Friday, April 29, 2011

SHE'S BA-ACK! Miranda Baker dishes about the disconnect between our self-image and reality

Hey there! It’s great to be back on Once Written, Twice Shy. You know, it’s funny - the last time I blogged here I posted the link on Twitter and tweeted something along the lines of, “I’m secretly shy…come read why.”

One of my followers replied, “I don’t believe you.”


Huh.


Truly, I’ve been pondering that little exchange ever since. Is shy how you feel or how you act? Does the fact that I write erotic romance mean I can’t lay claim to shyness? Or is it the tweeting, Facebooking and blogging that knock me out of the running for the shy girl of the year award? I bet it was the picture of myself in a corset that I posted on my blog, right?


Here’s the thing, and it’s a little tricky to explain. I feel shy. I think of myself in the wings even though I have trained myself to perform. I might always see myself as shy because self-image rarely, if ever, has any basis in reality. Maybe there are some really grounded people out there who see themselves as they are, as everyone else sees them, because they are all copacetic and at peace with themselves. I think the rest of us have a bit of a disconnect between self-image and reality.


A few months ago, I was watching a burlesque documentary (A Wink and a Smile: The Art of Burlesque) and one of the performers said something along the lines of “I feel my self-image limits what I can do.” That really resonated with me. She challenged her perception of herself by performing on stage mostly naked. I don’t think I’ll go that far, at least not this week, but I will blog, tweet and Facebook while continuing to lay claim to shyness. Just because my first instinct is to withdraw doesn’t mean I don’t like interaction. I crave connection, it’s the judgment I fear. Guess that makes sense since I’ve been thinking about what that Twitter follower said for so long!


SoloPlay (see buy links below), the second book in my Come Again series, was released this week. The heroine is a shy librarian who embarks on a sexual and emotional journey that transforms her life. Is it so simple to abandon shyness in real life? Perhaps not, but Alisa’s story is exciting, at moments even taboo, and it might inspire a few of us to step out of the wings for a while!


About Miranda--It makes me chuckle to think about all the romantic short stories I wrote in my rather too literary creative writing classes in college. If only one of my professors had steered me toward popular fiction! On the other hand, if I had discovered my calling back then, I wouldn’t have gone to culinary school, I wouldn’t have met my husband, we wouldn’t have had three children and I wouldn’t have turned to erotic romance to get my mojo back during all this hair-raising kid raising.


SoloPlay
It takes two to toy with love.
Come Again, Book 2
Buy links, take your pick!
Samhain Publishing
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Q&A with romance author Tricia Schneider

Hi Tricia. Thanks so much for being here today. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?

Hi! Thanks for having me! I worked in a bookstore for 12 years (truly a dream job for any book-addict!) until the store closed due to company downsizing last year. Fortunately, I was able to take time to pursue my alternate dream job of romance author, and I’m quite comfortable with my current job title! I’ve written 2 paranormal romances published with The Wild Rose Press. I’m also the mother of 3 children between the ages of 5-years and 7-months (my true inspiration for pursing the career of my dreams!).


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


Absolutely! I’m pretty sure my name is listed as a definition of shy in the dictionary. Even when I was young, I was a very quiet child. In school, I always did my work and never drew attention to myself. I imagine if I had a past life in Regency times, I could easily represent the typical ‘wallflower’ romance heroine. I often found myself standing on the sidelines observing the action going on around me.


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


A I have a difficult time responding to people, even online. When I write an email to an editor or fan, I re-read the email at least a dozen times before I hit ‘send’. I’m so paranoid of saying the wrong thing. Even on Facebook, I analyze my status reports or the comments I post on my friends’ statuses because I’m fearful that my humor and sarcasm don’t translate well through text. This over-analyzing does take away from my writing time.


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


A My observation skills are much sharper than some other people I’ve known, since I spend a lot of time watching instead of interacting. I also analyze my writing to an almost obsessive degree, which I think helps when I’m editing and revising. And, in my childhood, since I sometimes found it difficult to socialize with other kids, I’d simply escape into a book. Without that literary exposure, I might not have chosen writing for a career.


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


A Without a doubt–promotion. Modesty prohibits me to shower praise upon myself. Trying to sell myself as a brand, as well as my books, is very difficult if I lack confidence in my ability to communicate well with others. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t have my introvert personality. I’m filled with confidence, until I’m forced to speak with others. Then uncertainty and doubt creep in.


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 Take a shy, introverted girl and place her in a highly demanding sales situation. Either she sells a product, or she’s fired from her job. My early days working in the bookstore were uncomfortable, to say the least. I loved my job (how could I not when I was surrounded by books!!), but my title of bookseller (note the ‘seller’ part of that word) suggested I had the ability to sell books as well as reading them. Who was I kidding? I loved shelving and scanning, but when it came to interacting with customers, I’d rather hide between the bookshelves. In those days, we had the bookstore membership discount card we were required to sell. As employees, our numbers were tracked by the company, and when I was faced with the possibility of losing my job rather than selling the product, I pushed out of my comfort zone. I refused to allow my shyness to dictate how I lived my life, and possibly lose my job, so I forced myself to become a ‘seller’. It rather became akin to acting. When I stepped into the store, I became Super-Bookseller, capable of selling wonderfully written books as well as pieces of plastic that offered 10% off. I stepped into the role and let my shyness remain at the door. My method worked so well that I went from part-time, to full-time, to Assistant Manager, AND I was offered the position of Manager 3 times! I did decline the offers only because the positions would have taken me out of the area where I lived.


