Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 43: Juanita Kees Goes Toward the Light

Driving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmTo trumpet the September 1 release of my romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral — a love story about claustrophobia — I’m running the 75 Days of Phobias series. Today, Juanita Kees, Author of the RUBY nominated Under The Hood, embraces the light.

Thanks to the lovely Sandra Antonelli for inviting me to participate in the 75 Days of Phobias blog ‘marathon’. I’m sure there are a number of phobias in that one! Fear of exercise (marathon), fear of blogging, fear of commitment… The only way to overcome fear is to face it.

JuanitaI’m an Agoraphobic, Enochlophobic Technophobe. Sounds like an alien species, doesn’t it? What it really means is I have a fear of crowded places and public appearances, and I dislike technology unless it’s in the engine of a V8 Supercar.

For years I thought I was simply anti-social and preferred to be the observing wallflower in a quiet corner at gatherings rather than Crowdthe participant. It was only when I took my writing seriously that I realized this was perfectly acceptable behaviour for an author, and observing was really called “research.”

I’m also terrified of the dentist (unless he’s extremely good looking with a killer smile, gentle hands and a body like Hugh Jackman’s). Seriously, I’d rather give birth to quadruplets six minutes apart, than go to the dentist.

My real fear though is Achluophobia. Yep, this little girl is afraid of the dark. If I’m alone at night, I sleep with the radio and a night light on. It started when I was young, and I realize now that the night fears were more likely due to an over-active imagination than any real danger. nightliteA pile of washing on a chair would look like a ghostly figure, for example. I would never have my bed near a window because I once dreamt a hand came through the window and I tried to grab me. That’s a dream I remember very vividly. Mum ended up putting me in the back bedroom and put my older sister in that one so we could all sleep at night!

The fear of the dark stayed with me through my teenage years and followed me into adulthood, thanks to a few run ins with the supernatural — a poltergeist who threw things around the spare room in a fit of temper, the man who rocked his non-existent rocking chair on the veranda at night or flicked the switches on and off when you were trying to sleep, the nun who wandered around the house crying, and a visit from my late father-in-law (twice). Yep, scary…no wonder I’m afraid of the dark!Print

On the upside, all those experiences and the over-active imagination have helped me become a published author and a RUBY finalist (can you tell how proud I am of that title?) for Under the Hood. WooooHoooo! All those dreams and ideas now go down on paper as I work late into the dark night…with the light on.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Dr Sandra. (My pleasure, Juanita!)

underJuanita’s RWAus RUBY nominated Under the Hood tells a tale of heart, tears, and bleeding oil from veins. Her latest release, Under Cover of Dark , launches tomorrow, 1 August!Undercover

Find out more about Juanita:


Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 42: The Answer!

Driving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmWith the impending release of my smart-assed grown up romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series.

Over the last 42 days of this series, I’ve been asked, “Why did you decide to do a series on phobias?”

And my Answer? Two reasons.

The first reason. I write romance fiction, and aside from war, what’s scarier than falling in love? Falling in love impacts your entire life, your heart, your health, your personality, your day-to-day routine, your future. You risk all that you are, all that you’ve ever thought you wanted to be, for love. And that’s pretty freakin’ scary, even scarier than living your life alone.

Some fears are minor; some are the size of an elephant sitting on one’s chest. We all have little irrational fears that we understand are completely irrational. We can see the logical side of the fear —that spider is 30 times smaller than the bottom of my shoe— and look at statistics about serious injuries caused by the little muther elfers, or know that eight times MORE people die from bee and wasp beescaredstings than from spider bites, and that’s due to an allergy. Of course, with a phobia all that shoe-size and allergy logic stuff goes out the window. The thing about phobias is when you’re confronting one dead on, your focus becomes pinpointed on that terror, which escalates and keeps your attention, with laser precision, on that thing. And that one thing can reduce you to, well, a massive ball of anxiety.

