Q & A with author Jane Richardson

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

I'm really pleased to be here, Becky, so thank you! Sure, here's a very short bio. I'm a Scot, though I now live on the lovely south coast of England near the famous historical town of Hastings. I'm an ex-stage manager, used to work mainly in the world of opera, which I absolutely loved. My hubbie and I met while working in the theatre, actually! I'm now a full-time home-educating Mum to our two children, a boy of 13 and a girl of 9. Living here by the coast lets me indulge in lots of my favourite things - walking our dog on the beaches or in our lovely cliff-top country parks, or visiting some of the many fantastic local food producers here so I can cook up feasts for family and friends. I'm a bit of a home-loving gal, really!

Q Now for the questions. Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person?

A lot of people who know me would say I'm not - they'd call me fairly extrovert, especially because of the jobs I've done and the world I worked in. But the truth is, I'm far happier in a small group of friends than in a crowded room. Look at my previous job - while I did act onstage occasionally in my younger days, it wasn't the limelight I loved but the whole experience of the theatre, and once I began to work backstage, I found that was where I felt happiest and most in control.

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

A Not having the confidence to push myself forward when I should have done. That, combined with a British stiff-upper-lip and the sense that it's 'just not done' to push one's-self forward! It took me a long time to have the confidence to say to other writers, 'hey, look, I'm as good as you' - and to say to readers, 'would you like to read my book - I think it's pretty good.' Even now, I find that very, very hard to do.

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

Probably because I wasn't confident for a long time in pushing myself forward, I would read a lot about and listen to what other writers were saying. Just sitting quietly and taking it all in helped me see what I needed to do to improve, and to spot who was genuinely worth learning from - and who wasn't. It's not always the one who shouts the loudest that merits the most attention paid!

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

A I find self-promotion very hard and have to work myself up to it - blowing my own trumpet doesn't come naturally to me. I'm not very confident about my writing, even when people say they've loved something I've done, I tend to panic and think well, I'll never be that good again! Which is silly, of course, but when you're a slow writer who doesn't produce a lot of words as I am, it can be very difficult to have the confidence and self-belief to keep at it.

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?

I did a book sale and signing once, along with a roomful of other writers, and I found that hard going. People came up and wanted to know what the book was about - well, of course they did! But if they'd been in a bookshop, they wouldn't have had to ask me, they'd have looked at the cover and the blurb and maybe read some of the beginning of the book, and then decided whether they wanted to buy it or not. The idea that I somehow had to CONVINCE them to buy it was just awful! I just wanted to shove a copy at them and say, oh, look, just buy it and then if you don't like it, it doesn't matter.....!' By the end of the day, I was exhausted!

Q What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?
One tip - I'd say, if you're meeting people face-to-face, make sure you smile. It works wonders, and helps you feel more confident. If you're meeting people on-line all the time, as many writers do these days, you can put a smile into your communications, too - simple things like remembering to tell people you're glad to meet them, thanking them when they respond to you, and being genuinely interested in what they're asking or saying. You don't have to be extra-smart or wildly witty - just smile and be yourself, because no-one else is nearly as good as you at being the lovely thing that IS you!

Q Nicely said! Now, would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?

My current release is a short story called Edinburgh Fog, which is on US Kindle here and on UK Kindle here.
and in all the other e-formats from the publisher, MuseItUp, here - where you'll also find an excerpt.

Here's the blurb!

When Greg Morton returned to Edinburgh, it was to follow his dream of opening the smartest bar-bistro in town. Now Tellers’ is a huge success—but the truth is, deep inside, it means little without the love of his life.

Four years ago, he left Julia Brady behind in London to realize his business ambitions in his Scottish home town. By the time he’d recognized his mistake and admitted to himself he wanted her back, the grapevine told him Julia had moved on—and Greg had to face the fact that he’d been a fool.

When Julia appears out of the blue in Tellers’, he knows the only thing he should do is walk right up to her and say hello. But it looks like someone else has their sights set on her, and he’s a quick worker. Is Julia about to disappear from Greg's life a second time - this time, for good?

Where can my readers find you on the web?

You can find me at my blog, Home Is Where The Heart Is. That's where you'll get all my news, and I also feature other writers there quite regularly too, so do pop in when you can! I'm also occasionally on Twitter under the name @Gimmeahugyou.

Q & A with Diana Ballew

Q. Thanks for being here today. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?
A.First off, I would like to thank you for having me today, Becky.

I was born in Okinawa, Japan. After spending my early childhood years in Alaska, I moved to Virginia, where my passion for Civil War history began. As a child, I read and wrote poetry. During college, I began filling pages with the characters and stories flooding my mind. While my husband and I raised our three boys, I found a creative outlet devouring American history, reading the classics, and genealogical research.

I’m actively engaged with Romance Writers of America and a member in my local chapters in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. Additionally, I’m a founding member and vice president of Evergreen RWA, located in Everett, Washington.

My writing combines my active imagination with my love of history and research to create vibrant characters in sizzling tales that blend vintage vixens with haunting heroes.

