Q & A with Gabrielle Bisset

Thanks for being here today, Gabrielle. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?

I’m Gabrielle Bisset, and by day I’m a college history professor, but by night and weekends, I’m an erotic romance writer. My first novella, Vampire Dreams, is out now, and my first novel, Stolen Destiny, will be released this Wednesday, June 29 from Siren Publishing.

Q Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person?

A I do consider myself a shy person, although I think people believe because I can lecture to classes all day that I must be an extrovert.

Q In what ways has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career?

I find promoting to be difficult sometimes only because I’m afraid I’m being too pushy. For example, my best friend knows someone who has over 1000 friends on his Facebook page because he’s an entertainer. She immediately set out to ask him if he would mind if she put some information up about my books, but I was nervous he would be put out. I just don’t think promotionally, it seems.

Q In what ways has being shy or introverted helped your writing career?

Being a writer is a solitary job, and I thrive in that environment. I can sit for hours and write, without talking to another soul, and be quite happy. I imagine very social people would find that almost like sensory deprivation, but I enjoy the solitude.

Q What’s the hardest part of this business for you?

The promotion. It takes a lot of time and I have to be far more assertive than I feel I naturally am. But I’m seeing great results in my sales, so I guess I’ll just have to keep plugging away.

Q Tell me about a time that you had to step outside your comfort zone either in your writing career or in your personal life?

A Every time I email someone to ask if they’d like to blog swap I step out of my comfort zone. At first, it was actually scary. I know that sounds odd coming from an adult who has a lot of accomplishments behind her, but I’m just not the type of person to knock on someone’s door and say, “Hey, I have this great product! Would you like to try it?”

Q What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?

The worst anyone can say is no, and then what have you lost? Nothing. But if they say yes, you’ve gained immediately.

Q Would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?

Stolen Destiny: Released from prison to find a murderer, a prison-hardened Varek Leale is convinced no woman deserves the man he’s become, but his Aeveren destiny makes him succumb to sweet and sexy Callia Reynolds. To catch a murderer, he and Callia must find an Aeveren with the power to control time. But Amon Kalins isn’t a man to trifle with, and when he wants something, he’ll use his powers, devastating charm, and good looks to get it.

When Amon manipulates time and seduces her away, Varek must turn to the people who set him free for help to get her back. But the Council doesn’t do anything without requiring something in return, and what they want is Amon Kalins, one of the most powerful Aeveren ever. Varek will do what he must to capture Amon and find Callia. If he doesn’t, she’ll be lost to him for untold lifetimes.

Readers can buy Stolen Destiny from Siren Publishing.
 Q Where can my readers find you on the web?
 Readers can find me at my blog, at my website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thanks so much for being here today, Gabrielle!

Nervous about pitching at Nationals? Turn your nerves into enthusiasm.

Please welcome 2011 Golden Heart finalist Ruth Kaufman to the blog.

Whether extrovert or introvert, many authors clam up when someone says, “What do you write?” or “Tell me about your book.” They may have stage fright (like Barbra Streisand) or they may feel uncomfortable talking about their work.  In fact, today a published Facebook friend posted that she didn’t like to toot her own horn.  These authors look away, hem and haw, and eventually manage to get out something about their genre: “I write contemporary.”  Conversely, nerves lead them to babble on and on about plot details.  Neither approach is likely to intrigue the listener.

It’s hard for me to understand why anyone who has spent hours and hours writing and submitting would be loathe to discuss her passion at any opportunity.  I heard an author say that at the literacy signing (a yearly event at RWA’s National Conference where hundreds of authors sit alphabetically, sign books and proceeds go to literacy) she was too nervous to introduce herself to her senior editor.  

Some may fear sounding stupid.  Others may fear rejection.  Even I get nervous to some degree when the spotlight is on.  The key is to learn to control any fears instead of allowing them to control you.  Turn your nerves into enthusiasm and make them work for you.  If you don’t, at a conference you may miss opportunities to make connections with other authors and industry professionals (IPs).  When out and about, you miss opportunities to grow your readership or make contacts.  

Tips for talking about your writing with confidence:

Focus on the message and what you’re saying.  Think: this is an opportunity I’ve been waiting for for a long time!  I’m so excited to talk to EDITOR about my work.  Don’t think:  OMG, it’s EDITOR.  I’ll faint if she doesn’t request something.

