Month: November 2016 (page 1 of 2)

30 Things I Am Thankful For This Year

Every year around this time, my news feed is full of people expressing things they are thankful for each day. Each year, I vow that I will do the same throughout the month of November, and each year I fail miserably at it.

This year was no different.

I started out strong, but by the tenth day, I was starting to be a little more lax about it, managing to only post something every other day. I would double post to make up for the days I had missed, constantly reminding myself to do better. By the 18th I gave up and stopped double posting, just doing it crossed my mind. As you can imagine, I gave up entirely by the 23rd. I didn’t even post one on Thanksgiving.

It’s not that I don’t have a multitude of things to be thankful for, or that those things go unappreciated in my day to day life. In fact, I make it a point to find at least one thing to express gratitude for each and every day as part of my self-care regimen. It is important to acknowledge the blessings in our lives to avoid burning ourselves out as we strive to sort out the more trying aspects of existence.

The truth of the matter is that I’m just too lazy and forgetful to keep up with any sort of 30 day challenge. I’m also not very good at keeping up with social media in any capacity, which is definitely a hindrance when you choose to work in a field that is highly reliant on making your presence known.

I suspect that some of it has to do with my anxiety issues, but there is also the fact that I have a tendency to over load myself with more projects and goals than I can feasibly handle at one time. Adding one more task to the list each day just isn’t reasonable when you’re already struggling to keep up with everything else.

That said, I love the idea of sharing your blessings with the world through social media each day. It’s wonderfully refreshing to see so many positive posts breaking up the endless stream of negativity that I have seen lately.

In the spirit of the season, I would like to share the 30 things I am thankful for in one easy to digest post.

30 things I'm thankful FoR

  1. I am extremely grateful that I found someone as weird as I am to share my life with. Through the last 10 years, my husband and I have endured just about every obstacle a couple can face and have always come out stronger for it. He’s one of a handful of people I can really be myself with, and that in itself is something to be thankful for!

  2. My beautiful daughter, and the love and laughter she has brought into my life. I really didn’t know just how good life could be until my little girl was born. I also didn’t have a clue of what I was capable of or just how strong I really am. She’s taught me so much in so few years!brandyn and lennon thankful for my daughter
  3. My mother, who is so much more than just a mom. She truly is one of my very best friends. I am beyond grateful for all she has taught me and all she has allowed me to learn for myself, for her encouragement and support, and for the grand tradition of “friend ears” that has facilitated open and honest communication on subjects that would otherwise be difficult to discuss. To say I don’t know what I’d do without her is an understatement!
  4. My grandmother, who was more like a second mother and friend to me. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her, and this time of year is especially hard as I find myself wishing for just one more holiday together. I am extremely thankful that I got to know such a wonderful person and for all the memories I have.
  5. All the people who have supported me on this journey as I work to build my career, even when I’m not quite sure of myself. If it wasn’t for the love and encouragement provided by my nearest and dearest, I never would have had the courage to finally release a novel and chase my dreams.
  6. My closest friends, who have become part of my family. I have been blessed with a handful of people who I cannot imagine not having in my life, who uplift me, and who I can just be myself around. I am incredibly lucky to have these strong bonds.
  7. My large network of family. It’s amazing how many people make a difference in our lives. Knowing there’s so many who care about our family is a blessing indeed.
  8. My wonderful fur babies: Kuma, our big beast of a dog, and Jude, our mostly reclusive cat. These two always bring a smile to my face and make life much more pleasant.brandyn blaze dog and cat thankful
  9. I’m thankful for music. Whether I’m listening to it or making it myself, nothing else in the world does as good a job of turning around a bad mood, or enhancing a good one. Over the years it has been a constant source of comfort and has shaped me in indescribable ways.
  10. Books. How awesome is it that we can open up a novel and be transported into another universe? Being able to step into a reality different than our own is a wonderful escape, and there is always a lesson to be learned from even the silliest stories.
  11. Wine. Because seriously, some days you just need a drink. Or's always wine time
  12.  I am extremely thankful that no matter how tight things get, we have a roof over our heads, our bills are paid, and there’s always food on the table. There have been times when things were a lot more uncertain than they are now, and I know there are others for whom these things are a daily struggle. We are incredibly lucky to be where we are.
  13. My cell phone. Even though we no longer have phone service, the device itself is still a wonderful thing to have. I can connect with friends through various apps, play games, take pictures and video, and so much more. Not so long ago the idea of being able to do all of that with one item wasn’t fathomable. How cool is it that we’ve seen technology advance so much?
  14. Lazy days. These may be the days I love the most. Just lying around the house in my PJs with my family and taking the time to enjoy simply being is one of my favorite things in the world.
  15. Mindy at MRB Photography. I met her when she did my best friend’s wedding and knew instantly that she was who I wanted to do my own. She did such an amazing job capturing our special day, and we got along so well, that I recently contacted her to do some head shots for me and take some shots for the cover of the next book. I am very thankful that our paths crossed!

    brandyn blaze head shots

    Three of my favorite shots from this set, I can’t wait to share more!