My debut novel, Thorns of Eden, is a steamy and suspenseful tale set in the American Civil War during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.

Q. Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person? 
A. I’m definitely shy, but most people don’t know that about me. I remember sitting at my desk in school, my stomach twisting in tight knots, hoping and praying the teacher wouldn’t call on me for anything. As I think about how I felt back then, it still makes my stomach twist and turn. Sadly, even as an adult, I’d probably still feel like that under the same circumstances.

Q. In what ways has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career?
A. Actually, it’s probably helped my writing career. Because I’m shy, I naturally gravitate toward solitary endeavors. For instance, it turns out that I absolutely adore research; something I discovered over twenty years ago when I began doing genealogical research for my family as well as for other people. I was in heaven! I would spend hours at libraries, at the National Archives, as well as many other places that housed genealogical and historical records. That was the perfect situation for me. I could research by myself all day long and report my findings to others later.

What’s interesting to me now is that I can see how all that research prepared me to be a writer of historical romance. With each historical or genealogical record I uncovered, my imagination would go wild . But with genealogy, facts and accuracy are an absolute must, and while you may imagine all sorts of stories unfolding, unless there’s a valid paper trail documenting the story, you cannot truly say it existed. Enter my imagination: Writing historical romance was a natural transition for me. I could research historical events with accuracy and blend it with my vivid imagination. Writing historical romance was something I could do all day . . . at home . . . and all by myself.

Q. In what ways has being shy or introverted helped your writing career?
A. See question 3 : )

Q.What’s the hardest part of this business for you?
A. That’s a tough question. I’ve found that I enjoy almost all aspects of writing but if I had to pick one thing, I would have to say the waiting game is hard. You finally write your book and then you send it out to agents and editors . . . and then you wait. Promoting my book is a lot of fun but it also takes up a lot of my time. I guess I gave two examples.

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. There have been many times I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone. That’s just part of life. I’m really working on tackling my shy demons and forcing myself into more and more uncomfortable situations— like pitching my manuscript to an agent or editor in a group setting. UGH! Just the thought of doing that makes my stomach flip-flop. Well, I finally decided to bite the bullet and pitch my manuscript at a conference. I was terrified, and I felt those same horrible feelings bubbling away inside my stomach that I’d felt while in school all those years ago. But guess what? I survived AND they all asked to see my work. Most recently, I was an author on an author panel at a conference, and I presented a workshop at my local RWA.

Q. What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?
A. I learned long ago that when talking in front of a large group, cast your attention to the people in the last row and convince yourself you’re talking to only them. By doing that, your voice will be loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, and the physical distance makes you feel more comfortable. All in all, I’m getting much better at talking in front of a group. I’m sure most of us are more confident as adults than we ever were as children. Accept the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone, learn from the experience, and move on to the next challenge.

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

Blurb: Sometimes fate has other plans . . .

Major Rayce Hampton is the Confederacy’s final hope to turn the tide of war. Haunted by heartache of generations past, love is the last thing he has on his mind when he meets Eden Blair. The emerald-eyed beauty is as headstrong as she is tempting, but Rayce must keep his wits – and his secrets – as he executes his dangerous undercover mission to save the South.

Accomplished nurse Eden Blair has secrets too . . . only she doesn’t know about them yet. Stung by her fiancĂ©’s betrayal, she has no reason to trust the scandalous Major Hampton. But as Yankee troops close in, Eden must take refuge in the major’s mysterious ancestral home, leading her into the shadowy corners of deceit and desire, where endless love lurks within every soft whisper.

Thorns of Eden is available in print and e-book format at most e-bookstores.

For Kindle and Print
The Wild Rose Press

Q. Where can my readers find you on the web?
A. Come visit me at http://www.dianaballew.com/

Facebook ~ www.facebook.com/diana.ballew

Twitter ~ www.twitter.com/#!/DianaBallew

Thanks for having me!!!

Wheel of Fortune

Guest blogger: Maya DeLeina

I am at a time in my life where I am incredibly comfortable in my skin. I’ve learned to accept they way I look and appreciate who I am. Ok, so I am a bit weird, yet it hasn’t caused me to make a b-line for a darkened corner of a room in a social setting and I am far from being timid. This is me, like it or not.

But I haven’t always been this way.

If I had to pinpoint a time where I first started being uncomfortable with myself, it had to be the moment I got satellite equipment on my face- orthodontic headgear. This was the start to my very awkward-looking stage. I didn’t shy away from doing things completely, but I certainly had reservations that I never had before and I did everything in my power to blend in so I wouldn’t standout. And that is pretty dang hard to do with blinding metal on your face.

All in all, I wasn’t a cute kid. In fact, I remember my younger brother and I took photos together. He was so perfectly adorable in the foreground and then there I was, looming in the background and ruined the portrait. To really paint the picture, at one time, I donned braces with the rubber-band closures, the headgear, pimples and chin-length hair that was so extremely poofy, I looked like a walking mushroom. Then, my nose grew from a cute button as a baby into what looked like a freaky arrow. I remember one kid in school, Jason, would constantly call me “Wheel of Fortune”, you know, because my nose looked like that little white arrow on Pat Sajak’s wheel?

