Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Norma Jean, by Amanda Heath

About The Book:
The night Chance Duncan drunkenly kissed me on his couch, I vowed my revenge. I finally had something over his head, something that would bring him to his knees. It only served him right. He bullied me for years and turned me into this messed up person I am now.

Though I didn't know at the time he wasn't that mean little boy anymore. He was almost a man and easily stole my breath away. I just wanted to make him fall in love with me, then break his heart into a million pieces. Just the way mine was. Instead he put the pieces back together and I started to feel whole again.

Good things never last. He did what I was supposed to do. Broke my already fragile heart all over again. Betrayed and alone I fled my home town and started a new life where I wasn't in the shadow of what I did. 

Now he is back and trying to worm his way into my heart, again. Though he will never know it will always belong to him. He hurt me and I want nothing to do with him. Life has other plans. Doesn't it always?

He doesn’t know though. Doesn’t know what I’m hiding or who I’m hiding from. I never thought I would see Chance again and I’m afraid that he’ll get hurt getting mixed up in my mess. Though he is right in the middle of it, without even knowing it. I have to find a way for us to get out, before somebody dies.

My name is Norma Jean and this isn't a fairytale.


My Review of the Book:
Norma Jean is an angsty teenager with a personal history of pain. She suffered from horrific acne in her younger years and at the hands of a guy named Chance, she suffered some serious emotional scarring. Obviously, Norma and Chance don't get along well - but throughout the book, you watch Norma and Chance grow closer to each other, eventually beginning to date and maybe even fall in love ... but is it all a sham?

Norma has set her heart on revenge, but will her plan backfire? She gets her way, and Chance falls in love with her. Which would be great if she hadn't fallen in love with him too - if her plan hadn't blown up in her face.

There's a lot going on in this book, with tons of supporting characters (some have said too many), each with their own personal backstory. As a writer myself, I can't imagine how Ms. Heath manages all these characters without getting them confused!

Still, if you can keep your focus on the main characters, this is definitely a story with a lot of meat to it. This book touches on bullying, domestic violence, and rape. For those of you who need even more than that, there's also a touch of suspense - in the form of an unexpected psycho who tosses the story into chaos and forces Norma to stand on her own, facing the difficulties from her past, the horror in her present, and the fear that she may have messed up her future.

This book has a lot of drama and there's an absolute ton going on - but as I said before, if you can keep your focus on the main characters and the sugary-sweet romantic lines sprinkled throughout the story, you'll find a decent few hours between the covers of Norma Jean.


A Message From Amanda:
I love that Ms. Heath takes the time in her Acknowledgements to thank her readers, whether they are lasting fans or not. She says,
"I can't thank y'all enough for buying this book and reading. Whether you enjoy it or not. You took a chance on me and I'm so honored that you did."

Isn't that sweet? Doesn't it make you just wanna follow her all over the web and be her biggest new fan? If it does, you're in luck. She's on:

Facebook / Blogger / Goodreads / Twitter

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Release The Beast" Excerpt

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in 
ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.


Photo courtesy of  nixxphotography | freedigitialphotos.net
Release The Beast
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

*****

He'd done it for the last time. He'd taken from me for the last time. He'd hurt me for the last time. And I was FINISHED with hurting over the lies and the loss. I was over it, in a way I'd never felt before.


I stalked him quietly as he walked. We'd been at my house, talking for hours. Fighting for hours. I'd confronted him again, asking him about the other girl, about the parties and all the lies. And he'd lied to me again, looking plainly into my face, as if that could save him. He'd disrespected me for the last time, treating me like a blind fool who couldn't see the truth in the black abyss of his lies. I'd sent him away, screaming for him to leave, afraid of what might happen to him if he denied it again.

I'd given him an escape, sending him away.

And seeing the smirk as he strutted down my driveway, I changed my mind. I changed. I watched him walk as I stood in my living room and stripped away the clothes that helped me appear human. Closing my eyes, I allowed the beast within me to take me over, to come to the forefront. My fingers grew longer, claws ripping through my fingertips. My skin trembled, hair springing forth as the change came over me, as the beast was released. And then I followed him.

He turned, feeling the heat of my anger burning into him. The fire was a warning to him, as it would be to all humans; when they felt it, they'd walk faster, stop talking, and try to disappear. He did it too, walking a little faster and tucking his neck down into his shoulders, his instinct to protect himself, to look out for his own back.

He didn't know what was coming.

He didn't know I was coming.

Creeping along behind him, I waited until he crossed the sidewalk and stepped into the street. Growling softly, I padded closer, watching him as he turned to look at me. I smelled the fear and as I approached, I smelled the urine. Pulling my lips back in what would have been my human smile, I bared my teeth, loving the scent of his racing blood. He froze, and my chest rumbled, a vicious snarl tumbling out of me while the human inside me laughed at his cowardice.

And then I let go of my inner beast completely.

I lunged forward, my claws scrambling for purchase on the asphalt as he turned clumsily to run, falling into the street and trying to scoot away from me in an awkward crab-walk. There was no hope for him, there was no escape. He'd been offered his final chance, and humankind could do without his vicious disrespect.

