Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Talk: How Many Awards Does It Take ...

... to get to the center of the blogosphere?

Anyway. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to a tweet from one of my favorite bloggers that basically just said, "Check this out." There was, of course, a link - and I did, of course, click on it. It led me to this, which is why today we're talking about these:

The Liebster-Sunshine Blogger Awards!

I'm still thrilled with this, honestly. There are a lot of bloggers out there who will turn down awards or even outright ignore them because there isn't an actual trophy. There's no red carpet, no monetary sum, and no spectacular prestige to go along with them.

But there is recognition, and honor, and gratitude. Over the years, I've gotten a Summer Sun Award, a Liebster Award, and a Blogger Recognition Award - and now I've gotten the Liebster-Sunshine Award, affectionately dubbed the "LiebShine Blaargh" award by David Elliott (and the amazing blogger who nominated him), the mind behind the Single Dad's Guide To Life and the man behind this most recent nomination for me. David is the divorced single father to an adorable little daughter, living life in the perpetual sun of southern California, and his blog features a range of topics - from movie reviews to kid-friendly recipes, to fitness goals and parenting tips. He posts a lot of fictional "food holiday" histories too, which are always entertaining - but my favorite thing about his site is that every one of his posts is infused with his own unique sense of humor. Now and then he even lets a little vulnerability shine through, giving his readers a glimpse into what makes him the man he is.

True to form, his post about the history of the "LiebShine Blaargh" award had me laughing out loud - but as with most award nominations, there are rules to be followed, so in the interest of keeping this blog post from being novel-length, let's jump right in, shall we?


RULE #1:
Accept the nomination.
Of course I'm going to do this, because there's nothing quite like being recognized for a job well done by the people who most truly understand how hard that job really is. Being nominated for any sort of recognition on the merit of my writing and the things that I choose to share here is ... well, it's flattering of course, but also totally humbling. Who am I, to be nominated for that sort of thing once - let alone multiple times? I'm just a woman, just a mom, just a writer trying to get by on a dream. To have even the slightest possibility of seeing that dream come to life means everything to me, and to be pointed out publicly by my peers in the writing world makes that dream feel just a little closer. There's not a cell in my body that could turn that down.


RULE #2:
Nominate someone with less than 300 followers to receive the award next.
Rude as this may be, I'm actually going to choose to ignore this particular rule - not because I don't want to help small bloggers grow, but because many of the bloggers I read don't actually post their numbers publicly. Some have smaller followings, but many of the bloggers I follow have larger platforms than I do; many of them are bloggers that I personally admire and am hoping to learn from. That being said, many faithful blog readers (several of mine included) don't actually subscribe to blogs they read in a way that's countable. Instead of subscribing, a number of my followers just choose to connect with me on social media or other outlets so that they know when I post new content. One has actually told me that she has reminders set on her phone to make sure she comes back on the days she knows I'm posting. Either way, my page views strongly disagree with the meager 49 clearly stated when I go into my blog stats and count up my "followers," thus I'm leaving this rule unfollowed. Instead, I'm choosing to post this with the intent to nominate anyone reading who wants to participate. (Now, how's that for sharing the love, huh?)


RULE #3:
Thank the blogger who nominated you.
No problem, especially since the nomination came with pretty words and some link love, which is something every blogger adores! Thank you, David - I'm truly thrilled to have been counted among the bloggers you found worthy of the mention.