Sort of like this:

Maxwell couldn’t breathe. Well, he could, but it felt as if the air was being squashed back out of his chest as soon as it went in.
“You’re going to take me down with you, aren’t you? When you pass out, and you’re going to if you keep hyperventilating, you’re going to fall on top of me.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he wheezed, bending forward at the waist to snatch his breath back as if he’d just sprinted 800 meters. Shit, he was hyperventilating.
No, he was hyper-hyperventilating.
This was ludicrous. He was nearly forty-eight years old and terrified of being in a very small room simply because it had no window and…his mind suddenly zeroed in on that important point.
There was no window.
What if the emergency light died?
What if the storm outside made the Chicago River flood into the basement of the building like it did back in ‘92?
What if the rubber-coated elevator cables, the cables suspending them in mid-air above nothingness, snapped?
Any way he looked at it they were locked in this box…trapped in this vault…enclosed in this coffin…sealed in this tomb.

Maxwell’s anxiety really takes off from this point. He’s lucky that there’s a levelheaded ElevatorFloorIndicatorstranger in the tomb –I mean elevator to help him refocus his attention on something else. Which brings me to the second reason I chose to do a phobia series, which is really still the first reason. I’m not afraid of elevators, but I did meet my husband in one.

And all my attention focused, with laser precision, on him.

Driving in Neutral launches 1 September, but you can pre-order it here now.

You can find A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only, my other smart-assed, grown up romance novels here too.517c639Q9QL._SL110_413ld2mPy3L._SL110_

Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 41: Susanne Bellamy Is Live Bait

Driving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmTo woo hoo the upcoming release of my romantic comedy, Driving in Neutral —a love story about claustrophobia—(now available for pre-order!) I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Author Susanne Bellamy dips a toe into the ocean of fear.

Fear sells. You only have to read the newspaper or watch television to see this is true. Movies dealing with adrenalin-inducing fears have been popular since the silent film era and thrillers still gross big box-office bucks. Why do we persist in scaring ourselves silly when there is enough real-life ‘stuff’ to scare the bejeezers out of ourselves?

I think the answer lies in degree of control. Even lost in the plot of a good book or film, subconsciously, we know it isn’t real. But it could be. When we make that tacit agreement to suspend disbelief and choose to scare ourselves, there is a satisfaction in ‘surviving’ the situation.
Why, then, do I still bear psychological scars from two very specific films?

swimmyThe first is to do with Selachophobia. I grew up in an inland city high on the Great Dividing Range of Queensland. Holidays at the beach happened once a year, in August, which used to be our winter school holiday and too cold for swimming. I loved walking on the beach though and thought longingly of being able to jump in the sea. And when I finally did, I couldn’t enjoy it because I just knew there was a shark out there with me in its beady sight.

That’s right. In water with dozens of other swimmers, most of them further out than me, that shark had zeroed in and was coming for me. Constant, frantic searching of each incoming wave, ridiculous attempts to keep my body horizontal rather then temptingly vertical leached the pleasure from my swimming in the sea. In the end I gave up and paddled in the shallows.sharky

So why did I see Jaws? Peer pressure. My group of friends was going and how could I say no? But for months afterwards, I didn’t even want to step in a puddle. That’s irrational. And that’s a phobia.
The other stupid choice I made was while at uni. I lived in a college on campus and walked to the Schonell Theatre for a midnight showing of “Nosferatu”, again at the behest of friends. Call it an overactive imagination if you will and damn Starsky and Hutch for showing a vampire episode around the same time but I reckon I set new records for running alone at night along the road back to college and along the walkways between blocks. Late-night tutorials were the worst because nobody else lived in my direction. I was it. Live bait.

I survived—somehow. Maybe they preferred brunettes. Or males.

Nowadays my phobias are quite subdued; hey, I’ve even managed to watch the “Twilight” films without freaking out. And True Blood! Although I still can’t watch films with sharks and loathe pictures showing their horrible mouths and maws.

