Shyness and The Art of ‘Verting’: Intro, Extro, Ambi

Shyness is not introversion. There are those who mistake introversion for shyness.

NextToYou CoverfinalShyness often occurs in new situations or with unfamiliar people. There’s a sense of apprehension, awkwardness, and a lack of comfort. Shy people may avoid social situations entirely.

In Next to You (see what I did there? A COVER REVEAL) It’s easy to mistake Caroline for shy. She has a sense of apprehension about moving back to Chicago, feels awkward, displays a lack of comfort, hesitates in social situations — and for good reason. No, I’m not telling you why because spoilers. However Caroline is anything but shy. Caroline is an introvert — like a lot of my fellow authors.

I’m not an introvert. I’m not an extrovert. I leave extrovert to my husband. He draws energy from social interaction.  So then, what am I? What is Caroline?


  Move over Grace Kelly

Story time! Last year I went to the Moet and Chandon Black and White Ball.  I got all dolled up in strapless black satin, did my hair like Grace Kelly, and put on eye makeup. I even wore a pair of pantyhose that were supposed to give my shapeless, flat ass shape. I looked good and I was ready to have a glamorous evening with men in dinner suits and women in splendid finery.

The fun of going to the ball with my dashing Dr Shrinkee husband lasted seven and a half minutes–the length of time it took us to get from the front of the building, have our photo snapped by some local magazine, and ascend the grand staircase to the ballroom.

Don’t know about you, but the word ballroom fills me with images of high ceilings, chandeliers, a dance floor, banquet tables… Despite the lack of a high ceiling, all those other things were there. Also present in the ballroom were seventy-five bajillion guests. It was wall-to-wall people and three bands, all using giant speakers, meaning it was crowded AND loud. No, wait. It was deafening.

After twenty minutes I was overwhelmed. My husband was IN his social butterfly element.

I’m what you’d call an Ambivert. I’m comfortable with groups and social interaction, but I need time away from the crowd to renew my energy. To be honest, my comfort level with groups reaches its limit at 6 people. I don’t like loud noises. A crush of seventy-five bajillion people and a wall of sound (not disco-ball-727116_1920the Phil Spector music kind) wiped away my ambivertedness and transformed me into an introvert. It was loud EVERYWHERE. People were everywhere. Even the ladies room was packed. There was no place I could go to restore my psyche. For the rest of the evening, I did the only thing I could to save what Carl Jung would have called my my ‘mental energy’. I stood with my back to the wall, behind a speaker, with tissue stuffed in my ears, a deer in black satin caught in the twinkly, spinning lights of a disco ball. Acquaintances shouted small talk in my face. Nice men in dinner suits tried to get me to dance. People stepped on my feet.

This was an extreme case where I became an introvert, and for the next week, my very extroverted husband had to answer questions or field comments regarding his ‘shy’ wife at the ball.

Again, shyness is not introversion.

While being in such a large crowd of people made me apprehensive, while I was so far out of my comfort zone it surprised my husband, like Caroline. I do not have a social phobia. Sure, my social skill isn’t the greatest, and I can be awkward when there are more than 6 people at a dinner party, but I don’t fear rejection. I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t worry about being humiliated. I do not avoid social contact. I have friends. I enjoy the company of others. I can carry on a conversation. Although my ‘vert’ may shift in some situations, like when there are seventy-five bajillion people, I am not shy.

Neither is Caroline.

Next to You comes out on 25 July. You can read the first chapter on Wattpad for free.


The Day Before the Coming of the Thirty-one Days of Halloweeenie


Yes, we clowns want to kill you.

Remember how last month and the month before I was all in your face with phobias and other irrational fears, and how so many of you were irrationally afraid of spiders and clowns, because everyone knows clowns are made of pancake makeup and pure evil?


The Bride of FrankenBud

You may recall that I like to write about fear, especially when it comes to falling in love.  Perhaps you’ll also recall how the previous 75 Days of Phobias series theme highlighted a cavalcade of horrors ranging from clowns, antique jewellery (because you just know it’s cursed), the dark, sharks, lighthouses, and aprons. Starting Tomorrow, 1 October,  it’s gonna be a (mostly) Clown-free Freaky Festival o’ Facts, Fun, Frankenstein, FrankenBud, Frankenbrides (like Ella in Driving in Neutral), and Fear, finishing on Friday 31 October.


I am delicious!

