Friday, October 29, 2010

How Shy is Shy?


Please help me welcome multi-published romantic suspense author Mary Montegue Sikes to the blog.

I love meeting and reading about all sorts of people and can very much relate to the shy ones. The people I’m reading about on your blog don’t seem as shy as I expected, but they may be hiding behind a brave persona.

For those very shy souls among us, I’d like to rant a little about the difficulty of self-promotion, especially in the area of selling books. I know quite a few writers who excel at self-promotion and at book sales. They know exactly where to go and what to say to get the right gigs. With their extroversion, they are able to obtain speaking engagements at conferences all over and at libraries, clubs, and other places in their home communities as well as areas near by.

Reserved folks don’t seem to have such an easy time. The ones I know shy away from self-promotion yet
they know they must do it if they want to make book sales. I’m acquainted with one author who actually feels sick to the stomach when she does book signings. She is just that introverted.

All this introversion started me thinking. Maybe a shy writer should start a blog. That would be the first step. Then he or she should start visiting other blogs and making posts. Eventually the timid blogger would become a guest on some of the other blogs where she/he might gain followers.

The Internet is a safe place for the introverted ones. They gain followers when no one is looking! I’ve been following several bloggers who started out with a very small, under ten following, who now have followers numbering in the hundreds.
How do they do it?

They make a plan. They create something of interest to readers—a book give-away is one possibility. One author even has her dog make the drawing each week.

A Halloween costume party is another promo event I’ve been watching. Post a photo of your costume for the day. Who has the best costume over a two week period. Let blog readers cast a vote. It’s a fun competition for all.

Book covers. Quite a few blogs have competitions for the best covers and the readers decide. The prize is simple. The victor can post about winning the contest for the best romance cover for the week.

I’ve decided the best way to overcome shyness is to bite the bullet. I have a new book out, Night Watch, that was released in early June. Since that time, I’ve somehow avoided the p
romotion my book needed as I let several weeks of trips take precedence in my life.

I appeared on a radio show but didn’t follow through to gain necessary recognition or the book sales gains that might be attached. I’ve had one book-signing that turned out to be a non-event because the bookstore failed to publicize. Lesson learned—no matter what they promise, publicize all events yourself.

Now, I’ve decided to create a blog book tour for my novel. I’ve lined up seven hosts and have a diverse set of posts planned for each stop on the seven different dates. I’ve been watching and learning from other blog book tours and have been impressed with the results I’ve seen on theirs. I don’t know if what I will do will approach their efforts or their results, but I will never have a chance if I don’t try. If nothing else, this can be a practice for an even bigger event in the future.

For now, I know that all writers, introverts and extroverts, must focus and follow through. If you don’t, you fail before you begin, shy or not.

Thank you, Rebecca, for having me as your guest. And congratulations to your sister on her new book!


Mary Montague Sikes is an award-winning author, freelance writer, photographer, artist, and teacher who loves to travel, especially to exotic tropical locations. The settings for her books and articles include Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad, and St. Martin. Her most recent research trips carried her to Los Cabos on the western coast of Mexico, to Yellowstone National Park where she took over 500 photographs, and to Carmel-by-the-Sea where she marveled at photo opportunities wherever she turned.

The Fredericksburg, VA native is author of five award-winning books. She presents workshops on promotion and marketing to state and national conventions as well as to many local writers groups. Hotels to Remember, a coffee table book that includes the Jefferson Hotel, the Homestead, and the Hotel Del Coronado is illustrated with her artwork and photographs.

A founding member of Virginia Romance Writers, she has served on the Board of Governors of the Virginia Writers Club and is a member and past president of the Richmond Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Her poem and paintings are featured in Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln, an anthology of work by members of the National League of American Pen Women. She is included in Who’s Who in American Women.

Her paintings are exhibited widely in Virginia and are in private and public collections in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Night Watch, her latest novel, was released earlier this year. Dangerous Hearts, a novella set in Virginia, was released by Red Rose Publishing in June.


www.marymontaguesikes.com
http://marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/#!/monti7
http://www.facebook.com/people/Monti-Sikes/1020636841

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cover Debut!