Part of my attempt to deal with my selachophobia was to give my first heroine, Amelie in White Ginger, the same phobia. She had to overcome her fear to help Arne. I’m not sure how much ememythat helped me with mine but I certainly understood where she was coming from! In my 1 August release, Engaging the Enemy (from Escape Publishing), there are no phobias per se but both Matt and Andie have fears to overcome as they move from being enemies to lovers.

One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.  

 Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.

 But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.

But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?

Find out less irrational things about Susanne on her website:

Engaging the Enemy – available  Escape: Amazon: iBooks:

Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 40: The Hell of Capsicumannuumphobia

TDriving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmo herald the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Olivia, the lead in Driving in Neutral doesn’t think there’s much to be afraid of in life, but I know what scares me.  I just never thought I’d find a new terror to rock my world– until this past Saturday.

During a weekend getaway with my Big Bearded Sicilian husband, Dr Shrinkee, I developed a phobia I never knew existed: Capsicumannuumphobia.

There’s nothing Dr Shrinkee and I enjoy more than a good Indian Curry. I quite like food with complex flavours, a blend of spices, and a good kick of chiles. Over the years we’ve been together, Dr Shrinkee’s palate has found its way to enjoying chiles too, although typically on a milder plane of heat than mine, which means we compromise on the level of hotness. We ordered a Southern Indian Chettinad and asked for it to be prepared mild-medium.

The saucy dish arrived, along with rice and naan. I dug in straight away and found the Chettinad to be a little too cinnamon and turmeric heavy, and was about to comment, but I waited for to Dr Shrinkee to take a bite. He did and, immediately, his face turned white.

aidNow, a white face is an odd thing for a Sicilian with an olive complexion. My initial thought was that my husband was choking on Chettinad, and I steeled myself and made ready to hammer blows between his shoulder blades to dislodge the cardamom pod that certainly blocked his airway. But then I noticed pools of moisture beneath his dark eyes, which were round and filled with enough tears to make Niagara Falls look like a dripping faucet. His head was soaked, his firemouthscalp shone though his short-cropped hair. Stricken, unable to speak, he reached for his glass of water. First aid training kicked in again and I shoved a hunk of plain Naan into his hand and signaled the waiter because I knew Dr Shrinkee has spooned HELL INTO HIS MOUTH and hell had traveled down his throat, and into his stomach.

First I ordered raita, yoghurt with shredded cucumber, to cool down his agony and stop his profuse, waterfall overheating. Then, when 2 serves of raita didn’t help, I asked for some sweet curd, which is exactly what it sounds like. Two spoons of the sweet, milk curd and Dr Shrinkee had been pulled from the fiery depths of Hades.

Twenty minutes later, he was happily eating a Chocolate Churro.

Thank YOU, Baby Jesus.

The thing is, as a result of watching him suffer, I have this new-found Capsicumannuumphobia, this fear of chiles. While I am perfectly at ease to chew on jalapeños and chopped up chiles, I am now anxious that the next time we have an Indian Curry it will be too hot for him—even if we ordered it mild.

You can now pre-order Driving in Neutral here!



Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 39: Roz Groves Is Crabby

To celebrate the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Thanks to everyone who’s been following along and everyone who’s joined in to share. As Olivia, the heroine in Driving in Neutral says to Maxwell the claustrophobe, “Everyone’s afraid of something.” I’d like to add that there’s always something that scares people AND makes them crabby. Just Ask Roz Groves.

There’s not a hell of a lot I am genuinely afraid of, other than running out of books to read, and poor grammar. The list of stuff that creeps me out is long (clowns, touching foam, my daughter’s favourite doll), however there are very few things that leave me sweating out bullets of pure fear.


I’m comin’ for you, Roz.

Except for crustaceans!

Yes, crustaceans! Kabourophobia means Crabs, lobsters and other members of their evil clan make my skin crawl in terror.