RULE #4:
Answer the eleven questions given to you by the person who nominated you. (These will be in the blog post you were nominated in - David's post nominating me and several others is here.)
Simple enough, right? So you'll find David's very creative eleven questions - along with my answers - listed below!
  1. What was your first idea when you started your blog? - This blog started with a list of "have-to" tasks. As a new author, I was given lots of "have-to" tasks by well-meaning authors and book bloggers aiming to coach me to success. Among the "have-tos" were: setting up an author page on Facebook, joining and getting active on Twitter, begging shamelessly for book reviews, and ... you guessed it - starting an author blog. But before this, I actually had several "mommy" blogs over the years, which I loved. Unfortunately I sucked at keeping a blogging schedule, and I've continued to pretty much suck at it until just recently. 
  2. How soon did you feel like you had found your blogging voice? - I don't know that this is something you find, really. I think it's something that's always changing and growing in response to who you are and what's going on in your life. I've spoken with several different "voices" over the years, but for this blog specifically ... I started my author journey as a stay-home mother of two with a faltering but still relatively functional long-term relationship. My life then looked a lot different, and I'd be willing to bet my voice back then was considerably different, too. I imagine in the years to come, that voice will continue to grow and change - I certainly hope it'll continue to be for the better.
  3. What is your blogging why? Why do you blog? - This one's actually relatively easy to answer - I do it because I love writing in pretty much any format. But blogging is special to me in that it allows me to explore myself and how I feel about life and the world I live in. I love that it allows me to interact with people who like what I'm saying, or people who have been through similar experiences. But I do it, too, under the weight of a hope - a hope that one day I'll have built the kind of full-time blogging income that I so admire in the bloggers I look up to. And meeting great people along the journey doesn't hurt, either.
  4. What blogger inspired you the most since you started blogging? - Another easy one - Sarah Vargas. I don't always agree with her politics, her methods, or her thought processes - but I always admire what she's managed to do in her career as a blogger/vlogger, and how she's managed to buck up and make things happen to take care of her children. I admire her so greatly as a business role model, a self-confidence role model, and so much more.
  5. Of all your blogging experiences, what has made you laugh out loud the most? - Other bloggers, for sure. I've encountered such amazing people along this journey - many of whom have become close friends who are incredibly meaningful to me. From Australia, from the UK, from Canada, from various places here in the States, I've met people online who know my heart and all the secrets of my soul. And despite not yet having the opportunity to meet in person, many of those people have trusted me enough to share their hearts and secrets as well. That sort of connection is incredibly joyful to me despite the distance, and those are the people I laugh most with.
  6. What is the one place you are still looking forward to visiting and why? - There isn't just one - I'd count myself lucky if I could see all the places I so want to see, and have my list brought down to one last place. But right now, in this particular chapter of my life ... I have seen so few places and I still want to see it all! I want to see so much, I can't even complete my bucket list.
  7. If you had the chance to work with one company on your blog, what would it be and why? - One company. Hmm. Maybe if I was being practical, I'd say I want to work with a car company on an ongoing basis, driving and reviewing cars. It's practical because it would provide my family with a dependable vehicle (which ends the cloud of my van's failing transmission hanging over my head), and I like that since I'd be reviewing, maybe I'd have a different car every week or month or so, which would keep it fun and also encourage me to keep "my" car VERY clean. I'd love to work with Kia, because I'm obsessed with the Kia Soul, or Mitsubishi because I'm obsessed with Outlander and they have a compact SUV called an Outlander. Or maybe if I was reaching for the stars but still being practical, then I'd go for Cadillac so I could drive an Escalade EXT for a while. But just for fun on an everyday basis because I love them? I'd like to work with Gwynnie Bee because it would be so cool to get to try all kinds of clothes and looks without having to shop for a lot of stuff or buy loads of clothes. I could bring more fashion stuff to my blog that way too, reviewing clothing brands and items as I try them. Gwynnie Bee has a monthly subscription service (the Netflix of plus-size women's fashion), and they even take care of the laundry! What's not to love about that?
  8. If you had one thing you wanted to communicate to your audience, what would it be? - Don't be afraid to let your life be a lesson to you. Take the experiences you've had, and instead of letting those experiences fill you up with fear and regret, use them to learn how to do better, choose better, and act better. As a person with PTSD that's often crippling for me, I know this advice is easier said than done ... but it's also better tried than not tried, if you get my drift. Slow progress and a little effort is still better than none.
  9. What did you want to be when you grew up? - I've wanted to be a lot of things over the years, depending on my age and my whims. But in my heart, the thing I always wanted ... the thing I was too afraid to reach for and too afraid at times to even admit that I wanted, was to write for a living. To use words to create an income that would provide a home for my family.
  10. What was your best vacation? - I don't know. I'll have to come back to this once I've been on one.
  11. Who has been your biggest hero? - This changes depending on what I need. In writing, I most admire Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series), and in philanthropy I look up to J.K. Rowling (who famously lost her billionaire status in 2012 because she gives away so much money). In business, maybe Oprah - she's built such a strong empire, and she's come such a long way from where she started.
And with those questions answered, let's move on to ...


RULE #5:
Nominate eleven other people to receive this award.
Please see rule #2 for my response to this rule as well. If the eleven must be under-300-followers bloggers, then I truly don't know which (if any) of my favorite bloggers would qualify. As mentioned before, there are several blogs I love reading on a regular basis, but I don't count their followers, I just love their content. If you choose to read this post and nominate yourself to participate, just make sure you come back to leave a link to your own post in the comments below - I'd love to see them!