Answer these questions: 
     1)    What do you fear the most when talking about your work?
     2)    What is the worst that can happen if your fear comes true? 
     3)    Do you avoid verbally promoting your writing?  If so, why?

Remember that this is a business. You are a professional. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur, a salesperson with products to market.  Salespeople would get fired if they failed to promote the benefits of their products to potential clients. Salespeople have thick skins and know that each “no” means they’re closer to “yes.”

Prepare a short (around 15 second) summary of your book that includes a hook. Also know what makes it different from others in its subgenre (Regency-set, vampire, etc.).  Practice out loud, preferably with others.  This way you’ll be prepared.  You’ll know what to say.

Know your hero’s and heroine’s goals, motivation and conflict inside and out.

First impressions mean a lot.  Don’t talk too soft or loud, apologize for anything, fidget, giggle.  Avoid lots of “like, you know,” ums and ahs. Better to take a breath instead.

Have eye contact and smile.

Have fun! If you enjoy yourself, your audience will too.  If you act nervous, your audience picks up on that.The next time someone asks what you write, I hope you can answer with confidence.  Don’t let opportunity pass you by. 

Ruth Kaufman’s inspirational medieval AT HIS COMMAND is a 2011 Golden Heart® Finalist.  An attorney with a Master’s in Radio/TV, Ruth is an on camera and voiceover talent, a freelance writer and editor and workshop presenter.  She lives in Chicago and actually thinks pitching is fun.  Learn more at www.ruthjkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.

The Sassy-Girl’s Guide to Success at RWA Nationals

Please help me welcome 2011 Golden Heart® finalist and sassy girl Kimberly Kincaid to the blog.

I’m an extrovert. My parents swear I was born this way. I feel an innate fondness for striking up conversations with people I don’t know, volunteering for public speaking roles, and don’t even get me started on how much I adore the inventor of the karaoke machine. Being in front of other people, from one-on-one chats to large-group meetings, makes me happy.

I’m definitely a minority.

Let’s face it: the idea of going to RWA Nationals, where everyone from senior editors to fresh-out-of-the-gate writers congregate to celebrate the romance-writing industry, is rather daunting! But with a couple tips, even the most introverted attendee can forge her way through a successful experience in New York (and beyond).

Do some legwork. This step will take a little time, but is worth its weight in gold. Take a few moments to peruse your RWR magazine—you know, the one with the conference schedule printed inside. Go to the RWA website to print any available handouts so you can take them with you to your chosen workshops. Not only will you not have to take notes, but if the gal next to you doesn’t have hers? You can offer to share, and look! You’re making friends the easy way— one gal at a time! Which brings us to…

Print business cards. Please note that these don’t need to be fancy, professionally printed, or expensive. There are tons of free templates online, and you can even print your own if you’re in a pinch for time. But believe me when I say, this is hands-down the best way to network at Nationals. Your name and email address is all you need! Then when you share notes with someone, sit next to someone at lunch, meet someone in line for the literacy signing (all of which will happen), you can swap information and keep in touch. Keep a handful of them in the plastic nametag you’ll get at check-in, and you won’t even need to rummage through your purse to find one!

Formulate a few ice-breakers. Everyone attending Nationals has one thing in common: we’re all tied to books in some way. Asking someone what she writes is a sure-fire ice-breaker, and it gives people a chance to practice their 30-second pitches (hint: they usually return the favor and ask back!). Not ready to pitch? No worries— getting into the practice of saying “I write single-title contemporaries with a humorous bent” (you can fill in the blanks to suit your work) won’t hurt. Other good ice-breakers include: “tell me about your book”, “I’m really excited to meet Author X” (perfect for waiting on line at signings), and “are you involved with your local chapter?” Speaking of which…

If you’re a first-timer, go to orientation. Unless something major prohibits you from getting to New York on Tuesday night, I highly recommend both the Literacy Signing and the first-timer’s orientation. Everyone at both events is very friendly, and they’ll answer any and all questions you might have (ask! You’ll feel better!).

Reach out to local chaptermates. If you’re not already a member of a local chapter, it’s never too late! There’s a comprehensive list on the RWA’s website. Many local chapters arrange at least one meeting/lunch/dinner during Nationals. Some groups also try to flock to specific areas in the main dining room for luncheons. Others have phone lists with cell phone numbers of attendees so people can be in touch on-site. Check out yours before you go!