Dear readers,
Once Written, Twice Shy normally has a policy about not doing straight promo here, but I'm going to make an exception today--because my sister's cover is out!

Laurie London is my sister, and Bonded By Blood, A Sweetblood Novel, releases in February with HQN. I'm so darn proud of her that I just had to show you her cover.
Laurie wanted to share a cute story about the cover shoot.

Here's Laurie: The art director knew I preferred not to see a discernable face and didn't want fangs. When they showed up for the photo shoot, the photographer had brought a pair of plastic fangs just for kicks and grins. It turns out the pictures they took with the model looking straight into the camera with those fangs on were the shots they liked most. What do authors know? We know words. The art director and photographer know images.

Rebecca here again: What do you think? Isn't the cover hot?

Laurie London is the author of the Sweetblood series, dark, sexy vampire romance from HQN. The first book, BONDED BY BLOOD, is available February 2011. Book two, EMBRACED BY BLOOD, comes out July 2011. A graduate of Western Washington University and a former tester/programmer for a Fortune 500 company, Laurie writes from her home near Seattle where she lives with her husband and two children. You can find out more about Laurie and her writing at her website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

THE MAGIC OF WRITING

Please help me welcome multi-published erotic romance author Juniper Bell to the blog.

Thanks for having me on the Shy Writers blog today, Rebecca. I definitely meet the definition, even though some might say a truly shy person would not have become an erotica writer.

Definitely, the people who knew me as a kid would be surprised at my new career. I was the girl who got glasses at the age of nine and hid behind them all through school. In the carpool, I’d sit in the back seat and read, even though my parents scolded me for my rudeness. When I went to my friends’ houses, I’d make a beeline for their bookshelves. I loved libraries.

As a matter of fact, my entire sex ed instruction came from the library. I don’t know what happened to health class. I don’t remember it. But I do remember searching out every bit of information I could find in certain forbidden books at the library. (My parents were apparently too shy to discuss such things.)

People saw me as a bookworm, as the supersmart girl with glasses. They would have been surprised by how many of those books were romances. Not all—but enough so that when I decided to write, that’s where I gravitated.

In my opinion, the hardest part of being shy is the self-consciousness. I hated being the focus of attention. I was always terrified of saying the wrong thing, of making a fool of myself. As long as I stayed in the background, I felt safe from scorn.

But all that changed when I picked up a pen. Writing was addictive. I’m sure all you other writers know the feeling I’m talking about. The power and freedom that comes when you’re the ruler of the world you’re creating. When no one is there to judge or criticize. When you can be bold, be wild, be whatever you want.

Here’s the trick that has enabled me to put out into the world the most private, most intimate of stories. The idea is this: I don’t write the book, the book writes me. The story uses me, my abilities, my experiences, my imagination, in order to find its way to readers. I give it everything I have—but it doesn’t belong to me. It’s not me. It’s a collaboration between me, the reader, and some mysterious magic I don’t understand or control.

Thinking of writing this way has relieved me of that burden of self-consciousness. It makes it easier to do the promotional and marketing aspects of writing. Easier to handle reviews and rejections. It’s not about me. It’s about the story, and the mystery of creation. If someone doesn’t like what I write, I’m sad, but I don’t take it personally.

Some actors say they’re shy. They like acting because it provides a safe zone in which they become someone else. That’s what writing is to me. A safe zone in which I don’t have to watch my behavior. I can become anything and anyone I want while I’m writing. It’s intoxicating. It’s liberating. It’s essential to my sanity.

So for all you shy writers out there, I say, if I can do it, you can. Just remember, the magic of writing is bigger than all of us.