  16. Delicious food. I don’t want to come off as braggy, but I’m a pretty good cook, which I credit to both of my grandmothers. I love to cook (so long as I’m not rushed and no one steps into the kitchen while I’m working!) and I love to feed others. I am very thankful to be in a place where no one leaves my home hungry.
  17. A car that runs. Seriously, we have had our share of junk cars and have gone long stretches without a vehicle at all. Having a reliable set of wheels is amazing!
  18. Online grocery shopping and delivery. I often blame my dislike of shopping for groceries on the hassle of taking my unpredictable 4 year old with me, but the truth of the matter is I just don’t like to put on pants and deal with people. I much prefer waking up and putting in my order while I’m still in my jammies! Plus, I save a ton of money by sticking to the list and not blindly grabbing snack foods off the shelves!
  19. The internet, without which none of this would be possible. There are so many new opportunities for artists of all types nowadays, and it is truly a blessing for those of us who wish to share our work. It is also wonderful to be able to learn new things so easily and to be able to stay in touch with people you otherwise might not have.
  20. My early morning quiet time. I get up at 5:15 every morning. After I make my husband’s coffee and send him off to work, I have three to four hours to myself before my daughter wakes up. Being able to begin my day at a slower pace and have time to read, write, and recharge before resuming the usual rush is a life saver!
  21. People who put up with my singing. This should probably be higher on the list, because I’m sure it gets annoying. I’m generally always singing, whether it’s an on the fly ditty about why I’m walking to the kitchen, or singing along with whatever happens to be on. This is true regardless of where I am. 90% of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s just a reflex at this point. Props to all those who can handle it!
  22. Babies. Are they not the best? They inspire so much hope and wonder and best of all they’re cute and snugly! I’m especially grateful for the times I get to watch my adorable niece and I hope one day she has awesome memories and stories to tell of her Aunt Brandyn.
  23. My siblings. Do you know how awesome my mom is? She’s so awesome that she gave me one brother when I was two and needed a built-in friend, and then another when I was 20 and needed a practice baby. I have such a unique bond with each of my brothers that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I also was blessed with step-siblings when my father remarried and was lucky to form strong bonds with them as well, especially my step-sister.
  24. New friends. It’s amazing when you find others who are on your wavelength, and even more amazing when they become part of your circle of kinship.
  25. Happy childhood memories. Although there were definitely some rough patches in my life, I have far more many happy memories than bad ones and I am beyond thankful for that, as I know many cannot say the same.
  26. Mistakes I have made over the course of my life. There are many things I could have done differently, but I have learned a valuable lesson from every misstep and bad decision. I am thankful to have the ability to use that knowledge to improve my life.
  27. My crockpot. Because some days you just can’t be chained to the stove.
  28. My health. Although I have faced some fairly serious health issues in the past, I am mostly healthy. I am able to take care of my self and everything works more or less as expected, and I think that is something many of us take for granted.
  29. My bed. Am I the only one who freaking loves sleep? It’s the best. Not only that, but just chilling out and watching TV in comfort or reading a book (or writing a book, for that matter) with my mountain of pillow behind me is just heavenly.
  30. All of you, the people who follow my blog, my social media accounts, and read my books. You are all amazing and I am so lucky to have such great people in my corner. Thank you so much for your continued support!

We’re Almost There! Book Update and Giveaway!

As you’ve probably noticed, I have been quite a busy lady as of late. With birthdays, holidays, and various projects–not to mention every day stress–I feel like I’ve been going non-stop. It’s amazing that I’ve found any time at all to work on the next novel, but somehow I have managed to chip away at it, despite a few set-backs.

The next book will be called Lo-Fidelity and is the followup to “Broken Strings“. Maggie’s saga continues as she and the band set out on the road for their biggest tour yet. Along the way she gains confidence in her skills, encounters a few surprises, and uncovers some harsh truths that leave her questioning all her relationships.

I am beyond excited to share the next installment with you all and to move on to the third book in this series. These characters have become such a big part of my life, and watching them develop has been an amazing experience.

I am hesitant to give you a set release date, as things seem to keep blowing up around here, but I can tell you that the second book in the series will be released by the end of the year. As soon as things become a little more clear on my end, I will give you all an update both on this blog and through my social media channels.

win a free book, broken strings, brandyn blaze

In other book-related news, I have updated both the print and ebook versions of “Broken Strings” to correct a few errors that were missed before it’s release. Aside from an error on the cover of the first edition, there was also a doozy of a spelling error that led me to comb through the entire novel. The whole re-editing process was a bit of a headache, but it was definitely an eye-opener!

