Friday, August 10, 2012

The Writer's Life with Heather Hummel

Thrilled does not even begin to describe how I feel about introducing you today to someone very special to me.  What started out as two authors connecting through social media, has blossomed into a beautiful friendship.  Heather Hummel is one of my trusted confidants in life, love, and the pursuit of chocolate.  To tell you I love her to bits is the biggest understatement of the year.  It is my sincere honor to give her the floor today at Princess With a Pen.

The Writer’s Life
Heather Hummel

Ever since I quit my teaching job in 2005 to follow my path as a writer, people think I don’t work. It’s been seven years now and they still seem to wonder just what it is that I do all day. The stark reality of it is that I have never been more focused in my life. It seems to be a mystery to people–what we writers do all day behind a closed door or behind a laptop screen at the local coffee shop, which is where I am right now. Yet, my life is actually more structured now than it ever has been.

A Day in the Life

My first priority in the morning is tending to my two dogs, Julie and Stephan. They require exercise as much as I do.  Any number of rainy days in a row is detrimental to all of our mental states! You’d be likely to find both paw prints and human toe prints left on the walls by the third day. Besides managing Julie and Stephan, I indulge myself in a hearty breakfast. I’m definitely not one of those people who can grab a cup of coffee and a muffin and run out the door. In fact, I’ve only ever had the total of ¼ cup of coffee in my entire life. (On the other hand, coffee ice cream is my absolute favorite–go figure!) Every morning I make the slow-cook oatmeal, not the instant, and add slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and what is probably too much syrup. Real maple syrup. I wash breakfast down with an orange juice and soy protein powder “shake” that leaves my friends shaking in their pants when they see it. Only a few have dared to try it.
While eating breakfast and allowing the dogs to play, I check e-mail, upload a batch of the day’s Tweets to Hootsuite, stop by Facebook to ensure everyone has posted their positive thoughts for the day, and send a few texts out.

Admittedly, the best part of my day follows…my 20-or-so mile bike ride. A high percentage of my written material is a result of my mind working cohesively with my body during these rides. It’s as though my thoughts are filtered of all the floating dust bunnies and sticky tar pieces, allowing new ideas to formulate almost effortlessly. The process still amazes me and, knock on my bike wheels, I have never had “writer’s block.” And with Rocky Mountain views like this schoolhouse, the muse is always flowing.

A day that starts with the dogs and me exercised is a much happier one. By late morning, I’ve responded to the morning e-mails, and tapped into social media, all without fighting traffic, stopping at Starbucks, discussing the most recent episode of American Idol by the water cooler on the way to yet another Monday morning meeting, or having to explain to a boss where project #1 is and when #2 might be ready.

Late morning is when I “leave for work.” I venture over to my favorite coffee shop, currently Bonfire Coffee in Carbondale, Colorado (stalkers, beware…I have a bodyguard here. Well, at least an old guy in a Hawaiian shirt who can probably kick butt in my defense). Ya know those large corner offices with the windows that corporate executives strive for? Bonfire Coffee provides this for me along with friendly service, great hot chocolate or ice tea and lunch, let alone ample material for writing! My desk is whichever table is available. There’s always plenty of room for my laptop and the wireless internet connection rocks. I spend a good portion of my afternoons working in a pleasant environment, get an occasional glimpse of a hot guy sitting at another table (note to self: always dress nice when going to the coffee shop), and amazingly I’m able to accomplish more work here than I can usually at home.

By dinner time, my dogs are ready for round two of their sibling battles in the backyard. Having two dogs is definitely easier than one–they tire one another out, keep each other company, and when one comes to me, the other follows. My evenings are spent editing client’s work or reading (all writers read as much, if not more, than they write) and by time I hit the sack, well after 11:00 p.m., I’ve written and/or editing over 2,000 words per day­­­­, my personal goal.

While I may not work 9–5, I work everyday of the week during all hours of the day and night. It’s some people’s nature to require a structured work environment with a boss and a reliable salary, and I am grateful for those who do because they provide my banking, shopping, mechanic, and other needs when I expect them to be open.

For me, though, being a writer is all I ever wanted to be. It took a huge leap of faith, but for my 40th birthday, I walked away from being a high school English teacher and dove into my writing career. I’ve since added photography to my creative ventures, and as such am a self-titled “PhotoNovelist.”

I believe that when you leap with faith, the Universe will catch you. It’s something like that dream people have that they’re falling and always wake up just before landing. What leap of faith are you ready to take?

