What makes author CHRISTI BARTH break into a cold sweat?

If you are shy, writing – on the surface – looks like an ideal occupation. No coworkers, no commute, no cold calling…But the deeper you get into the profession, the truth comes out. Our cold calls are our query letters. Blogging thrusts us into the spotlight constantly. However, I’m here to discuss a topic that can break even the least shy people into a cold sweat – sex (did I get your attention?). Yup, I am a romance author, which means my books have sex. Explicit sex. Well written, sweaty, no holds barred sex. Both because the story demands it, and because it is almost compulsory in romances these days. The promise of a few great make out scenes and one full scale bedroom romp is a great way to sell to total strangers. I’ve no problem with the strangers. I do, however, have a hard time with close friends.

Friends who might give sidelong glances and start picturing things when they see my husband kiss me. Or worse, coworkers, who should DEFINITELY not be thinking about my hot sex scene when we’re in meetings. Most dire of all is the looming specter of family. My father reads my sex scenes. Gulp. When my first book released last year, I panicked. It came out in early December, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how awkward Christmas dinner might be at our house, once my father finished my book.

And I didn't want him to just turn the page and skip it, because I labored really hard to make it good (truly ladies, is there anything harder to write than a well crafted sex scene?).....but would I be able to look him in the face once he read it? A paradox, I know. He grew up in the 60s, but lived as opposite a life as possible from free love/drugs/rock 'n roll.

The good news is that I panicked for nothing. He read it, and the world kept turning. Did we discuss it in depth? Of course not. As a matter of fact, he just finished my latest release Act Like We’re In Love which kicked up the heat level another notch. More relaxed this time, I was able to turn it into a joke, quizzing him on what made the heroine’s underwear unique for proof he read the whole thing.

My panic level is sky high again, though, as I’m set to be a guest at my mother’s book club. A bunch of senior citizens who have already complained to her about how racy the book is…and yet every single one of them finished it. How on earth am I going to be able to look these little old ladies in the eye when we discuss it? Because they kept reading. Whether because of the sex scenes or despite them, they kept going. They enjoyed the overall story. It gave them an escape, brightened their day. Which means I hit my goal as an author, so I’m going to wrap myself in an extra-thick cloak of dignity and remember they liked it. After all, my characters spent a majority of the book engaged in witty dialogue and a complex plot. The sex scenes probably add up to less than a full chapter out of almost thirty. No reason for me to obsess over it if they don’t!

I'm sure everyone has encountered this. What did you do - how do you deal with it? I'm grateful for any and all suggestions.

Christi Barth spent years performing in musicals, singing about love and giving people a happy ending in every performance. Then as a wedding planner she spent every day immersed in romance. Now she writes it! After winning several writing contests, she debuted her novel Carolina Heat to rave reviews. She lives in Maryland with the absolutely best husband in the world (sorry ladies, but it's true!).

It is exciting to share her love of the theatre with the world through Act Like We're In Love. For all her fellow Broadway fans, favorite shows include Guys & Dolls, Phantom, and The Most Happy Fella. A special curtain call for Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, the show where she met and first starred opposite the love of her life.

For more about Christi, please visit her website.

Book Signings, Or Welcome to the Jungle

Please help me welcome multi-published romance author Meg Benjamin to the blog.

Here's Meg: I did my first book signing this summer at RomCon (it was also the first RomCon so we stumbled along together). It was one of those mass signing set-ups so beloved of RT and RWA—fifty or sixty authors ranged around a large room, organized alphabetically. Normally, this might be a minor detail, but RomCon had managed to bring in some Very Big Names. Thus, going alphabetically, I was seated between Jo Beverley and Leanne Banks. Elizabeth Boyd was just down the table. Julia Quinn, Carly Phillips, and Brenda Novak were across from us. Gulp.

It’s one thing to be shy around readers. I think that’s sort of a given. But having been placed in the Living Legends group, I found myself totally tongue-tied. I wanted to crawl underneath the table and hide. Instead, I sat and stuttered.

It was fairly easy to figure out who was famous and who wasn’t among the authors scattered around the room. The Famous Authors all had long lines of readers wanting autographs. The not-so-famous had, well, nothing much. By now you may have seen Parnell Hall’s hilarious video about his book signing next to Mary Higgins Clark. That was sort of my experience, only I had the equivalent of Mary Higgins Clark on either side of me and across the room as well. I had a lot of time to arrange my pens, my bookmarks, and my book copies since nobody much wanted to talk to me.

Now it should be said that both Jo Beverley and Leanne Banks were friendly and very nice about the fact that they’d never heard of me. I also saw one or two readers come up to Jo Beverley and ask her what exactly she wrote. Beverley cheerfully explained that she wrote historicals and handed out cover flats of her latest. So even the famous haven’t reached everybody.

But still, by the end of the day my ego was the size of a Tic-Tac. So what advice can I give to those who are heading out to a mass book signing where you will be plopped down with the well-known and beloved? Maybe just to hang in there. Fans in the long lines are bored too, and sometimes they actually look at the books stacked in front of other authors. I had a few Leanne Banks fans take my excerpt booklets—I guess it gave them something to read while they waited in line for Christine Feehan. Practice smiling. Develop your inner Zen so that you can meditate on something restful while watching everybody else’s line. And most of all, don’t let it get you down. Once upon a time, nobody had heard of Jo Beverley either.

Meg Benjamin is the author of the Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing. Book #4, Long Time Gone, was a Romantic Times Top Pick for Contemporary, and book #5, Brand New Me, will be released by Samhain on December 7. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly Maine coon anyway). You can find out more about Meg on her website , Facebook, MySpace , and Twitter . Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.