Plan some down-time. Being at a National conference is exciting, and chock-full of things to do. But it’s also got the potential to be very overwhelming, especially since many of us writers are used to the solitary endeavor of BICHOK (bottom in chair, hands on keyboard). If you know you’ll need to re-charge mentally, schedule ten minute breaks where you can go to your room and close your eyes, or read something quietly, or call home. Also, make sure to bring snacks (best thing I packed last year, aside from the Spanx for under my ceremony dress, was a box of granola bars. Really) and drink plenty of water to keep you from running low on steam. Last, but not least…

Be comfortable. Being at a conference with over 2,000 other people has the potential to be crazy enough. Wearing a dress and heels when you know you’re a pants and sandals kind of gal is only going to make you miserable. Business casual is the norm for Nationals (unless you’re pitching, then I’d say go a notch more professional, but nice pants are very acceptable!). You’ll have a hard time relaxing and making new connections (not to mention impressing your dream agent or editor when she happens to be in line behind you at Starbucks) if your feet are killing you.

So now you tell me. What are your burning questions about going to NYC? Conference veterans, what can you add to the list of advice? How can we make 2011 the best Nationals experience yet?

Kimberly Kincaid is a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist who writes single-title contemporary romances that split the difference between sexy and sweet, and is currently exploring the delicious world of foodie romance. She is proudly represented by Maureen Walters at the Curtis Brown Literary Agency, and she lives in northern Virginia with her very introverted husband and three extroverts-in-training. Blurbs for Kimberly’s manuscripts can be found on her website, and she can be found on Facebook and Twitter, where she loves to network and hear from others in the industry.

Julie Brannagh: An Introvert Goes to National, or How to Survive Four Days with 2,300 Authors

Please help me welcome 2011 Golden Heart Finalist Julie Brannagh to the blog. Julie is a member of my local chapter, GSRWA in the Seattle area. And you couldn't meet a nicer person.

Here's Julie: My name is Julie, and I am an introvert. Most people have no idea. After all, I’ve spent a lot of years figuring out my own strategies for dealing with large crowds or people I don’t know. For the shy or introverted, RWA National is a chance to take a risk in a safe environment. This is my fourth trip to National. It’s 2300 people for four days, so it’s crowded, noisy, fun and hectic. It’s also the only place on earth where everyone there does the same crazy stuff I do, like write in my PJ’s, or scrawling a plot point on the back of an old envelope I just dug out of my purse.

The best way for me to forget my fear is to remember there are other people that feel the same way. If I focus on them, I don’t think so much about my own worries. Here’s a few of the things I do during an overwhelming or stress-producing situation.

• The person standing or sitting next to you is just as worried and anxious as you are. She’s most likely away from home, too, and wondering if her clothes/hair/shoes/pitch is right. It’s hard for any of us to reach out, but take the risk. The VAST majority of people I’ve ever smiled at and said, “How are you?” at a conference to respond positively. If you take that one tiny step, the other person will reply, there might be a little conversation, and you’ve made a new friend.

• Say something nice to anyone with a “first timers” ribbon on. A friendly face means a lot to someone who might be getting ready to pitch for the first time, or summoning the nerve to talk with Susan Elizabeth Phillips about the partial she just submitted to a publisher… ahem. A few words of encouragement can make that person’s day.

• Speaking of really famous authors, they are just like the rest of us. They feel shy, too. If they are not busy talking with someone else, take a deep breath, walk over and say “Hi”. It’s okay to tell them how much you loved their latest book, or why you enjoy their work. Indulging your inner fangirl is not a bad thing. Do not think you are a dork. After all, I will see you and raise you: Nobody could do or say anything more ridiculous than what I said to Anne Stuart, who was gracious and kind to me anyway.

• Pitching. It’s up to you, but this year, I’m not. I’m sending queries to the agents I want to pitch. Let’s face it, pitching is a guaranteed stress-producer, and every editor or agent I have ever heard talk about the subject says they don’t sign people based on pitches at conferences. They sign as the result of queries.

• Editors and agents: I spotted an editor I met at a previous conference at National a few years back. She rejected my partial, but I made the extra effort to stick out my hand, say hello, and ask her how she liked Dallas. Editors and agents spend their whole conference besieged by people who want to pitch them. Even a little bit of “normal” conversation must be a huge relief to them.