Juniper Bell lives with her sweetie in a cabin in Alaska with no running water and a spectacular view of glaciers. She wound up in the frozen north after leaving her career as a stressed-out Los Angeles TV writer. Luckily, her love for writing survived the move. She soon discovered a surefire way of heating up those long winter nights. Her first erotic romance, “The Extremist,” was published in August of 2009, and since then she’s published three more books, “Doll” and “Training the Receptionist” with Samhain Publishing and “My Three Lords” with Ellora’s Cave. Visit her website, her blog , friend her on FaceBook or follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 18, 2010

After the CALL--You Mean I Actually Have to TALK to People?

Please welcome back YA author B.A. Binns to the blog.


I expected writing to be hard, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Endless hours spent bent over a keyboard (or paper and pen, I’m still old school for my first drafts), then more lonely hours re-writing and editing. Actually, I found writing my novel the perfect job for an introvert. Especially a raving introvert. I scored in the top 3% for introversion on the Myers-Briggs test, and I’m darn proud of that too. I did join RWA and my local chapter. I even attend meetings, judge contests and get and give critiques. But it’s all strategy. In the beginning I sat in the back and observed. This little introvert was there doing business research, learning my craft not trying to be a social butterfly. (As if I ever could. It didn’t happen when I was young and slim, it’s certainly not going to happen now.)

After attending RWA Nationals earlier this year I patted myself on the back for reaching out to strangers and networking. Little did I know that was only the beginning. And, in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t get easier with practice, at least not for me.

This little introvert found an agent without really querying when Andrea Somberg from the Harvey Klinger agency loved PULL. After judging my manuscript in the 2009 Golden Rose contest, I signed with her in January and she sold PULL to WestSide books in March. WestSide loved the book so much they were willing to cut corners and rush it into production as part of their fall, 2010 lineup. At that point I thought my work was done.

I put together a list of things to do next:

Sign contract
Revise manuscript (a little)
Cash my check
Review and OK the edits
Collect royalties


I quickly discovered I was hopelessly naïve. While writing PULL I had been my own boss and sole employee, meaning my deserted island was populated by me, myself and I. I reveled in the solitude. The problem is that the act of writing is only part of the author’s job description. If you want what you have written to be read, then writing is more than just a job, it’s a business enterprise. That meant that a lot of steps were missing from my list. And that this shy writer needed to step so far outside her comfort zone she might never find her way back again.


I’d been warned about the thing called promotion. I belong to RWA, my local chapter, and several special interest chapters. I read blogs and studied both craft and the business end of writing. I swear I paid attention, I knew I had to do something to get myself and my book known. But somehow my brain refused to think about what promotion really meant to me. That I would be required to get our from behind my computer, put down my writing pad, and meet people. Total strangers. A lot of them.

My business enterprise needed new positions. I found myself assuming the mantle of director of marketing and director of PR (no, those aren’t the same thing), and added more items to my list:

Set up website and keep it current
Tweet
Blog
Make Facebook friends

Plan a publicity campaign
Press the flesh

Oh, and never forget the need to return to the keyboard and put out the next book. For the past few months these activities have filled my life and crowded out the all important next book.

When people tell you about promotion, don’t take it lightly. Yes, the publisher takes on part of the burden, but a lot still falls on me. People want to know about the author of the books they read, to feel a connection. Name recognition counts in politics and sales. I know I buy more from authors I feel I know. I even considered hiring a publicist. Unfortunately I’m only small potatoes. After our initial discussions she never got back to me with a proposal, so once again it’s me, myself and I.

I’ve turned myself and my car into walking and rolling advertisements. I have engaged in some interesting tweet-fests, tweeteractions, tweet-ins or whatever they should be called, and accumulated over a hundred followers on twitter (I know, I need to have thousands, but it’s a start). Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with old friends and meet new authors, although I’m not sure how I’m doing in terms of attracting possible readers. And I have now shaken so many hands and complimented so many children that I could run for political office. Practice doesn’t make perfect, by the way, it barely makes being out in public tolerable. But even though I can’t yet be called a social butterfly, I do understand why getting out there and meeting people is necessary. And VistaPrint has become my new best friend, although it’s amazing how much “free stuff” ends up costing me.