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


A As a child when my class performed a school play, my mother advised me to imagine the audience naked. I’m still not sure how that was supposed to help me become comfortable speaking in front of others. The thought of everyone with no clothes on makes me cringe. Unless, Hugh Jackman or Gerard Butler is a member of the audience. Then, I think I might adjust to the imagery fairly well. When I push myself into the spotlight, I realize that people in general are more self-conscious about themselves than they are about me. Any misstep I make won’t be noticed by anyone but myself. And I still use my acting skills, even in my role as author. I close my eyes and prepare myself to become Tricia Schneider, Romance Author-Extraordinaire!


Q Where can my readers find you on the web?


I’m frequently on Facebook and GoodReads where I’m busy practicing social interaction with friends and fans. Stop by and let me practice my social skills on you!
My Website http://www.triciaschneider.com/
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/authortriciaschneider
GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/triciaschneider

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 2: 10 lbs in 10 weeks

Welcome to Week Two of our 10-week challenge. If you're new to this challenge, I suggest you review Week One first, but welcome aboard!

So? How’d you do last week? Are your pants feeling a bit looser around the waist? Does the scale read at least one pound less than it did last week?


If so, congratulations. That’s awesome and you should be proud of yourself. If not, don’t feel too bad. You’re not alone. I’m down just ½ lb, but I’d rather have that ½ pound OFF me than ON me. If you had no weight loss or even gained a bit, don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re just getting started.


Were you all good at following the steps from last week? If not, why not? Be honest. Can you do better this week?

This week, stick with last week's steps, but let's add some more.I want everyone to review your diet journals. Did you eat breakfast every day? On average, how many fruits and veggies did you eat each day? You can probably guess this week’s diet steps, can’t you?



Step 1: Eat a balanced breakfast within an hour of waking up in the morning. Your mother was right—breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you’re sleeping at night, you’re fasting. Thus, the first meal of the day 'breaks the fast': breakfast. When you go more than 3-4 hours without eating, your metabolism slows way down, which means you’re burning very few calories. So, you want to fire up that metabolism as soon as possible after waking up in the morning. Some of you breakfast avoiders might think, “But when I eat breakfast, I’m starving a couple of hours later!” Good! That means your metabolism is humming along at breakneck speed.


Here are some of my favorite breakfasts:

Poached egg on whole wheat toast, spread with a pat of butter. Lightly salted & peppered. Coffee with tbsp half & half and Truvia.
4-6 oz spicy V-8 juice, or 4 oz fresh fruit juice.


Whole wheat toast spread with ½ tbsp almond butter or peanut butter
Coffee made as above


Whey protein shake (1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder blended with ice and 8 oz water) OR a store-bought protein shake like Muscle Milk Light.


Protein & fruit smoothie (1 scoop vanilla protein, ½ c vanilla Greek yogurt, ½ c frozen berries, 6 oz soy milk or milk, 1 tbsp flaxseed oil, water as needed to thin)


Bowl of Kix cereal, ½ c soy milk
½ sliced banana
5 raw almonds, cashews or walnuts


You’ll notice that every meal has some sort of protein and some sort of fat. Both will keep you satiated, and both will speed that fat burning.


Step 2: Whatever your average was last week for eating fruit and veggies, add at least one of each to your day. For example, if most days you ate no produce, this week eat at least one fruit and one veggie each day. Your ultimate goal is 3-4 servings of fruit and 5-6 servings of veggies each day. Sound like a lot? A serving of cooked veggies is just ½ cup, raw veggies is one cup. You’ve probably heard the warnings not to eat too much fruit because it’s loaded with sugar. That’s true. But it’s a natural sugar. If you have the body type that gains most of your weight in the middle (classic “apple” shape), you might want to stick to just 1-2 servings of fruit a day. But if you are more pear shaped (bottom heavy) or gain weight equally all over, your body can probably handle the fruit sugars just fine.


If you’re one of those amazing people who is already eating a truckload of produce a day: Yay you! Make sure you’re eating the full color spectrum: dark green, red, orange, blue, purple, etc.


That’s it for the eating tips. Now comes the fun part. The exercise. Last week I asked you to break a sweat for 20 minutes most days of the week. Continue doing that, but this week, we’re adding a bit of strength training. You want to build some muscle. Muscle takes up way less space under your skin than fat. Muscle is way more metabolically active than fat (ie: muscle burns more calories). Muscle helps build strong bones. Muscle just plain looks more attractive than fat.


STEP 3: Four simple exercises to do 2-3x this week. No equipment necessary. 15 repetitions of each, unless otherwise notes.


1. Chair Squats (Sit and stand). Sit on your chair or bench. Stand. Sit. Repeat. If this is too easy, hold dumbbells at your sides. Too hard? Do just 5, or however many you can.


