It was an offer I couldn't refuse. In June, 2007, I was invited to attend the Historical Novel Society Conference in Albany, NY, as a participating author and panelist. With special guests Bernard Cornwell and Diana Gabaldon, and 300 writers, readers, and industry insiders convening over two-and-a-half action-packed days, the conference was wonderful fun, exhilarating, and absolutely terrifying.
The fun part was meeting (and, at times, hoisting a few tankards of grog with) some wonderful writers with whom I'd corresponded, but never actually met—Broos Campbell (author of the terrific Matty Graves seafaring series), veteran nautical novelist James Nelson, "Pirate Lady" Cindy Vallar (editor of the Pirates and Privateers website), Alan Gordon (author of the delicious Fools Guild mysteries), and Christopher Cevasco, editor of Paradox Magazine.
Had I just come to hang out with these folks, it would have been enough. But the deal-clincher for me was when the HNS brain trust decided to seat me on the panel "Writing Love Scenes; How Much Sex Is Too Much?" How much fun would that be? But wait; it gets better. My fellow panelists were Diana Gabaldon, author of the mighty Outlander series. C. C. (Chris) Humphreys, author of the ripping Jack Absolute series, and erotica author and editor Jade Lee, all of whom are razor sharp and riotously funny in person. It was exhilarating sharing the dais with these folks, along with our skilled and gracious moderator Ann Chamberlin. Throughout the conference, we became known to one and all as the "sex panelists."
Here's the terrifying part: as a prelude to our Sunday morning panel, we sex panelists had agreed to read one or two of our own love scenes, off-panel, the day before, possibly in a cozy suite or modest conference room somewhere out of the way. Instead, we found our "act" was booked into the cavernous dining hall late Saturday night, after a gala dinner, a keynote speech by Diana Gabaldon, and a two-hour Talent Revue. Panic in the streets!
It was nearly midnight by the time the first of us sex panelists took the stage. (That would be me. Well, I wasn't about to FOLLOW Diana, Chris, or Jade!) The good news was, the crowd had thinned out somewhat by then; the bad news was, there were still about 200 people left to whom I had to read one of my most intimate love scenes. I climbed to the stage with all the panache and confidence of a miscreant ascending the gallows. No one gave me the hook, so I guess I didn't disgrace myself too badly, although I did forget to introduce the next reader. (Sorry, Jade!)
After that our Sunday panel was almost a bit, erm, anti-climactic, but still loads of fun. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to hear Chris or Diana or Jade at a reading or conference, by all means do! You won't regret it.
Extreme kudos to Trudi Jacobsen, Sarah Johnson, Carol Anne Gemain, Nancy Castaldo, Claire Morris and the rest of the tireless HNS staff for making the conference such a pleasure. The next HNS conference on American soil will be in 2009, at a destination to be announced (but most likely in the Midwest). For updates, visit the HNS website at www.historicalnovelsociety.org/main.htm