Landing heavily on his chest, I threw him back, snarling again as his head his the pavement. He grunted, turning his head against the pain, not realizing that in doing so he bared his throat to me. So many times as a human, I'd kissed that same throat, loving the rumble of pleasure that would flow out of him like liquid sex. So many times I'd grazed him with my teeth, loving the way he trembled under my touch. Not this time.

This time, I dug my claws into him, holding him with the weight of my beast and the strength of my paws. I licked his face, tasting the tears of his pathetic fear. And when I nuzzled his throat for the last time, I growled a soft goodbye.

When my jaws clenched tight, sinking teeth into the tender flesh of his throat, he finally screamed, and I silenced his cry as he had silenced all of mine, with a quick and final shake of my head. He gurgled as the blood flowed into the street, puddling around him. His eyes watched me, confused as I crept along the length of his struggling body, biting and clawing deliberately, opening his flesh and spilling his blood.

Before it was over, I crept over and sat beside him, whining softy to bring his eyes to mine. I commanded the beast back, allowing the change to touch my eyes, bringing out the green he would recognize even in the face of the beast. He knew me; he shuddered and gurgled, reaching one hand weakly out to me. Snapping viciously, I ripped his hand open, and as he jerked it back to his chest, crying desperately, I turned and left him.

Alone.
Like me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Impact Of A Story

I recently celebrated my four-month "anniversary" as a published author, and tomorrow makes one week since Prescription For Love, my third novel (and the second book in the Kingsley Series), went live on Amazon Kindle. I still can't believe how much my life has been impacted by this journey.

Thus far, my most successful effort in writing has been the publication of Fat Chance. Cass began her journey as a woman devastated by suicidal self-hatred, and Fat Chance follows Cass as she learns to be strong and confident. We watch her grow confident enough to allow herself to be loved. We watch her learn to stand on her own two feet, we watch her gain the confidence to stand up to people who are determined to take her down. We watch her learn to be who she is, and then we watch her learn to genuinely love who she is.

I'm not sure I'll ever forget the first time someone reached out to me to tell me how much Cass meant to her. It wasn't even a fat girl!! She was actually very thin and had struggled with her own small size all her life - and even with the typical "extra" pounds that stick around once we have our babies, this woman is still remarkably small. Two children later, on a good day she may actually be able to buy something in the adult women's section instead of the teenager department. But she's an utterly stunning woman and a spectacular person - and because body issues are the same regardless of size, this sweet woman related to the body and confidence issues in Fat Chance. And it was in getting to know her that I began to learn a comforting lesson of my own: body issues are universal.

Fat or small, short or tall, we all have our doubts. We all have our insecurities, and this woman was no exception. She said:
"I don't think you realize the powerful book you wrote. I never struggled with being overweight, but I did struggled with being extremely thin. I was made fun of and had cruel jokes thrown my way. Like if I went to the restroom people joked that I was probably going to throw my food up. It was bad. I was very self conscious about the way I looked, the clothes I wore. So I had some of the same struggles just opposite and it (Fat Chance) was so hard to read at times because it reminded me of my struggle. My saving grace was my husband ... He saw beauty in me like no other."

It's strange - in the most perfectly perfect way - to be having people reach out to me in like that. It's strange to feel like I have something valuable to contribute to the self-love and body-positive conversation, something that other women would be helped by and want to internalize a piece of. But it's also one of the most emotional and amazing experiences of my life.

I can remember times when I just knew I'd never be "a real writer," though I realize now that I have always been a writer just as real as any other. I can remember times, as recently as a year ago, when I was terrified, scared to death ... because I knew by then, knew with all of my heart that I wanted needed to be an author. But then I released To Love A Selkie, just over four months ago, and I'd done it. Finally, at 28-almost-29 years old, I was an author.

And then there was the fear.
  • "Would it be okay?"
  • "Would everyone love it, or hate it?"
  • "Would anyone like it?" And then,
  • "Was that all I had?"

I was terrified that I'd be one of those people who really didn't have "it," one of those people who'd written a book just so that they could say they had done it. Even lower than a "one hit wonder," because that would have required To Love A Selkie to be an instant success, and it wasn't. Not to mention the tragic romance in To Love A Selkie gave me a good healthy terror of the review process, and it made me nearly paralyzed with fear as it came time to release Fat Chance to the public. But it went so much better than I ever dreamed. Comments like the one quoted above mean the world to me; they are things that I actually save to look back on later, things that I keep in the little places of my heart. Still, I didn't ever picture them coming in regularly - but they are. Another woman said:
"I can tell you unabashedly. Fat Chance moved me in a way you will never know. Reading Cass's story was like reading parts of myself, so so many of her thoughts resonated with me deep into my soul. Although I am married and have two kids and my health, I still feel like Cass some days on the inside."

I can't even express how much all of this means to me. But (through my blog posts and my characters) I can try. I can tell you about my personal journey with self-confidence, and I can share little bits of who I am with the people who reach out to me. I can be open and honest about my experiences, and I can keep myself accessible (even if I am a little slow on the email replies).

Edited to add: You can now read Fat Chance for FREE! Download it here. (March 2018)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Into The Light, by HK Savage



Into The Light - book 2 in The Admiral's Elite series. (Adult Paranormal)


EDITED TO NOTE: This cover has since
been SERIOUSLY upgraded. (March 2018)
Read book one first - you can find it for your Kindle here, and you'll also get to see the new GORGEOUS cover! 