2. Pushups. You can do these on the floor on the knees or toes, against your kitchen counter or desk, or against the wall. Do you have a stairway? Do pushups with your hands on the 4th or 5th step and feet on the floor. Move down a step as soon as 15 reps is no longer hard.


3. Stationary lunges. Hold onto back of chair or counter for balance if necessary. Start with legs about 8-10 inches apart. Slide one foot straight back about 1 ½ feet. Lower back knee until it’s about an inch from the floor, stand. Repeat. If this bothers your knees to go that low, don’t go that low.


4. Planks. Lie on the floor, belly down. Now come up onto your elbows and knees, keeping your belly pulled in tight, your hips level with shoulders, and your shoulders pressing away from the ears (no shrugging). If that’s too easy, hover on elbows and toes. Hold for 10 seconds. Too easy? Hold until it’s difficult.


If that series was difficult, you’re done. Not so bad? Repeat 2 more times.

Congratulations! You just worked all your main muscle groups. Squats and lunges worked the entire lower body. Pushups worked your chest, triceps, shoulders and core. Planks worked core, low back, shoulders.

If you’re already working out with weights at least 2x/week, good for you. Keep up the good work.


Okay, that’s it. Simple, eh? You can do it. I know you can.

Rebecca J. Clark has 9 years experience as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor. Her favorite class to teach is Turbokick because it's so much fun and it burns so many calories. When she's not working the day job, she's writing. You can learn more about Becky's writing on her website.

Friday, April 22, 2011

AMANDA BRICE: Pretend you're an extrovert

I'm so thrilled to have my fellow Pixie Chick Amanda Brice to the blog. Amanda just released her Golden Heart finaling book, Codename: Dancer, and it's getting rave reviews. It's on my Nook right now, just waiting to be read!

Here's Amanda: Anyone who knows me is probably thinking right about now, “Um, Amanda? Are you in the right place? This blog is called ‘Once Written, Twice Shy.’ The attention whores’ blog is just around the corner.”



Yes, it’s true. I’m pretty much the antithesis of shy, a total social butterfly. But that’s actually why Rebecca asked me here today.


I’m an attorney in my day job, and have previously worked for a Congressman on Capitol Hill. In that position, I spent a good portion of each day networking with lobbyists, which was good practice for once I decided to pursue writing professionally and attended my first RWA conference. I actually came home from that very first conference with 12 requests for a full, just on the basis of my elevator pitch given to agents on a whim at cocktail parties. Talking to people just comes naturally to me, I suppose.


I attribute this to dance. Like the heroine in my debut YA mystery novel, Codename: Dancer, I was a teenage dancer. (And as a preteen…and a little girl…and still today, even!) I started with ballet and tap, but then moved on to jazz, lyrical, novelty, pointe, modern, contemporary, musical theatre, flamenco, and ballroom.


Dance taught me discipline and poise, but it also taught me confidence. Performing routines on stage in recitals and competitions helped me learn how to project myself, which was excellent practice for public speaking and networking in later years.


When I dance or act in a play, I’m playing a role. I’m no longer Amanda Brice, but rather become whoever my part is that day. Maybe I’m an 1890s can-can dancer. Or a Prohibition-era gangster’s moll. Or a Pink Lady. Or even a toy soldier doll. When I look out at the crowd, I see the faces, but I don’t get nervous because it’s not “me” up there on the stage. It’s my character.


That’s what’s so cool about writing, too. When we write in 1st person or in Deep POV, we’re no longer ourselves but instead get to “become” our characters, even if just for a short period of time. We can really be whoever we want to in that way. Authors get to leave their every day life and play out all their fantasies.


The trick is learning how to let that role play transfer over into your real life, even if it’s just your public writer persona and not the one sitting at home typing on a laptop. When I attend a conference and network with agents and editors (or lobbyists on Capitol Hill), I’m just playing another role. This time that role is the Confident Author (or Confident Attorney, as the case may be). Inside I may not actually feel as confident as the image I’m projecting, but appearances can be deceiving. As long as people think I have it all under control, that’s what matters.


Many of us have a pen name for our writing for various reasons, usually privacy. But it can be helpful when overcoming shyness as well. If [insert real name here] is shy, maybe her alter ego [insert pen name here] is the opposite. She’s beautiful, confident, clever, popular, and very outgoing. Remember, this is role play, not real life. (Not that I’m saying you’re not all of the above things, but you probably don’t realize it yet.)


Never underestimate the importance of costumes when playing a role. Rizzo would be just some tough-talkin’ chick if not for her iconic pink jacket. The Snow Queen would be any old ballerina if not for the snowflake-like white fluffy tutu and crystal tiara. And could you imagine Jennifer Beals wearing anything other than leg warmers and a stretched out sweatshirt in Flashdance? (Admit it…you have “What a Feeling” in your head right now.)


You can do the same when you have a signing. Dress the part. No, I’m not suggesting that you should go out and buy vampire drag if you write Paranormal (although some authors find a lot of success that way), but costuming is an important part of becoming a new character. Do you have an outfit that makes you feel more confident? Then wear it, because while you can certainly be a hermit as a writer, it’s not generally the best way to make fans. (Unless you’re J.D. Salinger, of course.)


Stepping out of your comfort level is never easy, but it’s so important. Sometimes just forcing yourself to meet new people can add to the depth of experience in your writing.