And I will admit that it’s nice to hear someone say they remember me, even if I have no idea where I saw him or her before. And I received a personal email from a high school youth--my intended audience--who read an ARC, scored my book 9.5 on a scale of 10 AND enthusiastically commented about the story and the characters. He even recommended PULL to his English teacher. Maybe I’m not the raving introvert I thought I was, because I want to go out and give him a giant hug.

I’ll be having small parties with my writing groups to celebrate the release of PULL, all people I’m already friends with and comfortable being around. My local library has sponsored me to speak in November. I’ll be talking the people about the business of writing and call that a party to, bring refreshments and books to sign. Instead I’m planning an online party for my release day, October 27. I’m also planning an on-line party on October 27. Join in via twitter at #BABinns to chat about the book, or about being a shy writer, ask questions about promotion or anything else you desire. There will be door prizes, including gift cards and autographed copies of PULL.

And, somehow, I WILL get back to the solitary joy of writing.

And this time I really mean it.

BIO: B. A. Binns is the pseudonym of Barbara Binns, a Chicago Area author who finds writing an exercise in self discipline, and the perfect follow-up to her life as an adoptive parent and cancer survivor. She is a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), the Chicago Writers Association, SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). She writes to attract and inspire both male and female readers with stories of “real boys growing into real men…and the people who love them.”

PULL, her debut YA novel, tells the story of a young man’s journey from guilt and the fear that biology forces him to repeat his father’s violence, to the realization that his future is in his own hands. Published by WestSide Books, PULL is available October 27, 2010 at your favorite bookstore or online bookseller.

For more information please visit
http://www.babinns.com/, or email author1@babinns.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

GOING BEYOND THE COMFORT ZONE

Please help me welcome multi-published romantic suspense and mystery author Chelle Cordero to the blog.

Here's Chelle: I am really a very private person. I normally choose not to discuss many of the ups and downs of life outside of my immediate circle of friends (and even then there is a lot I won’t share). Yet I allow my characters to feel the full range of emotions. Sometimes I have to lend a character some of my emotions… and I kind of feel exposed.

The stories I write have characters who have experienced tragic losses, trauma, crushed dreams, betrayal, abandonment and fear. Deanna is kidnapped, Tom mourns a lost love, Caitlyn lost both parents at a young age, Jake is desperate when a maniac threatens to kill the woman he loves, Layne hides from an abusive husband, Lon is accused of a heinous crime – and each character cries, feels fear, anger, despair and all of those “rip your heart out feelings”.

Although I may add a random memory to one of my character’s lives I often share very little with them, but oh how I share when it comes to tears. In one scene I wrote my character went to speak to his dead fiancé about falling in love again and he cried, and I cried alongside him (sigh, that was hard for me to admit). In another book where one of my characters sacrificed her life for the man she loved and then was accused by the same man for betraying him, she felt despair – and I forced myself to remember all of the frustrations I ever felt for having my well intentioned actions misunderstood. I was the one who lost sleep after researching serial killers and horror for a murder mystery.

I love it when I hear a reader say how they “laughed and cried” or sat “on the edge of their seat” – yet I feel exposed knowing how many of the private motions revealed in my books are actually MY private emotions. When I write I must force myself to go beyond my comfort zone and share these feelings.

Funny thing is, no one is making me share these things – but writing is a need that is tantamount to breathing, and breathing is actually quite comfortable.

Chelle Cordero is a multi-published romantic-suspense and mystery author with Vanilla Heart Publishing and short stories in five different anthologies through VHP and Mandimam Press. She also freelances as a journalist for several local and national newspapers and magazines. Chelle also pens the weekly Amazon Kindle blog ‘Living, Breathing, Writing” available by subscription. Ms. Cordero lives in New York’s lower Hudson Valley and serves her community by volunteering as an EMT with her local ambulance corps. Chelle’s web-site can be found at http://chellecordero.com/

Friday, October 1, 2010

Overcoming Shyness

Please help me welcome romance writer Claranne Perkins to the blog.