About The Book:
A vicious serial killer is on the loose in Wisconsin and it's up to the Admiral's Elite to stop him. Admiral Black's second in command, Captain Michael Rossi, has been tasked with finding out who or what the killer is and put an end to his reign of bloodshed while avoiding some pitfalls of his own. Like hiding the fact that he's falling in love with Becca from the admiral who would be sure to use it against them. Ghosts from Gabrielle's past threaten her place with her unit and Ryan's bed.

Local police are puzzled and the town is terrified. The Admiral's Elite must find a killer, stop him without anyone finding out their true identities, and not be torn apart in the process.


My Review of the Book:
I read Second Sight in just over two days, breezing through it effortlessly. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, I loved the story. Have I mentioned love? Because I loved it.


So of course, I was really looking forward to reading Into the Light, and I'll confess I was terribly disappointed in one thing. As soon as I opened the file to read it, I discovered that it's a bit shorter than the first book, which saddened me because I'd been looking forward to more of the characters. Still, that initial sadness was quickly forgotten as I dug into the plot and remembered my love for the characters. The vulnerability of both Michael and Becca was endearing, especially in light of Michael's impeccable strength. I loved watching him lose himself in Becca, and I loved the side story with Gabrielle and Ryan also.


Another confession: I hate the Admiral. He's really coming off as a giant ass, and is definitely not my favorite character. I think I may even have like the wendigo better than the Admiral, if that says anything.


Which it will, once you've read the book. And you have to, because it's A+ awesome. I loved it, and I love the obvious effort the author put into crafting the storyline. It's an amazing job, and now I'll be watching for the third book in the serious to come out. I can't wait to see what happens next with Ryan and Gabrielle, Michael and Becca, and yes, even the wretched Admiral.


I'm giving the book four stars, and you need to know that this is a very high four stars! Paranormal isn't usually my reading genre, but the brilliance of HK Savage is a part of my conversion, for sure. There's a certain unique special-ness that never fades from relationships like the ones in this book, no matter how many other books are doing it, because there's an entirely new level of effort required to relate to each other. And whether you read paranormal or not, I promise this series is well worth your time.


And there's my two cents.


And as if that weren't enough, how about this interview with the author herself!
Brandi: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with me!! But I have to ask, what made you want to write? Is there a specific moment or memory you want to tell us about?

HK: I've always loved making up stories. I'm not really sure why. When I was a kid we moved a lot and it left me to my own devices often. I guess that's why I got tight with my local librarians and when Mom couldn't get me to someone else's stories I made up my own.

Brandi: I know that feeling well! What inspired you to write your first book?

HK: Ah the recession. I worked in print advertising and our clients were banks. Yep, you guessed it. In 2008 I was laid off and I don't like to sit around so I thought I'd try to get a story out. I wrote 5 books that year, three were my Empath Trilogy, then Life Blood, and The Path. In 2011 I decided to open the doors to my own small publishing company to combine what I knew of the writing world with the advertising jungle I'd been in for 10 years.

Brandi: That must have been quite an experience for you. In your writing, do you have a specific writing style?

HK: Do you mean how do I come up with this stuff? I go for a walk, listen to music, then sit down to write. That's how I write for a few hours in the morning. At night, after everyone else is in bed, I hit it for a few more hours. Oddly I do my best dark scenes at night.

Brandi: Not so odd, maybe. Dark hours, dark writing. It fits. Do you use an outline when you're working, or do you just sort of go with the flow? And if you do use an outline, how strictly do you follow it?

HK: I've tried doing outlines but my characters don't listen to me any better than anyone else around here. At first I tried to map things out but I quickly learned that when you develop characters (I write up backstories for each main character to get to know them) then put them in a situation, they tend to take over. I've now gotten to where I write until the thought runs its course then I wait, mull over where everyone is, and come back the next day and they're off to the races again. Of course the first draft is always a little rough and when I go back through I layer in more detail, foreshadowing, etc. I'm always surprised when I think "oh, I should put something in there about this" and I look back and I did. It makes me feel brilliant (for a few minutes anyway until I see that I misspelled something basic like apple).

Brandi: I've had that happen myself! Tell me this: what books/authors have influenced your writing?

HK: I love Edgar Allen Poe. He was so dark and disturbed, I think it speaks to everyone's dark side. Also, as a Psychology and Religion major I am always interested in what motivates people so John Douglas (FBI's premiere profiler) has some amazing books that explain a lot about the human condition. Also Jack London because he was my favorite as a kid. Really I read almost anything you put in front of me except chick lit and even that my friend (a devoted chick lit fan) continues to expose me to once in a while if it's really good.

Brandi: What books/authors have most influenced you, not as a writer, but as a person?