I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Free Spin”.

So this is where my shyness developed. Seems a bit shallow, but this had a real impact on my self esteem and confidence. I didn’t want to get teased, so I stayed low. Although a lot of the adolescent years experience this, for me, I was unable to shake it completely. Later in life, I was still enraptured with the thought of blending, taking it as far as fantasizing about the day I could afford plastic surgery so my nose would look like everyone else.

Then something just hit me like a flash.

If we all looked, thought, dressed like each other, what a boring world this would be. The headgear is gone now, but my nose ever present. The thought of plastic surgery for a new nose is no longer in my thoughts (boob lift, maybe). It’s me. It’s who I am. And suddenly, when I accepted this, everything else started to fall in place.

Acceptance is a powerful tool.

Today, I am an erotic vampire author of all things, unleashing my wicked, twisted and weird creativity in my writing. No reservations or shyness here! And it is all due to acceptance. This acceptance has given me an inner strength I never felt before. This inner strength promoted confidence. This confidence helped breakthrough that wall I built years ago that has allowed me to find my true voice.

It’s crazy when I think back on this.

In Tarot cards, the Wheel of Fortune is all about luck and change. The wheel symbolizes completeness, the rise and fall of fortunes and the message that what goes around comes around. The card indicates happiness and elevation; a change that just happens, and brings with it great joy.

This is where I am now.

Makes me wonder what Jason is up to these days.

You can learn more about Maya on her website 
and Facebook. Her newest release, Flesh Fantasy
is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Pick me! Pick me...NOT!

by Tammy Dennings Maggy, guest blogger

Public speaking used to terrify me. Not just getting up in front of a group of people, but any time attention was focused on me gave me cold sweats. I hated being called on in class to answer questions. It didn’t matter whether or not I knew the answers. As soon as I was called upon, I would freeze and feel like every single eye was on me and I was being judged. If I answered correctly, I was called a show off. If I didn’t know the answer, then I was ridiculed for being wrong. It really wasn’t that way all of the time, but that’s how I felt. I even had teachers pull me aside asking me why I didn’t speak up more in class. They knew by my tests and essays that I knew the material. They just couldn’t understand why I “pretended” not to know it in the classroom.

It wasn’t that I was pretending at all. I was just too frightened to speak. The fear of rejection and failure was paralyzing for me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to shake that feeling. It wasn’t until a very popular teacher took me aside one afternoon and told me his secret. He too was terrified of talking in front of people. I didn’t believe him of course. He looked so at ease in front of the class and seemed to speak comfortably for the entire period. He smiled at my doubtful expression and promised to let me in on his secret. He wrote it on a note card and slid it across the desk to me. I gave him my best “you’ve got to be kidding me” expression after I read it and he just smiled. “Trust me. It works every single time.”

“Just Breathe…”

Two little words was all he wrote, but two of the most powerful words that would get me through any situation. Seriously. Whenever I felt that growing panic zip through my body, the first thing I’d do was start looking for a way out. But if I just took a moment, inhaled deeply, and then let the air out slowly, I would find that those voices telling me to run would quiet down. My heart would stop beating so wildly in my chest, and the feeling returned to my fingers after I’d stopped clenching my fists so tightly. I took a few more breaths, closed my eyes for a beat or two and then opened them once again. What do you think I saw?

I saw people looking to me for guidance, for inspiration, for hope, for a laugh or two. They were not there to judge me at all. They wanted to hear what I had to say. They didn‘t always agree with me, but they were interested in what I had to say just the same. Looking a little harder, I found some people who were relieved it was me center stage instead of them. I could always find my cheering section, smiling up at me, encouraging me to continue. And yes, there were a few who were not paying attention at all. All the better for me. I was able to forget about those few and concentrate on those who were paying attention.

Go ahead. Give it a try the next time you have to speak in front of a group of people. Just breathe for a few moments before you have to begin. Speak your mind and from your heart, and before you know it, your time in the spotlight will be over…for now.

Thanks so much for the insight, Tammy!

Tammy's book, For the Love of Quinn, is available now.

What happens in Vegas refuses to stay there for Quinn, who falls in love with two men: Vegas tycoon Steve and classic bad boy Jake. Both have claims on her heart, but only one shares a connection so strong that nothing can keep them apart.

About Tammy: As far back as I can remember I have had two dreams: become a veterinarian and a world famous author. So far I achieved the first one and have enjoyed a wonderful career as a small animal veterinarian, but something has always been missing. I have never stopped writing; that has never an issue. The problem was getting up the nerve to actually finish one of my novels and submit it to a publisher. What a scary thought to send a stranger something I had poured my heart into. Would they like it? Would they see the characters the way I saw them in my head? Writing For the Love of Quinn was like giving birth to my first child…I had to let my characters go to see if they would take off…and boy have they ever!

You can learn more about Tammy on her website, Facebook, blog, and by following her on Twitter @dochappycamper.