About Amanda: Amanda Brice lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband and toddler daughter. An intellectual property attorney for a large federal government agency, she combines her love of writing with her legal career by speaking on basic copyright and trademark law on the writers’ conference circuit. Her debut novel, Codename: Dancer, was released on April 16, 2011. You can learn more about Amanda and her books at her website.



Monday, April 18, 2011

RACHEL FIRASEK:Grab Life!

Please help me welcome author Rachel Firacek to the blog.


The last time I was here, I posted about my BFF and how she’s helped push me into the writing world. Today, I’d like to talk about someone even more dear to me. My husband.


But, I have to give you the backstory first. I grew up very poor. We lived in a two bedroom trailer--there were four of us--and shared a lot with another trailer and a large old plantation house. So, not quite a trailer park, but it backed up to one. Our landlords were super nice people and I remember picking up pecans in their orchard for hours on end to earn .50 cents. My brother and I would walk to the corner store and buy one pop and one candy bar. We’d split it and be in heaven. I was seven at the time.

Yeah, I’d never let my kids walk down the street now. LOL. It was a different time. So anyways, as the years progressed, Dad’s job stabilized and his pay grew. We moved twice before my parents finally became home-owners in a fairly decent neighborhood--kind of. We still managed on just my father’s income, but not by much. There was never much money left after bills, so we lived on coupons and hand-me-downs. It was a sad life, just very different than the one I live now.

So, where am I going with this? Because of our limited means, we never ate out. Never. I was fifteen before I went to a McDonald’s for the first time. Seriously. It was 1993. I never went to the movies. Never went to the mall. Never did any of the things that the other kids my age did. I mostly stayed at home, helped my mom, listened to music and read.

Then a man danced into my life and changed all that. I’ll never forget the first time my husband took me out to eat. I sat there picking at my food, worrying that the entire room was watching me. He kept glancing at my plate. “Why aren’t you eating?”

I leaned forward. “Everyone can see me.”

He sat back in his chair. “So? We can see all of them, too.”

“I don’t feel so, well.” My stomach churned and bile rose in my throat. Anxiety doubled me over and I almost lost it right there in the middle of the restaurant.

My husband sighed, packed my plate up and got me out of there. We had a long talk that night about my phobias. And with a firm tone, he told me, “Rachel, if this is going to work, you have to get over this. I’m a social person. I won’t stay at home all the time and hide from life.”

And that was exactly what I was doing. Hiding from life. My shyness was taking my life and leaving me empty. Don’t hide from life. It finds you and then you’re not ready for it. I’m thankful that I’ve had some really special people help me get around myself.

Do you have a special person that helps you get through hard times? Share something about them with us!

Also, before I forget. Some of the other CMP authors are getting together for a mass giveaway. We’re pooling our blogs for today and one winner will win all four of our ebooks. So please leave a comment here and then slide over to Traci Bell’s Blog: http://tracibell.blogspot.com/ We’ll announce the winner’s on Wednesday. I’ll be sure to let Rebecca know who won!

Rachel’s writing career began at the impressionable age of twelve with a poem dedicated to the soldiers of Desert Storm. A dark macabre affair that earned her a publication in an anthology and many raised eyebrows from family and friends, she hid her poetry and artistic style for years…

Tucked away in the heart of Central Texas, with the loving support of her husband and three children, she dusted the cobwebs from her craft. Returning to those twisted regions of her mind, she creates dark urban fantasies and soul-searching paranormal romance.

To learn where love twists the soul and lights the shadows, visit Rachel at http://www.rachelfirasek.com/

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks

Sounds like a cheesy infomercial, doesn’t it? I promise you, I’m not trying to sell you anything.


RWA Nationals is just 10 weeks away, and I don’t know about you, but I’d really like to be a few pounds thinner by the time the conference arrives—ten pounds to be exact.


When I’m not busy being a writer, I work as a personal fitness trainer. It’s my job to help people drop excess pounds and get fitter. Losing weight isn’t difficult, but it does take commitment and dedication.


You might think that as a trainer, my eating habits would be perfect. Well, you’d be wrong. LOL. I’ve had a lifetime struggle with my weight. I always will. Teaching a bunch of fitness classes keeps me from gaining weight, but my slack eating habits keep me from being at my best weight right now. I’ve gotten a bit off track and need to tweak my diet. Thus this blog post.


I know there are probably many of you who would like to be one size smaller by Conference, so I thought I’d blog about my journey and offer you tips and suggestions to meet your own weight loss goals. Every Sunday for the next 10 weeks, I will give you another step (the ones I’m taking myself, and the ones I give my clients) to losing weight in a healthy, safe way.


Week One


Step 1: Weigh yourself. Naked. First thing in the morning after doing your bathroom business. Write that number down.


Step 2: Measure yourself. At belly button level. Every inch you lose here is approximately 5-8 lbs of bodyfat. Write that number down.


Step 3: Take a “before” photo of yourself. This is optional, and for your eyes only. Then, after 10 weeks you'll be able to see how far you've come.


Step 4: Keep a food journal. This is not optional. “They’ve” done studies proving that dieters who kept a food diary lost far more weight than those who didn’t.