HK: As a person? I think it's hard to separate these two questions because what we write is a lot of who we are. Sure, not that paranormal writers are or want to be fanged or furry, but the things we wonder about, talk about, and see every day do come out in our writing. The monsters I write about are characterizations of stories in the news outlining the cruelty we are capable of doing to one another. Also, the heroes I write about are the plain people who do great things because they have to and also those who modestly go on saving us but stay in the background while glory hounds jump in and point out how fabulous they are. That said, Dumas' The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Tale of Two Cities speak to my love of political intrigue (I don't like politics but intrigue and deception are wonderful to untangle), Don Quixote was lovely for finding humor in the every day and making adventure of nothing, and The Scarlet Pimpernel I fell in love with in the 7th grade when I met a hero who hid behind a mask even from from his wife allowing her to think him a fool to keep safe the secrets of others. Those concepts fascinate me as a person so I guess they come out in my writing as well. 

Brandi: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

HK: I have some writers who I am finding myself going back to in my spare time and rereading their series' two and three times. Those would be Julie Ann Walker and Kristen Ashley. They're both contemporary romance and very adult. I guess what I love about them is the flow of their writing, I feel like I'm talking to a friend and having a laugh out loud good time. For me and where I'm at in my busy life I think that's essential. If I don't get some good laughs in, I'm a cranky bear so I love these two for what they give me.

Brandi: What book are you reading now, and what do you like or dislike about it so far?

HK: I am in the series by Camilla Chafer, the Lexi Graves Mysteries. They're hilarious, her observations and views on life as she goes along are phrased in such a way I'm having a fun time reading them. They're light, they're easy, and I find hours disappear for me when I'm reading them. I don't like how superficial the characters are. Even when the main character has something big happening for her she doesn't really feel it like most people would. In that way I find it hard to relate to her. Then again, some people are shallow so maybe that's how she is (character, not the writer. I'm sure the author is a hoot). I don't know.

Brandi: It's funny how characters differ in depth the same way actual people do. Can you name one person from your life that you feel has really supported you?

HK: My husband. I know that's cliche but when I got laid off he was in a position to tell me to take my time finding what I wanted to do and he's been willing to sacrifice things so that I could take this little adventure. He also likes for us to be together a lot and go to bed at the same time. After a few nights of my noisy typing in bed he was more than willing to give up bedtime together in favor of me staying up and coming to bed when I'm ready. Weekends are his though and we've been able to strike a pretty decent balance.

Brandi: Ah, the elusive "balance." I find that to be challenging sometimes as well. As an author myself, I can testify to how scary the review process can be, putting your work out there for others to critique. How you do deal with it, and have there been any reviews (good or bad) that still stick with you today?

HK: I'm actually a very shy person and don't like putting myself out there. Writing is great for an introvert like me. Signings? Marketing (other people are easy, my own work is very hard to talk about)? Opening up my guts enough to let my characters really explore the depths of their experience? That is very hard. I have to write thinking "no one will see this but me" or I find myself censoring my work. For example, when I wrote my new series, The Admiral's Elite, I'd decided to go adult. Now it's not erotica like every 5 pages they're getting down and dirty, but there are some graphic scenes in there and I've been told the sexual tension is "wow". When I wrote them I deleted them several times thinking I couldn't put that out there. It wasn't until a reviewer turned friend, Tif Olson from Paranormal Book Club, read the two books and laughingly helped me to type "those words" into my book I got the courage to do it. And if the feedback and sales are to be believed, I've done the right thing. These are my best sellers yet, but more importantly, I'm hearing it's my best work. Me, I don't know I love all of my characters like children. Even the bad guys I kind of feel bad for. Reviews that stick with me? Yes, I had someone say I was fabulous once and my husband called me "brilliant". Yes, brilliant. I've been known to use this in an argument a time or two with him as to why I should prevail. Oddly it doesn't carry much weight when I do. Oh well.

Brandi: I can relate to having issues with "those words" in writing. I seem to write everything under the knowledge that "my GRANDMOTHER is going to see this!" Can you tell me anything about your current project?

HK: I'm working on a follow up to The Path (adult PNR due out late 2014), book 3 of The Admiral's Elite (due out 2014), and Blood Bound (contemporary romance due out August 2013)

HK was also kind enough to give us an excerpt from the text of Blood Bound, which you can find here.

Brandi: Do you have any advice for other writers?

HK: Keep writing. Yep, we all say the same thing but it's true. You can't help but get better if you keep doing it. Also, listen to what people say (provided it's constructive criticism we can all learn from what others see in our work). And get a good editor. We get submissions all the time that are so hard to read we end up getting hired to edit the job, even when it's going to be sent off to another publisher or perspective agent after us. No one is perfect, even an editor, but trust me when I say you can't edit your own work. My early stuff was not edited nearly to the level my new stuff is and I credit that directly to my current staff of fantastic editors. Oh, and covers. Nothing says "I did this myself" like a photoshopped cover. Get a good cover designer. And not all of them are hundreds of dollars. We have some at Staccato and that I know personally who we freelance with when our staff is busy who are less than $100! 

Brandi: Thanks for the advice. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

HK: I love you. Really, I do. Because I love to write and talk about books and when I get fan mail or meet someone at a convention or signing and we get to talk about books (even if they're not mine which I kind of prefer) I love to do it. Readers love other readers and when we get together it's always fun. It doesn't hurt that when they buy my books I get to buy more tea which fuels my next book and I love that too. 

There you have it folks, the awesome HK Savage!!!!
Thanks, HK for sitting in with me and taking the time to answer my questions.


More About HK Savage:

HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box.

Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman puppy and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working.

HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years, her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her editing skills, honed for nearly a decade in advertising media, have been focused on her peers and clients in the writing world as Founder and Editor in Chief of Staccato Publishing and new digital imprint, Darkest Night Publishing.

Paranormal is a favorite genre as well as science fiction and the possibilities we have not yet realized. Her favorite premise: "what if?"


Wanna follow her around the web?

HK was also cool enough to offer a giveaway for all of you to enter! So go on, enter!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Surreal (It's Almost Time)

I'm just a little bit in shock this morning.
I woke up and realized,
"Oh my gosh, it's the nineteenth!!"

The nineteenth. Tomorrow is the day. Prescription For Love will go live, and Cameron Kingsley's story will be available for purchase. And I'll be an author. Again. That never gets old, I swear.

Releasing To Love A Selkie was a momentous occasion for me, a really huge moment in my life. I wrote it in about three weeks, spent two weeks searching for errors and working with my genius editor to polish it as much as possible, and then I put it out into the world. During the month of November - during the writing of To Love A Selkie - my family was having a bit of a crisis. We'd just adopted our dog (Chance), and my mother was nearing the end of a major cancer scare. She is in ill health already, so the idea of adding cancer to the list of things she struggles with every day was really horrifying and my family was definitely in disaster mode.

Writing brought me through it; it gave me a place to hide. And maybe everything going on gave me a reason to play with Fantasy/Legend for the first time. I think branching out into a genre I'd never tried is why I finally was able to finish something.

Don't get me wrong, all my life I've been a writer. I have pages and pages throughout my apartment in various notebooks of things that I wrote before, always telling myself, "This is the one. I'm going to write it for real this time, and I'm going to get it out there." And I never finished. Until To Love A Selkie, every story I ever wrote dried up and died in my hands.

I have notebooks full of old poetry dating back to high school, and there are a few things here and there that are yet older than that. But I'm not sure I ever really believed until Annie Jacobs - until Malik. Finishing To Love A Selkie gave me something, a certain new level of belief in myself. I mean, I always believed in myself as a writer, otherwise the dream could not have survived - but there was something in me, some part of me that felt it was only a dream and that it could never be the reality of my life.

And then I finished it. And I published it. And people bought it. The cliffhanger threw people off too, and I loved the way it infuriated them because it meant I had done a good job of writing characters my readers could love. But there were people who outright didn't like anything about it at all too, and that's okay because you can't please all the people all the time and neither can I. Some people will love me and what I put into my stories, and some will not. That's life, and I'm okay with it.

But swirled into the beautiful gift of confidence that I got from Annie and Malik was a heavy dose of fear. Was that it? Would I be a one-book wonder? Was that all I had inside of me, one book that was generally only succeeding in pissing people off??

Was I finished?

Apparently not.

To Love A Selkie was published December 18, 2012, and by the end of December I'd already made a lot of progress in the writing of Fat Chance, the first book in the Kingsley Series. Cass Keaton flowed right out of me, straight out of the heart of who I am and where I've been in my life. And while she is made up of the insecurities of women everywhere, so much of her is simply me. She was so easy for me to relate to, and giving her a love that could help her grow into herself as a woman was easy too because she deserved it, just as much as any woman does.

Drew is an amazing guy, and he loved Cass so easily. No part of that story was hard for me, and when it went into the world on January 21, 2013, I was exhilarated. I knew it would do well, I just felt in in the depths of myself. I knew Cass would be okay. And she is.

She is well-loved, and the reviews on that book have literally brought me to tears countless times. I can't even express how touched I am by the response to her story and the number of people who have reached out to me personally to tell me that she affected them.

Tomorrow, I'm releasing another story into the world. Tomorrow, Cameron Kingsley will take a deep breath, smooth her hands down over her shirt, and check to make sure she looks alright before she  takes her turn and steps out into the world for the first time.

I hope you all love her the way I have.

Edited to add: You can now purchase Prescription for Love! The links to the books in the Kingsley Series are here, AND while you can no longer purchase To Love A Selkie by itself, To Love A Selkie is now Part One of Selkie, the first book in the Selkie Trilogy, available here. (March 2018)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Character Guest Post

Hey there, awesome readers! I've got a little surprise for you today:
A guest post from Cassaundra Keaton,
heroine of Fat Chance, the first book in the Kingsley Series!



Hi. I'm Cassaundra Keaton; you might know me from the pages of Fat Chance, where I got to tell the personal story of my journey as a woman (and I met a hottie, too). If you've read it, then you know a lot about me already. But if you haven't read it, let me tell you just a little about myself.

Growing up, my mother and grandparents slowly died away, leaving my father to raise me alone. He struggled a lot with the loss of my mother, and I think it made it hard for him to relate to me as his child. I'm pretty sure I was just a reminder of her for the longest time.

He used to make little "innocent" comments to me about my body, about my weight, my figure, or my love of certain junk foods and candies. I know he didn't mean any of it to be a bad thing, and I know now that he was just trying to reach out to me in the only way he felt he could.

But it left me HURTING.

Eventually he died too, and I was left with no one. No family, nothing. From there, I grew up in the foster system, passed from home to home and family to family. Some were nice and some were not so nice. But the onset of puberty and the effects of emotional eating and grief took a toll on me. Puberty is always an emotional time, but when you combine those hard years with the loneliness of grief, you have a very broken person.