Heather Hummel is a "PhotoNovelist" who blends her love for photography with her award-winning career as an author. Heather has ghostwritten for politicians, corporations, and public figures. Her books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Health, Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living, a combined circulation of nearly 15 million. A graduate with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, Heather holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and Secondary Education. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Sciences.

Her published works include:

Journals from the Heart Series:
Whispers from the Heart (2011)
Write from the Heart (2011)
Life in the Iris of the Beholder (2012)
Signs from the Universe (2011)
Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008)

Messages of Hope and Healing ( Sunpiper Media, 2006)
Blue Ridge Anthology (Cedar Creek, 2007) with David Baldacci and Rita Mae Brown
2009 Mature Media Awards, Merit Award
2009 New York Book Festival, Honorable Mention

Visit Heather’s websites at and

Friday, August 3, 2012

Q&A with Author Tracie Banister

I am thrilled to welcome to Princess With a Pen today, my friend and fellow author, Tracie Banister!  Tracie is one of my Dancing With the Stars blogging buddies, and is a ray of sunshine in my day.  She is stopping by today to chat about her latest novel, In Need of Therapy, which is patiently waiting for me on my Kindle like so many books in queue.  Sound familiar?  Everyone, give a big lovey-dovey squeeze to Tracie!

You and I are friends and author buddies, but many do not know that I love calling you my “Georgia Peach.”  Tell us about southern living!  Did you grow up in Georgia?
Although I was not born and raised in Georgia, I've been here for 27 years now, so I consider myself a Georgian through and through.  I even have the accent (or so I'm told.)  To my ear, I still sound like the Valley Girl I was during my tween years in SoCal.  Like ohmigod, gag me with a spoon.  I love almost everything about living in the south (I regret to say that humidity and I will never be friends.)  What I think is lovely about this part of the country is how warm and friendly the people are.  I am a creature of habit, so I frequent the same stores and restaurants each week and I'm always greeted with "How are you, Miss Tracie?" everywhere I go.  I love the Miss Tracie thing!  Makes me feel like I'm in Steel Magnolias or Fried Green Tomatoes.

One of the passions you and I share is the movie, Gone With the Wind.  I wore out my mom’s VHS tape watching it so many times as a teen.  Now as an adult, and a mother, I tune in only until Bonnie Blue Butler’s birth.  It’s so sad after that, and my heart cannot take it.  What is it about that movie that draws you in?

Gone With the Wind is just a wonderful story, very epic in scope with well-defined characters, wonderful plot twists, and one of the all-time great romances.  I really connected with Scarlett O'Hara as a heroine and female archetype.  Although she was selfish and imperfect, I admired how strong, stubborn, passionate, and determined she was.  Funny you should say that the ending of the movie makes you sad.  I love the ending of GWTW!  Even though Scarlett has suffered some terrible losses (the miscarriage, Bonnie's death, Rhett walking out on her) and she appears to be down for the count, she thinks of her beloved Tara and rallies, saying, "I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back!  After all, tomorrow is another day!"  The music swells, the camera fades out to show Scarlett standing on the hillside that overlooks her family home, and you know that this woman will pull her life together, get her man back, and be happy again because she is a survivor.

Did you know that Cammie King Conlon wrote a memoir about her role as Bonnie Blue in GWTW?  I had no idea until I was researching for our chat!
I did not know that!  I remember reading that Evelyn Keyes, who played Sue Ellen O'Hara in GWTW, had written an autobiography called "Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister," but I've never read it.  I have read countless biographies of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, though!  And I have all sorts of books about the making of GWTW, trivia about the film, etc. lying around.

I am so excited about your new novel, In Need of Therapy!  How did this story evolve?  How was writing this novel different for you than your first, Blame It on the Fame?
      In passing, my mother said, "You should write a book about a female psychologist" and a light bulb went off over my head.  I've always been fascinated by psychology and took several courses on the subject in school, so I knew that writing a book from the POV of a newbie psychologist was something I could have fun with.  All of my books have humor in them, so I took a lighthearted approach to the shrink thing and had a blast coming up with all of Pilar (my heroine's) patients and their issues, as well as how she interacted with them in session.  Deciding to set the book in Miami and making the character a Latina who had a demanding, over-the-top family and a disastrous love life helped me to flesh out the characters and sub-plots in the book, and then I was off to the races. 
      Writing In Need of Therapy differed from writing Blame It on the Fame in a couple of ways.  First of all, Therapy was written as a first-person narrative, so the focus was all on the heroine (her thoughts, her feelings, her perception of things.)  In Blame, there were five heroines, which meant a third-person narrative with me having to establish strong, distinctive "voices" for all five, so the reader would be able to identify the characters quickly and easily.  You'd think that the book with the five lead characters would be the harder one to write, but I found writing in first-person to be challenging.  In a good way, of course, as I like to try something new with each book so that I can keep myself on my toes and continue to hone my craft.  Another big difference between the two books was the tone.  Along with the humor, there was some major high-stakes drama in Blame It on the Fame as all five of the heroines were competing against each other for the Best Actress Oscar while dealing with a variety of personal problems.  I had to be true to the Hollywood setting of Blame, which meant getting a little racy with the language and love scenes.  With Therapy, the lead character is very grounded and nice (something I can't say about most of the characters in Blame!)  And the focus in Therapy was on romance and falling in love while in Blame most of the characters were already in long-term relationships, so the focus was more on marital discord, steamy hook-ups, etc.  I view Blame as one of those glitzy, steamy celebrity-packed mini-series that used to air on TV back in the '80s (i.e. Bare Essence, LaceI'll Take Manhattan) while In Need of Therapy is like one of those fun, date night, romantic comedies you'd see a young Sandra  Bullock or Reese Witherspoon in. 

