Are You a Reader?


This week at the SFF Seven, we’re posing the question: How do you answer when people at parties ask “have I heard of you?”

I confess that I posed this question of the group, since I get this question frequently and I’m usually at a loss as to how to answer. So for a while there I was going around asking other authors how they handle this.

My friend, Jim Sorenson, master of the witty comeback, suggested Sam Malone’s line from Cheers, “Not many people know this, but I’m kind of a big deal.” I couldn’t find a gif of that one though. The line is a good litmus test for how much someone is paying attention.

But in actuality, I’ve ended up going with a tiered response, much like KAK suggested yesterday, only a bit less… snarky. Most of the time, I’ve found, people are asking the question as a rote response to discovering the person they’re talking to just might be famous in some way. Where writers are concerned, the answer is almost always “no.”

I have, however, found another litmus test response. I return the question by asking if they’re a reader. This small-talk gambit works for a multitude of scenarios. Most of the time, the person is NOT a reader, and asking this question will elicit a – sometimes long – explanation of why they don’t read. It works really well for the principle that the easiest way to engage someone in conversation is to ask about themselves. People who don’t read will often talk about the last book they DID read, or how they hated being forced to read in school, or how busy their lives are. This gives rich fodder for letting them talk about their lives. If they’re not actually interested in the fact that I’m a writer, this lets them gracefully never return to the topic and saves me the painful sorting of the fact that, no, they haven’t heard of me.

If they ARE a reader, well! Now the conversation gets interesting. I can what genres they read and we talk books. We drill down pretty quickly to whether they read my genre and, if they haven’t read my books, they usually end up by whipping out their phone and buying one. Happy outcome!

Speaking of buying books, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished the draft of my novella for the upcoming FIRE OF THE FROST anthology! I still need to settle on a title, but it takes place at Convocation Academy in my Bonds of Magic world, taking place at roughly the same time as DARK WIZARD. You can preorder the anthology now to have it slip into your eReader in December! (Print will be available, but you can only preorder through my website right now. Print will be available via the usual retailers on release day, just not for preorder.)


What to Do When You’re Accidentally Invited to a Party

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently changed my laptop background to this pic I took in Virgin Gorda. I might have to take it down again, because it’s making me all kinds of wistful.

The other night, I had a few neighbor gals over for wine and snacks. I know for a lot of you out there, this is a no-brainer thing, right? Some of you have guests over all the time, willy-nilly, tra-la tra-lay. Yeah, I know about you people. I used to be like you.

These days, though, having people over means cleaning the house, which I no longer pay someone ELSE to do. Those were happy days. It means acquiring snacky food that I no longer keep around the house and also cleaning MYSELF up. Yes – I confess that, working from home and not seeing anyone but David or people at the gym, I am not company-ready a great deal of the time.

So, when the day came, by lunchtime I bitterly regretted that I’d invited these people to my house. I may have even contemplated calling them and saying I was sick. If I’d had a job outside the house, I would have gotten everything done the night before, then whizzed home from work, in my cute work outfit with my hair and make-up already done, thrown some snacks onto platters and been done.

But no.

Instead I had to halt the day job and go to the store, vacuum and, gasp, shower and assemble myself. I griped to David that probably no one would come and then all that effort would be WASTED. He says, well, we can always have a party together.

I tactfully did not point out that he’s blown his gig by loving me without make-up and a cute outfit.

Still and all, people came and I had fun. It was totally worth it and now I feel all bubbly and optimistic that I could muster to do this Much More Often. An ambition I’ll likely come to regret in the future when I have guests LOOMING again.

For now, however, I’ve paid several people back for previous hospitality and created hostess-debt in a few others. So they get to muster the effort now and have us over, which is always preferable. I’m always happy to drink someone else’s wine and have at their snacks. Totally worth make-up for that. (Maybe someone should tip-off David.)

In fact, David and I once  went to a party we were accidentally invited to.

No, really. I got this email invitation to “Jennifer,” which is a sure sign that the person doesn’t actually know me. With the possible exception of IRS agents and they, notably, never invite me to parties. Especially not Halloween costume parties where we’re encouraged to come as our alter-egos. Fun, right?

But I totally didn’t know the people who invited us. Neither did David. I asked around and none of my friends knew them either. Finally I found one couple that we occasionally socialized with – neighbors a few blocks away, he was a nonfiction writer I’d been on panels with and she and I had intersected in various social groups – who had also been invited. They agreed that the people having the party couldn’t possibly know us.

I suspect it was the “Jennifer” syndrome. See there are so damn many of us that the email autofill function is like a curse for anyone who knows more than one Jennifer. Which is everybody, right? It’s like that movie “Jennifer 5” or some such from the 80s where she discovers she’s a clone. It’s annoying, but there’s also a certain solidarity in our Jenniferness.

So, yes – we totally went to the party.

And I asked the host and hostess if they meant to invite us. This may have been complicated by the fact that I was wearing thick faerie queen makeup and David was dressed up as an early-days Jim Morrison. We finally established that, no, we didn’t know each other.

They let us stay, however, and the party really did rock. Like I always suspect the parties I’m not invited to do.

I reciprocated, too – by inviting them to our annual Christmas party. I even wrote on the invitation that we were the people they didn’t know, who’d crashed their Halloween party.

They didn’t come. Can you believe it?

Totally worth the make-up though.