I don’t really have a long list of phobias; I don’t run screaming from mice or spiders or snakes, and while I don’t particularly like heights or being in water over my head, I can still ride the elevator to the top of a tall building and swim in a deep pool.  No, my biggest fear is of an inanimate object.

A microphone.

Now, a fear of microphones isn’t a bad thing…if you never have to get in front of one. But as an author there are ample opportunities to get up close and personal with a microphone. For a shy person, it can be a painful, humiliating experience as the microphone picks up every little tremor, every mispronunciation, and every mouse-like squeak. And isn’t it true, as a shy person that I am more self-conscious anyway? I think sometimes my shyness comes from my life-long struggle to be perfect. Intellectually, I know no one can be perfect. And yet I keep trying, and failing.

The microphone only magnifies this failing for everyone to hear. I learned this when I took piano lessons. Before each recital or competition, my mother would pull out the old tape recorder and set it up to tape me while I practiced. I learned to hate microphones then. Especially when, fancying myself a singer, I secretly tried recording songs—yikes! Who was that girl with the shrill, high-pitched voice? Certainly nothing like I imagined.

Somehow I ended up president of Dallas Area Romance Authors (1994)-really a great and supportive group of writers. But in looking back, just what was I thinking? I suppose when I first walked into my first DARA meeting that I felt so at home and so welcomed, I thought I could conquer the world. Here were people who “got me.” Each subsequent meeting only made me feel more powerful, who can fail with awesome writer friends--so what was a little microphone phobia?

Yet as the date approached for the first meeting with me as president, and I got to thinking about that microphone…um, yeah, not hard to guess.  Nerve city. I suppose I should have gotten some counseling for the phobia, but I was a busy homeschooling mom of (at that time) four young children. (Now, I have six but four are grown, still homeschooling the last two). There was no time in the schedule for visits to a counselor.

I had a writer friend who was also a college teacher—an awesome college teacher, I took her scriptwriting class and was never bored. She told me she practiced her classes beforehand. So I figured I’d try that. The whole talking in front of a mirror thing only made me more self-conscious, but I found I could drive around in the car and talk to myself. Which is what I did.

By the time January rolled around and my first meeting, we’d moved over an hour away from the DARA meetings. That gave me a whole hour alone in the car to practice and picture in my mind how the meeting would go--these days they’d call it creative visualization, but I didn’t know that at the time. But I’d picture myself in front of the microphone, picture how my voice would sound reverberating to me and practice what I was going to say. That worked really well for the first few months. Then,  one month I gave a ride to a friend and DIDN’T do my practicing and visualization (I figured it’d be okay, after all, I’d handled the microphone so far ) it didn’t go well. Right before the meeting I started worrying that I hadn’t practiced and I didn’t have time to conquer the nerves before I had to get in front of the microphone. That was a painful meeting for all involved, I’m sure.

I did think I had conquered this phobia even though I’d avoided microphones all the years since, until I made my first sale. At DARA they present you with a first sale rose and you get up and accept the rose and tell everyone what your book’s about—with the microphone. How had I forgotten that detail? So no, I had not practiced on the way. When I realized, pretty much last minute, that I was going to have to take that microphone, I started making mental notes, which is not the same as talking to yourself and visualizing how it will go. Too many people around, too many distractions and nerves had a chance to really take hold. When it was time to tell about my book, I took that microphone and pretty much went blank.

This experience taught me I’m never going to be over my fear of microphones, so the next time I will make sure to practice, practice, practice!

How about you? Do you have phobias? If so, how do you deal with them? If you’ve conquered them, spill!

Diana Layne is an award-winning author of PIRATE’S PROPOSAL, a swashbuckling pirate tale in The Tales of The Scrimshaw Doll series, and THE GOOD DAUGHTER: A Mafia Story (Vista Security prequel). Book 1 of the Vista Security Series, TRUST NO ONE (also her Golden Heart® final) is due to release the first of June. Check out her BLOG post to find out how to get an ARC of TRUST NO ONE (and to see the new cover), and her WEBSITE for buy links and to sign up for her newsletter to keep up with her releases.

Q & A with erotica author Simone Sinna

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

Simone Sinna is the other side of an established nonfiction writer. After an epiphany on the 2038km road to Santiago de Compostela (which inspired her second novel, just out) she changed her name and now writes mostly erotic fiction. Her husband is delighted, her mother and two children less so…

She has three erotic romance suspense novels published with Siren: Embedded, Exposé, Exclusive (due July 2012) and two short stories in Stringybark anthologies, Brushstrokes published in Heat Wave of ’76 in 2011 and Night Game in 2012 in Between the Sheets

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 think cutting the umbilical cord to my books and letting them go is very painful. I am putting myself out there with something that is part of me. I can cope with constructive criticism but blanket canning (such as one review on Amazon) is agony.
The other time that really comes to mind though isn't too do with writing. I sang in a rock'n'roll band with four guys dancing behind me in rain coats. I was in a tight black plastic dress singing It's Raining Men. First ever public singing and though I had had lessons for a couple of years I was TERRIFIED. When the acosutics gave no feedback meaning I couldn't hear myself, I though I'd die. Anyway, I kept going and am still alive but no singing career!!!
What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?

When you get scared (of having your writing criticized/ that you won't be able to do it) then remind yourself: "Do I still want to be saying this when I'm 80 in a retirement village-- 'I could have...' " Give it your best now and at least know you tried!
Would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?

The second in the series, Exposé (erotic romance suspense-- loads of glamour, action and sex) can now be purchased as an e-book on and will be released as a print copy in August 2012.

Second of three in the Stephanie Beauman series (but stands alone), Exposé takes investigative journalist Stephanie from New York where she is recovering from the end of her affair with Gabriel, undercover again, this time on a film set across France and Spain. Producer Jeffrey Carroway wants an award – enough to step aside as director and allow industry darling Paolo Valdez to direct. But is he also prepared to pay? Trying to uncover a systematic fraud, Stephanie finds more than she bargained for when things start going very wrong on set. Sabotage, bribery and artistic integrity are all in the mix as Stephanie plays Paolo against Jeffrey, whilst juggling handsome actor Damian Croft, trying to work out just why Carlo is keeping such a close eye on her and wondering if she will every truly escape Gabriel.

Where can my readers find you on the web?

Follow @simonesinna on Twitter