And I was BROKEN.

But you know, broken people are so obvious, even when they don't mean to be. Emotional pain is just something that we wear on the outside of who we are, whether we advertise it or not. Still, having it out there means that others can see it, and it means that bullies can use it.

Our personal pain becomes the perfect ammunition.

I got bullied a lot when I was younger, especially once I entered the foster system, and that followed me into my adult life. I wasted years of my life worried about my body, hating my body.

HATING MYSELF.

The funny thing is, I didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't a bad person. I wasn't mean, I wasn't hateful. I wasn't even ugly. But I felt like I was wrong. I felt inferior. I was overweight, and it was something I could never hide from. It didn't help that I had people in my life pointing it out to me, either, using it as a weapon against me.

Isn't that sad? I let other people use my own body as a weapon against me? I allowed people to bully me because I believe what they were saying. I allowed them to treat me so terribly because of my body that I eventually forgot how great I can be as a person.

But I'm not a victim, not anymore, and I don't want anyone else to be a victim either. 

Thanks for hanging with me,
Cass



Want to get your hands on Cass's amazing story? You can now read Fat Chance for FREE!

One Change, A Whole New Existence?

It's funny, isn't it, how much one thing can change your whole life? When I was little and I would run my fingers lovingly over the books in my bedroom (I had sort of a personal "library" of books by the time I was in high school, and it has only grown since then), it didn't matter how much I loved those books or how much I loved the idea of writing my own someday. I still couldn't really imagine I'd ever be where I am now.

It's not glamorous but this writing journey has changed so much of my life - and it's changed me in huge ways as a person.

I still have my days where I feel like this could never happen to me, like I'll never be able to build the kind of huge fan base some others have built. I have days where I wonder what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, if it will grow to the point where I can use it to support my kids in a better way. If I will buy a house, if I will buy cars for my daughters. If I will send them to college, if I will be able to open doors for them that were not open for me.

Will I?? Who knows. None of us can know. Everything can change in a day, a moment.

So I wait. I watch the entries come in slowly but surely in my giveaways. I watch the likes grow slowly but surely on my Facebook author page. I watch the following grow on my Twitter account, just as slowly, just as surely. And I watch sales of my books grow the same way.

With every new like, with every new follower, with every new sale and every review, my life is growing and changing in ways that I never thought possible for me. It's been such an adventure over these four short months (today is my four-months-as-an-author-anniversary), and I can't wait to see the rest of where I'm going.

Thank you so much for following along.

Overcoming Impossibility

Several weeks ago, I did a thing on Facebook where I asked fans to give me a favorite quote. It could be just a regular favorite, something especially inspirational, or even a personal mantra - but I wanted one that I could possibly use here as sort of a blog prompt. So I asked the fans for their quotes and promised I'd blog about the one with the most likes.

It was really fun to see the different things people put up for that, and it was a good exercise for me to sit with that particular quote, letting it rest and grow in my mind. I liked looking at it every so often, trying to connect it to my life personally. I loved writing about it, using it as a new chance for you as my readers to get to know me as a person.

I liked it so much that I did it again with the same promise for the participants of the Kingsley Keeper Giveaway Party, but this time I also added PRIZES!! And our winner is ...


a Rafflecopter giveaway


* so Sarah, here's the quote you offered me *

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me ... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -- Shel Silverstein

* and here's my personal take *


The quote starts off talking about all the negative. "Listen to the mustn'ts. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves ..." Those statements speak out so much to me because I spent the better part of my young life listening to that negative, not because I wanted to because because it was told to me over and over again. Some of it paid off well. Some of it didn't.

I listened to the mustn'ts and the don'ts and for the most part, I obeyed them. I generally followed rules; I kept my head down and my mouth shut, and I tried not to get into much trouble. As a result, I've never been in much trouble, and I've never had any huge regrets because I generally prefer not to rock the boat. I don't get into trouble because I try to do what I'm supposed to do and not stir things up. On the other hand, the hard lessons sometimes learned from ignoring the mustn'ts and the don'ts often lead to adventure that I haven't had. Still, I'm not sorry for that either, not at all. I may not have had a lot of wild adventures, but when I look in the mirror, I can respect the girl who listened to the mustn'ts and obeyed the don'ts.

I listened to the shouldn'ts and the impossibles though, too, and I am sometimes sorry for much of that. Maybe not for the shouldn'ts but for the impossibles. When I was a child, so many things were impossible to me. I grew up fairly poor in a rather small town, and there was so much that looked impossible to me back then. I remember loving everything I could hear about movie stars and music stars, the people who looked like they had it all. And I wanted fancy clothes and fifty dollar shirts and twenty dollar eye shadows. But even those relatively little things were far beyond impossible for me, and if those things were out of reach, unattainable ... then what did that say for my big dreams of making a living with writing, overcoming my challenges, and making a name for myself? What about making my family proud?

Well, that looked IMPOSSIBLE too - and I settled down in that impossibility for a long time, forgetting how POSSIBLE it is to change who you are and where you're going so that you don't have to stay where you came from. Even if the people around you are telling you that you can't, you're not enough, can't become enough, will never be enough.