RULE #6:
Think of eleven questions of your own for the bloggers you've chosen to nominate.
Since I'm choosing not to nominate specific bloggers for this award this time and am instead inviting small bloggers who see this post to nominate themselves, I'm also leaving my questions here with a challenge for EVERYONE who reads them. If you're a blogger choosing to nominate themselves to participate, please remember to leave a link to your post in the comments below - and if you don't have a blog of your own, feel free to answer these eleven questions in the comments anyway!
  1. What made you decide to put your writings out into the world in such a public format?
  2. Who do you most look up to or appreciate in your daily life - what person is most close to you, and why?
  3. What would you say has been one of your biggest challenges thus far? 
  4. What's your number one favorite thing about blogs in general?
  5. If you were to achieve your most ultimate dreams, what would a day in your life look like?
  6. How much does feedback on your blog actually impact what you choose to include in your content?
  7. Do you prefer coffee or tea, and how do you prepare your drink of choice? (Hot or cold, with or without cream/sugar/honey/etc.?)
  8. What book has had the largest impact on you as a person, and why?
  9. If you were given an all-expenses-paid trip to anywhere in the world but you had to leave right now, what would the trip look like?
  10. As a blogger, what do you find most fulfilling? 
  11. What's your favorite board game to play, and what do you love best about it?
Again, if you're a blogger choosing to nominate themselves, please remember to leave a link to your post in the comments below - and if you don't have a blog of your own, feel free to answer these eleven questions in the comments anyway! Just answer the blogging-related questions as best you can in relation to your own life.


RULE #7:
Post a photo of the award on your blog.
No problem! I'm not sure if these are the original images to go with these awards, but I'm choosing to trust David on this one and use the images he chose for his own post. So:


RULE #8:
Pertaining to the Sunshine Award specifically, nominees must bring some light into the life of the person who nominated them.
Crap. Up until now, I've been able to say, "I'm not following this rule because blogger numbers aren't always posted and I don't want to limit bloggers from participating on that basis anyway." But this one ... well, if I ask people to nominate themselves to participate in this, then how will we be following this rule?

Alright, I got it. If you choose to nominate yourself for this one, then here's how you can bring some light into my life, thereby earning your nominated status. Choose one of the following light-bringing strategies:
  • come connect to me on any of my social media platforms. I love making new friends, especially when they're the kind that bring light into my life. You can find links to all of my social platforms here.
  • download a free copy of Fat Chance, the first book in my romance series, the Kingsley Series. Links to download this book on all major platforms, along with information about the series and all of its current titles, can be found here. This costs you nothing, but could benefit me by bumping my rankings - and you might love the book anyway, since it's an awesome story of self-discovery and healing. You don't know if you don't read it, right?
  • nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed here on the blog. The rules for this are here. This is a new series I'm planning to kick off in August, and while I already have my August nominee, I'm already looking to set up with Miss Undaunted September.
  • support me on Patreon and join the community of readers who make it possible for me to keep doing this so often. These are the people who allow me to make a difference in their lives, who step up to make a difference in mine - and while they may start out as readers, they always end up counted as friends.
And that's it. Thanks again for nominating me, David - not only did you totally deserve the nomination in your own right, that was totally sweet of you to share the award with the likes of me.

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is actually one of the companies I'd like to work with at some point - one of the companies I mentioned in my answers to David's questions above. This company has an amazing concept that works so well for a mom like me, giving flexibility and fun to fashion-oriented women regardless of their size and shape.


Gwynnie Bee allows plus-sized women to feel great in their clothing, and try new styles without the crazy expense of shopping or the instinctive fear of commitment that stops so many of us from trying new things. As I mentioned before, I also love that they take care of laundering clothing items too, because it means I don't have to do laundry - and I know that the clothes I receive are clean and in great shape when they come to me. Multiple subscription options are a great thing too - you choose what you're in for as far as time and financial investment. And for the extreme commitment-phobes out there? Rest assured, cancellation is an easy process, too.

Gwynnie Bee: Receive unlimited exchanges & free shipping for a flat monthly fee!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
Blog awards are fun, aren't they? Blogging can be an isolating job if you don't actually make an active effort to engage and get to know people - that's why my favorite thing about blog awards is that they actually encourage us to interact a little and get to know each other better. But I know a lot of the people who come here to read aren't actually bloggers, so here's another question for the comments - if you read blogs other than this one, which one is your favorite and why?

Just on the off chance that I'm your favorite blogger, you can (as always) feel free to stick around and explore the content here - maybe you'll find something you hadn't seen before, or something that's just right to pin or share with a friend on your social media. If you enjoy this little corner of the web (or if you just want to help me reach some goals), make sure you come over and check me out on Patreon - my subscribers are my biggest and most favorite supporters of my writing, and I'd love to see you join us there!