I’ve always considered myself a shy person which is surprising because the careers I’ve had as a teacher, a reporter and a fundraiser, aren’t exactly designed for people who suffer from shyness.


As a child, I much preferred doing things alone like reading. When forced to go out and play with the other kids, I would enjoy the games of baseball, hide and seek and Simon Sez, but after about an hour of playing with others, I was more than ready to crawl back into my shell and enjoy a good book.


The only problem was I was naturally curious about other people and was usually the first on the block to meet the new kid and introduce her/him around to the others. In seventh grade, I started writing The Craig and Danny Mysteries to entertain myself with my weekly spelling word list combined with my love of The Perry Mason television show.


I was entertaining myself, but by the second installment, the teacher had me read the story in front of the class. With sweaty palms, a couple of deep breaths and an excruciatingly slow walk to the front of the classroom, I read my story aloud because the teacher had ordered me to. When I finished, I made a beeline for my seat. But the room erupted in applause and I remember thinking, “This writing thing might be a good idea. It was something I could do alone, let others read and be adored.”


As a sophomore in high school, I was still pretty shy, but nosy, and when it came time to do the five-page report on my future career, I was still thinking about being a novelist. Only problem was when I did the research, I found one sheet on “novelist” that more or less said “there are few successful writers and don’t expect to eat much. See Journalism.” That was enough to send me to the school newspaper where I got to interview people and write articles. I did enjoy interviewing others and I was writing alone so again life looked pretty good for a sixteen year-old.

To my sixteen year-old mind I decided to give up the idea of being a novelist until I retired. Then, if I failed, at least I’d have a pension coming in and some way to support myself. I won a scholarship to college that I wouldn’t have to pay back IF I taught for three years, so I went to college, majored in English-Journalism and in four years found myself teaching English to high school sophomore and seniors. I managed to perform in the classroom, but at the end of the day I was more than ready to curl up with a book or my favorite television show alone.
 Somewhere in my late twenties, I took the Myers-Briggs test and learned that my introvert score was only one point higher than my extrovert. By then I had been a successful teacher (high school English) and, in later years, would have successful careers as a reporter and a fundraiser, none of which would be easy for anyone painfully shy.


How did I ever survive, let alone manage to raise millions of dollars? I overcame and adapted and believe me--if I can, you can, too. What I came to understand after taking the Myers-Briggs was that I wasn’t as shy as I thought. I just preferred being alone. Too much social activity sapped my energy and I needed the alone time to recharge.

Extroverts crave social activity, being around a lot of people energize them. Since I secretly admired people who were comfortable in any social situation, I studied them and tried to copy what ever they did.

These are some of the things that helped me. Maybe they’ll help you:

 Introduce yourself to others and ask them a question about themselves. Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. I found once I introduced myself and asked a question, all I had to do was listen and ask a few follow-up questions. Often, I would start with another person in the room who was alone or looked as shell shocked as I was feeling. Once we both relaxed, I felt free to introduce myself to another person. By the third person, I was pretty comfortable.


Practice. I was always willing to practice conversations. Sometimes I practiced in my bathroom mirror. Sometimes I practiced with a trusted friend. But I did practice so I would know ahead of time how I would react in different situations.


Read books, articles, blogs. One of the first books I read on “shyness” was Barbara Walters' book, How to Talk to Anyone about Anything. I also read about different celebrities who were supposedly “shy” but had great careers like Walters and Johnny Carson.


Set a goal. Decide to introduce yourself to five people and have a five-minute conversation with each. That’s a 25-30 minute social event that you can feel free to leave after your 30 minutes. Next time, increase your goal.


Have some stock questions. Writers like to talk about their books/stories. How they developed their writing careers. Their favorite writers and books. Just ask.

Visit Claranne on her group blog, Blame It On The Muse, Linked In, and Facebook.