I play with fear a lot in Driving In Neutral and For Your Eyes Only. October continues with that theme of terror because, you know, it ends with Halloween, and it’s only 31 days long, and has clowns, things that go BOO, Reese’s Peanut Butter items, and candy corn is involved. And candy corn, as you are well aware, is delicious.

Join me and my guests for a little friggin’ fun. There will be coffee, cookies, candy corn (if I can find any Down Under) giveaways, treats, and maybe even a couple of tricks. Oh, YEAH MAMA!Sandrabooks

BEWARE! The Thirty-One Days of Halloweenie is COMING!



Remember how last month and the month before I was all in your face with phobias and other irrational fears?

I play with fear a lot in Driving In Neutral and For Your Eyes Only. October continues with that theme of terror because, you know, it ends with Halloween and it’s only 31 days long, and has Reese’s Peanut Butter items and candy corn involved.


How creepy is this kid?

You may recall that I like to write about fear, especially when it comes to falling in love, but perhaps you’ll also recall how the previous 75 Days of Phobias series theme’ highlighted that the two things that freak y’all out the most are spiders and CLOWNS! Starting This Wednesday, it’s gonna be a (mostly) Clown-free Freaky Festival o’ Facts, Fun, Frankenstein, FrankenBud, Frankenbrides (like Ella in Driving in Neutral) and Fear, finishing on Friday 31 October.

Join me for a little friggin’ fun. There will be coffee, cookies, giveaways, treats, and maybe even a couple of tricks. Oh, YEAH MAMA!


Formula One and Anxiety – the research world of Sandra Antonelli via Alison Stuart

driving smallThis piece is Reblogged from the marevellous Alison Stuart.

Alison was gracious enough to have me as her guest
on Ms Stuart Requests The Pleasure of Your Company
to reveal some fun facts about Driving in Neutral. It was a pleasure to confess all to Alison. I thank her for her kindness to me.

Formula One and Anxiety – the research world of Sandra Antonelli

Like my guest, SANDRA ANTONELLI, maths was never my friend and I distinguished myself by managing to fail it in Year 9. My husband, an Engineer (how did that happen?) is mystified how I get through life without the frequent application of a good dose of quadratic equations. Strangely I do…

Sandra and her wonderful husband are well known to those of us in the romance writing tribe in Australia and I am absolutely delighted she can be my guest today. I am in awe of the sacrifices she has had to make in the name of research! Physics related language?… Oh My!!!

On MATHS, F1 RACING and how to manage Anxiety…

I totally suck at maths. This means I didn’t do as much research for Driving in Neutral, my love story about claustrophobia, as I did for my previous book For Your Eyes Only, which has a lot physics-related language. Thankfully, Olivia, the heroine of Driving in Neutral, has a past related to Formula 1 Racing, while Emerson Maxwell has a tiny problem with being claustrophobic. This meant my maths-free research focused on Formula 1 Racing terms and events, as well as phobias and anxiety attacks.

Sadly, no coffee and cookies were involved in my research into F1 racing. I watched F1 as a child in Europe. I knew names like Emerson Fittipaldi (did you catch what I did there, kids?) Niki Lauda, James Hunt, and Mario Andretti. To refresh my memory and bring my work into this century, I watched races on TV with my race-mad friends, Lisa and Sean (yes, you, Lisa Barry).

livraceI learned about the length of the race season (it begins in Australia, runs from March to November, and finishes in Abu Dhabi), and the lingo, which was pretty easy to pick up and use as a way levelheaded Olivia views her life.

The phobia and anxiety attack research was easy and even more fun. My husband is a psychologist and is probably analyzing you right now. He lapped (no race pun intended there) up my asking him to describe the physiological and psychological manifestations of an individual in the throes of a panic attack. Oh, I enjoyed writing about a big, strong man unraveling in front of stranger. I loved writing the scene where Emerson faces his greatest fear, and fails so miserably. But I also loved writing where Olivia finally loses it and ‘spins out of control.’

I wonder how my psychologist husband would analyse that.

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.

Instantly, his rapid, shallow breathing picked up speed and he began to twitch involuntarily. His shaking fingers started to curl in towards his wrists, and he sank to the floor heavily. His head slumped towards his bent knee. Camera flash splotches of bluish-white appeared to mar his sight, his peripheral vision compressing into tunneled lines of black. His body capitulated to the oncoming blackout with an incremental steadiness, his hands and feet fizzing into numbness, and he moaned.