For right now, I want you to do this the old fashioned way: with pen to paper. This week, we won’t focus on calories or what kind of foods we’re eating. You just need to promise me you’ll write down everything you eat, down to the last bite, lick and taste (referred to as BLTs to the pros). You can also write down the time you ate, and if you were hungry or not.


Example:


Noon: ½ tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread, made with light mayo
Small apple
Latte with skim milk, splash of vanilla syrup
(pretty hungry. Hadn’t eaten since 8 a.m.)


1:30 p.m. – Small handful of chocolate chips (not hungry, but I saw them in the pantry so I wanted them)


The act of writing down every single thing you eat might be all you need to do to start losing weight. This is usually all I have to do. It keeps me honest. I’ll be reaching for a cookie or second helping of dinner, then I’ll remember I have to record it in my food journal. No, thank you.

Step 5: Drink 8-10 glasses of plain water a day. Add 8 oz for every 30 minutes you exercise each day. This will keep you hydrated, help you feel more satiated, and will keep your liver happy. A happy liver is much more efficient at burning fat.


Step 6: Get moving. Yes, this means exercise. No, it’s not optional. I want you to break a sweat 6 days a week for at least 20 minutes. This doesn’t have to be formal exercise. You can dance around your house. You can walk the dog. You can play tag with your kids. But do something for at least 20 minutes that makes you breathe a bit harder than normal.

If you already exercise regularly, take it up a notch. Add another day of cardio. Add 10 minutes to your current cardio days. Something.

Next week: We’ll add another step in your diet, and another step to your workout plan.


Good luck. Let me know how you’re doing. And let’s all be down a pound by next Sunday. We can do it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Q&A with Gail MacMillan


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


I’m the author of twenty-three published books (two of which are award winners). I’ve also written a variety of short stories and articles that have been published in magazines in Canada, the USA, the UK, and Europe. I write both fiction and non-fiction books. In the fiction category, I enjoy writing historical romances and romantic comedy. I love animals and usually include dogs and horses as characters in my stories. I live in New Brunswick, Canada, with my husband and three dogs.


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

A Most definitely both. When a story requires interviews, I have to summon all my courage to approach people. Only my desire to get the facts enables me to make that initial phone call. And even after I’ve made contact and found (in every case so far) that the subject is a highly approachable and fascinating person, I’m still a ball of nervous energy, struggling to ask the right questions and not offend.

As for being introverted, I think that’s why, since childhood, many of my best friends have been dogs and horses. I enjoy their quiet, non-judgmental company, their absolute acceptance, their eternal optimism.

Q Has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career in any way?

A I spend too much time psyching myself for interviews and personal appearances. Book signings and speaking engagements at first were big stumbling blocks but I’ve managed to overcome most of my stage fright and am actually beginning to enjoy them.

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

A As an introvert, I’m comfortable spending time alone with my thoughts. Some of my best story ideas have arrived during long, solitary walks with my dogs. Being shy can also be a plus. It allows me to sit back and observe. I don’t feel I have to be the life of the party or the centre of conversation; therefore, I’m free to absorb the mannerisms and conversations, both of which can come in handy when writing future stories.

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

A The hardest part is the non-writing component. Dealing with marketing, contracts, taxes, book promotion, and, of course, keeping up with technology. Some days I hear a little voice in my head shouting, “But I just want to write!”


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 quite a few but one that is especially memorable is the launch of one of my non-fiction books in a city several hundred miles away from my own. I’d never personally met any of the people I’d written about in the book but had shared long telephone interviews and e-mails with every one of them. I didn’t know how they’d feel about someone who’d never visited their city writing about it and their beloved dogs but my publisher had insisted the launch be on their home turf. I’d been warned by one local that there might not be more than three or four people show up. But the gods smiled that day. Over three hundred did come, bringing their dogs and cheering me on! They bought hundreds of books. Stepping outside my comfort zone on that occasion was okay!

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

A I don’t know if this is a tip or a trick. When I discovered that writing books would involve personal promotional appearances, I didn’t think I could do it. Then an idea hit. If Gail MacMillan was a shy introvert, her alter ego just might not be. So I’d pretend I was someone else (I never named her), someone clever and beautiful and charming. I avoided mirrors to keep the charade going. This other Gail was able to deal with any situation even if she felt limp as a rag when she vanished from public view.


Q Where can my readers find you on the web?
A My web site is http://www.gailmacmillan.com/

Thanks so much for being here today, Gail! Continued success to you!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Creating an Online Presence: 4 Tips from an Introvert

Please help me welcome multi-published romance and paranormal author Laura Kaye to the blog.

Rebecca was so kind to have me here today [thanks, Rebecca!], and she’s given me space to do my thing. And, right now, my fear is maybe no one will read it. Or they’ll read it and not comment, and then, what does that mean? Was it too boring? Too dull? Too pedantic?


See, this is the kind of commentary that sometimes goes on in the head of an introvert. I know. Because I am one.


Well, I’m a recovering introvert, anyway.


