First Reading

Last night I did my very first for-real public reading of a bit of my book, as a for-real published author.

This is how I felt:

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Because clearly, after the last frame of this, Kermit falls over and knocks himself unconscious.

The reading was at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, VT. I hadn’t been to Montpelier since I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure we mostly drove through it – or past it – on the way to Burlington to take the ferry over Lake Champlain to New York. But it’s pretty, Montpelier. I almost regretted not bringing The Kid along on the long drive, because she would have loved it – it has small, charming shops and sidewalks easy to traverse, and because it is Vermont and people there are not barbarians like we are in Massachusetts, all the cars stopped for us on crosswalks.

I knew enough about readings to know that any expectation was likely to be wrong, one way or another. The only authors who get massive crowds are already pretty famous, and for everyone else, it’s somewhere between nobody and a small horde. I brought my own cheering section, and frankly I would have been perfectly happy if it were me, the bookstore staff, my husband, and the other author.

Of course, the other author brought his own fans. The other author was Brian Staveley, who I’d met a few times before. (We share an agent, and once had a discussion about portals and chickens.) Brian’s first book came out in 2014, and he’s just released his third. He’s a Genuine Established Writer Person, and he’s done this speaking thing a LOT. So I figured I could duck behind Brian if I was too timid to cope.

We arrived early enough to have a leisurely dinner – with the world’s most cheerful server, even though we didn’t order anything to drink – and then we headed to the bookstore. And sure enough, there in the front was a placard with a familiar picture on it.

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Yes, it’s a dreadful photo – I caught the reflection from a bad angle – but eek, those are my people, aren’t they?!?

We arrived around 6:40 for the 7:00 event, and Andrew Liptak (who put the event together) cheerfully waved us inside. GIven the hour I elected to browse for a while, instead of sitting in the provided Author Chair and quietly freaking out. (Keep in mind that “browsing,” in this context, meant both looking at books and gripping my husband’s arm as I quietly freaked out anyway.)

When Brian showed up, Andrew took a photo of us outside the store, and in the process of chatting, I mentioned to Brian that I’d never done this before.

Have you ever started a new job, and been nervous and excited at the same time? Have you ever encountered the sort of co-worker who, rather than hover over you and make you even more nervous, instead says, “What do you need?” and actually listens to your response? That’s what Brian did. +1 superior professional colleague. What my mom would call “a good egg.”

There were 16 or 17 people there, which felt like a nice size to me. Brian let me read first (the back half of Chapter 5, if you’re curious), which was good, because he read the prologue of his first novel, which is a gut-puncher and not something I would have wanted to follow. (Seriously, it’s one of those openings that makes you say “This is someone who knows what the fuck he’s doing.”) And then he began to chat about world-building (the topic of the evening), and he effortlessly pulled me into a conversation…and very quickly, the audience became involved, asking questions and playing off what Brian and I were saying. I did some of the super-rambling I tend to fall into when I’m nervous, but for the most part? It was…not bad. Fun, even. It’s something else, having people sitting there, willing to listen to what you have to say just because you’ve written a book, even if they haven’t read it.

After we yakked for a while, it was book signing time, and much to my astonishment, I had a few to sign. With names. People smiling and thanking me and telling me they were looking forward to reading it.

Do I sound silly? I’m still in the “strangers like my book!!” phase of all this. It’s possible I’ll never leave it.

I had some wonderful chats with people. I talked with someone about the things we’ll forgive of a book or series we like, even when we won’t forgive it from other books. She told me a friend of hers had recommended my book, and compared me to Bujold, which was one of those “wow/yikes” moments. I talked to someone with her first book coming out this year, and we discussed workload and crazy deadlines. She said it must be exciting, having my book out at last. I thought, and said, “It’s weird.” And even though I’m a writer, I was unable to elaborate on that point. (There’s a blog post there, I suspect.)

I signed a few copies for the bookstore, and got Brian’s signature on a couple of copies of the promotional poster. (He’s got a great signature. It’s as illegible as mine, but kind of looks like a starburst. Very SFF.)

And then we drove home. (And by “we,” I mean “my husband,” who took the hit and drove 3 hours in the dark.)

All in all, the whole evening passed Liz’s “Don’t Think I Made An Ass Of Myself In Public” test, but that was mostly thanks to the company, who made it really easy.

And I’ve got another one tomorrow, which will undoubtedly be entirely different.

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