Levelheaded Olivia Regen walks away from her car-racing career and the wreckage of a bad marriage to take on new work that’s far removed from the twists of racetrack. Her new life is about control, calm, and the good friends that she adores. But her first day on the job involves getting up close and too personal with her claustrophobic boss — alone in a broken elevator. Her unconventional solution for restoring his equilibrium shocks them both and leaves Olivia shaken. 

<>Determined to stick to her plan, Olivia drives headlong into work and planning her best friend’s wedding, leaving no room for kissing, elevators, or workplace relationships. But Emerson is not one to be out-maneuvered. Can he convince Olivia that her fear of falling in love again is just another kind of claustrophobia – one that is destined to leave them both lonely?





Twitter: @sandrAntonelli


Buy: (includes links to all buy sites)

When Good Characters Behave Badly

baddog3I’ve been waiting to do this post. I mean REALLY waiting. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before someone made mention of a lead character’s less-than-stellar behavior in Driving in Neutral once it was published.

It only took a week (Thank you, Dear Author!).

I’ve been waiting because this book has a history, and not just a 75 days long blog series on fear history. Yes, kids, I spent 75 days focused on phobias. As a lead-in to the release of Driving in Neutral, the romcom I call my ‘love story about claustrophobia,’ guests dropped by to talk about their fears. For 75 days.

Bear with me. I’ll get to the history bit soon.

The 75 Days Series should have highlighted that I like writing about fear. I like using fear as the key to hindering or unraveling a relationship, but I also like that a character eventually triumphs over fear, after all, I write romance where love triumphs over all. Love is a scary thing. Love can make a person feel vulnerable. Love can make a person act impulsively, and do dumb things. Love is primitive, emotional. People may be unable to filter their actions because love has jacked up their hormonal system. Everything is overloaded. So, let’s backtrack to the bit about vulnerability because like love, fear has a similar effect on a person. Fear is primitive, emotional. A person may be unable to filter their actions because fear has jacked up their hormonal system. In both cases, the amygdala, the centre of emotional behaviour, is doing all the work, while the Baddog2pre-fontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates behavior, that is, the part of the brain that tells you what is right and what is wrong, is sort of on hold.

Fear can make people act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a character pushing the boundaries of behavior, what crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible response to fear? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within a character’s behaviour? Or is revenge always just plain wrong? This is what I wanted to explore.

Lead characters in romance fiction are often held to a higher standard of behavior; they are perceived by many readers to be a ‘better’ form of a human being, one who frequently rises above petty or malicious behavior. As a result of this, when a romance hero or heroine acts in a primitive way, when impulsivity gets the better of them and these good people do bad things, some readers will protest and deem that character to be unlikable, un-heroic, and unworthy of baddog1being a romantic lead. Other readers don’t care.

I wasn’t sure which lead character would push the boundary for some readers, since both the hero and heroine in Driving in Neutral behave quite badly. Getting trapped in an elevator brings out the worst in claustrophobic Maxwell. He raves and verbally abuses Olivia, the woman trapped with him. His reaction is completely childish and base. He is overwhelmed by his fear, is unable to filter, and works from a primitive space. He’s all amygdala function.

When Olivia’s fear surfaces she, too, is in amygdala overdrive. So jacked up is her response to her fear she misbehaves. Terribly. There are 4 reasons for misbehaving: attention, power, inadequacy, revenge.

Olivia feels aggrieved, exposed, and acts impulsively, which, at that moment when it all spins out of control, is her best way of coping with being vulnerable. Her reaction is completely childish, and base. What she does to Emerson is cruel, and, just as he feels remorse for abusing her, she feels remorse for her behaviour…eventually, once her hormonal system is back at a normal operating level.baddog5

Now the history bit. A while back, I entered Driving in Neutral in a writing contest. A judge took issue with Emerson Maxwell’s verbal abuse of Olivia, particularly with name-calling. I was scolded with, “A hero would never call a heroine names.”  In case you’re wondering, those names were ‘wet rodent’ and ‘waterlogged hamster.’ Not exactly ear-scorching or profane, but I knew, based on that reaction, that Maxwell and my writing had crossed the line for that reader-judge.

What I want to know is this: Does the context for a character’s bad behaviour matter to you, or is bad behaviour always a no-go zone for romance leads, because romance heroes and heroines must maintain that ‘better’ form?