Click HERE to purchase from Amazon

     You won tickets to any play, past or present, on Broadway and the best part is you’re taking me!  What are we going to do while in NYC, besides stalk Matt Lauer for my daughter, Gracie, before the curtain rises?  What show are we going to hold Playbills for in our hot little hands?
      Well, I am currently obsessed with seeing the upcoming revival of The Heiress, which will be playing at The Walter Kerr Theater this fall/winter.  The cast is filled with some of my favorites, Jessica Chastain (Loved her in The Help!), Dan Stevens (So dreamy in Downton Abbey!), and the always-amazing David Strathairn.  So, that's the play I'd be thrilled to win tickets to!  ***GWTW tie-in: Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind, won her second Oscar for the lead role in the 1949 film version of The Heiress.*** 
      As for what you, Gracie, and I could do while in NYC, we'd have to go to some museums (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum - Gracie could get her picture taken with Matt Lauer there!)  We'd have to stop by FAO Schwarz, which is just as much fun for adults as it is children!  And we could take the ferry out to Ellis Island and see the Statue of Liberty, which is something I've never done in all of my trips to New York!  

      What’s next on deck for you in the world of writing?
      As I said, I like to challenge myself and do something a little different with each book, so next on deck for me is a Regency Chick Lit.  Yes, that's right.  I've made up my own genre! :)  I've always considered Jane Austen to be the Mother of Chick Lit with her wonderful books, which were comedies of manners about young women looking for love.  So, I wanted to write something in that vein.  I'm hoping that my Regency book will be the first in a series as I introduce several supporting characters in this one whom I look forward to focusing on in future novels.  For now, I am working on telling the story of the eldest daughter in an aristocratic family who is making her debut into society.  You'll all have to read the book to find out what happens to her, but let's just say that a bad case of tonsillitis, handsome men (some suitable, some not), chicanery, a pregnant Spaniel, and a matchmaking aunt are involved! 

      Some readers may not realize that you and our gal pal, blogger Michelle Bell, baptized me into the world of Dancing With the Stars earlier this spring.  So much so, we began blogging together about it this past season and will return with comments and play-by-play this fall.  What is it about the world of ballroom you adore? 
     I grew up watching old, black-and-white Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films on TV late at night, so I've always had an affinity for ballroom dance.  And there's just something so campy and fun about Dancing With the Stars - the sparkly, neon-colored costumes, the Latin and Ballroom routines set to totally inappropriate modern-day tunes, all of the fighting between the C-list stars and their tantrum-prone professional partners - that's Must See TV for me! :) 
Thanks for having me on Princess with a Pen, Jen!  I had a great time! 

I love spending time with you Tracie, thank you for stopping by!  Tracie would love for one lucky reader to win a copy of her new book, In Need of Therapy!  Below are the official rules!

For anyone who'd like to be entered to win an e-book copy (ePub or Mobi version) of my romance and comedy-filled Chick Lit novel, In Need of Therapy, please leave a comment below telling me what your favorite summer vacation spot is.  Please leave your email address as well so you can be contacted, otherwise your entry will not be valid.  WINNER CHOSEN ON AUG. 10!  Good luck to all!   

Author Bio:  An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara.  Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play that she penned (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she, also, starred in and tried to direct the production.)  Her dreams of authorial success were put on the backburner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills.  Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for 12 years.  When it ended, Tracie decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time.  Her debut novel, the Hollywood-themed Blame It on the Fame, was released in January, 2012.  And she's following that up with the fun summer read, In Need of Therapy.  