In order to celebrate the progress I’ve made, I thought I’d offer you all a chance to receive a signed copy of the newly revised edition of the first book in the “Instruments Of Life” series.

To enter, simply choose one or more of the following options in the widget below. The more options you choose, the bigger your chances of winning! This giveaway will end at 12am CST on Tuesday, November 22.

Don’t be stingy, be sure to share this contest with other romance readers as well!

Happy reading and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Case For A Niche-Less Blog

“What do you do?”

It’s an innocent enough question, lobbed at me with such force that I shrivel up as the words reach my ears. I look away as I reply, “I stay home with my baby.” I can feel your interest dissipate, so I quickly add, “And I run a blog.”

You smile and nod politely. “Oh, that’s cool. I’ll have to check it out sometime.”

I smile back, instantly uncomfortable. I know you’re not going to check it out. I’m just another mommy blogger, one of a million voices screaming into the wind, hoping for that one post that goes viral. What could I possibly have to say that you haven’t heard before?

You regard me with a look that I can’t identify. Pity? Envy? Maybe it’s neither. Just genuine disinterest. After all, I’m just a stay-at-home-mom with a hobby. A hobby that doesn’t even generate enough income to buy my morning bottle of Coca Cola.

woman drinking bottle of coke, blog musings

If only I looked that put-together while I drink mine!

But you don’t know that. Or at least, you wouldn’t know that if I held my head a little higher, if I put myself together and looked the part of a successful writer. Then again, you’d probably just assume my partner earns enough to keep me living in some kind of small-town luxury. Alas, my outdated, threadbare outfit gives me away.

Or maybe not. Maybe you haven’t given more than a second’s thought to any of this. Maybe you’re just tired. I know I am.

Regardless of what you may or may not think of me, I feel small in your presence. You have it all together. You look like you could have stepped out of a magazine. You went to school, got the job, got married, and had the kids. You kept working, maintaining a sense of identity and putting that degree to use.

I also went to school and got the job. But I wasn’t fulfilled in that role. And the truth is, I wasn’t entirely fulfilled with the mommy blogger role either. I think I knew that deep down when I first wrote the scene above a couple years ago.

blog with no niche

When I began my first blog, I was searching for something, and I was dedicated to documenting the hunt. I was feeling trapped in my new identity as a mother and wanted to prove that their was more to me than parenthood.

As the site grew and my quest for views became more of a focus, I found that the opposite happened. Motherhood became my only identity. This shift left me feeling pigeon-holed and frustrated. I needed another outlet.

After I published my book, I decided to start up this site and was determined to keep myself from falling into the same trap again. However, in my attempt to distance myself from mommy blogging, I found myself running into a wall. Suddenly, I couldn’t decide what to write about.  I was afraid to write too much about myself, because I knew I would revert to writing about my daughter as well. I didn’t want this to be my old blog with a new name.

Today, that seems silly. To ignore such a huge facet in my life is to eschew the very authenticity I strive to bring to this blog. In light of this revelation, you can expect a lot more personal stories to be included in the mix.

They say that it’s important to find your niche and as of now, I’m still looking for what that may be. Until then, I’m just going to put my truths into words and allow it to unfold naturally.

At the end of the day, I’d rather have a positive impact on a handful of people than no impact on anybody, and I trust that those people will find me. All that any of us can really do is be ourselves, do what we love to the best of our ability, and have faith that things will work out for the best.



How To Support The Creative Person In Your Life

Restless. Flighty. Unstable. Unrealistic. Childish. A little off.

It seems like the list of negative attributes ascribed to those of us with a creative bent is never-ending. We have our head in the clouds, we dream too much. We don’t live in the real world.

The push to give up and force yourself into an acceptable box that you just don’t fit into is strong and can be quite draining. With all of this coming from the world at large, it can be an even stronger blow when you feel unsupported by those around you.

Most of us spend the first half of our lives being told we can grow up to be anything, and the rest of our lives being told to be more realistic.The general idea is that once you become an “adult” hobbies are fine, but making money is more important. Happiness and fulfillment don’t matter unless it comes with a paycheck.

The thing is, you can have all the money in the world and still feel empty. Not everybody is made for a cookie-cutter role…and thank goodness for that!

If you have a creative individual in your life, you’ve probably found yourself thinking or saying things that undermine their view of the world without even realizing it. You may have even done so while trying to be helpful.

So what can you do to support the creative person in your life? Here’s 10 suggestions.

how to support the creative person in your life

1.) Try to see our point of view. Really listen, not just to our words, but to the deeper meaning behind what we’re saying. The “misunderstood artist” stereotype exists for a reason. Nothing is more frustrating than sharing your thoughts, feelings, or opinions only to have your loved ones brush it off. Many of us are introverted people. We’re deep thinkers who aren’t prone to saying anything that we don’t feel is important.