And then there are the won'ts and the never haves, which go hand in hand for me. I have a good number of won'ts, simply because I'm still listening to the mustn'ts and the don'ts. This means I have a lot of never haves too, which explains my mile-long bucket list. There are so many things I haven't done, things I haven't seen, places I haven't been. That list of never haves sums up the results of my "impossibles". It's a list of things I'd have maybe done long ago ... if only those things had been "possible" to me.

But: "Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."

Shel Silverstein shared a real wisdom with this quote, teaching us that no matter how negative we can be or how beaten down the world can leave us, we don't have to stay that way. It is infinitely possible to build yourself up, to make yourself anew and to try again.

And again. And then again.

And that's my plan. I'm going to build something strong of myself before I'm done, and before I leave this life behind me, I fully intend to do something great with what I'm given, regardless of the mustn'ts and the don'ts, the shouldn'ts and the won'ts. Because "Impossible" is really just trying to say "I'm Possible" anyway.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Reviews And Why They Matter

One of the things authors treasure most is the reviews. They can be good or they can be bad, but they are important either way. They matter when it comes to whether or not you are successful, because word-of-mouth advertising is just as important in the writing business as it is in most others. FOr example, when someone tells you they loved a certain movie - if you trust their judgement - then it might make you curious at the very least. And if you're more curious then you might be more likely to pick up and watch that movie.

This works with books, too; if your best friend just read a book and is raving about how awesome it is, you generally have a much greater chance of picking it up yourself, especially if you would never have heard of it otherwise. I myself have recommended books to people knowing that it wasn't their preferred genre, simply because I so loved the book, and have had people pick up (and love) books I loved just because I fangirled so hard.

For independent authors like me, this is especially important because we depend on word-of-mouth to help us advertise ourselves and our work. We don't have a publishing company working for us, and we don't have an agent working to help sell our books. Other than the obvious benefits garnered from simple networking and making friendships, many of us are quite literally on our own when it comes to marketing - and since we're writers and not marketers, this often leads to problems.

This means that getting people to read and publicly review our work as much and as often as possible can make or break our dreams as writers:
  • It's why we tell everyone we know when there's a new review.
  • It's why we want that review posted everywhere it can possibly be posted.
  • It's why they mean so very much to us that we often give our books away in exchange for a coveted review.

So if you're reading, please review - and don't let it become A THING in your mind. A review can be something simple; it is, after all, just your own expression of thoughts and feelings on a book you've read. It can be as easy as thinking of and answering just a few questions ...

Because Art Imitates Life ...

So far, it has been a huge honor to me to have the story of Cass Keaton be so widely accepted, with women from what feels like everywhere contacting me to tell me they love this story of a troubled woman finding her place in the world and her confidence in life.

I believe her story can touch every woman, that relating to her story can reach into the dark place in all of our hearts where we believe that we're inherently lacking. We all have that one area in life where we believe that no matter what we do, whatever "it" is, we don't have it. It could be motherhood, money management, our jobs, our wifeliness. There's some place in all of us, isn't there, where we all feel wrong, where we all feel lacking?

That's where Cass's story comes from too, from that place deep inside of her where she feels that nothing about her is as it should be. And throughout the book (Fat Chance, Kingsley Series Book One), we watch Cass grow a little stronger, a little wiser. A little more confident.

Finally, she finds herself just as she wants to be, strong and confident, and most importantly, still always improving in so many of the ways that mattered most to her.

Or at least, that's what people have been telling me. And for all of you who feel that way, who have finished the book but still love Cass's story, for all of you who cried with her, laughed with her and grew with her, I'd like to invite you to participate in another little piece of Cass Keaton's story. In Fat Chance, she found love and you got to watch her grow.

Now, with the coming release of Prescription For Love (the second book in the Kingsley Series), you can watch the next step in Cass and Drew's story while also getting to know a fresh new Kingsley - Cameron. The date is set, and the release is almost ready. 


The first Kingsley Wedding is drawing near.
Will you be there? You're invited.


Edited to add: You can now purchase this book! Prescription for Love is available on most e-book platforms and is also available in paperback! Find details, including the newest cover, blurb, and purchase links here. (March 2018)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beautiful, A Poem

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in 
ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.

Photo courtesy of  CNaene  freedigitalphotos.net

Beautiful
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

*****
Sometimes, it's too easy to look around the world and get caught up in the horrors. This world is full of pain. It's full of people who are sick and dying, broken and lost. It's full of poverty and wretchedness, crime and unpunished guilt. It's full of evil.

And isn't that the saddest thing you've ever heard? But it doesn't have to be. Because there's another way to look at it.
*****


Sometimes
you can look around the world
and see something that is truly
Beautiful

This world is full of love,
unending, dependable
passionate, crazy love that's
Beautiful

There are places,
in this world that
are pure and sweet and
Beautiful

There are people,
who are kind and caring
and generous and loving and
Beautiful

This world is full of shimmering jewels,
the bright faces of children, the fragile strength of flowers,
and other things that are
Beautiful

We just need
the right perspective
and only then can we see the world as
Beautiful.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

If You Could Have Dinner With Anyone ...