Part of the reason I might be working through my introvert nature is because, online, I feel I can be more myself than in a face-to-face situation. I’ve never been good at mingling at parties, making small talk, going up to strangers and introducing myself. And, while immersing yourself in social media can be a little like that, I’ve found the more I do it, the more my online presence jives with my introverted nature. So, with that in mind, here are some things this introvert has learned about creating a useful and effective online presence:


1) I am not boring. And neither are you. First of all, if you’re an author, you’ve already accomplished something most people will never do. That in and of itself makes you interesting. Lots of people want to be writers, or at least they’re curious about what it takes—if nothing else they’ll be interested in hearing how you made it when others didn’t. Plus, those really cool characters you created? That impossibly intricate plot you wove all through that story? That smokin’ hot exotic locale you described until your reader was right there in the thick of it? That’s all you. You’re the source of all that coolness, complication, and hotness! When talking about yourself fails you, talk about your characters. Heck, sometimes let them do the talking [when blogging, facebooking, tweeting, etc.] And that leads me to…


2) You are the expert. You are an expert on a lot more things than you think. A lot of my stress as an introvert stems from not knowing what to say and wondering if people could care less. But talking from a place of expertise dissolves a lot of those concerns. In my full-time job, I’m a history professor—that’s right, my daily work involves lots of public speaking. And except for a recurring dream at the start of every single semester that I show up on the first day of classes and haven’t prepared anything [still having this little subconscious burp after 12 full-time years of teaching!], I am never stressed about what to say or how my interactions will go when I walk in the room. The explanation’s simple. In that room, I’m the expert. That doesn’t mean I know it all, and frequently an interested student will have learned something along the way I don’t know much about. But identifying areas of expertise, preparing them, and falling back on them can be a real savior for an introvert because it gives you something ready and interesting to talk about. Applying this idea to your books, what cool gems did you learn while researching your stories? An interesting historical fact relevant to your setting? Some funky trivia about when or how something was invented? That research has given you a bit of expertise that you can use not only to strike up conversations, but also to help market your writing.


3) Be Authentic. We all strive for this in our writing, right? Authentic voice, authentic characters, authentic dialogue, authentic emotional reactions. It’s what makes our stories work. It’s what draws our readers in and makes them believe.

Well, authenticity is useful in developing your online presence, too. It relates to the content you plan to post on your website, blog, twitter, or facebook posts. Now, a lot of people hold back from these types of social media because they either fear 1) I don’t have anything interesting to say [see #1] or 2) if I speak authentically, I might offend someone, bug them with my sense of humor, or bore them with the things I find interesting, and thereby turn off a potential reader. But, here’s the thing: if you’ve done your job as a writer and poured your authentic self into your writing, you’ve already put the risk out there in the universe—the risk they won’t get your story, they won’t get your humor, they won’t agree with your take on the world. Since you’ve already taken that leap, allow yourself the realization that you’re not taking a new risk by being that same authentic self online. It’s all part of the same risk-taking process. Because, face it, that’s what writing is. How often do we talk about our books as our babies? We’ve already put our writers’ hearts on the line, so the risk’s not new. Plus, the benefit of being authentic? When you’re interested in and passionate about something, that passion comes through, attracts people and pulls them in, creates a unique identity for yourself that people will remember.

So, what does it mean to be authentic? Well, it means something different for each of us. If cooking is a huge part of your life, maybe it means you weave food into your stories, swap recipes on your blog. If knitting is your passion, maybe it’s your heroine’s too, and maybe you post pictures of your finished creations in a special facebook photo folder. If you can’t get enough of a man’s naked abs, then maybe a weekly man candy column’s your thing. But if you’re a knitting kinda girl and feel squeamish about the thought of posting naked guys on your blog, don’t do it. Because it wouldn’t be an authentic you.


4) Entertain, Inform, Connect, Share, Support. These five suggestions sum the other three up. Whether you’re trying to entice people to buy your book, visit your blog, or comment on your facebook post, strive to entertain. Think about the number of things that compete for people’s attention these days. If you want to rise above the din, you have to grab their attention. One way to do that is to inform [see#2]. People love to learn something new. So those bits of expertise in unusual, unexpected topics you learned while researching your books? Those could form the basis of some interesting blog posts, or be the kernel of a bigger book-related talk you do before a book signing. This is what I meant when I said expertise could relate to marketing—if you “give” people some interesting content as a “free” takeaway, they’re more willing to part with their dollars and give your book a try.

Another way to grab attention is to share your own experiences. To put something personal into the mix. To be the person behind the book. People don’t want to interact with a marketing machine; in fact, constantly and only trying to sell is one of the biggest social media no-nos. Remember that the online presence you’re building is uniquely yours. Connecting is another way to grab attention and garner friendships. How often have you wished someone would introduce you to an author you admire, or refer you to a good critique partner in your genre, or hook you up with a writing group or resource you didn’t know about? How often do you do those things for others? Using your online presence to connect others will come back to you in spades. As will being supportive. Want Twitter followers? Want Facebook Likes and Friends? Want people to follow your blog? Then you have to be a follower/liker/friend, too. I make it a practice to retweet every good review or other celebratory announcement that I see in my Twitter feed. The first thing I do on Facebook is scroll through the past few hours of newsfeed and click ‘like’ on all the posts that strike me and ‘share’ all the good news. These things cost me nothing. At first, they may not pay off in measurable tangibles, but eventually they will. And those folks will friend you, and follow you, and retweet you right back. And then you’ll have found your online peeps/tweeps. Which means, in the great big social reception that is the interwebz, you’ll always have people you know who you can talk to.