I’m not talking about the pre-prepared, delicious types cooked and soaked in butter and Sriracha hot sauce! Cut those puppies up and get them into my belly RIGHT NOW.

Oh no, it’s the live ones that scare the living suitcase out of me.

My fear of the snappy beasts of the deep began on the jetty at Greenwell Point – thanks to a great piece of early 1980s parenting. My dear late father decided that letting a crab go to run after my child-self was a good idea….until I nearly ran off the end and into the water to escape its grasp. Apparently, it was only a tiny little thing, but there is no amount of effort that could have convinced me that I wasn’t being chased by some giant mutant crab the size of a car.


I want a piece of you, Roz.

That was more than thirty years ago now, but from then on, the simple prospect of even walking past a seafood restaurant with lobster tanks out the front has been enough to freak me out – I just know they’re waiting for the moment where they can break out and come after me with those horrible, bitey pincers of theirs (Are they Oldbitey pincers, Roz?). I even have to look away when they drag up the pots on Deadliest Catch.

I’d rather spend a day in a room full of clowns than a second in the company of those pinchy bastards. Thanks for that one, Dad!


Roz is a reader of romance, reviewer of books, frustrated writer, possessor of zero rhythm or athletic prowess, and a big fan of the bizarre.

She is incredibly passionate about reading and writing, and often have to hold herself back from correcting grammar at highly inappropriate moments. She also has an unfortuLobster-Claw-Sucker_21716-lnate tendency towards laughing until she can’t breathe or speak – usually at entirely random things such as product reviews on Amazon (sugarfree gummy bears, people!).

Find Roz here:


Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 38: Daniel de Lorne’s Lofty Living

Driving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmTo celebrate the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. As Maxwell, the claustrophobic hero in Driving in Neutral asks, “What are you afraid of? What scares you?” Beckoning Blood author Daniel de Lorne fesses up to his fear, and faces it too.

Daniel-de-Lorne3I have a few phobias, some stronger than others, but one that often makes me go weak at the knees (literally) is Acrophobia, a fear of heights, or more specifically, falling from a great height. Because if I just had a fear of heights I wouldn’t be able to live in an apartment on the 40th floor. No, my phobia is of seeing beneath my feet, however many storeys up, and thinking, no matter how small the chance, that I could fall.

With that in mind, imagine my joy at being given a birthday present from my partner to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I would like to stress that he did everything right. We hadn’t been going out all that long when my birthday rolled around. We were going on a trip to Sydney from Perth a few weeks after my birthday and he thought it would be very romantic to scale the bridge and watch the sunset. He asked my friends if they thought it was a good idea and they said yes. After all, they’d bought me a hot air balloon ride for my previous birthday and I had no problems with that (because you’re in a basket and can’t see below you).SHB

When I opened the envelope and saw what he’d bought me, my heart (and stomach) sank and before I could engage my brain, I blurted out, “But I’m afraid of heights.” He was gutted, but I said I’d be fine and thanked him for the present, not-so-secretly dreading the climb that would, no doubt in my mind, lead to my death.

The day came around and off we went. We got into our jump suits and I think I went to the toilet about five times, conscious that we would be gone for a few hours without the possibility of a (consciously planned) toilet break. My bladder was working overtime.

We then watched the safety and instruction video, and listened to what our guide had to say. Of course, they say you’re perfectly safe, that you’re attached to a guide rope and rail the whole time, but you don’t think I actually believed them, do you?

We were all hooked onto the railings. I was fourth from the end, my partner third, and a couple behind us who, by the end, really wished they’d gone before us. The start of the climb was worse than I could have ever imagined. We went out over what looked like metal scaffolding, the sheer drop visible below my feet. I gripped the sides and inched forward.

Then we climbed vertically up through the traffic, cars zooming by, and me able to see below SHB2me. Vertical ladders (or ladders of any kind) are hell for me. Climbing ladders at my grandmother’s house when I was six was a scary experience and reaching the top was something I rarely achieved.