Last week I hosted a giveaway on Facebook, inviting players to ask me questions and promising to answer the winning question here for all to see! As a prize (other than answering the question, of course) I offered a bit of a swag pack - a 2x6 Fat Chance Bookmark, and a matching 4x8 Fat Chance rack card/bookmark!


And the winner is ...
Kimberley Jaksina, who asked: "If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?"

You know, this probably shouldn't be a hugely difficult question to answer, because we all that one person we wish we could spend some time with. But not me ... I have always struggled with choosing a "favorite" something, because I love so many things and I tend to have very diverse interests. So, Kimberley, I'm sorry to say you won't just get a quick answer from me on that one. I've got a bit of a short list instead:
  • Jesus: I have often wondered what I would learn from Him, were I able to sit down personally and talk to Him, face to face. But then I think ... I'd likely be horribly frustrated if He spoke to me in parables the entire time. Still, what an experience that would be!! I suppose I shall keep biding my time, until it is my turn to have dinner with Him for real once I'm dead.
  • Stephen King: As a reader, Stephen King horrifies me. His writing is scary; it's raw, it's wild, it's challenging. But it's amazing, and that's something that few of us can deny. He is incredibly skilled, incredibly talented. But as a writer, he's one of the most inspiring role models out there. During much of his early career, he was basically drowning in rejection letters and yet he kept writing. He kept sending his work out. He kept pushing on, honing his ability and showing his work to anyone who would take the time to see it. He fought his way to the top, and that kind of persistence simply begs to be admired. Our writing styles and genres are of course very different, but I bet he's got a lot to say that I could learn from.
  • John Cena: I don't even care if this is cheesy or silly or shallow. And it's not entirely because he's hot, either. I'd really just love to be able to sit down with him and ask him what kind of toll it takes on him, personally, to be who he is. I mean, he has his well-known persona as an athlete with the WWE, and he's got his bit of acting in a few movies here and there over the years. But maybe his most admirable quality (for me) is his extreme involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As possibly the most popular and definitely one of the most frequently requested stars involved in the program, he is a true hero to sick children all over the world, taking the time from other aspects of his busy life to sit down and talk to kids who want nothing more than to see him live and in person. I know he isn't the cure for cancer, and he can't save any of those kids from the death that lingers all around them ... but he does what he can to bring them a few moments of happy uniqueness. Having granted over three hundred wishes, his dedication is legendary, and I'd love to speak with the man behind the wishes.

I would also love to spend some time with other authors I don't know, such as Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks. There are actors, like Jennifer Aniston (because she's so down to earth) or Drew Barrymore (because her life history is probably full of great wisdom and strong lessons).

Comedians make my list too: Carlos Mencia, Jo Koy, or Leanne Morgan simply because I love them and I want to know if they are always that funny.

And let's not even get started on the long list of musicians that I admire, from the little guy right up to the big stars.

How's that for a list of dinner invitees, huh? Told you I have a hard time picking favorites.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Distance" Excerpt

Please be aware that ALL of this writing is copyright protected as my own creative content, and NO PART of any post/story may be reproduced, copied or used in 
ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME.


Image courtesy of 'photostock'  freedigitalphotos.net

Distance
copyright 2013, Brandi Kennedy

*****

It's been years since I've seen him – too many years – and I guess I have to admit that it's my own fault. I was the one who broke things off. I was the one who left town.

My heartbreak is my own fault.

Sitting here at the red light across from the parking lot, watching him the way I am, my eyes roaming over him in just the way they’ve longed to for so many years, I'm not even sure anymore why I did it. I can chalk it up to wanderlust, desperation to see more than our small town had to offer, or any number of small things – but in the end I'll still have to admit that I was simply terrified of him, terrified of giving myself to him.

I knew even then, even as a teenager with stars in her eyes and a head full of dreams, that if I loved him as completely as I wanted to – as completely as he begged me to – I would never be the same. I knew he'd be forever. I knew that if we stayed together, we'd stay together. He was the only person who had that kind of power – the power to hurt me, to shatter my heart, to change the entire meaning of who I am in ways that would never be able to change back. He was the only boy I’d ever wanted. And he's still the only man I've ever loved. And despite all the excuses, Luke was why I had to run.

I gave him every reason I could think of, told him that we liked too many different things, told him that he was too experienced, that I wasn’t experienced enough. I emphasized the differences in our childhoods, our ages, our religions. I played on our politics. Nothing held him back, and he had an answer for everything. Finally, desperate to get away before I gave in, I told him that I wasn’t willing to risk the monotony of the small-town life he loved, that I didn’t want the predictability of a life where day after day stretched out in exactly the same way as the one before it. I told him that I didn’t want a small-town man, that I couldn’t be asked to settle for a life of boredom.

It broke his heart – and watching the pain light in his eyes broke my own. He gave up then, and I applied to every far-off college I could find. I avoided him, pretended he didn’t exist, and every accidental encounter on the streets of our town hit me like a dagger to the soul. I accepted a scholarship as far from home as I could get, I packed my bags, and as much as it hurt, I never allowed myself to look back.

But now I'm home. 

*****

Edited to add: Distance has now been edited and revised, and has more than doubled in length. The above is only a small snippet of the 2000-word story, the whole of which is now available exclusively to my Patreon supporters. To view this story and others like it, please support my writing here. (October 2016)