Book blurb:  Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be:  warm, compassionate, supportive.  She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.”  Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim.  Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her.  A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes.  And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt.  With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.

Purchase In Need of Therapy at:

 Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

SHY NO MORE by Pj Schott

  It's the first Wednesday of the month here at Princess With a Pen, and that means my friend Pj Schott is here!  

     Pj Schott has lived in several U.S. port cities, Europe, Greece, and the Middle East. A marketing professional, mystery writer, and futurist, Pj is known to those with whom she works as a problem-solver, an innovative thinker, a top-notch communicator, a visionary, and the soul of a group. She is the owner of the Boston, Massachusetts based company GENIUS and is the woman behind the new Facebook page and blog, Survival for Blondes, where Pj is entirely surrounded by imagined disasters and learns to rise above.

*Formatting note!  I promise PJ is not yelling at you, but for some reason parts of the blog post seems to be fond of all capital letters today.  And it's not even a Monday! *

SHY NO MORE – Or How a Shrinking Violet Becomes an Exquisite Creature

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. 
You have to go to them sometimes.

Fellow Exquisite Creature Jen Tucker might be the first person to say, "No Way!" when I tell you I was born shy. Believe it or else, I was born to be a recluse. And I'm damn good at it. However, at some point in my young life I decided I wanted to figure out how the world works. You can't learn everything in a book. You have to talk to people. Scary. Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung invented the term Introvert to describe this malady, and according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator about half of us fit the category. You are in good, and abundant, company.

Jennifer Grey Felt the Fear
After her 2010 "Dancing with the Stars" win Grey said she got stage fright every time she danced. But she wanted to teach her daughter, Stella, how to face her fears and do the things that made her happy. You never get over the Shyness, but you learn to keep Shyness at bay, while you keep your eye on the prize.

How to Conquer Shyness
Shyness is here to stay, but you can learn to modify your behavior. Baptism-By-Fire is the method I chose, telling myself the 1960s Junior High equivalent of "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The little nerd kid who'd spent her entire life with her nose in a book marched up to one of the most popular girls in school and said something inane like "That's a very nice dress you're wearing." She thanked me and I walked away. Unscathed.  And in control of my shyness forever. Kinda.

You Don't Need a Self-Help Book
Much of what has been written about conquering Shyness is hard to grasp, not for everyone, or simply stupid. Whatever method you try must follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. But never forget the words that have become my mantra, i.e., SIMPLE ISN'T EASY.

Rivers know this; there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
Winnie the Pooh said that

Yes, I'd rather lie in bed watching old movies and washing down bonbons with
Brandy Alexanders, but that won't help me reach my goal to live an extraordinary life.
And I said that


5 Steps for the Recovering Shy-A-Holic


1)  Take Baby Steps.  Putting yourself out there is going to feel a lot like any other form of torture, be it a decision to lose weight or start an exercise regime. You'll have to keep your eyes on the prize, whether it's connecting with fabulous people, fitting into your favorite skinny dress, or being able to keep up on the dance floor.

2)  If Your Momma Says You're Wonderful, Believe Her.  Same goes for anyone else you trust. Just because you believe something negative about yourself doesn't mean it's true. Sometimes we're wrong. It happens. Let it go. I know, I know. You're thinking "That's easy for you to say." Well, that why I'm saying it!!

3)  Don't Overthink It.  If it's really not fun at all, you don't have to keep doing it. Adjust your goals. You can be social without leaving the house. Join the party on Facebook!! And don't worry about what others think of you. Some people have lousy taste and won't appreciate you. Get over it!!


4)  Perfect is the Enemy of Good.  The Shyness gene seems to have been packaged with the Perfectionist gene. You set the standards. Just don't set them so high you're doomed to fail. I can work on a project for 10 hours to get it good, and another 10 hours to make it perfect. Wouldn't that time be better spent enjoying your slightly less than perfect achievement?


5)  Act Like a Pro.  Use the same steps you would take when planning a project at your job. Plan your work, then work your plan.

  • Behavior modification says you can form a new habit in 21 days; start whenever you're ready
  • Go slowly using a Baby Steps & Carrots reward system
  • If you have to fall back and regroup, take a step back, then take two steps up
  • Use the goal-setting techniques taught by Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy Zig Ziglar, or Tony Robbins
  • Expect slow, steady progress, sometimes reaching a plateau, and other times taking a leap forward.

Eternally Yours in Exquisiteness

Thank you, Pj, for your willingness to share your story.  I'm so humbled and proud to call you friend.  You are exquisite when quiet and also boisterous. I love you.   

Have a wonderful day!