It's very interesting being a published author of not much note (yet, I hope) who meets new people all the time. It brings up a problem every author I know has: talking about your books with strangers is as awkward as discussing sex with your child.

This actually goes for all writers of fiction. Non-fiction is much easier, for reasons that will become apparent soon. Even if you have only written a short story, when someone you don't know very well asks about it, you stumble.

Why do published authors do this? We market our books, we have the blurbs written, the one-line tag, we should be able to whip it out. Yet you stumble, suddenly discover every speech filler ever ("Um, ah, er...") and try to move the conversation along to another subject.

Figuring out how to fix it requires understanding this phenomena. So why is it so awkward to discuss your writing with strangers?

1. It's a piece of your soul on paper.

You do your best to not reproduce real experiences or people exactly, you write in foibles and strengths to your protagonist(s) you do not posses, but at the end of the day this is a very personal, intimate thing. You have spent hours, days, possibly months or years on it. It's a creation of you, a part of you, almost like a child in that sense.

2. You don't know the stranger's position.

Do they think category fiction is for the weak? Do they only read Oprah Book Club Selections? Do they only read bestsellers, or non-fiction. Did they just read a book similar to yours and can't stop making fun of it? Without knowing, it feels like introducing your child to a babysitter you don't know if you can trust.

3. By the time anyone else reads your story or novel, you're on something else.

Even if you write in the same genre, by the time your book comes out you're onto something else completely. Lately, many people have been asking me about Hidden Magic which came out in 2015. The next erotic romance I've written for Red Sage is Secret Desires coming out in July 2016. It's January 2016 as I write this, and I have written almost two novels since turning in SD, four since HM came out, and my brain is currently in Marly Jackson mode as I write the third mystery. So, though I wrote HM, I have forgotten certain things and I am embarrassed to not remember entire characters, scenes, or orders of events. For those who just read it, they know it better than I do.

4. Feelings for your own work are complex.

Here is a simple truth. Most of the time, for an author, the work the public loves the best will be the one you hate. You hate it with a passion. It was written in a time in your life you regret, or perhaps it involved characters based off people who have since torn your soul out, or maybe you wrote it experimenting with a style you now know you can no longer employ. For whatever reason, this tends to be the work most discussed. this is true for musicians, authors, actors, directors, and visual artists. And how can you tell someone who loves something that you hate it without starting an argument?

5. It feels like bragging about your greatest insecurity.

For any writer, no matter what family, friends, fans, or critics say, you are constantly plagued by the thought you are writing drivel, you barely speak your native tongue, and your characters, plots, and arcs suck. So being asked to describe your book, you want to sell it, put it in a positive light, but it feels like someone on the street just asked you to describe that skin tag that suddenly showed up.

So how do we fix this? 

You can see emotion plays a role in almost all of these issues. Step one is to remove the emotion. How do we do that? Rote memorization. Let's continue as if we are discussing novels.

Don't memorize the blurb or catchphrase. That's what most people do, but what do those things have in common? They are almost always questions. Questions on a book cover prompt the potential reader to answer them by looking into the book, perhaps even buying them. By contrast, questions in conversations invite answers. This has the effect of conveying to the other person you don't know the answer, which seems insane when they have yet to read the book under discussion.

Now, think back to your lessons. every novel should have a synopsis (about 30 pages of Cliff's Notes style summation of the entire story) and a summary (about 3 pages of super short to-the point summation without details). If you're a anal retentive as I am, you have a conflict outline & synopsis, but that is not what we need. 

Get out your summary. You already did this to make your blurb, and we're going to do something similar. I want you to condense it down to 3/4 of a page. This will take time. Edit out any minor details or descriptions. Eliminate all minor internal conflict and minor external conflict. Lastly, eliminate the last lines, ending it at just before the climax. That should get it to 3/4 of a page, but you may have to trim some other sacrifices.

Now, of course, spellcheck, copy edit. Next, I want you to pick a movie that is similar and a book. Just the title and author or director. Try to pick books or movies that are well known, and either established classics or recent releases. Insert the sentence "[Title] is a [Genre], kind of like [Director}'s [Movie]." Then your summary. End with, "Similar to [Book] by [Author]."

Last, memorize it. Read it out loud. record yourself. See where you sound robotic or rush, smooth it out, give it some emotion.

Here's what I got:

Hidden Magic is a sword & sorcery erotic romance, kind of like Red Sonja. 

At the end of a war General and Earless Minn kills a Northlund Duchess who was conspiring with Minn’s nemesis Duchess Serinne to kill their queens. She narrowly avoids a death spell returning home.

Once home Minn finds out Serinne has made her estates falter and calls emergency funds into action to bolster her holdings. That night she meets Tomass, a sorcerer who reveals a spell to kill her was concocted by M’Graough, an evil sorcerer, working with Serinne. He offers up a partnership and argues they must track M’Graough together and defeat him. 

They banter and flirt as they track, and in the capital they discover M’Graough and Serinne are married. Minn contracts for a legal duel with Serinne but the Queen tells her it must wait until they know if Serinne is pregnant. Serinne also wishes a duel and has made claims against Minn.  The Queen tells her that her position would be helped if Minn were married and gives her three days, and when they discover Tomass has distant noble blood, they marry, against his wishes.

They ride to Minn’s ancestral home to await the duels and deal with power imbalance in their marriage.They learn to get along better, but then word comes to them that Serinne and M’Graough are living in the Queen’s palace and are allegedly pregnant with a baby the Queen has designated as her heir. 

They travel back to Plaindand but to hide they go to a friend of Minn’s who hides them in a safe house. They discover pregnant women have gone missing and are convinced M’Graough has been murdering them for the death magic. He has placed the Queen in thrall.

Minn and Tomass fall in love as they work their way towards their duels. Serinne has been conspiring and has raised an army, and a new battle arises on the home front where Minn and Tomass have to learn to trust one another and fight together.

Similar to Ritual of Proof by Dara Joy.

So if you meet me and ask me about HM, this is what you'll hear. I mean no offense, it's just you can tell how awkward it is. Good luck with your books, and better luck talking about them!