Thanks for the opportunity to chat up your blog, Rebecca!

Laura is a multi-published author of paranormal and contemporary romance. Her first books, HEARTS IN DARKNESS (4/20/11) and FOREVER FREED (5/20/11) are coming soon from The Wild Rose Press. Hot, Heartfelt Romance – Because everyone longs to belong…


Website: http://www.laurakayeauthor.com/
Blog: http://laurakayeauthor.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @laurakayeauthor

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/laurakayeauthor

Friday, April 8, 2011

K D Grace: Walking the Story

Please help me welcome author K D Grace to the blog. K D's erotic novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly is available now from Xcite Books. She lives in South England with her husband and a back garden full of free-loading birds.

When I started writing The Initiation of Ms Holly, I had an idea of where I wanted to go with the story. I’d had my pivotal experience of being stuck in the dark in the Eurostar Tunnel, but it was a long way from that inspiring experience to the completed novel. As it turned out, my husband was away for two weeks in South Africa and we were having a spate of exquisite weather here in South England, so I had the perfect circumstances to walk the story.

The trail along the Wey Navigation runs near my house. It follows a canal which was used for transport for the wool industry before the advent of trains. Now the restored canal is used for pleasure boats, which move along only slightly faster than I can walk. This particular stretch of path passes the ruins of Newark Priory and a house where John Donne once lived. Mute swans float serenely on the water in the wake of the canal boats. In the summer dragon flies and butterflies flit to a glorious sound track provided by song thrushes and black birds.

Outside a pub in the village of Send, Rita Holly’s sexy experience in the pitch dark of the train came to life as I scratched and scribbled in my dog-eared notebook while the boats navigated the canal and, along the path, people walked dogs and children and sat patiently with fishing rods.


The next morning I walked to the ruins of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mill along the Tillingbourne River. All that remains now are grey walls draped in vine and ivy, archways that lead only into the darkened woods, and staircases that end in mid-air. As I studied the sharply angled shadows cast by sapling trees now growing in the ruined foundations, it was hard to imagine this place was once an industrial hub, the river harnessed and the woods cut and used for the charcoal needed to make gunpowder. Nature has taken back what’s rightfully hers and left ruins that made my imagination churn and squirm with excitement. What did this have to do with The Initiation of Ms Holly? Absolutely nothing. Nonetheless, when I got home the end of chapter one practically wrote itself, like it had waited politely until I finished my walk and my ruminations.


When the weekend arrived, I packed my notebook in my rucksack and headed to the North Downs Way. The landscape is varied along the route I had in mind, with views out over the chalk downs of verdant farmland and sleepy villages. Skylarks sang overhead so high in the sky that, at times, I could just make out the tiniest of black dots against the blue. It’s amazing how one tiny bird can flood the whole countryside with such a wild riot of trills and arpeggios.


As I walked amid the sights and sounds and smells of high summer, my imagination returned to the most exclusive night spot in London, The Mount, where Rita was about to meet Edward for their hot date. In the heavy summer heat, I walked through thick woodlands and across fields and heathland to drop into the village of Gomshall and The Compasses pub, a place that serves some of the best local ales in South England. I ordered my Sunday roast and a pint of Sheer Drop and found a table outside in the shade overlooking the Tillingbourne River. I ate my lunch while blindfolding Rita Holly and drenching her in champagne. I was well into my second pint by the time Rita was being tangoed all over the dance floor by the Mount’s hot dance instructor, Alex.


I walked fourteen miles that day, following the river back up through a lush beech woodland, thinking about Rita and Edward, thinking about Rita’s tasks for her initiation, thinking about Rita’s offer to get her sleazy boss an inside story on The Mount for his magazine.


Back home, after a shower and bite to eat, I wrote into the night. The better part of a bottle of carmenere later, I had a rough chapter by chapter synopsis of the whole novel, and I could barely contain my excitement.


The Initiation of Ms Holly is my finest example of walking the story. There’s something about picking up my feet and putting them down again and again that changes my thought process. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for it. I’m sure I don’t really slip into a time warp and commune with the fiction fairies. But whatever it is, it works for me. Walking always makes the writing better.


There’s an opening up that occurs when I walk. My mind thinks differently. It looks behind shrubs and under rocks, it sees the pattern of the poke-a-dots on the leaves of wild orchids, it hears the throaty chrrr of a green finch in a yew tree. And all of these things have absolutely nothing, yet absolutely everything to do with the story I’m writing at the moment, or the story I’m about to be inspired to write.


I get twitchy when I don’t walk, just like I do when I don’t write. The more I walk, the better I write, and the less time it takes me to write the cool stuff. Which leads me to think that maybe one of the most important parts of writing is what we writers do when we don’t write. I can easily forget that I write better when I walk, and yet when it comes back to me, when I put on my walking shoes and my rucksack and head off to the Downs, something inside me immediately knows that this is what needs to happen for me, not only to write well, but to live well.