• Workshops: Sit near the front. Smile at the person or people presenting. Again, they are as nervous as you are. That little bit of positive reinforcement really helps.

• Extra credit: Do not sit with your chapter mates at lunch or other conference gatherings. It’s easy to go sit with the same people we see every month at meetings. Take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, and approach a table with an open seat. You can’t imagine the people you’ll meet. Even if you’re not sure you have a lot to contribute to the conversation, you’ll find yourself joining in.

The biggest thing, at least to me – I try to “shrink” my conference experience. In other words, I look for opportunities to have one on one conversation. Just because I feel scared or shy is no reason to miss out on something I will remember afterwards as a highlight, such as introducing a friend to someone else she’s wanted to meet for a long time.

Just remember, there are people in New York City that want to meet you.

You can connect with Julie on Twitter. 

Week 8: Lose 10 lbs in 10 Weeks

Sorry for the delay in posting again. This week I can't blame Blogger, it's all me. :) I'm frantically trying to get my house in order for my daughter's high school graduation this weekend--we're having a big party for her and my house isn't, um, ready yet.

How is everyone doing? You on track to lose your 10 lbs? If so, good for you. Keep doing what you're doing.

You behind on schedule a bit? I'm down 6 lbs, so I still have a ways to go. It's safe and doable to lose 2 lbs a week for the next couple of weeks.

Today, I'm going to talk about setbacks, because I'm dealing with one (and this is my blog so it's all about me, right? LOL).

Normally, I rely on lots of cardio to keep my weight stable. All that heart-pumping exercise allows me to not eat perfectly, because I like to not eat perfectly on a regular basis. But that's going to have to change for me. I've been dealing with foot pain for a while and finally went to a foot and ankle doc yesterday. He told me I have the foot equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome and really need to nip this in the bud now so I don't cause further damage. That means my cardio workouts must go for at least three weeks. No Zumba, no Turbokick, no walking for exercise, no elliptical, no bike. Nothing. Grr. And I also need to limit my lower body exercises for now. Doesn't he realize I'm on this mission to lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks? Sigh.

Which means my diet will need to be spot on otherwise I'll gain weight.

Anyway, I didn't mean to turn this blog into a mini pity party for me (okay, maybe I did, but just for the time it takes you to read this), but I wanted to make the point that we all have set backs. Life never goes exactly the way we want it to. We might have a Plan A that we expect to follow to help us reach our goals, but usually our success is determined by how well with deal with Plan B. Do you have a Plan B?

I'm trying to figure mine out right now.

So, wherever you are in this weight loss journey, take a step back, take a deep breath, and forge ahead again when you're ready.

Week 7: Lose 10 lbs in 10 Weeks

Hi everyone. For some reason, Blogger hasn't been letting anyone (including me) post comments. Sorry 'bout that.

We're in Week 7 now, can you believe it? I'm getting in panic mode, thinking of all the things I must do before Conference. Yikes! Luckily, losing those stubborn 10 pounds will be checked off my list soon, thanks to the steps I've taken here. I'm down 6 lbs now, which is cool. I tried on some of my snug conference attire and nothing feels looser yet though. Dammit. I'm tall (5'8"), so it usually takes a good 10 lbs for me to notice changes in the way my clothes fit.

How about you? How are you doing? There is still plenty of time to make some visible changes. We have about 4 weeks left. Plenty of time to drop 5 lbs, but you'll have to recommit and really focus on your diet and exercise.

If you're losing weight steadily, keep doing what you're doing. If you're getting desperate, here's a short-term plan to follow.

For the next 3-4 weeks:
1. No sugar. Period. Read the labels. If there is more than 5 g per serving, don't eat it.
2. No starchy carbs after 3 p.m. and only 2-3 starchy carbs total each day. What's a starchy carb? Bread, rice, cereal, pasta, grains, potatoes, corn, peas, etc. What's a serving? Generally, half a cup, or what could fit in your cupped hand.
3. Unlimited vegies plus a lot of fruit. But if you have the body type that gains weight in your belly and upper body, limit your fruit to 2 small servings a day.
4. Get 250-300 minutes of aerobic exercise each week--anything that makes you breathe harder than normal.

You're going to be eating mostly lean protein and vegies and good fats. Eat enough so you're satisfied, but don't stuff yourself.

Good luck!