Fear can make a person act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a romance hero or heroine pushing the boundaries of behavior, what, to you, crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible behaviour? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within the circumstances of a character’s behaviour? Or is name-calling and revenge always just plain wrong?

baddog6So what do I think, where do I stand on all this behaving badly stuff? My friend Swell, a longtime romance reader, sums up how I feel about lead characters behaving badly in a romance novel. Swell says that if the “reaction is realistic and a part of the character, and the reaction is used to complete the relationship between the hero and heroine, then I will feel that the response was appropriate for the character.” Amen sister.


Driving in Neutral, A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only on sale now!

driving smalla-basic-renovation_final0913-eyes-only_final1

Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 75: Exit Exitus Phobia & Giveaway!

22033OH YEAH MAMA! It’s DAY 75! We made it to the END!

For the last 75 days each post has been a tie in to the release of my romantic comedy Driving in Neutral – which if you’ve been following along for the last 75 days, you KNOW is a love story about claustrophobia. Let the trumpets sound, the champagne corks fly, and get down and boogie! Yes, Kids, Driving in Neutral is finally available TODAY!

You can find your copy and links to your preferred e-format here.partay

While the mere thought of climbing into an elevator scares the hell out of Maxwell in Driving in Neutral, I now find reaching the end of this series is a little scary. Half the fun of romance fiction is the anticipation of that first kiss  Half the fun of running a phobia series has been the anticipation with what phobia’s going to come next. I don’t know what’s going to come next, except that it may be obvious that in my books I like to write about fears. As Olivia says in Driving in Neutral, “Everyone’s afraid of something.” And to me, there’s no place bettecelebrater to talk about what scares you than in romance fiction. There’s just one thing.

I don’t believe in happy endings.

But I do believe in happily ever after.

So while my exitusphobia, my fear of endings, may really only be a fear of this particular series ending, I know that fear lives on in all of us, especially when it comes to falling in love and getting to that happily ever after part.

Because I want to share the love –and the fear that love instills — I’m gifting a Kindle copy of Driving in Neutral. To be in the running to win, all you have to do is leave a comment about your favourite phobia post from the last 75 days.

The winner will be drawn, at random, one week from this post, so be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you.

Thank you all for sharing the fear and fun. If I could, I’d give coffee and cookies to everyone who leaves a comment!


Seventy-five Days of Phobias Day 74: Fear is My Success

22033Kids, throughout the last 74 days I’ve been teetering on the brink of Kakorrhaphiophobia. Seventy-five Days is a looooooong time to take on for a series for the lead in to a book launch.

Luckily, as Olivia says to Maxwell in Driving in Neutral, “Everyone’s scared of something.”  Luckily,  the writing, reading, reviewing, and publishing community is amazingly supportive. There was no need for me to be kakorrhaphiophobic. There was no need for me to fear failure of this series because I am surrounded by others who confess to deeper, darker fears than mine or those of the characters in Driving in Neutral.

I am grateful and very, very pleased that I faced my fear of failure. And I am indebted to everyone who participated in this celebration of fear and celebration of my love story about claustrophobia. Driving in Neutral is out tomorrow. Thank you for fearing, thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

The 75 Days of Phobias Cast

(in order of appearance)

Jenny Schwartz

Ainslie Paton

Lisa Barry

Rachael Johns

Rhyll Biest

Cate Ellink

Keziah Hill

J’Aimee Brooker

Wendy Curtis

Georgina Penney

Anna Campbell

Kylie Scott

Tracey O’Hara

JM Bray

MA Grant

Sarah Mayberry

Sami Lee

Dana Mitchell

Laura Greaves

Louise Forster

EE Carter

Kate Cuthbert

Daniel deLorne

Roz Groves

Susanne Bellamy

Juanita Kees

Kendall Talbot

Barb MacRae

Ebony McKenna

NIcky Strickland

Rebekah Turner

Imelda Evans

Elsa Winckler

Alexa Bravo

Anna Cleary

Rachel Amphlett

Lily Malone

Ros Baxter

Tina Clark

Cassie Samuels

Fiona Marsden

Mel Scott

Nicole Murphy

Amy Andrews

Melanie Milburne

Vassiliki Veros

Kat Mayo

Sarah Belle

MH Harvey

Fiona Lowe

You all rock the phobias so hard. Plus, you make me look a little less… milquetoasty for my fears. Thank you for celebrating Driving in Neutral. It’s Out TOMORROW, Kids!