I'm swatting, trying to get this grasshopper to Go. Away. while worrying about what might be happening with my mom inside. She really is in bad shape, and I'm feeling guilty that I left my twelve year old in charge of her. Then again, she couldn't come with, and I couldn't leave her standing there alone. So I'm swatting. And that damned grasshopper spread his wings, and I squeaked so loud a man walking past me started laughing (he kept going though - so much for chivalry, right?), and took a tiny step closer. Eventually, he did jump off and go away ... but I'm not sure where exactly. For a big ass grasshopper, he sure managed to vanish without a trace.

By the time I got back to Joey and my mom - with Eden, sans grasshopper - my mom was leaning pretty heavily on her cane. We got her situated back in the chair, made it through the store, and had an interesting chat in the checkout line about Hillary Clinton that made me doubt my mother's sanity. We all survived.

But seriously, he tried to kill me. I almost died. Life flashed before my eyes and everything.

You believe me, right?


In other news:

  • This past week, I had a week-long writing sprint with my local writing group, the East Tennessee Creative Writer's Alliance. Our goal was to add fifteen thousand words to our various projects, and the idea was just that we'd be accountable to each other -- which would spur us to work hard. 15k is an ambitious goal, y'all, especially when you consider that most writers also have day jobs, marketing goals, and other life responsibilities to deal with. So if we wrote every day, that'd still be over two thousand words a day, which is roughly ninety minutes or so of good un-distracted writing time. By the time I spent Sunday almost dying at the whim of a vicious grasshopper, I was up to a 2500-word-a-day goal. Ambitious, but not impossible. But then Monday was the first day of school here -- my daughters are now in 7th and 2nd grades, ohmygosh! It was also only a half day, and I spent most of it luxuriating in the first worry-free, uninterrupted shower I'd had in FOREVER. So that took Monday out of the writing plan. Tuesday I woke up with a daily goal of 3000 words a day for the rest of the week. See where I'm going with this? I didn't make the 15k. But I did add A LOT to Selkie II, and the book is now just under 70 thousand words. We're almost there!!! And to celebrate because I'm just so excited I can't stand it, there's a surprise waiting for my Selkie readers on this page.
  • The Thunder Road Author Rally is coming up! If you're in the Maynardville, TN area, come see me on September 10th at the Maynardville Public Library on Main Street. I'll be there from 9am-1pm, I'll have books to sign and sell, swag to give away, and possibly even a gift basket you can buy raffle tickets to win. There will be over 50 other authors there, too -- and did I mention, the event is FREE?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

So ... I Got Mail!

I'm not sure if you guys all know this or not (because I'm terrible about that sort of thing, I tend to just put things up and hope you see them), but I have a street team. It's called the BK Bookies, and it's just a little group of people close to me, people who love my books and want to help me make sure my work is getting out there. My team members get to be part of a secret Facebook group; each week I post a conversation starter to help us all get to know each other better, and I also post a focus task for the week. Doing the focus tasks earns members points toward a Christmas box full of fun surprises at the end of the year -- the member with the most points wins the box, and the only thing really required for membership is that members read and review my books!

I've been having a great time getting to know the members of my team, small as it currently is, and the intimate setting of our Facebook group has allowed me to foster relationships with the people who love my books the best, including Jodie Pierce, a sweetheart of a woman who also happens to be an author. We haven't met in person yet, but I can tell you that distance truly means nothing. Jodie has been a valuable addition to my team, despite the effort it takes to build her own writing while maintaining her personal life AND acting as the sole caretaker to both of her parents for the entire time that I've known her. Recently, Jodie lost her father in a tragic complication of his already fragile medical state. It broke her heart, and she has had to walk through the days that followed without him, holding herself together like a champ in order to continue caring for her mother. And yet ...

This woman has continued not only to be a valued friend who has become an almost-daily fixture in my life, but she's also continued to support my writing in a way that touches me to the soul. She has been a beautiful addition to my life both as a street team member and as a friend, and she is incredibly thoughtful.

Just a few weeks ago, Jodie told me she'd sent me a package in the mail. Just because. Now, I've quietly kept a PO Box for a couple of years at this point, mostly because having an address is a requirement for my newsletter, and I didn't want to put my house on it (you can never be too careful, hmm?). I mention it from time to time, but for the most part this little PO Box has been sitting there quite neglected, mostly unused by me and often stuffed to the brim with random junk mail. I've used it a few times to collect donated swag items or books from fellow authors for various contests and such (some of which I actually still have bits and pieces of since I got so much) but for the most part, I check it less and less often because I expect nothing of value to be in it and really, who needs more catalogs?

But then when Jodie was planning to send me a just-because-she's-awesome package, she asked me, "Hey, what's your address?" and it occurred to me that maybe some of you guys might want that address too. Maybe some of you didn't realize that it's listed in my follow section, or just hadn't had the time to notice that it's listed in the bottom of my newsletters with all the other general information most of us never look at (me included). I assume a good number of you don't really care, but I thought I'd share my PO Box here, just in case there are readers among you who want it and maybe were afraid to ask or something.

Author Brandi Kennedy
PO Box 12035
Knoxville, TN 37912

Also, in the interest of another of my favorite kinds of YouTube videos (For some reason I LOVE watching mail vlogs where my favorite YouTubers open their mail from people who watch their videos. I'm so nosy.), I'm going to show you what I got from this incredible reader who has become a valued friend.

I've already worn the silver butterfly necklace ... I opened my package in the car and couldn't resist putting it on in the car right outside the post office! The other pieces are beautiful pins that I'll treasure always, and probably wear when I'm out and about; I think they'll look pretty on some of my sundresses! I'm still sort of in shock that she sent me such beautiful things, just because. They still make me smile whenever I see them.

Thank you, Jodie. You're a beautiful person, and I'm so grateful that books introduced us to each other ...

And speaking of books, I've got to go work on finishing Selkie II! The book is currently just under 60k words, and I hope you'll be reading it soon -- but while you wait, don't miss your chance to catch up on the Selkie Trilogy by picking up your copy of Selkie today. I just know you'll love it.

Happy Reading,