2.) Realize that this is not a phase. Nor is it a hobby. A person’s chosen art form is a huge part of their identity. It is who they are. Doing something you’re passionate about is one of the most fulfilling experiences a person can have. Denying that part of oneself is excruciating.

If they are pursuing their craft as a career, you should regard it as exactly that: a career. This is especially important to keep in mind if they are simultaneously working a “normal” job. In reality, they are working two jobs at that point. You shouldn’t expect them to give up valuable work time any more than you would expect them to take vacation time from any other job.

3.) Remember that anything truly is possible. Stay away from phrases like “What if you don’t make it?” or “You need to have a backup plan.” While you may feel as though you are being helpful by offering practical advice, in reality you’re only planting the seeds of doubt. Phrases like these are often interpreted as “You should give up.” Not exactly something you want to hear from a loved one.

4.) Take an interest. If your creative friend is a musician, listen to their music. Go to their shows. If they are a writer, read their work. If they are a painter, give their piece more than a quick glance. Really take it in. Talk to them about it. Ask them about their latest projects.

Want to take it a step further? Share it with others! Word of mouth is the best advertising, and many of us rely on it. Share their work on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets when you can. Leave reviews if their work is for sale on Amazon or similar sites. Recommend their book or CD to a friend or acquaintance who you think may genuinely enjoy it.

5.) Tell them you believe in them! This may seem incredibly obvious, but there’s a reason it’s on the list. It seems to be a thing that goes unspoken. If they tell you about a milestone they’ve reached, tell them you’re proud of them. If they’re feeling down about a lack of progress or a case of writer’s block, remind them of their achievements. Give them space to create.

It doesn’t have to be a never-ending stream of praise, but a few encouraging actions or words go a long way!

6.) Don’t put down the things that inspire them. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had my sources of inspiration ripped to shreds by people who claim to be in my corner. I’m not talking about playful banter or politely expressing your opinion, but outright rudeness that feels more like a personal attack.

Every artist, be it a poet, a musician, a film maker, or a fashion designer, has their heroes. These fellow artists represent something special. Their art directly influences our own. Their careers give us a sort of road map. You don’t have to like it, but it helps to understand it (see #1) and show a modicum of respect.

7.) Remember that most of us have several dreams and strongly dislike the feeling of being painted into a corner.

creativity can lead to too many ideas at once

You learn to live with the endless stream.

Don’t ask “What about your plan to X?” Just because we’re focusing on one project now doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the other goals. Most likely, we’re working on a plan to make them all work simultaneously. Even if that seems unrealistic to you, remember what we discussed in #3.

8.) Give constructive feedback. Be it positive or negative, we all crave feedback. “That’s really good!” doesn’t care much weight. Tell us exactly what you like about our art. Maybe it’s a guitar riff, or a favorite scene in a story, or the colors chosen in the painting. Specifics are key here. “I really love the way you sang that line” tells us more about than “You sounded great!”

It’s important to note that we do not want you to only focus on what we did well. We all wish to improve in our chosen crafts, and the only way to do that is to know where our shortcomings are. The trick is to deliver criticism politely.

For example, “I loved the overall story, but I feel like this scene was confusing.” or “I really liked the realism in your book, but you’ve used the phrase ‘the silence gathered around us’ too many times.” Both of these phrases are much more helpful than something like “I love the way you sang that song! A lot of your other stuff sounds like crap.” (Yes, that’s really a comment I’ve received.)

9.) Buy them things that relate to their craft.

buy me paper and pens, writers gifts, creative gifts

Merry Christmas to me!

The truth is, most of my projects get put on hold due to financial restraints. When my birthday or Christmas rolls around, I’m always grateful for gifts that help bridge that gap. Trust me, a writer isn’t going to think notebooks and pens are a “cheap” gift. Scrapbookers aren’t going to think new covers, pages, or glue sticks are a cop out. No guitarist is going to balk at new strings. Unsure about what brands they use? Give them a gift certificate.  On a tight budget? Offer to take their kids so they have a day to just focus on their art.

wine is an artist's best friend

Or this.

If all else fails, just give them some wine.

10.) Accept them as they are! Yes, we may be weird. We may be flighty. We may dress funny or listen to music you don’t understand. We may have a worldview that differs dramatically from your own. As with anyone else you care about, the most important thing you can do for the creative person in your life is just let them be who they are. Don’t offer unsolicited advice or try to change them. Don’t try to stifle their self-expression, even if it means putting up with them wearing sequins when you’d rather they didn’t. Accept who they are and encourage them to be true to themselves.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing you can do to support the creative person in your life is to be a good friend. Pay attention. Learn from one another. Celebrate their gifts. Keep those things in mind and the artist in your life is sure to be grateful.

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