Once at the top of the ladder, I think we walked over some more bit of see-through scaffolding, my knuckles white and my steps oh so small.

But once we reached the proper arch of the bridge, a funny thing happened. My fear dissipated. All because we were now walking on sold metal. I could see below me, only out across the bridge and to the harbour and the city. This wasn’t so bad after all, especially as where we walked was also quite wide.

We walked up, across and then down the other side, catching the sunset on our way down. It was romantic, the view was spectacular and it was a very worthwhile present – up until the climb back down the ladder.

Admittedly it was somewhat less terrifying on the return but still I went slow. It would be wonderful to say that this fear has left since that bridge climb nearly ten years ago but it hasn’t.

If anything, it’s been embellished with a sharp fascination for wondering what would happen if I jumped from these great heights and actually did fall. I’m not suicidal by any means so please don’t be concerned but don’t you sometimes get the urge to jump?

I don’t follow through, obviously, as the fascination hasn’t won out over the fear. And that is why I won’t go skydiving or bungee jumping, despite friends’ offers to do so. But of course, never say never.

Beckoning Blood Cover 1000While there arent many heights to be frightened of in Daniels work, there are plenty of things that go bump in the night. Check out his debut novel, Beckoning Blood, a gripping, blooddrenched saga about twin brothers, the men they love, and the enduring truth that true love never dies no matter how many times you kill it.

You can also find out more about Daniel on his website (, Facebook ( and Twitter (

Kindle: iBooks: Kobo: Nook



Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 37: Eremophobia Myself and I

TDriving_Final[3] 12.45.14 pmo herald the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Today, we’ve hit the halfway mark, Kids!

It is my opinion that there are many writers who, to some degree, possess this phobia, which is what, I think, may help them be writers. Eremophobia is the fear of being oneself. Perhaps this explains why so many of us identify ourselves as introverts. This may be a tenuous link, but it’s possible that, because of that introversion and because writers are all about possibilities, that a quantity of Eremophobia is the key to being able to craft believable characters.

catchmeIn some ways Eremophobia is all about being a faker. Think the Leonardo DiCaprio film Catch Me If You Can where a young man literally fakes his way though a series of jobs. In some ways it’s wanting to escape or wanting to be better or wanting more. Think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — the walteroriginal Thurber short story is all about escaping his mundane life, whereas the recent fantastic film adaptation with Ben Stiller is about wanting more and finally attaining it.

Applying Eremophobia to writers brings a few questions. Am I running away from myself in order to be someone or something else in fiction? Am I hiding myself away from others? Am I a big ol’ faker? Am I wearing a mask that I only take off and show my true self when all is right with the world? Didn’t Billy Joel write a song about this?

Yes and no.

Yes, Billy Joel’s The Stranger is about trying on faces for your lover instead of being yourself (sounds like internet dating, doesn’t it?). No, I’m not running away. As for the faker part…

Speaking for myself, I certainly felt like a big ol’ faker whilst I was doing my PhD research, which is quite a common feeling for PhD candidates (I’m now Dr Sandra with a diploma, YAY!), but writing fiction, writing my novels is…different. Rather than being a faker or searching for an escape, for me, writing a character is all about headspace, all about inhabiting that fictional individual. I get into a character’s head, to think like them, to speak like them, to perform actions like them—all on the page of course. I, sort of, become that fictional person. Sort of. However, it’s not so much I am afraid to be myself as much as it is I’m able to do things that I otherwise might not, things that are not in my character or part of my moral fibre, things I am not physically capable of accomplishing, things I’d very much like to do or be, but lack the intelligence to achieve. It’s simply that this fictional person can do and be the things I am not.

At least, that’s my theory.

So then, what’s your take on Eremophobia and writers? Is it a wild, wild imagination, keen observation skills, introversion, A fear of being one’s self, or a mix of all?