Either way though, whether you come over to join my community on Patreon or not, please take a second to make sure you never miss a post here. Patreon may be subscription-based, but the content on this blog is ALWAYS free, so be sure to subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower of this site ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Swag: New Merch Designs!

I've been a Zazzle customer for ages now, and I've ordered products from them several times - always with satisfaction. I love both the quality of the products and the ability to customize just about whatever I could want for my life, home, or business, and I always love browsing around on there to see what sorts of designs other people have come up with.

But there actually aren't a lot of people who know that I have my own store, where I have designs that go along with the brand I'm building here on the blog. Right now there are t-shirts and tote bags, bumper stickers and keychains, all featuring the logo you first see when you come to this site. There are even a few showing off my end-of-post signature, with the pink heart and the call to "stay undaunted." Eventually, I'd like to add merchandise with quotes and cover images from my books and Patreon stories, and I'll likely add other Undaunted items as time goes on.

In the meantime though, I've been making a point to revisit my goals for this quarter, and as this challenge to keep and maintain both my lists of quarterly goals and my accountability in sharing them here, I've really been noticing something disturbing.

I don't know how to let myself have fun anymore. Fun, for me, is some morphed and hybrid combination of work and ... well, work. When I take a break from writing, I don't do it just to lay on the couch and listen to music or watch a movie. I don't take breaks from building my business just to soak in the tub or play a mindless game on my phone. I do it like this:

  • primp and paint my toenails, not only because it's fun but because my daughters and I are having our first family photo shoot in 8 years and we're going barefoot.
  • watch a movie - but use the time wisely and review the movie for the blog.
  • listen to podcasts - the self-improvement and business-coaching kind, so that I'm learning while I listen.
Even my morning coffee is enjoyed in this way - not only because I enjoy it and I love having the opportunity to drink it, but because it has a purpose. It eases the caffeine headache I get when I don't drink coffee, it wakes my mind and begins my morning. I enjoy it, yes - but the fact is, I would drink it even if I didn't love it, because there's a reason for it other than pure enjoyment.

I can't decide if this makes me more sad, or more proud.
  • sad because even my fun must have a purpose, otherwise I won't be able to enjoy it without drowning in waves of guilt over the chores and other tasks I'm not doing.
  • proud because I try so hard to live my life on purpose. I'm not a drifter - I don't just go through life doing what feels good in the moment.
Still, while it does make me a little sad to realize how happy I am to know that this most recent "fun" thing I've been doing also has a purpose, I'm also pretty thrilled and happy to know that while I'm having fun designing things for my second Zazzle store, I'm also increasing my income potential, because sales from either of my two stores will send a royalty directly into my bank account.

So with that being said, here are some of the things I've been working on lately.




But that's just for the brand store, the one more focused on my writing and my brand. That's the "work" one. But the "fun" one, the one I created just to play with and goof off in? For that store, I've designed things just a bit more ... Me. See?





I'm thinking I'm going to love making fun designs for this store! And speaking of fun ... I'm all caught up on my writing deadlines for the moment, so I'm going to work on some therapy homework, and then listen to some podcasts while I create some more designs ... Just 4 Fun.

Instead of my usual "Featured Favorite Product," today I'm just going to leave you with the links to my Zazzle stores - Come check them out!

Brandi Kennedy Merchandise
Just 4 Fun Designs

Quick Disclaimer: I'm not using my usual affiliate links here, but I did want to be very clear about sales of items from either of my Zazzle stores - I do receive a small sales royalty on sales of my designs. Rest assured that while this is at no extra cost to you, my family and I still greatly appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of the affiliate companies I am currently working with, click here.)
What other things do you guys think I should design for my Zazzle stores? I'd love to see your suggestions in the comments, as well as what sorts of things you think would be great additions to my stores.

You're always welcome to stick around here on the blog too, to explore the rest of my content - and if you enjoy my little corner of the web (or if you're just awesome and want to help me reach some life-changing goals), come on over and check me out on Patreon, too! My subscribers there are my biggest and most favorite supporters of my writing, so to thank them in the best way I know how, I like to post all sorts of stuff there - including short stories, mini-blogs, podcasts, and lots of other content. You can even vote on some of the things I post, and the lowest membership is just $1 a month, so sign up and make sure you don't miss out!

Either way, whether you come over to join my community on Patreon or not, I'd still love for you to take a second and make sure you never miss a post here, either. Patreon may be subscription-based, but the content on this blog is ALWAYS free, so go ahead and subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! As always, whether you're a first time reader or a loyal follower of this site ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.