Maybe we writers need to create an empty space in our over-crowded brains before we can fill it up with all the fabulous other-worlds that exist in our imaginations. Maybe our minds are too full of busy stuff. Walking is my way of emptying a space, letting it air out in the great outdoors, letting my feet lead me, one step at a time, to the place where story resides. And when I do that, the words come rushing back in to fill that space in ways I could have scarcely imagined. But that’s the real mystery, the real magic. The words come rushing back in ways I absolutely DO imagine, and the rest is just a matter of writing it all down.

About K D: K D Grace was born with a writing obsession. It got worse once she actually learned HOW to write. There's no treatment for it. It's progressive and chronic and quite often interferes with normal, everyday functioning. She might actually be concerned if it wasn't so damned much fun most of the time.


K D's erotic romance novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly, published by Xcite Books, is now available everywhere.


Her erotica has been published with Xcite Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Erotic Review, Ravenous Romance, and Scarlet Magazine.


Her second novel, The Pet Shop, also published by Xcite Books, will be available in October 2011.


Find out more about K D Grace on her website, http://kdgrace.co.uk. She's also on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Q&A with Amber Leigh Williams



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


Hi, Rebecca! Thanks for having me!

My name is Amber Leigh Williams and I’m a multi-published romance author, a member of Romance Writers of America, former Secretary of GCCRWA, and a weekly contributor to The Roses of Prose. My books are published in paperback, ebook, and audio. I’m represented by D4EO Literary Agency and live on the Gulf Coast with my husband and three labs!

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


A Oh, most definitely! I was always the girl in the back of the class who never raised her hand. Not because I didn’t know the answer but because I didn’t like drawing attention to myself. Though it’s difficult in a business where in a way you’re selling a piece yourself, there’s still that part of me that wants to stay home. That was one of the biggest lures of writing to begin with. It’s such a lonely and intimate process. I get a lot of “me” time!

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


While I love not drawing attention to myself, that’s no way to sell a book. Marketing and self-promotion have been long, learning processes. These days the routine is second nature, but back when my debut novel was launched by a small press publisher, I found it difficult to push for reviews and other feedback because I was terrified of what might come back. If they hadn’t liked my baby, that wouldn’t have encouraged me to come out of my shell at all. Thankfully, almost all of the reviews were very positive. I’ve been very fortunate as far as reviews and readers are concerned, which made me a proud mama and, by extension, made me push the stories out there more and more. It helped me grow armor, as they say, and become fearless both in pushing my books into the world and the writing itself. Now I’m thrilled to find new and creative ways to promote and tell my stories.

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


A part of the shyness goes back to my upbringing because from a young age I was really pushed by parents and grandparents to be polite. I’m a southern girl from a long line of southerners so I was taught to cultivate very ladylike behavior. I took that with me as I grew up and as I began writing. Professionalism is a huge part of my upbringing, too. I inherently knew when it was time to speak up and promote or approach an agent/editor at a conference and when to fall back and keep quiet. Not all publishers teach their authors what it is to be a professional so you see them arguing against reviewers who didn’t like their book or even editors and losing respect and, sometimes, their contracts. I felt like I knew all this early on without others having to tutor me how to behave as a professional.


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

A While I love being alone and having that “me” time, sometimes the isolation can be damaging. You lose sight of what’s really happening in the world and that isn’t good. As a writer, sometimes it’s difficult to balance “your today” with “your character’s today.” It’s not good to lose touch with the people around you and what’s going on in the world and the balancing act between my writing life and my personal and family life has been a journey in and of itself.


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’ve learned that getting outside my comfort zone leads to some of my best choices. The most extreme thing I ever did in my personal life that seemed to shock a lot of people was date someone outside of that tight circle I lived in and who was probably my polar opposite. The guy was a risk-taker whereas I never took risks with anything. He worked for a living; I was still in school. He rode a motorcycle, which were frowned upon in my home. As soon as I met him, I grew as an individual and came out of my shell. Two years later, I married him. He was also the first person to wholeheartedly encourage me to follow my dreams and begin writing full-time.


The risks I’ve taken in my writing life have been equally important. I’d never read a western romance before I came up with the concept for my first, Blackest Heart. I had also never written a novella. It turned out to be the best thing that I ever did because Blackest Heart and its two sequels – Bluest Heart and Bet It On My Heart – have been the stories and characters readers have most openly embraced. I get more fan letters from people who love the hero of Blackest Heart, silent cowboy Judd Black, than anything else. A similar experience happened more recently in the last two years when I began branching away from my comfort zone by writing paranormals. It opened up countless worlds I can’t wait to write about, and my first paranormal manuscript got me a literary agent!


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

Be yourself but don’t be afraid to grow, and don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights. The publishing world can be scary and very critical at times. Learn how to protect yourself without hindering your creative mind or your marketing abilities.

Q Where can my readers find you on the web?

My website is currently under reconstruction. The exciting new design will be available by the end of this month and I’m so excited! Readers will be able to find it at http://www.amberleighwilliams.com/. Until then, all my news and updates and lots of other fun writing-related stuff can be found at my blog, The Cozy Page, where they can also subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Readers can also find me on Twitter and Facebook!

Amber, thanks so much for the awesome interview! I wish you tons of continued success.